‘Keystroke error’ turns $289 rate into $28

keyQuestion: I recently found a $28 per night rate at the Westin Imagine in Orlando. I was amazed. I booked the room, and several days later I called the hotel to ensure that it was a legitimate rate. They confirmed this, so I booked nonrefundable airfare, and have been happily anticipating my getaway weekend ever since.

That is, until this past Monday morning, when I received an e-mail from the hotel’s director of revenue management saying that the rate was caused by a “keystroke error” during data entry. The actual rate was $289. The Westin offered a rate of $99 per night as an apology, but refused to honor the original rate.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America. Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

I contacted Westin at the corporate level, and the hotel offered to waive its mandatory valet parking charge of $18 per night, but insisted it couldn’t honor the $28 rate. Then the manager of the hotel responded, offering to throw in an extra 5,000 loyalty points.

I’m writing because I don’t think I’m getting fair treatment by this Westin hotel. If there is anything you can do to help, I would be extremely appreciative. — Terry Capps, San Diego

Answer: If you book a rate that you know is an error, then you shouldn’t expect the hotel to honor the price. But $28 per night wasn’t an obvious “fat finger” rate, and the fact that Westin confirmed it certainly didn’t help.

If the hotel had offered rooms at $0, then this would be a different story. Actually, it wouldn’t be a story at all. If a business mistakenly prices something at a rate no reasonable customer believes is valid, it shouldn’t be required to honor that price. But you can find hotel rooms at $28 a night.

I admit, it’s not a popular opinion. You don’t have to look hard to find one of those vintage online forums where people feel that a travel company must honor every rate, no matter how ridiculously low. Nor do you have to search long to find a travel columnist who supports this misguided view.

They have a right to their opinion, but I won’t advocate for them. People who try to force travel companies to accept unreasonable or erroneous prices are stealing — no two ways about it.

You pushed the Westin to do the right thing. But did you push too hard? Your first contact resulted in a $190 per night rate reduction. Not bad. Subsequent requests prompted the hotel to remove its “mandatory valet parking charge” and a few extra frequent-stayer points. (I could write a whole column about mandatory valet parking charges, but I’ll restrain myself.)

Is that enough?

That seems pretty generous to me, but I thought I would give the hotel one more chance to review your case. I asked the general manager to consider your request, and although he wouldn’t lower your room rate, he agreed to pay for your airfare to Orlando.

I think that’s a more than equitable resolution.

(Photo: Chris Campbell/Flickr Creative Commons)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: