The strange case of the dog bite and the $2,305 hotel bill

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Question: I was scheduled to attend a veterinary dental seminar in Colorado a few months ago. Somehow, I accidentally booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Colorado Springs for an entire month — February 16 through March 16 — and I didn’t realize the mistake until the day before my departure.

I called the hotel to let them know I had made the error. They said that a refund would be at the discretion of the manager and that they would leave her a note and we would discuss it when I arrived.

Unfortunately, that day at work I was severely bitten on my right hand by a dog. I had to go to the ER after work and the doctor told me I had to cancel my trip for the next day, as I would most likely need surgery. I called the Holiday Inn that evening to tell them that I would not be able to make it and asked the office manager to return my call to discuss the error I had made.

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She did call and left me a message saying that I would be charged for the entire 30 days — $2,305 — because I had made a non-cancellable, non-refundable reservation. I have always offered to pay for the three nights that I intended to stay.

I have disputed the charge via my credit card and have also repeatedly contacted the guest relations department. I know that I made the mistake, even though I have no idea how I did it. I just feel that this is wrong. Thanks for any help you can give me. — Amy Rossi, Seattle

Answer: This is one of the strangest cases I’ve ever heard of. Not just being bitten by a dog before a dental seminar, but also being charged two grand for a room you never used.

Let’s break this problem down into its components. Holiday Inn, like many hotels, now offers some nonrefundable rooms. Terms are clearly disclosed, whether you’re booking through an online agency or the Holiday Inn site. So before you made the reservation, you should have been informed that you’d be charged, whether you showed up or not.

Keying in the wrong dates is an easy mistake to make. I’ve done it a time or two. Those helpful online calendars that allow you to click on your desired date can sometimes get slippery, depending on which browser you’re using. That’s why you have to double- and triple-check the dates — first when you make the reservation, then when you pay, and then when you receive the confirmation.

I think you may have skipped a step or two. That’s perfectly understandable, but Holiday Inn is right. Technically, it can charge you $2,305.

I guess the question is, should they charge you $2,305?

Had you made it to Colorado Springs, then your request for a refund might be difficult to grant. But since you couldn’t travel because of circumstances beyond your control, I think the hotel should have shown some leniency. After all, when a hotel can’t accommodate you for reasons beyond its control, like severe weather, we’re asked to be understanding. Shouldn’t it be, too?

I contacted Holiday Inn on your behalf. It agreed to refund you for all but two of the nights.

176 thoughts on “The strange case of the dog bite and the $2,305 hotel bill

  1. If it was a nonrefundable charge, so she would have been charged the entire amount at the time of the booking. She said it was booked a few months before and she didnt notice until the day before – how does she NOT notice that she was charged thousands of dollars for what she claims was a  three day stay? Not only did she not notice the total when she was checking out, but she didnt notice the large charge on her credit card.
    I call shenanigans.

      1.  You book an entire month and you don’t notice it until the day before the trip and you think that is reasonable?  Please tell us where you work so we can stay away from that place!

    1. I totally agree. If you are in the checkout process where you enter your CC information, how do you NOT notice a 2 grand charge? it’s not like you put the reservations in and then didn’t pay… these reservations require you to pay at the time of booking. I would hate to be stuck with a 2 grand hotel bill, but come on, how much could the savings have possibly been at a Holiday Inn? $6?? Don’t do non refundable unless you know you are going to use the room, like if you are travelling and about to come to the place in 20 minutes and get a deal on the web.

    2. Since she explained it was a mistake (the Vet Dental Seminar does not last a month), then it was a mistake.

      Note that she did not check out because she MISSED the trip as her hand was badly bit and could not make the trip. (Note: even YOU can make a MISTAKE reading an article.)

      Surely that hotel may be able rent out that room she had mistakenly booked to someone else. It’s probably not like she prevented the hotel from renting it to another person for the whole 30 days. I am glad Elliott was able to help.

      Today the law permits you to cancel your airline tickets and get a refund within 24 hours of booking. Reducing the gotchas in the travel industry should be one of the key goals of advocacy. We’re inching forward.

        1. So you see even I can make a mistake! 🙂
          We are only human. I am glad Elliott does not put me in the penalty box for 30 days.

      1. But that’s no excuse in this case – she had to PREPAY the entire amount – she just missed it???   Too many people today book the cheapest prices with the highest restrictions, they cry foul when the company holds them to it.  Enough is enough!  Its time to take some personal responsibility.  She could have seen the dates when booking, seen the toal (which would have raised red flags!) before paying, and could have checked a confirmation – she did none till the day before.  Sorry – but expensive lesson.  (Frankly, the dog bite has no bearing, as NONREFUNDABLE for 1 – 100 days STILL means nonrefundable!)

    3. That was my thought, too. I mean, if the LW were European or something, where they write their dates backwards, I suppose I could see how you could mess up the month vs. date thing. But how can you not notice what is supposed to be a $153.67 charge (2 nights) coming up as $2035?

      That being said, I think that the hotel did the right thing here. They charged her only what she would have been out had she booked the correct dates, and didn’t charge her for her “fat finger” mistake. Like usual, I wish it wouldn’t have taken a nationally-syndicated columnist to shame them in to action, but whatever.

      That being said, I voted “no” about the nonrefundable room question. If you want a refundable room, buy a refundable room. If you want insurance, buy insurance. But don’t rely on the hotel’s goodwill as your insurance policy. 

    4. I often book prepaid/nonrefundable rooms and I have noticed that it seems to be at the discretion of the property whether the charge goes through immediately. A couple of times I have booked the prepaid/nonrefundable rate and been asked at check-in which card I want to use to pay for the room; when I told them the room was prepaid they said they hadn’t charged it yet. (And they were correct).

