HospitalityLawyer.com | Christopher Elliott Article | What To Do When Your Hotel Doesn't Have Room - Stephen Barth
Home Blog About Company contacts Join the cause Connect Free stuff ColumnsUnnatural disaster: What to do when your hoteldoesn’t have roomJuly 14, 2012 The deadly storms that leftlarge swaths of the East Coast without power just before the Fourth of July holiday provided anuncomfortable lesson to hotel guests like Ken White: Always call to confirm your reservation — especiallywhen the place you’re visiting is reeling from a natural disaster.White lives in Charlottesville, Va., an area that was hit hard by thehurricane-force winds. Many residents were struggling to stay coolin record-breaking heat, and checking into an air-conditioned hotelnearby was a popular solution.Maybe a little too popular.“I made reservations at the Hilton Garden Inn for Sunday andMonday night,” says White, a college marketing professor. “Mycredit card was charged, and I was given a confirmation numberby Expedia.”But when he tried to pick up his room key on Sunday, a hotelrepresentative said that White didn’t have a reservation and turnedhim away. The Hilton, like all the other hotels in the area, wasfully booked.Getting to the bottom of White’s reservation problem was only slightly easier than finding a hotel room inCharlottesville after a power outage, it turns out. For starters, White sent me a complaint and then vanished.Repeated phone calls and e-mails to him went unanswered, which can happen during a popular vacationweek — or when portions of Charlottesville remain without electricity for more than a week.An Expedia spokeswoman said that the online travel agency wouldn’t comment on White’s case unless Iprovided a confirmation number. I contacted Hilton for a statement, and it, too, refused to say anything atthe corporate level, deferring instead to the hotel White had tried to stay in, which it said is a franchiseproperty.Finally, I reached Eric Pfister, the general manager at the Hilton Garden Inn in Charlottesville. Heconfirmed the details of White’s story. Pfister said that on Saturday, June 30, in the wake of the massivethunderstorms, his 124-room hotel quickly sold out. The Hilton Garden Inn connects to Expedia through an electronic reservations system, and it also receives faxes from the online travel agency as a backup. Hilton’s system was showing the property as fully booked for Sunday and Monday night, but for some reason, Expedia didn’t get the message. It continued to confirm reservations and send backup faxes, which were piling up
fast. “It was a bad situation,” Pfister says. Hilton tried to contact Expedia, asking it to stop accepting new reservations. Eventually it did, but the hotel had to turn away nine guests the next day, including White. It’s unclear whether this was an isolated problem or whether other Hilton properties working with Expedia were affected by the reservations system glitch. With this new information from Hilton,I again asked Expedia whether it could help me understand how these surplus reservations happened. Itdeclined to comment.When a hotel can’t accommodate a guest because it’s overbooked, the standard industry practice is to sendthat person to a comparable hotel and to pay for the first night’s reservation. That would have happened toWhite and the other displaced customers, except that there were no available rooms in the region.In such cases, a hotel’s options are limited, says Stephen Barth, a professor of hospitality law at theUniversity of Houston and founder of the Web site HospitalityLawyer.com. A property can stillaccommodate a guest by setting up a rollaway bed in the lobby, which sometimes happens during a naturaldisaster. It can also rent rooms in eight-hour shifts, giving guests a chance to freshen up, or it can allowthem to use the showers at the pool.“Overbookings like this tend to happen at large events, like the Super Bowl or Formula 1,” Barth says.“They’re usually caused by guests overstaying their reservations, but they can also happen after a naturaldisaster, like a hurricane on an island with a limited number of hotel rooms.”The best way to avoid being turned away, he says, is to take a couple of preventive measures. White couldhave sidestepped the situation by booking directly through the Hilton Web site or by calling its reservationsnumber. (White’s confirmation contained an Expedia confirmation but didn’t have a correspondingconfirmation from Hilton, according to Pfister.)Also, Barth says, “always contact the hotel and confirm the reservation.” That’s particularly important whenyou’re booking through a third party, such as an online travel agency. When your stay falls during a majorevent — a college homecoming, a large convention or even a big storm, all of which can affect hoteloccupancy rates — double-checking is a must.Had White called the Hilton Garden Inn, he would have known that he didn’t have a room, and he couldhave phoned Expedia to re-book him elsewhere or made other plans.Making matters worse, the hotel doesn’t even know which customers were turned away. Pfister says thatExpedia didn’t give it the guests’ names, so he’s unable to contact them to apologize and make it right.Which is exactly what he says he wants to do.