More than a year in advance, Nancy Barnby secures her lodging inside the direct path of the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse viewing area in Oregon. Now she needs our help because that hotel has changed hands and her reservation has been summarily discarded by the new owner. With just weeks left before the eclipse, is there any way to save her celestial experience? “Help! Choice Hotels canceled our reservation to see the eclipse”
Dave Olsen thought he might have a valid claim under Choice Hotels’ best rate guarantee. Apparently, he thought wrong.
“I know you’ve written posts about the best rate guarantees,” he adds. “I know you’re opposed to them. But I wanted to share my situation.”
Slight correction: I’m only opposed to best rate guarantees when they don’t work as advertised.
But is this one of those cases?
Olsen found and reserved a $94 per night at the Clarion Victoria Hotel and Suites in Panama City, Panama, recently. But he wasn’t done shopping. He then clicked on Travelocity, where he found a $79 room rate at the same hotel for the same night.
The rooms were identical — or so he thought.
Fortunately, Choice offers a best-rate guarantee.
ChoiceHotels.com has the best Internet rates guaranteed – we’re unbeatable.
Simply book your room here on ChoiceHotels.com and if you find a lower published rate for the same hotel and accommodations for the same dates at any other qualified online source, we will match that rate plus give you a free night for that stay.
Ah, but as they say, some restrictions apply. Here’s the fine print. (This link opens as an annoying pop-up.)
So Olsen filed a claim. To its credit, Choice Hotels, which owns the Clarion brand, responded promptly.
Thank you for your interest in participating in our Best Internet Rate Guarantee program.
The Best Internet Rate Guarantee program terms & conditions state that the rate located on a competing website must match the rate terms/restrictions that you made at www.choicehotels.com. The competing website information you submitted requires prepayment. The reservation you made at www.choicehotels.com is a pay when you stay at the hotel.
The reservation policy must be the same on the competing website as the reservation you made at www.choicehotels.com.
If you have additional questions please see our terms & conditions page.
Sure enough, buried mouse print, you’ll find that the guarantee applies to reservations made for the “same hotel, dates, room type, type of currency and length of stay and is based on single or double occupancy with the same rate terms/restrictions (including but not limited to, advance purchase requirements; pre-payment and deposit requirements; and cancellation and change policies).”
But wait! Was the Travelocity rate really nonrefundable? Olsen phoned Choice hotels and argued that it wasn’t.
“I explained that the Travelocity site is not a prepayment in that they allow you to cancel, just like the Choice Hotels site,” he says. “But he insisted that their requirement for a credit card was different than the Choice Hotels requirement of a credit card. Amazing.”
Olsen didn’t take no for an answer.
I printed out the page and have a copy. But Choice explained the issue is not that they didn’t see the lower rate — he did — but that the rules were different.
I’m frustrated, just like others who have contacted you in the past.
If your readers think that Choice is correct, I’ll accept that. If your readers agree that this is just a bunch of nonsense to avoid giving me a free night, then I think further action should be considered.
Choice has already turned down Olsen on a technicality. Personally, I think Olsen has already wasted $15 of his time, and probably the $94 he’d get for his “free” room (ahh, I cringe to write those words “free” but I’ll get over it).
Also, why shop for a better rate after you’ve made a reservation? As my late journalism professor would say, down that road lies madness.
But I’ve agreed to put this to a vote, and if enough people vote to reopen this case, I will.
Erika Spott is a card-carrying member of Choice Hotels’ loyalty program, and she gives the hotel chain her business because she can always count on getting clean, reasonably-priced room.
Until she visited Avon, Ind., for a family event recently.
“We booked two non-smoking rooms at the Comfort Inn,” she says. “When we returned from spending the day with our family around 10:30 p.m., our room reeked of cigarette smoke — enough to gag a smoker.”
“What are we owed for two “horrible, stinky nights” in a hotel?”
Les Schrenk is not a rock star. He’s a law-abiding, 86-year-old World War II hero who is a model hotel guest.
So why is Quality Inn in Fort Pierce, Fla., insisting he pay $200 for a broken mirror?
“I just cannot afford to pay a $200 charge for something I did not do,” he told me.
“Quality Inn hits war hero with $200 broken-mirror fee”
Can a hotel refuse to honor your reservation because you won’t show your identification?
That’s not a hypothetical question. Nick Cataldo contacted me earlier this week because he’d been denied a room at a Sleep Inn property in Birmingham, Ala. Here’s his story.
When I was asked for and declined to show ID, a manager who was contacted by telephone spoke with me and refused me admittance unless I showed ID. I offered to pay cash for the room, to avoid suspicion of credit-card fraud, but this was still unacceptable.
The manager then refused to authorize cancellation of my reservation. After I left, my credit card was charged for one night’s stay. The charge was removed by American Express only after two months.
I asked Sleep Inn about this requirement to show ID. David Peikin, a company spokesman, said the hotel chain doesn’t require IDs to be shown by guests.
As a franchisor, we don’t own or operate any hotels. So while we don’t have any rules or regulations that require a hotel to request identification, these are independently owned and operated businesses that make their own operational decisions.
Cataldo did a little research to find out if the hotel was within its rights to require an ID.
No law requires US domestic travelers to carry photo ID. Hotels and hotel chains cannot assume that a person making a reservation will bring a photo ID. Given guests’ real concern these days about identity theft if the hotel records information on an ID, hotels should offer written privacy policies and should not be allowed to make or retain copies of the ID as a condition of admittance.
When an ID requirement is not stated and the guest cannot or will not show an ID, cancellation of the reservation on request should be the industry standard.
Alabama’s lodging laws make no specific mention of an ID requirement. As far as I can tell, the relevant statute, Section 34-15-11, just mentions a special contract.
A hotel may require any guest, or person proposing to become a guest, to enter into a special contract as to the duration, kind and place of board, entertainment or lodging to be furnished such guest and the price therefor to be paid. If such guest refuses to enter into such contract and to accept board, entertainment or lodging under the terms and conditions so proposed by the hotel, said hotel may refuse to receive or entertain such guest and because of such refusal shall not incur any liability whatever. Such special contract must be in writing and signed by both parties, and by such contract a hotel may vary its liability for the safety of the goods of its guests.
I can’t think of any reason why Sleep Inn should have required a guest to show an ID — particularly one who offered to pay in cash. It had no right to keep his money, and American Express was correct to refund his money.
But maybe I’m missing something. Can you think of a reason why an ID might be necessary for a hotel stay?