      I can believe that they didn’t charge her card at the time that she made the reservation.

      1. The nonrefundable rates they book ARE pre-paid.  Otherwise, they follow the standard refundablitiy of HI.

        1. Prepaid doesn’t mean that the OPs card had been charged.  Per Holiday Inn rules “Payment is charged to your credit card between the time of booking and day of
          arrival. ”  So we cannot assume that the charge had appeared on the OPs credit card.

  2. I’m sorry not ‘somehow I made a mistake’, simply ‘a mistake was made by me’! Why should hotels/airlines, etc pay for fat finger or just plain stupid mistakes by a customer. If you don’t trust yourself to book using a computer  go to a travel agent!!!

    1. Well, airlines and hotels refuse to honor their own “fat finger fares” all the time. There are some cases of that on this column.

      1.  Yes, but they don’t refuse to honor fat fingers the day before departure.  There’s usually quite a bit more notice than that.

        1. The comparison should be based on WHAT DAMAGE the mistake has done. No one should be forced to lose money because of a simple mistake. That’s a bad way to promote the economy.

          1. Could you rephrase that?  I don’t see what you are getting at.

            Deciding to issue a refund not called for in the contract is a zero-sum game.  If the refund is issued for a last-second cancellation, the provider loses money; they had a month worth of perfectly ordinary room revenue on the books in a non-refundable contract. If the money is kept, the would-be traveler loses money.

            SOMEBODY ends up holding the short end of the stick… the Holiday Inn likes their money just as much as the traveler likes hers.

          2. If the Vet’s mistake had prevented the hotel from renting out the room to anyone else then the Vet should pay for those days. This means that the hotel actually turned down a would be renter because the hotel was full. If the hotel had many empty rooms then what damage did the Vet’s mistake cause? The rooms would have still been empty, correct?

            ADDED: She did have to pay a few days “rent” as liquidated damage. That’s fair.

          3.  The balancing act in this case makes damages pretty tough to compute.

            – We can assume she got a price break for booking at the lower rate.
            – What if they didn’t get her room rented out to somebody else?
            – Who knows, sales bonuses, commissions to the booking agent/site, taxes, etc. could have been paid out for a stay that now won’t happen.

            The marginal costs of renting a room are quite low, so the hotel will not be saving much money by not having her there.

            It was awful nice for the Holiday Inn to return most of the money, but I would not have been upset if they did not, given the late notice.

          4. Yes HI was very nice to refund her most of her money.

            The reason they have liquidated damage clauses (which is 100% of prepayment in this case) is for the hotel to AVOID having to prove actual damage.

            Hotels keep occupancy, REVPAR and ADR data and statistics so it is pretty much easy to prove average potential losses due to cancellations.

            The OP’s case is not one where FACTS are missing or need to be proved. She wasn’t even denying she made a mistake. She knows she made a stupid mistake and is sorry for it. She just can’t believe her mistake costs that much. Hence, a bit of humanity was needed to help her out.

          5. The flaw in your reasoning is that the Holiday Inn wouild probably benefit twice; once when they kept her money and second when they rented the room to someone else.

          6. They only benefit twice if they were running full-occupancy. For them to be full-up for every single day of her 30 day reservation isn’t terribly likely.

      1. Tell me about it. I’m in the midst of a battle with a luxury hotel chain because I mistakenly booked the hotel based on the day of departure, forgetting that the arrival in Europe
        would be the next day. I tried to change the date in my GDS and the hotel denied it.  
        P.S. The disputed arrival date is June 3, so all this was done well before that.

        1.  FYI, if you notice most the pre-paid rates are now on the top of the choices for hotel rates in GDS. We need to be careful not just to click the cheapest rate.
          Those who have been doing this a long time have a habit of just looking at the lowest rate and that could cause a disaster.

      2. Tony

        You analysis is spot on.

        The question is, had the OP not made an error, would the hotel have made more money?  Or putting it in the positive, did the hotel materially change its position as a result of the OP.

        When hotels have high occupancy that’s when the manager gets sticky about giving courtesies. IF they have to turn away guest because of your reservation then they are less likely to waive the penalty.

        The one time a hotel held me to one day penalty was when the hotel was overbooked.  The GM told me that he was sorry, but had turned away revenue because he held my room.

  3. I have two comments.  First, most of these non-redundable deals are billed at the time of booking, so she should have seen this on her statement.  Second, I should think a hotel, seeing a one month reservation, might question it.  It’s unusual to book a hotel room for a whole month.

    Going totally off-topic, that is one creepy looking dog. Just the picture scares me. It’s the eyes, I think.

    1. Colorado Springs is the home of multiple military facilities. Someone booking a long stay while moving wouldn’t be that rare.

    2. My dog had eyes like that because he had cataracts.  I believe he could see shadows but little else.  If you imagine the usual dark brown pupils, it is just a close up of a friendly dog. 

      1. I remember my dog had eyes like that in a dark room.  The pupils just dilate in the dark.  A flash photo can be taken before the pupils have a chance to contract.  Outside the eyes can give off a strange glow from light sources like moonlight or streetlights.

    3.  Extended stays aren’t uncommon at all.  If you are a business traveler, and don’t want to fly home every weekend, you book an extended stay.  There exist entire chains dedicated to serving this market, but it is by no means unusual do so in a regular hotel.

      I’m just coming off a six-week stay myself tomorrow; I’ve spent months of my life at the particular hotel I’m at.

      1. The former Utah basketball coach Rick Majerus used to live out a hotel room in Salt Lake City even though he had a long term contract.  He apparently liked the fresh towels and a mint on his pillow.