“We feel bad,” he says. “We don’t like to turn guests away.”Pfister says he hopes that White and the others who didn’t have a place to sleep on Sunday night willcontact him directly. He promises that he’ll do whatever he can to make it up to them. Whos responsible for Ken Whites failed hotel stay? The Hilton Garden Inn Expedia Vote Results » Like Zoomerang® Online PollsRelated storiesA stolen West Point Walking down: 5 Whats the First 5 Ways to Spot aclass ring, and all I tips for avoiding the Thing You Do Kid-Friendly Hotelget from my hotel is latest hotel scam When You Check CNTraveler an excuse? into a Hotel Room? CNTraveler
CNTraveler Ads by Google Survival KitShare: Tweet 14 2Tagged as: DISASTER, EXPEDIA, HILTON, HOTEL, OVERBOOKING, STORM LikeAdd New Comment LoginShowing 40 of 46 comments Sort by oldest first lost_in_travel Tough situation - but it sounds like the Hilton Garden Inn wants to apologize for a situation they really did not create. At least Ken White had a home to go back to - albeit with no electricity. I hope only nine people respond to Pfister, it would really say something about scam artists if many more reply. By the way, what happened to the Expedia credit card charge - was it refunded by Expedia? 1 day ago 1 Like Like Reply Christopher Elliott, Consumer advocate and journalist. Expedia refuses to comment. I tried repeatedly to get it to talk. Im a little disappointed by its refusal to say anything about this issue. 1 day ago in reply to lost_in_travel 3 Likes Like Reply LadyLightTravel I would say that the refusal to talk is a statement unto itself, dont you think? A reputable TA would at least issue a statement saying "were investigating." 1 day ago in reply to Christopher Elliott Like Reply 2 Likes rgoltsch Expedia has always tried to make us think that they are a travel agency. Situations like this prove that they are not. A real travel agency would have been there with the client making things right and finding them something, somewhere to sleep.Sites like Expedia want to charge customers money for a service...and when things go wrong, dont back up that service promise with real assistance. Over and over again we hear from writers such as Chris telling us to confirm our reservation with the actual provider....doing the legwork a travel agent would do for us. And for the record, I am an experienced business traveler......not a travel agent 1 day ago 6 Likes Like Reply
TonyA_says Expedia, Travelocity and other OTA sites are D-I-Y (do it yourself) travel sites; while a professional travel agent would do the legwork for you (so they may charge a fee). 1 day ago in reply to rgoltsch Like Reply Susan FoxIm done using any of those third party sites and do my bookings now directlywith the airline, hotels and car rental agencies. Expedias non-response in thiscase just confirms the wisdom of doing so.1 day ago 3 Likes Like Reply Wayne DaytonThis is the 110th reason why nobody should book with Expedia. Their refusalto comment says all we need to know about their incompetence, negligence,corporate greed, and unethical business culture. Dara Khosrowshahi, shameon you. You exemplify the sanctimonius, customer-be-damned attitude of yourmentor, Bill Gates. Why hasnt he responded, perhaps crying because the wayTD Canada Trust has been the closing the accounts of his compatriots? Nowyou know how being treated like crap is like, Dara, youre getting a taste ofyour own medicine. Hilton is standing up to the plate on this one, Expedia andthe Gates New World Order needs to be taught the sternest of marketplacelessons...a radical shift in booking patterns leading to Chapter 11.1 day ago 4 Likes Like Reply Michael__KIts remarkable to me that in 2012 OTAs are sending hotels reservations bypaper faxes. If multiple OTAs are faxing these reservations in parallel, whatmechanism is there to prevent overbookings?Ive had similar experiences a few times checking in with a Pricelinereservation and being told that the hotel had no record of it. In each case,Priceline told me the reservation was faxed to the hotel. I always got a roomeventually. Not always at the original hotel, but I did get the first night freewhenever I was walked. It was nonetheless an unwelcome 30 to 90 minutehassle (between time spent on hold with