Does a hotel have the right to downgrade me in the middle of my stay?

Here’s an odd scenario that appears to be taking place more often in hotels. Guests are getting themselves involuntarily upgraded into a better room, only to find themselves involuntarily downgraded the following night. There’s something wrong with that.

After hearing Mark Raphaelson’s story about a recent hotel stay in Las Vegas, I would add, very wrong.

When we checked in at the Flamingo Hilton, we were asked if we wanted to ‘upgrade’ to a larger room. We declined, since we planned on spending no time in the room anyway. We were than told that they had overbooked our room type, and we were getting an upgrade — for the first night only. After this time, they told me we HAD to move after one night.

Now Raphaelson is no tourist. He’s been in the hospitality business for 15 years, “and I’ve never heard of making a guest move mid-stay due to an overbooking situation on the part of the resort,” he told me.

So he protested.

When I told them that this was unacceptable, they had the gall to ask me if I’d ever been to Vegas before and that this was standard practice. I got no satisfaction speaking to every level of management and even wrote a letter to the president, who responded with a form letter with no apology or realization that this was an unacceptable way to treat a guest.

Raphaelson wants to know who is right — the Hilton or him?

Both are, to a certain extent. Hilton is free to do whatever it wants to with its rooms and guests.

But while I can certainly understand the resort’s perspective, I find the way they dealt with Raphaelson to be shortsighted and counterproductive. Imagine being upgraded on a flight, only to be asked to switch seats in mid-flight because someone in the back of the plane ponied up the cash to pay for a better seat? What if you had to return your upgraded rental car to the agency because they needed it for a better-paying driver?

That policy is not in the best interests of the customer, and not Hilton, which will just alienate its guests by forcibly evicting them.

Hilton really dropped the ball when it sent Raphaelson a form letter. If it had just apologized (those are free) and included a room voucher (those are nearly impossible to redeem, anyway) he would have never bothered to contact me with this question.

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