Ridiculous or not? Hotels can cancel your reservations anytime, and you’re outta luck

The email from the Hotel Solamar in San Diego came as a “complete shock” to Barb Staigerwald on a recent Saturday morning. Her reservations for a convention in July had suddenly been canceled without explanation.

Try as hard as she may, she couldn’t get her room back.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance. Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

“I got on the phone right away,” she says. “The first person, a reservation agent, had no idea why it was cancelled or what happened. She told me I’d have to wait until Monday to speak to an in-house agent at the hotel. I tried to explain that this couldn’t wait and that if I need a new hotel, I need to get on this ASAP, since most hotels for that week are booked up. I then asked for a manager who pretty much told me the same thing. ”

Can hotel just cancel a reservation and leave you without a room? In a word, yes.

California’s lodging statutes, which go into great detail about the rights of an innkeeper, don’t specifically address situations like Staigerwald’s. In other words, the Solamar could cancel her room and she’s outta luck, as far as the Golden State’s hotel laws are concerned.

Other states have similarly vague laws, which allow hotels to cancel your reservations before you check in and leave you homeless.

I asked the Solamar what happened.

Vanessa Bortnick, a hotel spokeswoman, said the hotel didn’t call the whole thing off. “It looks like the cancellation happened through the online booking engine, but we are working on digging up more details,” she told me. “We are so sorry that we weren’t able to resolve it with Ms. Staigerwald.”

I worked with her over the weekend, and thanks to a little help from one of its executives, the reservation was reinstated by Sunday morning. But it doesn’t always end that way.

Steve Preston remembers having a reservation at a hotel in Florence, S.C., canceled shortly before his scheduled arrival. The reason? The property had been “re-flagged” (an industry term for switching brands) and went from being a Hampton to a Baymont. The owners were the same. “I was given one weeks notice that my reservation was canceled,” he remembers. “I was told, ‘tough luck’.”

Preston complained to Hilton, which owns the Hampton brand, and it offered him a room at another property.

Joe Grella had a reservation at an elegant seaside hotel in St. Tropez, France, but when he arrived, the doors were locked. “Fortunately, I had the phone number of the owner,” he recalls. “When he responded, he indicated that he had sent me an email a week prior that they needed to cancel the reservation because the hotel was being sold.”

Grella says the owner found a replacement room at a nearby chateau. “The place was beautiful,” he says. “However, we had prepared our luggage for a stay on the sea, in a beautiful city, and not far from civilization.”

The question is, should this apparent gap in lodging law be addressed? Some might say a reservation is a form of contract, and that the property breaches the contract when it arbitrarily cancels a reservation. But as a practical matter, who has the time and resources to file a lawsuit against a hotel for not honoring a reservation?

Hotels know this. They know they can get away with it.

Interestingly, the federal government just increased the required compensation for passengers who are denied boarding when their flights are overbooked. The new rule doubles the amount of money passengers are eligible to be compensated for in the event they are involuntarily bumped from an oversold flight.

Wouldn’t it be reasonable for hotels to be required to do something similar?

(Photo: Dan iel Ray/Flickr Creative Commons)

81 thoughts on “Ridiculous or not? Hotels can cancel your reservations anytime, and you’re outta luck

    1. But customers can rarely if ever cancel their reservation without some penalty. Some amount of money usually does change hands in the form of a reservation fee or something similar

        1. Not in resort areas! Some of their “very generous cancellation policies” require a deposit, which will only be partially refunded if the cancellation is made within a certain time frame, sometimes as long as a month in advance.

    2. That’s simply untrue. Make a reservation, fail to show up, your card will be dinged one night’s room and taxes, even if no money changed hands.

    3. Tom, you are correct, but it also depends on how the state laws would interpret providing a credit card as a guarantee. I would argue that the credit card guarantee is financial consideration and should be interpreted as a valid contract, which then holds both parties liable to fulfill the terms of the contract, which includes the hotel providing a room as promised.

      1. It would only be consideration if the card was actually charged the whole amount of the reserved stay in advance. Any less might give them the legal wiggle room to get out of it.

  1. I’ve a feeling the comparision with flights is incorrect. Flight tickets are tickets and prepaid. A Hotel reservation is seldom prepaid. Moreover in the big chain hotels you can cancel without payment up to 6.00 PM? Why shouldn’t the hotel then be able to cancel?