    4. My husband travels quite a bit with his job as a course developer and trainer for a government contractor.  His hotel stays are anywhere from three to eight weeks at a time.  Hotels don’t question a person’s reason for staying there and people staying for a month at a time isn’t at all unusual.

    5. That’s not necessarily true nor have it been my experience.  Neither Starwood nor Marriott has ever billed my card at the time of booking for a prepaid rate. I don’t believe Hyatt has either, but I can’t swear to it.  Hilton on the other hand won’t even make the reservation until the card is charged.

          1. And I booked a hotel room at Mandalay Bay in Vegas for the end of September last month and they charged my card right away. It is fully refundable right up to 2 days before the date of arrival. I’ve also booked non-refundable rooms and not been charged before until I checked in. So everything is different in every case it seems.

  4. I voted no, because these rates do exist and people do buy them. It was clear that is what she intended to do, but I think the hotel was wrong to try and keep the mistaken 30 days. I also think the hotel could’ve resolved that issue before the vet was due to arrive. 

    IMO, the resolution to this one is fair. She paid the two nights she had intended to book and the hotel refunded the mistaken other 28 days.

    Time to up the caffeine. I’m losing my snark.

      1. I noticed some change lately. He’s getting too kind. Maybe he needs another flight to MCO and Di$ney to recharge his snark batteries 🙂

        1. If he “loses his snark,” good for him.

          I don’t see that snark contributes anything to the world of a positive nature-it’s basically humor at someone else’s expense.  The world would be a better place without snark.

          1. Wait…you’re turning a light-hearted comment into something much more mean-spirited? Who’s being snarky now? I think I prefer Raven’s snark over yours. At least his is funny.

            ETA: I decided to be less snarky…didn’t want to get a scolding too. And I left out a sentence. Raven, pass the coffeepot this way.

          2. Ah, some crystal-gripping hippie nonsense…

            Now there’s something to snark about! 😛

          3. Wow Jennifer, take a deep breath and smile. Usually a forum is like a circus. All clowns permitted, including me.

          4. TonyA – aren’t you and I due for a good round or two?  It’s been a while.

          5.  LOL. I am reformed harda**. I switched to green tea from coffee. Started reading about Buddhism but can’t understand it.  I’m trying. 🙂

          6. Watch out – that green tea can give you headaches, which just makes you more snarky!  HAHA!

  5. Actually, I was wondering that too… Did the OP happen to notice the (rather) large charge on her statement?  

    1. If you read the article closely, she was told on either the evening prior to or the day of checkin that she ” would be charged for the entire 30 days — $2,305″. 

      Which implies that they had NOT charged her yet at that point.

      Added: The terms say: “Payment is charged to your credit card between the time of booking and day of arrival”

      1. Something we also must realize — the discounted rate for prepay for this property is only about ten bucks cheaper than the post pay rate. So in exchange for the potential of saving $10, one can potentially lose $2000++ if one fat fingers a calendar entry. Wow, that is way too steep a penalty to pay (unless the hotel is fully booked for that whole month).

        1. I agree.  There is too much risk involved in booking prepaid rates as a rule.

          The few times I’ve booked a prepaid rate was when the chanced of cancellation is infinitesimal.  Usually, I book them from the airport just before boarding the plane.  I’ve booked them from my hotel room to extend my stay at that hotel.  

          1. Your last sentence is incredible!
            LOL the desk would not even match the prepay rate! The need to hire a new manager.

          2. At one hotel/resort, the front desk manager apologetically told me she could only book rack rates at the front desk.  But she had a computer ten feet away that she directed me to in order to do my own internet booking to get a much lower rate.

          3. HAHAHA!!!   Pathetic! – but at least she let you go online and save a few bucks!

      2. I did read the article closely.  I might not have made myself clear as far as my question, but I’m pretty sure I’d never have assumed that someone didn’t read something thoroughly.

        I have worked behind a hotel front desk for more than 20 years – I’ve seen reservations like the OP’s often enough to ask the question I asked.  If those reservations had been made through a 3rd party, that card would have been charged immediately.  Wyndham and a few other brands charge all their prepay guests right away.  This is actually the first time I’ve heard an IHG property doing that, and it sure is the first time I’ve heard of that a guest was not refunded on a fat-finger mistake.  The general rule of thumb is that refunds are given, whatever needs to be done is done to make the guest happy, within reason.  A fat finger mistake is usually an obvious one to managers, and every place I’ve worked at, when something looks amiss like that (and a reservation for multiple days at a certain rate like that can definitely set off a red flag), a member of management calls the guest at the provided number to go over the reservation, or sends an email in case phone contact isn’t happening.  It’s not just for their benefit, it’s for the hotel’s, too.  Most licensed properties are paying a fee per reservation and/or number of nights – and if not, the owner is being charged a monthly percentage by the number of revenue nights that s/he has. 

        Here’s hoping the OP can get in touch with IHG’s guest services department.  I’d tell her to keep taking it higher.  IHG, like any other brand, offers the individual properties first right of refusal regarding refunds like this.  I’ll bet my paycheck that it’s the owners not wanting to authorize the refund.

        As for me, I’ll continue NOT assuming things of my fellow posters…

        1. I attempted to answer your specific question:

          Did the OP happen to notice the (rather) large charge on her statement?   

          The article implies that — consistent with IHG’s posted rules — there was no charge on her card until on or close to the arrival date (i.e. there was probably nothing to see yet on her statements).

          I can’t speak to the other points you raised, such as protocol for following up on reservations that might be amiss.

  6. Am I in the small minority of travelers that still believes that non-refundable means NON-REFUNDABLE? Not non-refundable unless you have a personal emergency?

    I don’t mean to sound cold, but how the heck did Rossi not notice a $2305 charge? I understand that travelers make mistakes, but this wasn’t just a mistake. Entering the wrong dates is a mistake. Not checking your confirmation, not checking your credit card statement for several cycles, that is simply reckless.