Priceline and time spent waiting forPriceline and the hotel to get on the same page).1 day ago Like Reply Christopher Elliott, Consumer advocate and journalist. I was shocked by the paper fax detail, too. 1 day ago in reply to Michael__K 1 Like Like Reply bodega3 Inventory on OTAs IS NOT live. Between the time they sell the rate, in a situation like a disaster where local are looking for accommodation, the lax in time can affect your confirmation. Just like when you book your air and get a message back. I know for fact, that in disaster situations, most hotels give huge discounts to locals. Why the heck a local wouldnt call the hotel directly raises huge questions for me. 1 day ago in reply to Christopher Elliott Like Reply 2 Likes
Carver Clark Farrow IIWhat question does it raise?23 hours ago in reply to bodega3 Like Reply bodega3 The main one is why would he go to a OTA for a local hotel before calling the hotel during a disaster situation? Hurricane winds knock power out, messages dont get through. Hotels offer discounted rates at time like these, but not online as you need to be a local to get them. Online and calling the toll free number doesnt get the hotel the confirmation number right away. They dont see the reservation, they sell out the rooms due to front desk demands. 19 hours ago Like Reply in reply to Carver Clark Farrow II Carver Clark Farrow II Why would he know any of that? 1 hour ago Like Reply in reply to bodega3 Michael__KWhy does a hotel enter into an agreement that allowsan OTA to fax it reservation after reservation withoutconfirmation or controls to ensure availability?Especially in the case of Priceline, where customersplacing opaque bids often have to check back later forthe outcome. If an automated channel exists forverifying live inventory, then I see no reason why thisstep wouldnt be taken during that wait.Ive had several experiences which demonstrate thatthis problem is not limited to disaster situations.If as TonyA_says suggests, the OTA acquires itsown dedicated inventory from the hotel, then it seemsthe hotel carries some responsibility. If the hoteldecides to revoke the OTAs dedicated inventory andre-assign it to others -- without first reaching the OTAand ensuring that this dedicated inventory is takenoffline from the OTAs systems -- then more snafuslike the OPs are a predictable outcome.10 hours ago in reply to bodega3 Like Reply TonyA_says michael, it depends on the terms of the agreement. We do not know what that property signed with Expedia. However, the manager said they told Expedia to stop booking. So something is wrong with Expedias process. Too asynchronous.
9 hours ago Like Reply in reply to Michael__K MarkKellingYet another reason to book directly instead of through some internetconsolidator.If I was attempting to get a hotel room or rental car in an area that was in themiddle of a natural disaster, I sure would have called them directly to verifythat not only they got my request but that they would also be able to fill myrequest. Every time there is a hurricane threat to Houston (where I travel to alot) everyone rents a car and leaves town (or the rental companies move theirvehicles to a safer location) and it is a couple weeks before the rental carinventory gets back to normal. This means there are not always cars for thosewanting them. Same with hotel rooms (well, the hotels arent moving therooms elsewhere, but they are occupied by people who cant get back home).I cant believe that reservations are still faxed to hotels that are part of a majorchain or part of any online reservation system. I thought everyone would bookelectronically these days removing the need for any papers to change hands. It is easy to see how a hotel could get overbooked in this situation. Theymight only have a dozen rooms available, but receive 30 - 40 faxedreservation requests from agencies resulting in a lot of disappointed arrivingguests especially when the booking agent never lets them know no actualconfirmation from the property was provided.1 day ago 2 Likes Like Reply y_p_w I dont know about paper FAXes. Those are rather antiquated. A lot of companies are moving to fully electronic imaging sent via FAX. My computers have FAX capabilities to send and electronic document via FAX protocol. No paper is actually scanned, and even if printed after receipt the copy is nice and sharp without those funky aliasing artifacts from scanning a real piece of paper. Most large corporate FAX systems are dumped into data storage rather than paper. They dont have to worry about running out of paper and the electronic storage makes for a very good archive. I do remember arriving once at a hotel that I got via Priceline. Their computer systems were malfunctioning and they couldnt bring anything up. However, I saw that they had a paper file, and the desk clerk said that they updated it with individual printouts for open reservations every hour. I think they also checked for cancelled reservations and marked those in the file too. He pulled out my reservation file and had me sign it directly. I think thats normally what they do. I could imagine a combination of electronic bookings that arent being properly transmitted due to down systems, in combination with walk- up customers could make things interesting if it gets overbooked. 