      1. The pre-paid non-changeable non-refundable hotel reservations are an option or a choice. I have NOT run into a hotel that a pre-paid non-changeable non-refundable room rate was the ONLY room rate offered by the hotel. Travelers that purchase these pre-paid non-changeable non-refundable hotel reservations do it on the basis of price since the room rate can be 5% to 50% lower than the regular room rate.

        These pre-paid non-changeable non-refundable hotel reservations are offered by opaque sites like hotwire, priceline, etc. where the traveler is driven strictly by price (i.e. 50% off the standard rate). Also, hotels offer pre-paid non-changeable non-refundable rates (5% to 50% off the standard rate depending upon the hotel brand) in addition to their standard room rates in order to compete for guests that like to use hotwire, priceline, etc.

        I could be wrong since I usually stay in hotel chains (i.e. Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton, IHG, etc.) and most of my stays are with Marriott branded hotels. Can you provide a list (or a link) of hotel chains and/or independent hotels where pre-paid non-changeable non-refundable hotel reservations are the ONLY room rate that are offered by the hotel?

        1. I’m confused. Can you point me to the place where I said pre-paid was the “only” option customers had at any hotel?

          I can certainly point you to many budget hotels and online travel agencies where it’s the most prominent option. And certainly, the least expensive.

          1. When I read your response to the comments of HappyHotelier, it came across to me that pre-paid was the only option.

            I agree with you that a pre-paid non-changeable non-refundable rate is the least expensive. A few times, I have found that the AAA rate for a Marriott brand hotel property is lower than the pre-paid non-changeable non-refundable rate. I don’t do pre-paid non-changeable non-refundable rates for work or personal because things can change when you travel and I want flexibility…plus the 5% to 10% discount that Marriott offers isn’t a large enough discount for me to take on that risk.

            My issue with pre-paid non-changeable non-refundable rate is the travelers who buy them then want to change their reservations or cancel them and want to get a refund. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

            It doesn’t surprise me that budget hotels and online travel agencies make pre-paid non-changeable non-refundable rate the most prominent option since most if not all of their customers are driven by price.

          2. I’ve seen some pretty interesting rates.

            Once I booked same-day (a Marriott-branded property BTW) and there was some special rate. It was near an outlet mall and it supposedly came with a special rate (for $20 more than the “last-minute” rate) that included $80 worth of gift cards. I called up the place and verified with a clerk if it was valid. I don’t know if it was a contract at that point when I booked, but I doubt it.

            I didn’t get the special. The manager was there when we checked in and said the website was in error. Something about a two-day stay required with one day at a $160/night rate. So pay $80 more for $80 worth of gift cards? It didn’t make sense without some sort of discount. He did adjust the rate to the last-minute rate though.

            I was checking out the rates the week before, and it was $20 more for the AAA rate than the later last-minute rate. I think the last minute rate was also theoretically OK to cancel before maybe 4-6 PM, but there wasn’t much time to cancel since the rate wasn’t available until the day before.

          3. That’s a bit disengenious. By definition, the most restrictive rate has to be the cheapest (when all factors are considered) otherwise no one in their right mind would ever book it.

            Imagine paying $300 for a prepaid, non-refundable, non-changeable hotel room, but the same, fully refundable room is $200. That would be silly.

          4. Might be silly, but it happens. The AAA rate can be, but not always is, less than the prepaid rate at Marriott hotels. My last trip to Hawaii the prepaid non refundable non changeable rate for the hotel I wanted to stay at was $209 a night while the AAA rate which allowed cancellation up to 6 pm the day before arival with no prepaid amount was $179. The reason for this is AAA requires membership, and this hotel enforces that, and the prepaid doesn’t. There are probably other similar rate structures out there that would be even lower cost to me if I had the proper membership.

      2. Perhaps, in certain locales, but I find that the number of prepaid reservations is an infinitesimal percentage of the reservation options that most hotels offer.

      3. I made a reservation with The Residence Inn Marriot in Downtown Sacramento through the reservation line on the phone and when i show up after midnight the room was sold out and the enire hotel. I had 2 kids in the care exhausted 🙁   What can I do?