    Then she has to cancel the entire trip? Actually, negotiating the refund would have been way easier had she actually made the trip.

    1. Generally, your CC doesn’t get charged until your stay (either the end of the first night or when you check out). So the OP wouldn’t have seen a huge charge on the CC statement.

      On the other hand, the OP should have seen the dates AND the total charge on the confirmation. Or the registration screen. Going from a nightly rate of $75ish, this is the difference between a 3 night stay ($225) and a 30 night stay ($2305). That’s quite a significant difference, and there’s really no way to miss that. 

      I’m glad the hotel refunded the majority of the trip. But I think the onus was on the OP to notice that in the half-dozen places that total charge shows up.

      1. Gee guys, the OP ADMITS she made a mistake. She is simply asking for some forgiveness. The bill is too much for her to pay. A dog bit her hand and she had to go to surgery. Does she have to die or something?

        1. Her death wouldn’t have any impact on this unless there was a “death” provision in the non-refundable agreement. 😉 

          Seriously, though, I’m with you. The “rules are the rules” argument gets old pretty quickly. What was the real loss to the hotel as a result of this? She didn’t stay there AT ALL and they should still get all 30 nights?  Hardly seems fair to me.

          I somehow doubt all these other folks would gladly be sending along $2300 without any attempt to save part of it if it were themselves or a family member involved. But, since it’s a total stranger, it’s easy to take the hardline.

        2. But she didn’t notice until the day before checkin.  Come on, Tony – that’s really asking way too much in this case.  When do we face the facts WE need to start taking responsibility for our own actions/inactions.

          1. Oh sure, 100% she made a very stupid mistake. She admits it. But to me the penalty does not match the “crime”. If the penalty or liquidated damage is TOO HIGH or EXCESSIVE then it becomes PUNITIVE. That is not what the law intended when it allowed for liquidated damages to be part of a contract.

            Look if she intended to stay a night or two and she mistakenly booked a month and she stands to lose 28-29 days worth of money, then that surely looks and sounds PUNITIVE to me.

            If we really want to hold people accountable then lets go after politicians, lobbyists and bankers first.

      2.  Not always. I have booked non-refundable stays at Priority Club hotels (of which HIE is part of), and my credit card was charged the very next day.

  7. I stand where I have always stood on issues like this. The OP knew that they were getting a cheaper rate to book a non-changable reservation. The onus is on them to make sure that the date are correct before they hit go. They also need to check the confirmation when it shows up. She catches this at either point and I would side with her but she didn’t.

    I also have the same feelings on “fat-finger” rates. The onus is on the company to make sure that they have rate loaded correctly into their system. They don’t let me make changes once I pay so they shouldn’t be allowed to make changes either.

    1. Skeptical that she got bitten?  Skeptical there was a vet conference in Colorado?  You think her actual plan was to take a 30 day vacation but she backed out at the last minute?  This is one of those stories that seems far too convoluted to have made up. 

  8. The seminar was a few months ago, she booked the room before the seminar, there is no indication that she booked the room months before the seminar.  She has spent several months trying to resolve the mistake and it is likely to have been within a very reasonable time of making the mistake.  The hotel is technically right, but I would bet the room was not held empty for her for the month so it is not proper for it to keep the fee for the entire time.  I am glad they rethought it and returned the excess.

  9. I ordered one of those do-it-yourself denture kits off the Internet that cost $1995.00.  I decided I could do it myself instead of paying a dentist $3000.00 because after all how hard can this be.  I knew I couldn’t return it once purchased.  While the polymer material was curing in a pan of boiling water the doorbell rang and it was a friend I hadn’t seen in years.  We just talked and talked and talked, so long that the molding overheated and was ruined.  Can you help me get my money back?  After all, I’m just a helpless citizen trying to save a few bucks by doing things myself.

      1. Most travel agents would probably not make it to medical or vet school. That includes me. VETS have a PROFESSIONAL license. I have a driver’s license. 🙂

  10. The answer to the poll question is both yes and no.  If she had noticed her mistake quickly, then of course she should have gotten a refund.  You free up a clearly erroneous extended stay, no harm, no foul.

    But if you don’t double check until the day before you leave, well, that’s a little tougher to argue for the refund.  We don’t know… maybe the hotel had to turn down some business because that room was blocked up for the whole month.  That’s real money they’ll lose.

    If I was the Holiday Inn, I would have looked at my occupancy levels over the month and charged for every day they are booked solid, or nearly so.  With a minimum of a week’s charge.

    1. At last.  I was just saying to myself that it was time we looked at the impact of requests for refunds on the suppliers’ profit and loss picture.  There is an entire financial rationale behind making certain hotel/air/cruise and other sales refundable and others non-refundable. 

      All in all, we need to pay more attention to a supplier’s refund policy.  If we cannot live with the risk involved in taking advantage of the discounted product, we should cough up and pay full price.  As the witness said to the judge, “Stuff happens.”  (You had to be there!)

  11. I voted no, because the way this proposition is worded, it puts the hotel in charge of listening to every excuse in the book as to why it isn’t the client’s fault (people can make up some whoppers about why something was beyond their control) and then verifying the story. This is not the business they are in. They are in hospitality. Insurance is for sorting out what was and wasn’t beyond a traveler’s control. Erasing the mistake in this case is easy to understand, but to make a blanket rule that “hotels should refund nonrefundable rooms for circumstances beyond a guest’s control, like an ER visit?” goes too far for me. 

  12. Decide on a room for 30 nights without seeing the room first and the hotel in reality? Not even in my dream. I got to see the actual room first (not the pics on the Hotel website) even to decide  for staying 3 days. I do the blind booking only for 1 night stay.

  13. The poll question and the article kind of asked two questions. Should non-refundable rooms be refunded for circumstances beyond a guest’s control. The article started out with the guest wanting a refund for circumstances within her control.

    In the case of an honest mistake pointed out early I think that any business should be able to either change the reservation or provide a refund. As others have pointed out what does non-refundable mean? Who does it apply to?

    The problem in this case is that the customer did not pay attention when entering the reservation, when confirming the reservation to make a payment ,when she received her confirmation or even in the months leading up to the date of travel.  I do not want to seem unsympathetic but it is odd that she noticed the incorrect information just prior to getting bitten.

  14. Chris,
    At what point in time does a person need to take responsibility for their own actions?  At what point in time did our society become a group of unaccountable people?
    Why do we insist on protecting people that can’t be bothered to read the screen before entering their credit card information? How do you not notice, upfront, that you were being billed over $2K and question why the bill is that high for a couple of nights?
    I’m not saying that the hotel was right in charging the OP for the entire stay, but I’d also wager that they may NOT have been able to rerent out her entire stay.  There should’ve been more then a 2-night penalty for the OP for cancelling her reservation…

    1.  Re-renting out the room isn’t the criteria that hotels use.  Its about whether they had to turn away business.

      Consider a very simplified example: A 100 room hotel with 70 guests per night. If the op doesn’t make an error the hotel makes revenue from 70 rooms.  If the OP books a room by error, the hotel waiver the penalty, the hotel is still in the same position, i.e. 70 room per night.

      But if the hotel has 99 room sold, and it holds the 100th room for the OP, it turns away other guests.  If the OP cancels, the hotel only has 99 rooms, whereas it would have not turned away other guests and would have had 100 rooms.  Then the hotel has lost money 100 rooms vs 99 rooms.  Then a refund is less likely to be granted.

      1. Don’t forget most hotels overbook anyway. There are at least  three (3) HI properties in COS. That city has turned off a third of its street lights as a drastic effort to help address diminished sales tax revenues and general fund budget gaps.
        Sure does not look like a place one would run out of EMPTY rooms.

        1. Oh, Tony, that’s not fair. Colorado Springs frequently makes those best places to live lists. They’re a big tourist destination with Pikes Peak and numerous other attractions. It is not a particularly easy place to find lodging, particularly over the summer months.

          The streetlight issue has been hugely overblown. Like most every other city you can find, they were extremely overlit. Other cities have been shutting off lights for years as part of the green movement. But Colorado Springs got hammered for admitting they were doing it to help balance the budget. 

          1. I used to go the COS since FedEx has a big data center there. I agree it is pretty out there. I never thought it was ever that busy but then again I was never a tourist there (just a worker) and if I recall that HI the OP is talking about was very near where I used to go. So I suspect it is more of a business center hotel. I’m not sure February is a great time to be anywhere except a beach. So I doubt that hotel was that busy.

          2. You’re correct about the hotel location and time of year–I hadn’t noticed her conference was in February.  I used to work in that area with hotels. Occupancies after the first of the year would hover around 50% and wouldn’t pick up again until spring was in full force. (Sure, the week of a big conference things might be busy, but no way were they booked solid for month straight that time of year.)  

            But the summer is a different story. Closer to the mountains they even have quite a few of those old-style seasonal motels that are only open for the peak season. 

    2. If IHG had told her “tough luck” I would have accepted its verdict and maybe written a blog post about it, but as I say in the story, technically they’re correct. It’s a nonrefundable room.

      On the flip side, if I’d just told this guest she was out of luck and I wasn’t going to help her, because rules are rules, I would have had a different kind of problem. I’d have a reader who not only thought I was a useless consumer advocate, but would tell all of her friends what an idiot she thought I was, and how I had no business being in this line of work. I try to avoid that wherever possible.

  15. I can see one night being charged, but two?  She wasn’t even there!  And don’t hotels “usually” have a policy of charging for one night of the reservation if it’s cancelled with less than 24 hours advance notice?

    Never, ever, ever, pay for a hotel room or car rental in advance.  Once they have your money, your bargaining position is lost.

  16. I was curious about one thing – how the site worked.  I just went and started the online booking process for an online stay.  (Not completing it because I don’t want the charge.)

    This is a site in dire need of a makeover to be customer friendly.  I’m sure Holiday Inn doesn’t see it that way, since it is very easy for people to choose the prepaid option over their “flexible” rate (i.e. – not prepaying and refundable).

    When you search, the first set of rates that come up are the prepaid rates.  But the colors and text don’t really provide much in the way of color change or highlight to say “this is the prepaid option”.  On my 1280×800 screen, I had to scroll down to no longer see any of the non-refundable fares.

    If you read carefully, you can get down to the refundable rates, but many people don’t read carefully.  This isn’t limited to reckless or careless people on the Internet – it’s just the way people interact with screen vs. paper.  There are many boring paper I could refer you to, but the bottom line is, most people have a touch of ADHD when it comes to the Internet. 😉 We are more likely to scan instead of read, especially if our minds are elsewhere.

    Anyway, if you look at the attached screen shot, you’ll see the estimated total is in a box on the lower right of a screen where you are busy entering your information.  That is NOT where the eye will be tracking for this kind of info.  And depending upon what type of deposit the site asks for, she may have thought she was prepaying her entire several-day stay when it was merely a deposit for a month-long stay.

    Ms. Rossi should have been more careful for certain. But from the first few steps here, I would say Holiday Inn’s website is one that isn’t working too hard to be customer friendly.

    1.  The Priority Club website is fine. I book stays on it every week, and it is easy to find the best flexible rate vs the non-refundable rates. I’ve never had a problem.

