Booked for one night but charged for two

Question: I have had an ongoing dispute with the Econo Lodge Motel in East Hartford, Conn. This spring, I called the hotel directly and made a reservation for that evening for single night’s stay, at a cost of approximately $75. We checked in at 10:30 p.m.

The next morning, I asked what I needed to do when I checked out. A clerk said that everything had been taken care of the night before. We went to our room, packed, and left at 7 a.m.

When I got my credit card statement, I was billed for two nights. I called and was told I had stayed two nights and that the computer system “confirmed” this. However, I only stayed the night, regardless of what the computer says.

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It has basically come down to a “he said/she said” scenario. They claim that because of the computer documentation and the fact that they sent a housekeeper on the second day, that I stayed a second night.

When I called the hotel, it refused to credit me for the second night. My husband contacted the hotel and reached a compromise with the manager, who agreed to refund half of the second night stay, basically splitting the cost of the room. We never received this credit.

I tried to dispute the charge on my credit card, but they couldn’t help. I appealed to the corporate offices of Econo Lodge, but they just referred me back to the hotel. Can you help me? — Lenore Davies, Cheltenham, Pa.

Answer: Econo Lodge should have only charged you for one day. The most compelling proof that you stayed one night would have been your reservation and quoted room rate.

That’s one of the advantages of booking either online or through a trusted travel agent: You get a written confirmation of your reservation, which you can refer back to in case of a dispute. Because you made your arrangements by phone, you had no proof that you were only supposed to stay at the hotel one night.

Still, the hotel should have asked you to sign a form acknowledging the room rate and the number of nights you were staying. If you made a reservation by phone, you have to pay close attention to this contract, because it’s the next best thing to a written confirmation.

Asking a hotel clerk what you need in order to check out isn’t the same thing as getting a hotel folio under your door or from the front desk. You should have asked for a bill when you left, not taken an employee’s word for it.

After you were charged for the extra night, the hotel (and failing that, your credit card) should have stepped in to fix it. I’m not sure why that didn’t happen.

Econo Lodge should have at least sent you an explanation for why it was charging you for two nights, but it appears that even that was asking too much. Instead, it simply refused to give you a meaningful answer, beyond denying your refund request. I think you deserve better.

I contacted Econo Lodge on your behalf. It apologized and refunded the second night.

42 thoughts on “Booked for one night but charged for two

      1. You can also use a ‘temporary’ credit card.  They’re great — they come pre-loaded with an authorized amount and have a firm expiration date.  After we go on vacation, I cancel the ‘temporary’ card so that no ‘mystery’ charges can come through (including bogus rental car damage claims.)  The charges from the temporary card flow through seamlessly to your normal account number.  Anybody that tries to put through later charges are informed that number is no longer valid.

        1. David,
           Have you found that car rental companies commonly accept the temporary credit cards?  I’m only asking since it sort of works like a debit card and SOME agencies don’t accept debit cards.

        2. David,
          Would you please, please explain to us where to get a temporary credit card. I have a son in college, soon two. This will be a godsend! Thanks in advance.

          1. There are pre-loaded cards from Chase and BoA, and others as well. It’s a boom business with the recession. They are normal credit cards for all effects, in the sense they have your name, and are tied to a verified address/person.

            So, while the vendors could still try to go after you, the possibility of them charging your card first, out of the blue, after months you stayed/rented, then having you discuss it, is eliminated: they have to go after you with all documentation before charging anything.

            Do not mistake them from pre-paid cards, which are routinely refused at car rentals.

          2. A lot of hotels will do a charge authorization for incidentals and possible damages.  If they can’t verify that you have enough in your limit to cover that, they can deny you a room.  I’ve almost never been charged for incidentals (maybe phone calls) but a charge authorization does theoretically use up some of your limit even though it gets cleared later on.

          3. @ Andre Lot

            @4297b140a555f07088fa4eae3f49c10b:disqus  have a credit card from Chase and just went through their entire web site, It appears that they do not offer a product like the one described by you.

        1. I would rather head East a few miles and stay near Manchester or the Buckland Hills Mall Area. I feel safer there. Sorry if I insulted your neck of the woods.