        1. You can realize you need to call the hotel if you are going to show up after dinner; because, wondering if you are going to show up, they will give your room to someone else. This must be a troll question.

      1. For arguably similar reasons others are able to cancel their contracts with other parties in other industries?

        While it sucks that some people can seemingly cancel for any reason, especially if it’s not paying enough, that same ability can allow you to choose whom to do business with and whom to avoid. It depends on each individual circumstances, though.

    1. I disagree that a hotel reservation is “seldom” prepaid. Every chain I’m familiar with offers prepaid nonrefundable reservations prominently on their reservation sites. Personally, I book those rates about half the time (if I’m booking within a month of the trip and know that it’s very unlikely I would change my plans).

      It seems to be that it’s ridiculous to suggest that the hotel should be allowed to cancel a reservation when the customer cannot. That means that any prepaid reservation should be sacred, and that it’s totally unacceptable for the customer to arrive at the hotel after their window of time to cancel has passed (meaning after 4-6 pm on the day of arrival, or sometimes a couple days earlier) to be told they don’t have a reservation.

      If the hotel proactively contacts the customer some time in advance to tell them their room has been canceled, then I guess I’d say they have the right to do that. I can also tell you as a customer that I’d never stay at that property again.

    2. I’ve had a prepaid (Priceline) reservation cancelled on me (by the hotel) with no advance notice before check-in. I had to fight tooth and nail and spend a great deal of time at the front desk and on the phone before I was finally accommodated elsewhere (at an inferior hotel but at no additional cost.)

  2. This happens all the time in the Omaha area when the College World Series is in town. There are news reports every year – generally consumer advocate segments – where someone’s reservation got “lost” and the reservation cannot be reinstated OR that the price has shot up to 2 – 3 times the original booking price.

    This happened to me in Tallahassee this past March. Luckily I had called the week prior to confirm the reservation and recorded the employee’s name who confirmed my reservation. I got to Tallahassee – reservation had disappeared, but I could get a different, less-valuable room for a whole lot more money. (Some sort of huge protest over funding for higher education was going on and all the rooms in town were booked.) I was able to hold them to my original room, original price – but it was a rather grim 30 minutes there.

    I think the fact that I had a booking, secured by my credit card, and my obligation to pay if I didn’t cancel by time-x is a contract in itself. There are 2 sides to a contract, even if power isn’t equally shared. I’d like to hear from the attorneys on here. Carver, Joe Farrell (or whatever your new login name is today!)?

    1. Hi Jeanne

      Unfortunately, the hotel writes the contract it will always favor the hotel. The best and immediate solution is very simple although Chris will disagree with me.

      Join the loyalty program and achieve some level of elite status. Book directly with the hotel, NEVER with a third party website, and bring a printout of your confirmation. Why?

      You’ve just made it very expensive for the hotel to bump you, lose the reservation, etc. For example, Marriott will give its Gold members $100 in CASH on the spot, plus comp them the first night if they are walked. The GM of the hotel is probably going to honor your reservation over another guest.

      It is imperative to book directly with the travel provider because the hotel will always claim that they never received the reservation and accordingly they owe you nothing. Its much harder for a Marriott to argue when you have a confirmation from marriott.com

      My $0.02

      1. Thanks, Carver. I think the correct term I was looking for is “contract of adhesion”, where the hotel has most of the power.

        I never deal with 3rd party booking sites – either I book through the hotel’s website or I call the reservation line or the hotel itself. I always get a confirmation # and an employee name, if I’m dealing with a real person. I sign up for the loyalty programs because of what I’ve read on here, although there’s no way on Earth I’m going to qualify for any award levels – I don’t travel that much, nor am I brand-loyal.

        In the Tallahassee case, I was at a locally owned motel (I think) – not a chain and therefore no loyalty programs. Luckily I read blogs such as elliott.org!

  3. An important difference between airline seats and hotel rooms to note – once the flight is done, the airline can remove you from the seat to make room for the next reservation. Depending upon the state, hotels have a limited ability to make lodgers move once thier initial reservation is up. So if you have a reservation at a hotel and the person who has the reservation prior to yours you refuses to leave, there’s not a whole lot that can be done by the hotel. And if the hotel’s booked, you’re out of luck.