      1. I book stays on it every week

        Which is why experienced travelers like you and I and many of the readers here are not the best subjects for usability testing.

    2. For what it’s worth the GDS Hotel rates are also quite confusing since now many properties have introduced PREPAY rates. It is actually pretty dangerous for us TAs since we are used to simply select the lowest rate. Before we didn’t need to worry about prepay rates. There is no color difference and no filter in the GDS. So it very easy to make a mistake unless you drink coffee, clean your reading lenses, and take the sleep off your eyes. Here’s sample screen display, if you do not see a 6PM on the rate/room description, then it is almost a dead giveaway it is PREPAY.
      Note Line #1 happens to be a 6PM Guarantee Rate for $169. Line #2 is a PREPAY rate for $162.99. Note the difference is $6 only between the PREPAY and POSTPAY rate.

      HI0037    REF:  CO-COLORADO SPRINGS                  PERSONS: 02   
      LN      RATE     DESCRIPTION                                 CXP   
      01     169.00GB  BEST FLEXIBLE RATE                          06P   
      02     162.99DB  BOOK EARLY AND SAVE                            
      03     174.00GB  1000 BONUS POINTS NT INCLUDES ROOM AND 1000 06P   
      04     189.00GB  BEST FLEXIBLE RATE                          06P   
      05     189.00GB  BEST FLEXIBLE RATE                          06P   
      06     189.00GB  BEST FLEXIBLE RATE                          06P   
      07     162.99DB  BOOK EARLY AND SAVE                            
      08     162.99DB  BOOK EARLY AND SAVE                            
      09     194.00GB  1000 BONUS POINTS NT INCLUDES ROOM AND 1000 06P   
      10     194.00GB  1000 BONUS POINTS NT INCLUDES ROOM AND 1000 06P   
      11     194.00GB  1000 BONUS POINTS NT INCLUDES ROOM AND 1000 06P   

  17. First time post here, but have lurked for quite a while…  This may go against the standard line here for most of the posters, but as long as the travel industry: hotels, airlines and car rental agency’s keep pushing the onus on the consumer, while allowing their customer service skills to go down the toilet, then I have no problem with a consumer wanting to try to fix a “mistake” whether it was notice 30 seconds after it was made or 30 days.   The issue, to me, and has been pointed out on this site many times, is the that we, the consumer are expected to make many concessions to the travel industry because of economy, weather, gremlins, the president, etc…  with no sense of reciprocal behavior on the part of the the T. I.

    Just my opinion and I approve of this message….    

  18. So she missed the fact that it was for 30 days, and at checkout when they display the amount of the charges she completely glossed over that four-figure number.  Come on, really?  I would accuse Chris of making this up but even he couldn’t imagine anyone that oblivious.

  19. The prepaid, no-refund room provides benefits for the hotel.  It no longer has to overbook to fill the house, knowing some will be no-shows.  Its advertising and promotion costs are reduced, as these prepaid rooms usually are available only until two weeks beforehand. So this “money in the pocket” means the room is set aside.

    Enter a deeply oblivious customer, prepaying for a room for 30 days.  OK, she wasn’t careful in booking.  But I have bought these HI rooms many times, and you then get a confirmation email showing how much will be charged to your credit card.  What did she do with this?

    Like many who buy an outfit at a high-end store the day before a big party, and then return it the day after the party because “it wasn’t quite right,” these customer scams are everywhere every day.  Somehow the readers here think the customer is the good guy and the enterprise is the bad guy, day in, day out.

    If you have ever worked retail you would understand there are many more incidences of customer fraud.  Although there is no scientific study to back me up, I would guess there are far more customer scams than store scams.  You read about class action suits against a store, but how many times has a store sued a class of customers for outright, premeditated fraud?  Customers attempt all the time to return to a high-end store what they bought on-line or at an off-price retail store.

    Just like “you break it, you bought it,” if you press the button, and then get a receipt showing your $2,305 purchase, then it is all yours.

    1. This is something that the average consumer does NOT want to hear but every word that you have written about customer scams is the absolute truth.  In these matters, one of the great fallacies is that the business can afford to absorb the loss.   

  20. What part of not refundable do people have trouble understanding?  If you do not want to be at risk, buy travel insurance or book refundable rooms, tickets, etc.

    BUT here there was an error. Had the traveler paid attention to the confirmation or credit card bill it would have been caught early. The hotel might have been able to catch it.

    I understand no travel insurance for a short trip. I believe the hotel even with the late notice should have played fair and only charged for the intended stay or less as it finally did.

    Dog bite, illness, etc. are risks of non-refundable reservations. Booking mistakes ought not be. 

  21. Sorry, again, this is what travel insurance is for. Everyone that selected “yes” are saying that hotels should take on the risk associated with their guests’ travels. This isn’t remotely reasonable.

    Most hotels now offer two types of reservations, reserved with a credit card with the ability to cancel in advance and non-refundable reservations where you pay less but you are not able to cancel. Again, Mrs Rossi chose a non-refundable reservation and ultimately could not make her trip. How is this the responsibility of the hotel? 

    The Hotel made an contract with the traveler. The hotel will give you a discount (sometimes significant) on your room stay if you guarantee to pay for the room. It’s simple.

    As a traveler you can’t have it both ways. Either book a cancelable reservation room or risk loosing your money in the event you can’t travel.

    1. How would travel insurance have helped?

      The OP was willing to risk the cost of her anticipated 3-night stay.

      What travel insurance policy would have covered the erroneously booked 27 additional nights?

      1. If she had taken out travel insurance which allowed for her medical reason for cancelling, then she wouldn’t have to had stated her mistake and just put in for the prepaid stay.  Now I am sure she would have caught her error at that point.

