No room for Taylor Swift fans: Radisson cancels points hotel booking!

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By Christopher Elliott

Can a hotel cancel your reservation made with points and tell you to just shake it off? Brianne Dosch, who has tickets to this weekend’s Taylor Swift concert in Philadelphia, wants to know. 

Last week, she received a shocking email from the Radisson Hotel Philadelphia on Penrose Avenue, where she had booked two nights using her Radisson Rewards points. The hotel had canceled her reservation and told her, “You’re on your own, kid.”

“At this point, all other hotels are astronomically expensive and far away, and it’s almost impossible to make other arrangements this close to the concert,” says Dosch.

This is an unusual story for two reasons. 

First, because it is still developing. Dosch needs your help to figure out the best decision, so be sure to read to the end and leave a comment to help her. I also have an update on the case.

Second, I’ve embedded popular Taylor Swift song titles in this story, because I just couldn’t help myself. The first person to correctly identify them in the comments will win a Knack Series 1 Backpack. You know what I mean? (There, I just did it.)

Dosch’s problem raises several questions:

  • Is a room reservation made with points as safe as one made with cash?
  • Can a hotel cancel your room reservation made with points and resell it?
  • What should you do if your hotel cancels your room reservation made with points?

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Warning! Your reservation is canceled with “advance notice”

In January, Dosch and her husband made a reservation at the Radisson Hotel Philadelphia for May 12 to 14. They had tickets to one of the Taylor Swift concerts. The concert weekend was the culmination of months of planning, and as a fan of Swift’s music, she was excited to make the trip from Knoxville, Tenn., where she lives.

“Exactly two weeks before the Taylor Swift concerts in Philadelphia, I received an email from the hotel’s front desk manager that my reservation was canceled with ‘advance notice’ so I could make other arrangements,” she says.

Advance notice?

Yep. Here’s what it said:

Kindly be advised all the above reservations are canceled due to our system availability; therefore we are informing you in advance to make your arrangements for the dates you have requested.

We are giving this advance notice as of 4/28/23 to make your arrangements. The Radisson Hotel Philadelphia will not be able to accommodate your reservation on the dates as mentioned above.

The above bookings have been released and their cancellation references mentioned above.

“I booked this hotel back in January 2023 using Radisson Americas points after securing tickets for the concert,” she told me.

The email left Dosch a mad woman. She quickly checked all the nearby hotel properties and found zero availability. The hotels that could accommodate her were far from the concert venue and overpriced. 

Apparently, everyone was coming to Philly for the Taylor Swift concert.

Dosch contacted me on our Elliott Advocacy Facebook group.

“If you see this in time, I would at least like the one night when I will be attending the concert to be reinstated,” she told me. “But ideally, I would like the entire reservation to be reinstated. If that’s not possible, I would like it to be known that Radisson is canceling reservations as a money grab for this big event and for them to be called out.”

Oh, boy. Are you ready for it? Let’s see what happened here. 

Did Radisson intentionally cancel points reservations during the Taylor Swift concert weekend?

Dosch kept a paper trail with Radisson. Here’s how her husband, Jordan, responded to the initial email last Friday.

I tried calling you as soon as I got your email, but they told me you’ve already stepped out and won’t be back until Monday. So I completely understand if I don’t hear back from you before then. 

I understand that cancellations on the hotels’ side sometimes occur. Unfortunately, the dates of our stay coincide with the Taylor Swift concert, which is why we’ll be in town as well. Since it’s two weeks before the concert all the hotels I’ve checked have very steep rates, if they aren’t sold out completely. 

Is there any way you can honor our existing reservations? If not, I’d be happy to pay using points instead of a free night certificate for the standard points rate. Please get back to me as soon as you can, since hotels are likely to sell out completely for the event. Thank you. 

Such a pleasant email. It does not say that the couple gave Radisson their business to earn the points that they spent on the rooms. It does not say how inconvenienced they are that Radisson — a hotel chain to which they had given their loyalty — had canceled their reservations. This was textbook Elliott Method.