    1. Yes, those laws do exist. And back in the day, when I worked at a hotel, that’s the excuse we used when we walked people. I can’t remember a single instance of its being true, though. We ALWAYS overbooked – it’s part of the business model.

  4. Voted with the majority by voting no but there are exceptions, of course, if the hotel has been damaged and is inoperable. But even then any monies paid should be refunded. All that said, cancelling a reservation is truly a dumb mistake on the part of the accommodation, whether it be a hotel or vacation rental. The bad blood and bad press are not worth it regardless of the reason—- if it is optional. Don’t understand why any hotel would risk its reputation doing this. I never would on my vacation rentals unless for the emergency situation.

  5. Back in 2003 I booked on night at hotel by La Guardia through Expedia. As it was one of Expedia’s special discounts, I had to pre pay. I got to the hotel very late and they did not have a room available. They had a record of my reservation, but they told me because of the reduced rate I paid, they could not honor it, as the sold out to people who paid higher rates. They said they refunded Expedia, and I would need to call Expedia for my refund. They were un-willing to help me find another room.

    I called Expedia, and they would not do anything either, as they said they made the reservation at the hotel, and that it’s between me and the hotel now.

    I called around and everything was sold out, so I went to the airport and was able to get on a flight that evening for an additional $250.

    I kept following up with Expedia, who refused to refund me as they insisted they completed their end of the deal, and they insisted that what I paid Expedia is non refundable, even if the hotel refunded them. I eventually had to give up.

    After this incident, I decided to never use Expedia again, and only book through the hotels directly. I have not had a reservation canceled since I started doing this, even if it’s a reduced price pre-paid rate.

    1. That sucks, but I would have thought that a credit card chargeback would be in order.

      if the hotel sold out to people who paid higher rates, then that is not a good business practice on their part, and they should be penalized as well as expedia for not ensuring the reservation they made on your behalf was in order.

      I deal pretty much exclusively at Marriotts, and pretty much all of the time with their website, so I don’t get exposed to what goes on at these other places.

      I’ve only made one room reservation with Expedia, and it went fine, but the hotel was not busy. I’ve booked a few flights on them, and one I had to cancel, but I didn’t get any money back really. The rules were too restrictive. But I knew that going in.

      1. I agree — the next call after Expedia not only refused to honor the reservation they charged you for (either at that hotel or a comparable one for no additional charge) should have been to your credit card company to dispute the charge. When you’re clearly in the right, it’s the best way to put the ball in their court instead of chasing them around.

        1. The problem with that, as related in online complaints about Expedia, is that Expedia will sell the charge-back over to a collections agency and also file a bad credit report about you, and the agency may sue you if the amount is worth it. Clearly dishonest and illegal, but how do you deal with it?

  6. Even prepaid, nonrefundable reservations are not immune to the whims of a hotel operator. A couple of years ago I booked and prepaid for a hotel in Orlando thru Priceline. The day before checking in, I called the hotel to confirm – and was told that they had canceled my reservation because they never would have sold a hotel room for the price that Priceline gave me. It took a full day of complaining up the chain before Priceline honored my booking and got us a room at a different hotel. Needless to say, I know now to confirm all hotel bookings 2-3 times before making a trip. Why are customers locked into nonrefundable reservations and not hotels?

    1. It is usually not the hotel but the third party. They are not supposed to sell the room at the rate but go throug with the deal because they know the responsibility and the negative image will fall to the hotel. I bet after this you booked through priceline again but never went back to that hotel.

  7. Various aspects of the travel industry are getting out of control in a very bad way. As the world’s technology progresses, as the customer gains more control via the internet with regard to pricing, availability, etc. the hotels, airlines and car rental businesses are doing everything they can to separate us from our money as thoroughly as they can using any means possible.

    As much as some travelers like to believe they have the upper hand this simply isn’t true any longer and the more they travel the greater the likelihood, the greater the probability they will get stuck with some sort of injustice. Frankly, I’m glad there are people like Chris who level the playing field a little bit, one scenario at a time.

