Does increased revenue trump guest hospitality inside the Beltway?

By | March 25th, 2016

One of the biggest days for Washington, D.C. happens every four years in January. Rod Mirchev plans to be there next January 20, along with an estimated one million people. Why so many people? It’s Inauguration Day.

Mirchev has already booked his hotel room — or so he thought.

“I made a reservation and received confirmation through for four nights at Hotel RL,” Mirchev says. “I’ve recently received calls and emails from telling me the hotel made a pricing error and they want to change my rate.”

Mirchev booked four nights over inauguration weekend at the downtown property for just $140 per night. The hotel now wants him to now pay $309 per night, something he — and we — feel is wrong.

“I have a valid, confirmed reservation and I believe they are bullying me into a higher price,” Mirchev complains. “It’s price gouging. The hotel refuses to honor the agreed upon reservation price and is threatening to cancel my reservation.”

Mirchev feels these are bully tactics, and I tend to agree. The hotel group sets its own rates and chooses which third party sites can sell the rooms. Why should Mirchev have to accept a rate one cent higher than what was advertised? Isn’t that deceptive trade practice?

The reality is that just like airlines, hotels can — and do — oversell their inventory. But unlike the airlines, there are no regulations to dictate what happens when a hotel can’t or won’t honor your reservation.

Hotel policy governs, and it is typical for the hotel to provide similar (or better) accommodations in a nearby hotel, or one in the same hotel group. In the industry, this is known as “walking” the guest, because it may include a walk down the street to the alternate accommodations.

Related story:   “Is there anything I can do against the injustice?”

The hotel should provide ground transportation if the hotel is not within walking distance, and historically, the hotel would allow a free long-distance phone call so that the guest could inform his family or office of the hotel change.

I searched the hotel’s availability for Mirchev’s travel dates, and the hotel is indeed sold out. In fact, I imagine come next January, all hotels in Washington, D.C. will be sold out, which begs the question — where will Mirchev stay if and when the hotel does not honor his reservation?

Mirchev wrote back to our team, saying that a senior manager from is getting involved to try to work things out “amicably.” While his reservation remains uncertain, it would be unjust for the hotel to fail to honor the reservation as originally priced. After all, let’s not forget that Hotel RL is one of many in the industry promising a dubious Best Rate Guarantee.

Mirchev will keep us informed of the outcome of his case, and in turn, we will update this story. It seems unfair that Mirchev should be forced to pay more than double the rate because Hotel RL didn’t update its inauguration weekend rates prior to them going on sale.

It’s not like they didn’t know it was an election year.

Should Hotel RL be required to honor the reservation at the advertised price?

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