  1. Unfortunately with things like how they are now, it seems we will need to budget a couple of days extra to make sure a trip goes smoothly..
    1. Book airline, hotel, cars
    2. Call airline – make sure booking is there before you fly (repeat if necesary)
    3. Call hotel – make sure booking is there before you stay
    4. Call rental – make sure car is booked
    5. Check in, repack bags, pay fees, argue with TSA, quitely obey FA, fly…
    6. Pick up car.. take pictures pictures pictures.. spend half hour with a magnifying glass going round and round
    7. Reach hotel check in
    8. Check out of hotel.. take more photos of the room.. go to desk, clear all bills.. pray..
    9. return car.. take many more pictures.. get all paperwork done.. pray..
    10. flying trip in reverse..
    11. watch your credit card for next 4 months waiting for additional charges

    Phew! you need a vacation from your vacation…

    1. One piece of advice missing and one that was also missing in the story.

      At hotel check in, reconfirm rate and length of stay.

    2. Love it!

      Don’t forget:

      Budget 2-3 weeks to research trip insurance.

      Compile a list of CEOs of hotel, airline, and rental car companies for “quick resolution ” of complaints.

    3. Hey Ty,
      Remember one of Chris’s golden rules. No phone calls. Better send emails, so we have a paper trail, or they will just say we never called them in the first place.

    4. A few other things were left out:  Stopping newspaper delivery, having you mail either picked up every day by someone you trust or held at post office. Depending on time of year and length of vacation, have someone mow your lawn or shovel the snow.  – I am serious, not sarcastic.  Do all you said, what I and others said and you won’t need a vacation from your vacation as you’ll come back knowing all was taken care of.  While I believe most people are honest be aware that someone, someplace is going to try to either take advantage of the tourist or take advantage knowing you’re not at home.
      Planning out your steps 1-11 should be part of your vacation planning, not to just pack up and go.

    5. Oh Gawd…to think that this is the state of the travel industry today. Sadly when you have to continually cover cover your “CYA”, before, during and after each trip praying may not even be enough!!

    6. Thanks for the very comprehensive list.  It will definitely raise awareness that some amount of pre-planning is called for and thus help us to avoid similar mishaps.

      Perhaps the allocation of funds to pay for airplane fuel should be added to the list.  In years past, PAX have been stranded in foreign countries when travel companies, notably charters, went bankrupt.  However, this news item that we received today “takes the cake.”  Some PAX were even accompanied to ATMs to get the needed funds!

      “PAY FOR FUEL OR WE DON’T FLY, AIRLINE TELLS STRANDED PASSENGERS” 
      http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1088322–pay-for-fuel-or-we-don-t-fly-airline-tells-stranded-passengers
      “Horrified passengers with Austrian airline Comtel Air say they were told if they didn’t come up with thousands of dollars in gas money their flight was going to be sitting on the tarmac for a long time…..”

      In this instance, let’s hope the U.K. has legislation that protects/assists those who cannot come up with the money.
       
       
       
       

      1. Why not?  Doing so would have involved all this hassle. If your time that you spend on this sort of stressful exercise has ABSOTLUTELY no value, then by all means book all travel yourself.  The greater question might revolve around how one values oneself.

        1. And what travel agent wants to waste their time bothering with a single-night booking at a cheap-o motel? If they got a commission at all, it would be…what…pennies? Oh please. No travel agent is going to bother with a one-night Econo-lodge booking.

          1. What else might have been involved with the trip? I book 1 nights all of the time for a $10.00 service charge plus I get commission. Takes 1 -2 minutes to book and I have a new customer.

          2. $10 service charge to book one night at an EconoLodge? Talk about a not sensible solution. A good travel agent is useful for many things, but this is clearly not a situation for which anyone should use a travel agent.

        2. Suggesting that using a travel agent in this situation only makes sense if you assume that this result (an extra night being charged) is the norm and not a bizarre mistake. Having spent plenty of nights in hotels without being overcharged, I don’t see value in using a travel agent to book a basic one night EconoLodge stay! Suggesting that one bad result means everyone’s behavior should change, and we should use travel agents for everything, is a real stretch.

          1. Ha ha ha. My clients would all leave if I suggest they stay in this EconoLodge. I suggest anyone interested in this motel simply go to Priceline or another OTA and book it for $52. Why make it more difficult than that?

  2. After Ty’s posting, there’s not a whole more to say.  The hotel shafted her, pure and simple.  It makes me wonder why the room stayed empty like it did?  Also, when one checks out, isn’t something done in the “computer” to let it know you’re gone?  Are the employees at this hotel using the rooms for their own purposes and charging the guests?

  3. The desk clerk should have checked the guest out of the system and given the guest her receipt.  Period.  That’s SOP no matter what hotel you stay at.  Unless there’s express checkout available, and in that case, the bill would have been in the OP’s hands the morning of her checkout.  Auditors usually slide those under the door after the audit has been run.