    It doesn’t seem ethical to me for a hotel to cancel reservation but I’ll bet the temptation is great when they are able to get more money for the same room. I can imagine how the behind the scenes conversation goes: Manager to desk clerk – I know we’re booked but this guy will be paying the walk-in rate versus this low one that came in from Expedia. Cancel the Expedia room, tell them it got lost in the system. What can they do? *Shrug*

  8. I thought it was ridiculous when I showed up at a Hyatt in Massachusetts recently with a prepaid, nonrefundable reservation for a double room (booked directly through the hotel, not a third party) and was told that they couldn’t give me the type of room I had reserved because they were “fully booked.” They did give me a room, but with only one bed, so my teenager had to sleep on the couch. I had naively assumed that paying in advance would let me avoid this kind of thing.

    1. Was room type guaranteed? Some hotels do NOT guarantee the room type…they guarantee the room but states something like ‘we will make an effort to give you a room of your choice but there is no guarantee’.

      Chris Elliott is against frequent guest programs but one benefit of some frequent guest programs is room type guarantee. I receive cash if I don’t receive my room type from Marriott.

  9. This actually happened to me this week for a July reservation!! Rebranding issue and of course my reservation was for a busy time in the area (NASCAR race). Marriott came through for me offering me a room at another hotel but still had to pay double the original price.

  10. I get the feeling that, based on the information above, the OP is going to San Diego Comic-Con. If that’s the case, getting another room is indeed going to be difficult.

    Either way, there’s no excuse to cancel a reservation like this, much less do so without compensation.

      1. Sorry to hear about your troubles, Barb. Hopefully you are able to work something out.

        If anybody doesn’t know about SDCC and San Diego itself: to lose your room like this means who knows where you’ll end up, and how far away it will be from the convention center. While the public transportation is decent, it’s a nightmare to deal with when there’s tens of thousands of people also trying to get to the same place you are.

        I had been going to SDCC every other year in recent years, and I always stayed somewhere close to the convention center for convience.

        I was going to go again this year, but decided to pass after looking at booking directly with a hotel. The prices are just not worth it any more, and I am no longer willing to risk booking a room through the convention itself due to all the problems and restrictions they’ve put in place.

        1. After contacting Chris and a higher up at the hotel my reservation was reinstated but I have yet to hear what actually went wrong for this to happen. I do know the same thing happened to someone at the same hotel and they too were able to get everything back in order.

  11. There should be some mechanism for this. Obviously, it has ot happen sometimes (hurricane, tornado, fire, strike, other calamaty) which is probably covered.

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a hotel reservation cancelled on me, actually. In fact, I’ve not had much in the way of “serious” trouble with a hotel, just little things. Still, I am about to go to a conference, and if the hotel happened to cancel my reservation about now, I expect I would have some trouble.

  12. It seems to me that most of these cancellations are 1) related to a change of ownership and 2) more of a common occurance at smaller hotel chains, independent hotels and smaller hotels.

    It can happen at larger hotels as well. We had a corporate rate at the Sheraton that was next door to the regional office; however, we had to call in to make a reservation instead of using the Internet. The hotel hired a new person who entered the reservation incorrectly and it wasn’t saved (I was told that she made several mistakes with other people reservations). When I arrived at the hotel at 11:45 AM and was told that I didn’t have a reservation and the hotel had no room. They put me up in a Hilton, pay for my breakfast and provided transporation…plust they gave me enough SPG points that I was able to book four nights at the Sheraton Park Tower in London.

  13. Rather astonished that one of the reasons given here for cancelling is that the hotel found a higher paying customer and booted out the lower paying customer. That’s something I could do regularly as winter weeks on Sanibel Isalnd are at a premium and multiple week bookings are common. So I could boot out someone who only booked a week to allow in someone looking to book 4 or 5 or 6. But I have never done that and never would do it, and am flabbergasted hotels appear to do it with some regularity. Now, as to my guests, yeah they cancel for even less cause and if they do it within a certain window they pay next to nothing—- but my “loss” can be substantial. But them’s the breaks in this business.

  14. If you don’t show up, most hotels will charge your credit card one nights lodging…why shouldn’t it work both ways?

    Some years ago I had a reservation at a hotel in South Carolina – we had booked months ago for a swim meet my son was participating in. When we got there we were told that the hotel was full and that I had no room, even though I had reserved one. The reason? The people that were in ‘my’ room had decided to extend their stay, thus displacing me per SC law. Fortunately the hotel was able to find me another hotel…unfortunately, it wasn’t at the team hotel as planned.