1 day ago in reply to MarkKelling 1 Like Like Reply MarkKelling When I said "papers" I meant the documents that were faxed whether they were physical pages or the electronic form. And yes, most faxes these days are dumped into electronic storage so there is no actual paper involved. Still, someone on the receiving end has to know to look for those faxes and enter them into their reservation system which is still a manual process even if all it takes is a couple clicks of the computer mouse. Any system that is not integrated, automatic, and fully
electronic requiring a person to do something within the process flow is open to failure. 1 day ago in reply to y_p_w Like Reply MarkieAQuestion about a comment you made, Chris. You said that, sometimes duringnatural disasters, hotels will book rooms for 8 hours at a time. Im curious, inyour experience, do they charge 1/3 of the daily rate when they do this? Or dothey tend to take advantage of the situation and charge the full daily rate - ormore?1 day ago Like Reply Christopher Elliott, Consumer advocate and journalist. I didnt get into that in the story. From my personal experience, the room rate would be adjusted based on the length of your stay. I once checked into a hotel at 2 a.m. after a long flight and checked out the next morning at 8 a.m., and was charged a half-day rate. 1 day ago in reply to MarkieA 1 Like Like Reply Raven_AltoskSo did Scampedia give him his money back?Im confused...the article says his card was charged...but...what happened tothat money?Just another reason to avoid third party sites...especially when they refuse toanswer questions about their issues. Doesnt give the consumers a warm andfuzzy feeling.1 day ago 4 Likes Like Reply TonyA_says LOL, Scampedia !!! 1 day ago in reply to Raven_Altosk 1 Like Like Reply TonyA_says Seriously though ... Re: “My credit card was charged, and I was given a confirmation number by Expedia.” This is what makes this smell a bit like a fraud. If some takes my money, I expect a room. 1 day ago in reply to Raven_Altosk 1 Like Like Reply Carver Clark Farrow II Doesnt sound like fraud to me, more likely just incompetence stemming from a antiquated system, i.e. paper faxes 23 hours ago in reply to TonyA_says Like Reply Christopher Elliott, Consumer advocate and journalist. Expedia wont say, and I havent been able to reach the guest. Ive left numerous voice mails and sent him several emails. I think hes either on vacation or still without power. 1 day ago in reply to Raven_Altosk Like Reply
AAmerican1Another example IMO why it is better to deal with either the hotel website ordirectly with the property than using third party consolidators.1 day ago 1 Like Like Reply andrelot Dealing with the hotel website? Probably. Dealing by phone? No way. Phone reservations are the worst possible, there are no confirmation of receipt whatsoever. 1 day ago in reply to AAmerican1 Like Reply y_p_w All depends. I remember booking a room while on the road via the Holiday hotel 800 number. The operator asked for my email address so I could receive confirmation if I got to a place with internet access and for my permanent records. To this day I still have the email with confirmation number and rate. It was odd though. The operator offered me a voucher for $20 dining credit for an additional $8, and I took it. It seemed to make sense to me. When I arrived, the desk clerk said the deal wasnt good, but to make it up to me I just got the voucher for free. Personally I thought that just sticking to the deal would have made for sense for the hotel, but I just rolled with it. 1 day ago in reply to andrelot 1 Like Like Reply AAmerican1 Really? I have email confirmations from 3 hotels I made reservations with for this month & August. All were made direct with hotel property by phone. 1 day ago in reply to andrelot 1 Like Like Reply Jeff ShelbyHad a very similar situation occur last summer in Austin with Hotels.com. Gotto the property Id booked and they were full, theyd tried to contactHotels.com to let them know (two other families were in same situation), etc.The difference was that Hotels.com was fabulous. Took about fifteen minuteson the phone, but they were incredibly apologetic, moved us about fiveminutes away to another hotel, which was an upgrade from original hotel, andsent me a $100 voucher that was good for a year. A customer service rep alsofollowed up about two days later to again apologize and make sure thateverything had worked out.Im not a huge fan of third party booking sites - Id used it on a lark for thattrip - but I was impressed by their response to the problem. Its incrediblyfrustrating to see Expedia run and hide.1 day ago 1 Like Like Reply TonyA_says There is NO DIFFERENCE. Hotels.com is an Expedia brand and owned company. :-) 1 day ago in reply to Jeff Shelby 2 Likes Like Reply
