A fee for lighting up in our room? But we don’t smoke!

Question: My brother, his wife and two kids, ages 17 and 20, recently visited me to attend my wedding. They booked a room for one night at the Best Western Yucca Valley Hotel & Suites. When I returned from my honeymoon, I learned the hotel had tacked on a $250 charge for smoking in a nonsmoking room.

My brother and his family do not smoke. Never have. When I called the hotel, I was told that a housekeeper had found ashes on the windowsill in the room. I asked if it was possible if one of the housekeepers or a workman had smoked in the room, not realizing that it was a nonsmoking room. I was told in no uncertain terms that none of the employees had smoked in the room.

I asked to speak with the manager and was told she was not there but I could leave my number and she would get back to me. I did this several times over the past two months, but the manager is never there. I’ve also tried to contact the hotel’s owner, but I’ve never been able to get through to a real person. Can you help? — Barbara Prestridge, Yucca Valley, Calif.

Answer: Best Western shouldn’t have charged a $250 cleaning fee unless it had hard evidence that your brother and his family were lighting up in the room.
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Best Western offers free night after bedbug attack, but is it enough?

Patricia Lenhart’s husband woke up one recent morning covered in bug bites. Bedbug bites. He and his wife were guests at the Best Western Beach Dunes Inn in Marina, Calif., and when they mentioned the probable infestation, a woman at the front desk said the hotel “hadn’t had a problem” with bedbugs before.

Then they checked out TripAdvisor, and discovered that wasn’t true.

“I found two recent reviews complaining of bedbugs,” she says. “Both people state that they notified the front desk. One of them was over a month ago! Unfortunately, they were both posted after I made my reservation. I don’t have any faith that the hotel will follow through on their promise to fix this.”

I contacted Best Western on her behalf, and as you’ll see in a minute, it reacted quickly. Question is, did it do enough?
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Billed twice for one night

westernQuestion: I am having a tough time getting my money back from Best Western, and I need your help.

My husband and I stayed at the Best Western Northtown Inn in Wichita Falls, Texas recently. He’s a truck driver and was stuck in Wichita Falls for one night waiting for his delivery spot to open. It was a spur-of-the-moment, short and sweet one-night stay — or so we thought.

I reserved the room with my Visa Check Card but paid for the room in cash. When we received our bank statement, we noticed that the card had also been charged $71 for the night. Because we don’t use that account often and weren’t expecting an extra charge, it resulted in a $35 overdraft fee.

We have tried for months to get our money back from Best Western or the bank, to no avail. A hotel stay that should have been $71 is now $177 — and it was definitely not a five-star hotel! Please help. — Angela Williams-McGill, Garland, Texas

Answer: Best Western should have refunded the extra $71 immediately. Come to think of it, the hotel should have never double-billed you.

Why did it charge you for two nights? There’s no telling. Hotel billing systems and the people who operate them routinely make errors, which is why it’s so important to check your credit card after your stay. Or, in your case, your Visa Check Card. Waiting a few weeks made it more difficult to resolve this case.
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Best Western’s Kong: “We do not shirk our responsibilities”

KongBest Western has spent more than $3 billion in the last three years to upgrade, renovate, convert or construct new hotels in North America. It also separated from hundreds of so-called “underperforming” hotels. I asked Best Western’s chief executive, David Kong, what these changes will mean to customers.

What was wrong with the old Best Western?

The old Best Western was right for its time, and while our brand promise hasn’t changed, every brand needs to evolve to stay fresh and relevant to customers. This has meant product enhancements but also exciting partnerships with AAA, Harley Davidson, Michael Waltrip Racing, and the World Vision child sponsorship organization. We have also made great strides in social media, with an award-winning blog at youmustbetrippin.com, active Twitter and Facebook followings, and robust mobile booking and trip-planning tools.
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