  15. I think the only reason a hotel should be allowed to cancel your confirmed reservation should be if something extraordinary happens; being able to book someone else into the same room at a higher rate certainly doesn’t count. Unfortunately, it sounds like the best way to combat this is for blogs like this one to criticize hotels who do this, and hope that the negative publicity hurts them.

    The one time this happened to me was due to a hotel being sold and rebranded. I booked one night at a Super 8 in Saratoga Springs, NY when my wife and I were taking a road trip through the northeast and assumed there would be no problem. Luckily, I logged back on to Super 8’s site to find the hotel’s address about a month before we left and couldn’t find the hotel listed anywhere. I called their 800 number and got a totally unconcerned CSR who told me that the hotel had been sold, that the previous owner had no responsibility for informing people who had reservations on the books, and that since each hotel is independently owned and operated, blah blah blah, Super 8 basically didn’t care. (I haven’t stayed at a Super 8 since).

    The property became a Comfort Inn and I called them directly; sure enough, no record of any reservation in my name. Here is where I have to commend the management of the Comfort Inn in Saratoga Springs for stepping up and providing great service. Their regular rates were significantly higher than what I had booked with Super 8, but after a little discussion they agreed to honor the rate I would have had. When we got there, the room and the staff were outstanding. I’d definitely give them my business again if we stay in the area in the future.

  16. Solution: Threaten to file suit against the property for the amount of the stay plus any difference in price from having to rebook.

    If the hotel doesn’t reinstate your reservation, then file that suit at your local Small Claims Court branch. It doesn’t matter where the property is — if you completed the business transaction in your own county you can file there.

    Chances are: default judgment. Or if a larger hotel chain is responsible (Starwood, etc.) they’ll likely offer a settlement.

    A deal’s a deal, and if hotels intend to collect non-refundable payments or enforce cancellation penalties, well, the contract cuts both ways.

    1. Erik

      Unfortunately as attractive as it seems, none of those a viable options.

      1. Threatening to sue is the quickest way for the conversation to turn adversarial. More likely the hotel will simply refer it to counsel who will not be intimidate in the least as he/she knows that most threats to sue are empty

      2. Getting a judgment is part one. Afterwards you still have to collect which can be a beast. If its a default judgment in another state, its be come doubly hard to collect.

      3. Chains are unlikely to get involved particularly if its a franchise location. ffccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc

  17. I’m not familair with this hotel or brand, but there are several things that could happen to cause someone to have their reservation cancelled.

    With the IHG hotels (Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn brands), if you are a Platinum member you are guaranteed a room if you request one at least 72 hours before arrival. This means if the hotel is booked full and a Platinum member requests a room, someone else gets cancelled. Similar policy at Marriott. This might be what happend in this case.

    The hotel might have booked more reservations than they had rooms hoping that there would be a normal percentage of cancellations. And those did not happen so they had to randomly start cancelling a few. And of course they would choose to cancel those that either contracted for the lowest prices or those that are for the least frequent guests.

    Is either of these reason really the correct thing to do? No. The least the hotel should do is offer the cancelled guest accomodations at a comparable hotel property.

    1. IMHO, the cancel clause is a just-in-case one to protect the hotel from liability as much as possible. Other businesses in other industries have similar clauses, though they don’t necessarily just brandish it around if that happens.

      Besides, some (if not many or even all) will will work with you if (knock on wood) that happens.

  18. A hotel should always honor a reservation, unless there is a catastrophic and unforeseen circumstance (ie natural disaster, fire, etc.)

    If a hotel cannot honor an existing reservation, then it has the obligation to find the guest a new property that is the same or better value. If the new property has a higher rate, the original hotel that “walked” the guest should pick up the additional expense, not the guest.

    However, I don’t view the above as “compensation” rather than fulfilling its original obligation.

  19. I once had a reservation and when i showed up at the hotel at 11pm at night the general manager stated my reservation had been cancelled because the credit card i used had expired. This was in my loyalty account and i was trying to check in on the first of the month. The general manager did not offer to provide me another hotel and I spent the night in my car becuase this was in a remote location and all hotels were booked. I asked the GM why he didn’t call before he cancelled my reservation and he stated it was not required. called the corporate office in the morning and was taken care of and I did receive a letter of apology from the general manager about the misunderstanding. I never stayed at the hotel again.