Carver Clark Farrow II Surprising, companies within the same hotel brand can be very different. I mean Marriott owns/manages both the Ritz- Carlton and the Fairfield Hotels 23 hours ago in reply to TonyA_says Like Reply jerryatricLives in the same city yet goes through Expedia. How much did he save?Probably only a couple of $ - if that. AGAIN I always go direct, & check outonline companies as well. In most cases the savings difference is not worth thehassle & I end up booking direct. I get the name of the person, confirmationnumber & almost have never had a problem. I do the same with car rentals &airlines. And if there is a problem explaining it to the front desk in a precise,friendly manner gets it cleared up in a hurryDoing business with any of these online agencies is not worth it.1 day ago 2 Likes Like Reply bodega3 He probably didnt save. Local hotels often give huge discounts to locals during disaster situations. People who rely on the internet are lemmings. 1 day ago in reply to jerryatric Like Reply TonyA_says Lives in the same city yet goes through Expedia - EXACTLY !!! Charlottesville aint that big. It is a pretty university [of Virginia] town. He must have gone for the cheaper PRE-PAID non-refundable rate offered by Expedia. 1 day ago in reply to jerryatric 1 Like Like Reply Carver Clark Farrow II Help me out. Ive never used Expedia. Whats the difference between a local using Expedia and a non-local? 23 hours ago in reply to TonyA_says Like Reply TonyA_says he could have made a local call or swing by the hotel. that is a small town. 21 hours ago Like Reply in reply to Carver Clark Farrow II Carver Clark Farrow II But why would he? If the computer system accepts the reservation what would put him on notice that it wasnt a done deal? Why drive across town when you believe, albeit erroneously, that you have a confirmation. 1 hour ago Like Reply in reply to TonyA_says bodega3
Expedia will not have a local rate listed. Many hotels give locals discounts, but you have to contact the hotel directly to get it and show an ID at time of checkin. 19 hours ago Like Reply in reply to Carver Clark Farrow II TonyA_says Christopher Elliott Perhaps there is something more to this story and it might be important to readers of your site. The Hilton Garden Inn at Charlottesville,VA is an Expedia Special Rate (ESR) property . That means the hotel participates in Expedias Net Rate program, where it gives Expedia a deeply discounted net price (a big percentage off the Best Available Rate) and then Expedia marks it up when it sells to the public. You can see from the attached pic that Expedia sells a discounted rate for this hotel, however that rate is prepaid. So now the $64K question is what about room inventory allocation ??? I suppose that as part of the contract with Expedia, the hotel would allocate a certain amount of rooms for Expedia. Normally room reservations are sent to the hotel via a GDS. The hotels reservation system can easily display room availability and (automatically) confirm reservations. Expedia also offers an alternative way for hotels to hook up with them using Expedia Quick Connect. In their Best Practices section, they state: If Expedia QuickConnect® functionality is down, bookings will revert to fax or email and availability and rates can be manually updated on the Extranet until the issue is corrected. But what happens when there is a power [or network] blackout and the hotels reservation system is down? Can Expedia keep on selling prepaid rooms assuming they have a "guaranteed" room allocation from the hotel? Assuming Expedia keeps on sending faxes, isnt that one-way communication and still requires some acknowledgment from the hotel that rooms are still available? If that is the case, then what exactly are customers pre-paying Expedia for, if they cant be sure they have a room? Did Expedia return the OPs money? 1 day ago 4 Likes Like ReplyM Subscribe by email S RSS Load more commentsReactionsTrackback URL http://www.elliott.org/blog/unnatural-disaster-what-to-do-when-your-hotel-doesnt-have-room/trackback/Previous post: When a flight’s canceled, who’s responsible?