        1. What would she have taken out insurance on?

          She clearly wasn’t too concerned about her flights or the 3-hotel nights.  My guess is those were employer-reimbursable expenses.

          1. As far as she knew, she had no prepaid expenses that needed any coverage.

            There is no mention of air, but how do you think she was going to get from Seattle to Colorado Springs?

          2. She didn’t state it, so it isn’t important.  However, ff tickets are not insurable which she could have been using.

            Her room was nonrefundable and would be considered prepaid. This is the date you use for preexisting condition.

          3. She didn’t state it, so it isn’t important.

            Exactly.  And she stated the 3-nights weren’t important either;  she offered to pay for those.

          4. I don’t get your point in all this.  I give up.  You asked a question but you don’t lilke what was stated.  Insurance could have worked for her if handled in a particular way. End of discussion for me.

          5. @bodega3:disqus 

            You keep ignoring the stated premise of my question:

            The OP was willing to risk the cost of her anticipated 3-night stay.

          6. Perhaps you should re-read the poll. The poll asks if hotels should refund, non-refundable rooms in cases of emergencies. That is what I referring to. As far as I’m concerned the booking error is a seperate issue and entirely Mrs. Rossi’s fault for not double checking her itinerary. 

          7. Travel insurance covers for certain medical reasons.  A medical emergency usually is covered but not just any medical excuse.

          8. No, by default a medical emergency is not covered UNLESS a bunch of conditions are positively satisfied.

            For example, if you don’t buy a pre-existing condition waiver OR you miscalculate your nonrefundable costs OR there is any indication that you might not have been medically stable when you bought insurance OR you made some trip payments more than 14 days before you bought insurance OR you need to make subsequent changes to your insured travel dates…. you will probably be SOL.

          9. My clients have all been covered for their medical emergencies.  You just read here about a lot of idiots who ask for help because these screwed up doing it themselves trying to save money.

          10. You just read here about a lot of idiots who ask for help because these screwed up doing it themselves  

            @bodega3:disqus  In another thread you wrote that you won’t give clients any answers about insurance.  You give them the toll free number so that they can get the info directly from the insurance company.

            Which means they are doing it themselves…

            Added: FYI, this is the comment I’m referencing (the last paragraph):


          11.  No.  They are presented with the insurance from our agency and we go over the information.  Then we always have the clients then call for final questions and sign up.  We want them to know they had every chance to ask and be clear on what they are buying. 

          12. Not if the OP calculated prepaid costs based on the 3 night stay she thought she booked.

            Not (necessarily) if she didn’t pay for everything in the same 14-day span.

            Not if she works with dangerous animals as part of her job and the insurer invokes the catch-all “reasonably forseeable” clause.

  22. When you act as your own travel agent, you make this type of error. Holiday Inn had all kinds of discounts, one being non-refundable rates. You booked it, you pay the bill. Travel insurance is always available to cover this type of circumstance. By the way, looking at future dates, the fully refundable rate at the hotel was $6.00 per night more, with a 24 hour cancel policy. Why take any risk for so little difference. Now at the time, there could have been a more significant difference.Still, I believe that he was lucky to get away with 2 nights; errors made, price paid.

          1. You said, nonrefundable product, which is why you take out coverage.  You also don’t have to admit to a mistake.

          2. (a) If she had no idea she had a $2,305 reservation, she would have no idea to get insurance to cover a claim for that amount.

            (b) You’re not suggesting leaving out the whole truth on an insurance claim?  That could bring her dangerously close to insurance fraud territory.

          3. If she had taken out insurance she would had caught her mistake as she would have had to put in the cost. 

            If she realized she was stuck with a nonrefundable amount and took out coverage, there is no place to add, oh I made a mistake, on the application.

          4. Circular reasoning.

            If in her mind there was $0 worth insuring, there was no amount to double check.

          5.  Michael, here is the logic question:

            Why would the woman even THINK OF buying travel insurance?
            IMO she is not the type (if she does not even double check her shopping cart before paying). She probably had no clue of RISKS she had to cover. She probably believes she does not NEED travel insurance for anything.

          6. Right.  If it’s a Covered Reasons policy (aren’t they all?) then you can only insure for the KNOWN risks that correspond to the Covered Reasons, right?

            And if you don’t care about your known pre-paid costs (either because they are small or because it’s an employer-reimbursed business trip), then what would you be looking at insurance policies for??

          7. That wasn’t your point.  You said you can’t insure nonrefundable travel and get a it refundable and I said yes you could.  It isn’t across the board but for covered reasons you can get it refunded.  It doesn’t matter the details at that point, it is just that your comment was inccorrect.

          8. Did you read what I was responding to?

            Travel insurance is always available to cover this type of circumstance.

      1. Michael_K, ONE reason to buy travel insurance is not to lose (to protect and cover) the NON-REFUNDABLE payments one has made (paid) since you will lose them if you cancel your trip.

        If your payment is REFUNDABLE then you don’t need insurance on it.

        I don’t think you wrote what you intended to say.

        By the way, the IRONY here is that if the Vet had to cancel her trip because she needed to go have surgery for the dog bite then the insurance would have covered the amount she insured and would LOSE (i.e. the nonrefundable hotel room prepayment) if she cancelled.

        However, if the dog did not bite her (and there was no surgery), then her mistake would NOT be covered by insurance. So insurance is still not a panacea and does not cover mistakes; unless a dog bites you first 🙂

        However, she DID NOT buy insurance so the argument is really moot.

        1. My main point was that this protection is extremely narrow and specific.  It doesn’t magically take your nonrefundable investments and make them “refundable.”