And here’s how Radisson responded:

Unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate your reservation since our property is already booked.

We closed our system a long time ago and that’s the reason that we canceled your reservation.

Once again, I’m so sorry for the inconvenience.

That doesn’t make any sense. Dosch made her reservation months ago and no one mentioned a system that was about to close. The answer is pure gibberish. 

How can Radisson get away with this?

Is a room reservation made with points as safe as one made with cash?

Hotels don’t treat points the same as cash, at least internally. The Radisson Hotel Philadelphia wouldn’t have had access to Dosch’s points. Instead, Radisson Rewards would compensate the Radisson Hotel Philadelphia after she checked out.

The compensation formula between a loyalty program and a hotel can be complicated. (Related: Should you get rid of your loyalty program?)

In the Dosch case, it’s likely that the hotel would have received the same amount in cash as the hotel’s average rate for that day. Radisson Rewards would factor the hotel’s occupancy and the room type to come up with a room rate. 

There’s no question that the hotel could have gotten a much higher price by canceling Dosch’s points reservation and finding Swifties who were willing to pay top dollar for the room — in other words, a gold rush.

Further complicating matters is that the Radisson Hotel Philadelphia is not owned by Radisson or the company that acquired it last year, Choice Hotels. It’s a franchise property owned by New Jersey-based Watermark Hospitality. So even if corporate Choice Hotels or Radisson frown upon this cancellation, any change or refund would have to go through its franchisee.

Hotels consider these types of reservations made with points to be confirmed reservations, as opposed to guaranteed reservations. And confirmed reservations do not represent the same type of contract, at least according to hotels.

I’ll explain.

Can a hotel cancel a reservation you made with points?

So can Radisson just cancel a room booked with points two weeks before your stay? Is that even legal?

No — and yes.

Points are a form of currency in the hotel world. So when Dosch agreed to pay 30,000 award points for her room, she may have thought she had a guaranteed reservation. But she didn’t.

Your legal rights are clear: If you’ve prepaid for your room, you have a contract with the hotel that it must honor. If it can’t accommodate you, the hotel has breached its contract. Under the law, it must provide you with an alternative — either a room at another property it owns or at a competitor.

But in this case, it appears the Radisson regarded her points reservation as a confirmed reservation — meaning that it was holding the room based on certain conditions. Technically, the points hadn’t been taken from her account yet. Hotels often will hold a reservation with points, but 24 to 48 hours before check-in, the room becomes nonrefundable and the hotel claims the points. (Here’s our guide to travel loyalty points.)

So is the Radisson allowed to simply cancel her reservation and put her room back into inventory? Yes, under Radisson’s rules. But that doesn’t make it right. 

Pennsylvania’s lodging laws, most of which date back to the 1950s, are silent on the issue of accommodation guarantees. Section 1311 allows hotelkeepers to deny lodging based on a number of circumstances that don’t apply to this situation. The modern concept of loyalty programs didn’t even exist back then.

Bottom line: The Radisson Hotel Philadelphia could cancel her reservation.

What to do if your hotel cancels your room reservation made with points

If your hotel cancels your points reservation and refuses to accommodate you at a property it owns or pay for your hotel at another property (also called “walking”), what can you do?

1. Escalate your complaint to the general manager or owner

Your first stop is the hotel’s general manager or owner. It takes about three seconds to find the name of the hotel’s general manager and about half that time to guess his email address. It takes just slightly longer to find the email address for Raj Sheth, the owner of Watermark Hospitality. A brief, polite email to them would escalate your complaint to the right person.

2. Take your complaint to the corporate level

Radisson is owned by Choice Hotels. I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the Choice Hotel customer service executives on this site. You know what to do! Remember — be patient, persistent, polite. 

3. Go to small claims court

When a hotel does something bad, like canceling your reservation right before your arrival, it looks like a breach of contract, no matter how the hotel defines your agreement. I mean, what’s the difference between “confirmed” and “guaranteed,” anyway? Most small claims court judges will see things your way and issue a quick judgment. 

But wait! Taylor Swift is coming to Philadelphia next weekend!

