What should I do about this $50 phone bill?

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By Christopher Elliott

Tyson Howard has to pay a $50 phone bill at his hotel. But wait – aren’t long-distance calls “free”? Well, kinda.

Question

I stayed at the Wingate by Wyndham Charlotte Airport, and on the first night, I was having some cellphone problems. Knowing that other Wyndham properties offer free long-distance, I decided to look in the hotel services book provided in the room. Under the telephone section, it says: “Local calls are free of charge. Long-distance access in the United States is complimentary.”

I read this to mean that long-distance calls would be free, so I proceeded to make two long-distance calls to my wife, totaling maybe an hour at most.

They charged me almost $50 for these calls.

After receiving the runaround for a few days, I finally contacted the assistant to the general manager.

I don’t know about you, but that is like saying that Internet access is free, but later you find out that only the access to the Internet provider was free and they are now billing you for actually using the Internet.

I’ve tried contacting the Wyndham customer service number, but they say it’s up to the property to resolve this. Do you have any advice? — Tyson Howard, Cincinnati

Answer

I agree. The guest directory looks like long-distance calls at the hotel are free. Wingate doesn’t appear to have a chain-wide policy on phone charges, which is fine, since almost no one uses a hotel phone anymore except maybe to call the front desk.

I can remember a time when phones were a major profit center for hotels, and guests complained about fees and outrageously high per-minute rates. Usually, the hotels would back down when guests protested, mostly because they felt guilty about padding their charges to rake in extra profits.

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But those days are long gone — or so I thought. (Related: This is how to fight a hotel billing error, and win.)

My advice? Stay off the phone. And I don’t just mean waiting to talk to your wife until your cell phone is charged. I mean, stay off the phone when you’re trying to resolve this with Wyndham corporate. A brief, polite email would have been far more effective, and less stressful, and wouldn’t have required you making multiple inquiries. (Here’s how to find the best hotel at the most affordable rate.)

Based on your description of the phone fees, I thought you had a strong case for removing the bill. I contacted Wyndham on your behalf, and a representative called you and said corporate Wyndham would cut you a check for $50 to cover the phone bill.

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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. He is based in Panamá City.

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