          It also doesn’t protect you from the main problem here — that the OP’s nonrefundable investment was 10x bigger than she had any idea it was.  [Sorry for the lack of precision in my original comment]

          BTW, I wouldn’t automatically assume that a hypothetical claim based on her dog bite and hospitalization would have been approved.

          Did she have any prior bites or injuries which made her more prone to needing surgery? 

          Does she work with dangerous animals as part of her job?  And if so, was she taking a foreseeable risk?

          1.  I was worried about your last point this afternoon so I read the {travelguard) policy and could not find such an exclusion.

            However the dog bite must be severe enough to cause this:

            1) Injury or Sickness of an Insured, Traveling Companion or
            Family Member traveling with the Insured must be so
            disabling as to reasonably cause a Trip to be cancelled or
            interrupted, or which results in medically imposed
            restrictions as certified by a Physician at the time of Loss
            preventing your continued participation in the Trip. A
            Physician must advise cancellation of the Trip on or before
            the Scheduled Departure Date.

          2. I like to look at AccessAmerica/Allianz first since they’re by far the most ubiquitous (at least among people who come to Chris for help).

            Actually in this case the OP couldn’t have bought insurance from them because they don’t sell plans to residents of the State of Washington (what’s up with that?!)

            But in general AccessAmerica/Allianz has the following generic exclusion clause if they want to be aggressive:

            any problem or event that could have reasonably been foreseen or expected when you
            purchased your plan

            Looking at TravelGuard, right before the language you quote, it says:

            The Company will pay a benefit, up to the Maximum Limit shown on the Schedule of Benefits or Declarations Page, if an Insured cancels his/her Trip or is unable to continue on his/her Trip due to the following Unforeseen events:
            (a) Sickness, Injury or death of an Insured, Family Member,
            Traveling Companion, or Business Partner.

            In the Definitions sections they add:

            “Unforeseen” means not anticipated or expected and occurring after the effective date of this Policy.

            Probably a big stretch to disqualify the OP’s dog bite on the grounds that it was foreseeable, but I’m not sure I would bet against it…

          3. Good point – I have an ER nurse, and yes, she’s been hurt on the job, and as long as a doctor can sign off, TravelGuard doesn’t NOT PAY HER because her “job” was at fault.  On the contrary.

  23. These advance payment non-refundable rates are rarely worth it…the “discount” is usually about 10%…the commission that they didn’t give to a travel agent.

  24. I tend to be sympathetic about date screw ups.  Online date calendars are a trap for the unwary.  They assume the dates based on some criteria that seems more like witchcraft.  One calendar assumes you are traveling tomorrow, another, usually the 3rd party sites, assume you are traveling in a month.

    And some calendars reset the dates whenever you change any parameters.  You might enter traveling from A to B, but as you are trying to get a good rate, the calculator changes it back to the defaults.

    I learned, never book travel unless you are wide awake.

      1. Bodega, Worldspan (Travelport) has a calendar tool in their scripts. But I never use it because I make LESS mistakes if I just  key in the date I want (DDMMMYY format). Those calendar tools and the drop down date menus (worse) are very dangerous if you are dealing with money.

        Also, some of my RETURN flights from ASIA arrive the PREVIOUS day in SFO. So getting a hotel or connecting flight from SFO to some other US city is very tricky since the time and date they arrive in the USA  is BEFORE they left Asia!

        Example: CX 872    HKG to SFO
        Depart HKG  SUN  1230A
        Arrive  SFO   SAT  1000P (-1 day)

  25. When booking via the Holiday Inn website, or any of the Intercontinental Hotels, a confirmation screen comes up that shows a reasonably sized calendar with the rate for each night in each day/box.  How this individual missed that, or the estimated total for their stay, which should have stuck out like a sore thumb, then the fault lies entirely with them for continuing to confirm the reservation when this information is clearly shown to them.

    If someone wants to cheap out and book the most restrictive room rate, then they’re stuck with that rate, regardless of whether a dog bit them or their uncle died.  I’m sorry, if you want to go cheap, then you better be willing to accept the non-refundable terms and conditions, and not cry foul when something affects your plans.  

    1. How she missed it I dont’ know, but she did, and she admits it. So that’s a moot point.

      The fact the the rate is prepaid is a red herring.  The OP was prepared to lose the investment of three nights.  As such, booking a prepaid nonrefundable rate becomes a very reasonable thing to do.

      The dog bite again is a red herring as she was prepared to accept the loss of the three nights that she though she has booked.  Had the dog not bitten her, she would have checked in and been surprised when the FDC confirmed a thirty day stay.

      1. She was prpared to accept the loss of 3 days – but she booked 30 nonrefundable ones.  And she had several times she could have caught the mistake.  Nice of HI to refund anything, but they really are not responsible for HR lack of responsibility.

  26. I want to know how this person could not have noticed how much they were being charged.  Surely there were multiple confirmation screens and an email and a credit card statement.  Non refundable is just that.  It was a bad mistake and they should have to learn the hard way not to buy these deals.  If no one buys them then they won’t be offered – problem solved.  Non-refundable does not make sense in the hotel industry.

    1. Take a look at the screenshot posted by Guest.

      Or better yet, try it yourself, preferably on a 768 vertical pixel screen (common laptop display).  Don’t scroll.  Tab through the forms and you’ll be hard-pressed to notice a total. And keep in mind we’re talking about a decimal point: $2305.00 vs. $230.50.

      Credit card isn’t generally charged until the day of arrival. even for non-refundable reservations.

      1. We had a similar case last year (or sometime ago). I remember making the same comment. My conclusion is that HI wanted to scan the card (or take an imprint) so it DOES NOT become a CARD NOT PRESENT transaction. The CC charge (% fee) to merchant is smaller and it becomes almost incontestable (less chargebacks).

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