    1. This is common when booking rooms because this is how people try to get out of paying the no show fee. Why didnt you just use a valid credit card? The loyalty program should have emailed you letting you know that your credit card is not valid anymore and your reservation should have not gone through.

  20. The idea that reflagging a hotel wipes the reservation slate clean strikes me as absurd. Here is something that cries out for legislation to protect guests from having their plans voided by a corporate decision. Unless the hotel is closed for renovations, all existing reservations should pass along with title to the property. And even when a hotel is closed for renovations, the new owner should be obligated to provide comparable lodging.

    1. Actually

      This is one case that doesn’t bother me. Re-flagging a hotel may fundamentally change the nature and character of the hotel such that the previous price structure may not make any sense.

      I believe though that the hotel should be forced to notify each guest about the rebranding and give them an opportunity to cancel, penalty free regardless of the terms and conditions of the original bookings.

      1. Yes, it would probably depend on the hotel and situation as to whether cancellations are appropriate.

        One that bugs me, and we’ve had happen to us twice now, is a hotel loses it’s branding altogether. And while both times the chain contacted us to let us know, we never heard from the hotel itself either time.

          1. Well, the contact from the chain was via e-mail, but there’s no guarantees that I won’t hear about it next time. So, yes, duplicate contacts would not bother me.

            Either way, the hotel certainly has no incentive for me to know that they’re no longer part of my preferred chain when it will cost me program points and cost them a reservation.

      2. Carver, I agree with you that rebranding a hotel, especially if significant renovations are involved, may make the price of existing reservations unreasonable. In the case I mentioned above, the motel went from a Super 8 to a Comfort Inn and after we stayed there, I can say it was definitely higher quality than any Super 8 I’ve ever seen. (And the price went from $75 to $115, though as I said the Comfort Inn honored our original rate as a goodwill gesture, which was very nice of them).

        So I agree that it may be appropriate to cancel existing reservations, but I think unless significant advance notice is given, it still amounts to penalizing the customer. In our case, if I hadn’t happened to look up the motel address for directions, we would have shown up that night very confused, without a reservation, and would likely have had to pay more than we had planned. (And I can hear people saying “well, you should have double-checked anyway,” but come on…I had a confirmation number and everything emailed to me when I made the reservation. That should be enough). Canceling reservations without any notice at all is clearly wrong.

        The other thing that bothered me, though I never followed up on it, is that it seemed to me like our reservation never should have been accepted in the first place. I reserved the room sometime in February for a late May stay; it was late April when I found out the property had changed over to a Comfort Inn. Assuming that renovations were done (which seemed pretty clear to me based on the good condition of the property), I find it very hard to believe that the plan to change branding was not in place when I made the reservation.

        1. @7b07f3d15f45db6d2f8bc0d335c3b70e:disqus

          I agree that advance notice should be given. I’ve taken several internet reps at task because I find that is absolutely ridiculous that notice isn’t given. How hard would it be to send an e-mail to each registered guest about the re-flagging and reservation cancellation.

          I also think this notion of double checking is silly. Sure, if there is some special reason, e.g. a special event that strains the local hospitality infrastructure; inclement weather, etc. But if I have a confirmation, from the hotel provider, I see no reason why I should double check every reservation. Besides the reality is that the overwhelming majority of hotel, car, airline reservations go without a hitch.
          Obviously what happens in Elliott’s columns are the anomalous situations.

  21. They shouldn’t, but the last thing we need is another law….where is the “do the right thing” when it comes to the service industry? The service industry needs the equivalent of the Hippocratic oath…

  22. This is why I never stay in hotels anymore. When I go on vacation, I use a reputable real estate firm to lease a condo. Why anyone would want to stay in a hotel is beyond me. You’re more comfortable, it’s almost always quieter, and you have way less chance of bringing bed bugs home with you.

      1. Depends. Some condo rentals can be at a daily rate. There are a lot of condos with daily rentals in Hawaii; in many cases the complex has a management office that handles rental reservations. However, each one is furnished by the owner, so there may be some differences. It can be somewhat like a hotel though.

        There are also some timeshares that rent out at a daily or weekly rate. I stayed in one once. It felt like a condo but was immaculately cleaned. I think the timeshare owners probably feel the same way when they check in.

