Here’s a clever twist on one of the most enduring hotel scams. Instead of charging an outrageous markup on outgoing phone calls made from a room — a practice that’s generating less and less money because guests are simply switching to cheaper cell phones — one property has figured out a way to reverse the equation. It’s evidently charging guests for incoming calls.
That’s right, incoming phone calls.
Mary Vella told me the following strange but apparently true story of her husband’s visit to the Thistle Charing Cross in London. (I say “apparently” because I’ve tried to contact the hotel to get its side, but it hasn’t responded. I will, of course, update this post when I do.)
While he was there, our home back in the States was damaged by smoke. I telephoned him several times over the next few days because there were a lot of insurance issues to discuss.
I recently received our phone bill and was shocked to see we were charged $37.40 for 113 minutes of calls to this hotel. Our phone service includes free calls to England, so we called our phone company. It told us that this hotel charges for incoming calls!
This is a new one on me and I am not a happy camper.
Nor would I be. But my worries extend far beyond the $37 Vella must pay. I know hotels as a group are upset to have lost all those revenues from outbound phone calls. Have they finally figured out a way to reverse the trend? If they have, they aren’t winning any points with guests like Vella.
I’m not even sure of how to describe this policy. I feel that when I dial this number there should be a warning stating that you will be charged $.34 per minute for this call. If you wish to accept this charge, press … and so on.
I feel helpless and cheated, especially after the amount of drama that came with this disaster at home. Can you help me understand how this is possible, reasonable and forgivable?
How is it possible? It’s the travel industry, and when it comes to fees, anything is possible.
Reasonable? No, absolutely not.
Forgivable? Given the hotel industry’s long history of adding ridiculous surcharges like resort fees and mandatory tipping surcharges, unlikely.
Update (6/14): Vella has received a credit from the hotel for the incoming calls.
Today we were astonished to find a credit on our Visa card for $40 and a letter from Sarah Wilkinson, General Manager of the (now) Guoman Charing Cross Hotel. She states:
“….I was concerned to learn that you incurred telephone charges when your wife called you using the 0871 dial code. It is apparent that it has become standard practice with many businesses in the UK in order to reduce domestic call costs. However, I have raised the concern regarding the impact this has on international incoming calls within our company as it is not our intention to penalize our guests in any way. As a gesture of apology I have arranged for a £20 credit to be applied to your Visa. I hope this goes some way to assure you of my concern in this matter.”
I am guessing that you were responsible for this action and we thank you so much for intervening on our behalf. The responses that came from the posting on your Web site suggested that this was a lost cause and we never imaged we would see any results. What a startling surprise it was to receive this gracious response from Ms. Wilkinson!