Next post: Schemes and summer scams — yes, they’re out to getcha! What’s your problem? If youre having trouble with a business - any business - and youve reached a dead end, maybe I can help. Send me an email and Ill investigate. (I cant promise a fix, but I take every request seriously.) If you want to connect with other consumers, why not sign up for my free weekly newsletter, RSS feed or free daily email updates? Our underwriters Travel Insurance - save 40% or more off similar coverage from other comparison sites at TripInsurance.com. Easy To Buy, 24/7 Claims Service. Airport Parking - Discounted airport parking and guaranteed parking reservations. Business Class Flights - Save up to 60% on Business & First Class Flights. DeltaPoints.com - Tips and hints for earning millions of points for vacations you have only dreamed of but never thought you could afford! Flights from Cheapflights.com. Luggage - Buy luggage, bags, briefcases, travel accessories and more from Luggage Pros. Squaremouth - Compare travel insurance, save over 70%. TourSaver - This pocket-sized coupon book is full of Alaska travel deals & Alaskas top attractions. Travel Hacking Cartel - Earn hundreds of thousands of Frequent Flyer Miles without getting on a plane. Buy Travel Insurance - Reviews, articles, and links to help you buy travel insurance. TripInsuranceStore.com - Over age 50? Get personalized advice on pre-screened plans at 1-888-407-3854 or visit us online. You - Find out how you can support this site. Here are the details. FREE NEWSLETTER Avoid scams and be a better consumer. Sign up now. Email Address: First Name: Last Name: Enter the text as it appears. Submit What’s new? For disabled fliers, TSA adds insult to injury
Schemes and summer scams — yes, they’re out to getcha!Unnatural disaster: What to do when your hotel doesn’t have roomWhen a flight’s canceled, who’s responsible?“Their bait-and-switch tactics count on us having a short memory”What to do when your airline tells you to shut upA stolen West Point class ring, and all I get from my hotel is an excuse?The inn’s owners are out — why won’t they waive my cancellation penalty?Who’s afraid of a bomb-making barista?What happened to the great American road trip?Why is Virgin dragging its feet on my ticket refund?Where does the clever hotel wordplay cross the line?Happy Fourth of July! Declare your independence from the tyranny of failure — IamWorst upgrade ever — how about a refund?Their valuables disappeared from the hotel safe — and so did the hotel safe What’s everyone talking about? Lisa Simeone"It would be out there"?? It is out there. Where the hell have you been? And if youwant to see comments by friends of his, spend some time on boingboing. Thenagain, why bother? You...For disabled fliers, TSA adds insult to injury · 27 minutes ago Lisa SimeoneIts pointless, Sommer. The naysayers and TSA apologists will just claim that yourfriend is lying. After all, theres no video proof of a smurf yelling while your friendis going through the...For disabled fliers, TSA adds insult to injury · 49 minutes ago TSAisTerrorismThe spectre of additional harassment from a bully is very effective.For disabled fliers, TSA adds insult to injury · 1 hour ago Carver Clark Farrow IIBut why would he? If the computer system accepts the reservation what wouldput him on notice that it wasnt a done deal? Why drive across town when youbelieve, albeit erroneously, that you have a...Unnatural disaster: What to do when your hotel doesn’t have room · 1 hour ago Carver Clark Farrow IIWhy would he know any of that?Unnatural disaster: What to do when your hotel doesn’t have room · 1 hour ago
Bill___AHotels and other travel companies leave bags unattended and lying around all ofthe time. I am surprised more thefts do not occur. Valet parking at the JW Marriottin New Orleans left my rental car...Hotel luggage theft: “He looked like a professional” · 1 hour ago Trending topics on Elliott REFUND | AIRLINE | TSA | HOTEL | TRAVEL | FEE | CRUISE | AMERICAN AIRLINES | UNITED AIRLINES | CAR RENTAL | CUSTOMER SERVICE | US AIRWAYS | DOT | TICKET | LUGGAGE | FEES | DELTA AIR LINES | SCAM | EXPEDIA | SOUTHWEST AIRLINES | CAR | DAMAGE | HOTWIRE | TRAVELOCITY Essential links • About Christopher Elliott. • How to support this site. • Subscribe to my free newsletter. • Buy my awesome book. • Read my blog. • Frequently asked questions. Follow me