If you received a $500 MGM gift card from your family, you would expect it to be worth $500, right? So would I. Unfortunately, this traveler found out his gift card was worth nothing! Can we fix this problem? “Is this $500 MGM gift really worth nothing?”
No, your high-rise hotel isn’t about to sprout wings and fly off into the sunset. But you might forgive Edward Goodman for thinking the Bellagio wants to.
“Airline rules, coming to a hotel near you”
Question: I wanted to ask you about an ATM dispute that occurred last August. I tried to obtain funds from a single ATM in Las Vegas multiple times and my card was continuously declined. I received no cash. The following day, I checked my online banking and it showed that these transactions were pending on my checking account.
I then contacted Bank of America customer service and the representative assured me that if I did not receive any funds then my account would reflect this the following Tuesday.
“Las Vegas ATM stole $990 — can you help recover it?”
It was supposed to be a special birthday celebration for Samantha O’Rourke and ten of her closest friends. They were flying from Appleton, Wisc., to Las Vegas on Allegiant Air. But it ended up being anything but special.
“We were treated horribly,” she says.
“Never yell “Woohoo! Vegas!” before you board an Allegiant flight”
Question: I hope you can help me with a Hotwire Hotel reservation. I booked a three-star “Las Vegas Strip — South Area Hotel” on Hotwire recently. I got a room at Hooters Casino Hotel for $47 per night, plus taxes and fees.
There are two problems with the result. First, it’s not on the Las Vegas Strip; it’s more than half a mile away. And second, it’s listed as a “Super Savings” rate, which Hotwire classifies as “more than 30 percent off retail price.” But most websites have the normal price at about $45 to $50 per night. Where’s the “super” savings?
“No ‘super’ savings on my Las Vegas strip hotel”
Resort fees fall under the category of “nuisance” surcharges because they’re usually so insignificant that they’re not worth fighting. And travel companies know it, which is one reason they keep piling ’em on.
But what happens when these extras rise to the level of a major expenditure?
“Socked with a $450 resort fee — is that fair?”
Mandatory resort fees have been annoying hotel guests for almost as long as I’ve been covering the hotel industry, which is to say, a long time. But how do you persuade a property to remove these unwanted extras from your bill?
In the past, simply asking to have the additional $10 or $20 a night stricken from your bill was enough. Not anymore. Now, your friendly hotel clerk is far likelier to take a hard line when you’re checking out.
“Yes, you can fight a resort fee — and win”
Question: I am a teacher at a high school in San Francisco that has lost $5,000 to Southwest Airlines. Our 12th-grade class did fundraising all year to raise enough money for a trip to Bahia de Los Angeles in Baja, Mexico, to stay at a Marine Biology lab owned by Glendale Community College. This trip was to allow the students to perform community service at the elementary school there, and for the Sea Turtle rescue station.
We booked seats as a group and per our contract paid in full by cashier’s check for our 39 tickets. A few days later, a travel advisory was issued because of swine flu. Since these are minors on a service project, we felt we had to change our plans. Southwest would not refund our tickets, so we accepted our only alternative to fly somewhere else of equal value. This only option was Las Vegas — not really a suitable alternative.
As time passed, and the restrictions eased, we asked if we could go back to our plan of flying to San Diego where we would pick up a bus to Baja. Southwest says it would not accommodate this request. We are dumbfounded. Can you help us? — Ellie Capers, San Francisco
Answer: Since when is Las Vegas an acceptable substitute for a volunteer vacation to a marine lab in Baja? Southwest should have found a better way of accommodating your class group.
Your case raises several red flags. The first is the cashier’s check, which is pretty much the same thing as forking over cash. Wherever possible, you should be using a credit card, since it protects you in case something goes wrong (for example, the company files for bankruptcy or sells you defective merchandise).
When any travel company insists on payment in cash or as a cashier’s check, don’t walk — run.
“Forget this volunteer vacation — let’s go to Vegas!”
Gerald Zekas’ youngest daughter, Caryn, wanted a destination wedding in Las Vegas, but right about now, he probably wishes she’d stayed home. Their special vacation was riddled with bad customer service experiences from start to finish — and worse, no one has bothered to acknowledge a single one of them.
But his vacation horror story is more than a case study in hospitality gone awry. It’s a valuable lesson in how to complain effectively.
““This ruined what was to be a joyous day””
What do you get when you put a Las Vegas hotel, a mandatory resort fee and an opaque Web site together? If you said “trouble,” you’re absolutely correct.
Ben Huynh made a bid on a Priceline hotel in Las Vegas recently. He got the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, but he also was charged an additional, mandatory $15-a-night resort fee. He appealed to Priceline for a refund, but it turned him down, saying that the fee had been adequately disclosed in its terms and conditions.
Depending on the city and property you stay in, you may also be charged resort fees or other incidental fees, such as parking charges. These charges, if applicable, will be payable by you to the hotel directly at checkout. When you check in, a credit card or, in the hotel’s discretion, a debit card will be required to secure these charges and any incidental fees (phone calls, room service, movie rentals, etc.) that you may incur during your stay.
Huynh wanted to know if that was Priceline’s final answer.
“Vegas hotel + opaque site + resort fee = T-R-O-U-B-L-E”