Smokers at the Hampton Inn beware! Don’t ever do this

Andrea Asdel found an unexplained $250 charge on her Hampton Inn hotel bill two days after her stay. According to the hotel, this was an “incidence charge” — or, in plain English, a smoking fee.

Asdel doesn’t smoke, but her roommate does. She wanted a refund for the charge because he didn’t smoke inside their room.

For our readers, who have seen many stories on our website of hotel guests burned with unexpected smoking charges, it’s a familiar situation. Asdel’s story is yet another reminder that it’s important to avoid even the appearance of smoking in a hotel room. If you throw cigarette butts in the trash or allow smoke to waft in with you, you risk being assessed a hotel smoking fee.

Throwing away cigarettes at a hotel

Asdel and a friend checked into the Hampton Inn in Belmont, N.C. The Hampton Inn website lists all its rooms as “non-smoking.” They sat by the pool and drank beers. And her friend smoked.

According to Asdel, “He put a cigarette butt in an empty beer bottle and threw it away in the room.” This is the same behavior that caused a Hilton Garden Inn to assess Armen and Anna Balyan with a hotel smoking charge. And Sheraton socked Darrick Muhammad with a smoking fee when his girlfriend returned to their room after smoking a cigarette outside.

Asdel called the Hampton Inn to protest the charge. The Hampton Inn employee to whom she spoke reviewed the hotel camera footage. Unfortunately for Asdel, the cameras captured her friend putting the cigarette butt in the bottle while on the hotel grounds. A maid later found the bottle with the cigarette butt in the trash. The hotel employee was willing to lower the fee to $100, but not to remove it entirely.

Smokers at the Hampton Inn, be prepared to pay

Cleaning fees of about $250 are apparently a lucrative source of hotel revenue. By the way, it’s not just tobacco smoke that triggers these fees. Marijuana smoke does too, including medical marijuana smoke. As our executive director, Michelle Couch-Friedman, notes, hotels like the Hampton Inn seem to be assessing these fees at random.

The only way to avoid the fees is simply not to bring any cigarettes, butts or ashes to hotels — not even to discard. If you’re a smoker, you need to go elsewhere to smoke, get a smoking room, or quit the habit.

As Michelle advises: “In the future, make sure to dispose of any cigarette residue outside of your room. These charges are happening more and more frequently as hotels are becoming totally smoke-free.”

She wants that hotel smoking fee to go away

Asdel wanted contact information for the CEO or president of Hilton (the parent company of Hampton Inn) to protest the smoking fee. But we never advise beginning self-advocacy by writing to the top executives of a company. If you start with the CEO, and he or she doesn’t resolve your problem, there’s nowhere else for you to go. Nor can our advocates help you in that instance.

Michelle suggested that Asdel use our executive contacts for Hilton to write polite, concise letters to lower-ranking executives first.

Luckily for Asdel, this wasn’t necessary. Her friend called the hotel and explained that he had put the butts in the bottle to avoid littering. Because there was no smell of smoke or other damage in the room, the Hampton Inn agreed to refund the $250 smoking fee.

We reiterate our warning to hotel guests: Get rid of your cigarettes before you check in — not in the trash can of your room. Otherwise, neither you — nor we — may be able to snuff out a hotel smoking fee.

Should hotels be required to offer evidence of actual smoking in their rooms when assessing smoking fees?

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