    The best thing this guest could have done, other than contact Mr
    Elliott, was to contact Choice International (the corporate office for
    Econo Lodge, Comfort Inn, Clarion, etc) – their customer service
    department would have handled that quickly.  If complaints received by
    the CS department are not handled by the property within a certain amount of time, the owner is penalized (and Choice takes that pretty seriously).

    I don’t have too much nice to say about Econo Lodge in general. I spent 2 years as a GM in one – an experience I’m not likely to repeat anytime
    soon.  I’d rather have a tooth pulled without anesthesia.

  4. The more I read, the more I feel that the travelers are getting dumber and dumber. People who travel seem to have very interesting stories and problems. Once a year travelers seem to fall for every con job that there ever was. Always leave a hotel with a printed paid in full statement. The same with a car rental, cruise, anything that has your credit card on file.

  5. Something fishy here. The story don’t sound true. The traveler must have some documentation, check-in key card, check out statement, etc… I would never leave hotel without a final statement.

  6. With the computer and email, if you book over the phone, it is wise to have them email you a confirmation plus get your receipt when you check out.  Many people don’t bother with receipts any more, espeically the younger set. Without it, it is your burden of proof.

    1. Also…the story does not indicate why they booked over the phone. In cases where I need to call a hotel to book, I can usually still verify the reservation online by confirmation number or frequent guest number. (At least for a major chain.) I then save a copy as well as print out a copy for my trip.

  7. I want to echo one of the questions: does the OP not have a receipt?  If she didn’t get one, then she brought on much of the problem herself.  This doesn’t excuse the erroneous billing, of course, but how does anyone expect to defend himself against such a problem without proof of payment?

    1. Yeah, that is a bit too trusting to leave a place without a receipt just assuming the rate was going to be what you expected, that there wouldn’t be any movies on the bill that you didn’t watch, etc. I wouldn’t have thought of them hitting me with an extra night, but all those other ones would have been on my radar.

  8. I guess one problem is that it’s a he/said she said scenario even if there’s a printed and documented reservation.  I’ve stayed in a hotel and wanted to stay and extra night.  I just went up to the front desk and asked, and it was usually at the same rate as the rest of my stay.

    Once I arrived in Miami just before a hurricane, and I found out my reservations at two hotels in the Keys were automatically cancelled.  I had a reservation in the Miami area starting two days after my arrival, and I showed up at the front desk and asked what they could do.  They said I could check in right there at the same daily rate.  There was a problem when I checked out though.  My reserved rate was a few dollars lower than the walk up rate, and they charged me the walk up rate for the entire stay.  I mentioned this before signing anything, and the clerk adjusted the bill for my reserved rate for the entire stay.

    I try not to leave without going to the front desk and verifying that there are no additional charges or additional days.  Some hotels have electronic kiosks, and they work pretty well by indicating that there are no charges and getting a record that one physically checked out.

  9. I know that Chris solved this problem but – can’t you prove you were somewhere else the next night?  A different hotel?  Home?  Would seem to me that would support your claim that you only checked in for one night.

  10. Leaving without a receipt – I’ve done that but acknowledged at check-in what my reservation was for.  it probably isn’t the brightest thing to do.

    1. We have a hotel we stay at frequently and never get a receipt.  However, I have an email for each stay to refer to if needed.  Never had a problem, but like Brooklyn, I always make sure the price on the sign in form matches the price I have noted on my reservation sheet that I always bring with me.  I have caught errors at time of checkin with a few hotels and with my proof, had them corrected.  I usually do get a receipt for my record and I love Hampton Inns where it is put under the door early in the morning. 

      1. I keep all my emails and even make sure I have a PDF file of the reservation confirmation as well as a printout.  I almost never book over the phone these days unless I’m without internet access of some sort.

        However, that doesn’t guarantee that a desk clerk might inadvertently extend a stay.  I have extended a stay before, and no amount of paperwork dated before the stay will prove when you checked out.  They have a credit card on file and an authorization that it can be used for incidentals, overstays, or extra nights.  At the very least I’ll make sure that the desk clerk checks and preferably issue a checkout receipt.

        I would note that a lot of economy motels are the type that typically have everything paid up front.  It gets tricky.  A lot of these locations are franchises, and they’re not terribly reliant on repeat business.

  11. Those computers are real smart. Anything the computer says is proof like directly from God. Can’t argue with what a computer says!

    /sarcasm

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