Dosch doesn’t have time for a lengthy appeal or a trip to small claims court. As we know all too well, Taylor Swift will be in Philly next weekend. This has to get fixed now.

Dosch sent me a few details, and I decided to reach out to corporate Radisson. But 24 hours later, neither of us had heard anything. Time was not on our side, and Dosch was getting nervous staring at that blank space on her calendar.

I checked with Radisson again. Finally, I heard back from a representative.

“Chris, we have escalated this issue to the hotel management and our customer care team. We expect them to reach out to the guest to resolve this issue,” he told me.

Was she out of the woods? Not quite.

Here’s the offer she received:

Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us and for being a Radisson Rewards Americas Gold Elite member.

As I am reviewing this with the team and if the decision has been made about the refund after your stay, we will get back to you as soon as we can. I just need to check with my co-Supervisor Criz once she’s back about the exact amount that will be processed to be forwarded to our Accounting Team. 

But would you mind me asking Mr. Dosch, if it will come out that only a 50 percent refund will be provided from the amount indicated on your booking confirmation email, are you amenable to that offer as a form of resolution? Please let us know.

We appreciate your patience while this issue is being reviewed. 

 Looking forward to hearing from you soon. 

Regards,

CJ, Escalation Specialist, Radisson Hotels Americas

OK, it looks like Radisson will refund the couple’s points and offer to pay half of their room bill at another hotel. 

What do you think of this offer from Radisson?

Here’s Dosch’s response to me:

First off, I just want to thank you for pleading the case for us. Before, Radisson corporate wouldn’t even let me speak to a supervisor, and now I’m getting calls from them trying to work it out. That change is happening because of your help. Sincerely thank you. 

Radisson asked me to find a nearby hotel and be reimbursed. Unfortunately, the concert location, Lincoln Financial Field, only has three hotels that are within a 30-minute walk from the concert. 

Parking or trying to Uber to a sold-out stadium of +70,000 capacity seems like a bad idea, which is why we booked the Radisson in the first place. Still, we found an available hotel about four miles away—the Hyatt Bellevue, and we booked their lowest available rate. 

Is their offer to pay 50 percent of $3,150 a reasonable offer? 

I think the Hyatt is a nicer hotel, but we booked the Radisson because of its location. There are only two other hotels within a 30-minute walk of the stadium, a sold-out Marriott and a casino whose only remaining room is nonrefundable and $4,600, which is $1,500 more than the Hyatt we booked. 

With this option, we’ll have additional transportation costs, have spent hours sorting a mess that wasn’t our choice, and still be paying $1,500 out of pocket for a less convenient option because Radisson canceled on us. 

Am I looking at this situation wrong? What would you advise? Before, our hotel would be free because of points and free night certificates, and the reason that hotels are so expensive is that the Radisson canceled on us less than two weeks before the event. If you think this offer is reasonable or the best we’ll get, then we’ll go for it. 

Ahem, the Radisson wouldn’t have been free. 

Dosch earned the points by paying real money. (The travel industry and its blogging apologists want you to think points are free — that’s nonsense.) 

One approach could be calculating the value of the points she would have paid in dollars (one Radisson point is worth about 0.5 cents). Then offer the points to Radisson and ask them to pay for the rest. 

What do you think? Should Radisson fully reimburse Dosch’s two nights in Philadelphia — minus the cost of her points? Is there too much daylight between her and the hotel? Something tells me she’s not enchanted by this offer.

Is Radisson's offer acceptable?

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Your thoughts, please

Brianne needs your help. Should she accept Radisson’s offer or make a counteroffer? If so, what should she ask for? But don’t take too long — the concert is this weekend! The comments are open.

Update (5/9 at 1 p.m. ET)

After this story appeared, I received an email from Dosch. Radisson had contacted her and reinstated her reservation at the Radisson Hotel Philadelphia on Penrose Avenue.

“The reservation is confirmed and showing up in my Radisson account,” she told me. “I’m very happy with this resolution! I just wish it hadn’t been so hard to get helped.”

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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