    1. On a road trip it might be harder to find a condo for a single night. Single night condo rentals are available in certain areas (Tahoe and Hawaii come to mind) but it might not be possible if you’re traveling the interstates.

      Strangely enough, there are condo and vacation home rentals in and around Yosemite. There are a few inholdings (Wawona and Foresta) that have rentals, as well as Yosemite West, which is a community right outside Yosemite National Park’s borders, but where the only roads in/out are through the park. I haven’t tried staying in one, but the photos I’ve seen are of luxury vacation homes that rent for anywhere from $300-800 a night.

  23. @ David Z…..vacation rentals (condo/cottage/cabin/house) will always be less expensive than hotel rooms if you are renting 2 or more rooms to accommodate a family. They may break even when renting just one room, but more than likely even there there will be a savings. There are lots of articles on line doing detailed comparisons and if you google “comparison of hotel room cost to vacation rental cost” you’ll pull some of these up with real dollar comparisons.

  24. Hotels frequently overbook rooms, then have to walk guests to another hotel. Happens all of the time. Owners should be held accountable…no?

    1. Yes, and every hotel will pay that first night and even help with transportation and even give fututre discounts. Immediately call and cancel with your credit card if they don’t, but I am positive every hotel will do this at least in the US.

  25. Honestly. Who voted “yes” in this poll?
    Frits van Paasschen, Bill Marriott and Mark Hoplamazian?

  26. From the other side of the check-in counter, we promise not to cancel your reservation if you promise to honor it too. Too many non-guests try to weasel their way out of paying no-show fees and when they don’t get their way, they dispute it on their credit card.

  27. I made a reservation at a Comfort Inn in Milwaukee and guaranteed the room with my credit card several years ago. As it happened, I arrived earlier than I expected at about 3:30 PM. When I went to check in I was told they were overbooked and my reservation was changed to another location across town.

    I complained that I guaranteed my reservation there but the receptionist
    told me that the location didn’t overbook, the central office did and she was just doing what they told her to remedy the situation. She gave me a phone to speak to the central office.

    I asked if I would receive any compensation. The representative at the central office said no. He told me that when I guarantee a room, I’m guaranteeing to pay whether I come or not. The Inn isn’t guaranteeing anything. I found another room myself. I checked later that the location I was being sent to had lower rates but they were not mentioned to me.

    Since then I have avoided the Comfort Inns and their affiliates.


  28. I book a hotel in July 2010 for the following year in San Diego Ca. and gave my credit card info.  I booked with the hotels main website (not a third party like Expedia).  In June 2011, I received an E-mail notification of “Reservation Rate Changes” and my total cost now doubled.  Is a hotel allow to change reservation rates even after you have a confirmation?

  29. We made a reservation through our company travel agency and arrived at the hotel at 11.30pm only to find out that our rooms at the Homewood Suites in Decatur-Forsyth were not available.  We were told to go to another hotel 15 minutes away because all the other hotels close by were booked because of a conference.  Incidentally the other hotel we were referred to, Decatur Conference Center and Hotel, is owned by the same guy that owns the Homewood Suites, one Steve Horve.  The ratings and quality of the two hotels are very different with the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel far lower par than the original hotel.

  30. I am the sole proprietor of a travel agency. I am a work at home mom. I have had hotels cancel my customers bookings because they booked through me, an outside source of an event that they were attending in the area. The hotel told me these customers must pay the convention pricing which is usually a lot more than I am offering for the property for the same dates. Which in my field of work is called price gauging. This is one unfair to small business’ trying to make a decent living, and two unfair to the traveler. Do we not have the right to choose how we conduct our business and with whom? What ever happened to free trade in America. Corporate companies are slowly monopolizing everything and America wonders why the economy is at an all time low.

  31. I booked a hotel through priceline which was paid in full, when I got to the hotel they told me my reservations was canceled because they do not have any rooms available even though I paid and got confirmations and itinerary, I never got an email with any cancellation notice. I didn’t find out my reservations was canceled until I tried to check in, they then offered to find another accommodation but all hotels were completely booked, I was 3 hours away from home and I was left stranded, I had to drive all the way back in the middle of the night on a rainy day and then drive another 3 hours back to the graduation I was attending. This was so terrible and inconvenient.

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