B&B confirmed the wrong rate — do they have to honor the price?

The Pensione Nichols looks like the kind of bed and breakfast I’d want to stay in the next time I’m in Seattle. It’s charming, historical and it’s even recommended by my own magazine.

But there’s one other thing the inn — or more specific, the inn’s proprietors — aren’t, according to Blair Baker. They’re not very good with math.

This spring, Baker made a reservation for her and her husband during the busy Labor Day weekend.

“We decided to book a suite, since it includes a kitchen and would allow us to save money on food by cooking our own meals,” she says. “And since we were booking so far in advance, they gave us the room at a discounted rate of $200 a night. The day after making the reservation on the phone, I received an email confirmation from the hotel with a reservation number, the dates, number of guests, and price per night.”

But last week, when Baker tried to re-confirm her stay, she encountered a problem.

“I called the hotel to double-check all the details and ended up speaking with the owner, Lindsey,” she says. “Everything went smoothly until I asked her to confirm the $200 a night price. Lindsey said that wasn’t possible as the suite books for way more than $200 a night, especially for a holiday weekend.”

Baker says she explained that she’d spoken with another employee when she made her initial reservation, who had confirmed the $200 rate. She also had the confirmation in writing.

At that point, she says the B&B’s proprietor agreed to honor the rate.

“A few hours later, I receive an email from Lindsey saying she simply can’t give us that rate and we will have to pay $265 plus tax per night, or we can cancel the reservation.”

Bakers says she can’t afford to spend another $65 a night for her accommodations.

“Is there anything we can do to get Lindsey to honor our original, confirmed-in-writing reservation at Pensione Nichols,” she asked me.

I suggested that she make another request to the property in writing. Baker did just that, sending a strongly-worded email to the inn. Perhaps a little too strongly-worded.

Her set-up is pretty neutral. She explains the problem, and where things stand now. Then she continues:

But to my dismay I found your business lacking the integrity and professionalism I thought it possessed.

My husband and I are incredibly upset about the treatment we’ve received regarding this reservation, and would like to keep it for the room at the rate we were guaranteed as we planned our entire trip around staying at your B&B almost 6 months ago.

I called you back as soon as I saw the email to clarify the situation and was immediately and crisply told “You can either pay the increased rate or cancel your reservation.” When I tried to explain everything had already been confirmed in writing months ago and we no longer had time to make any changes, I was brusquely told “I have to check a guest in” and practically hung up on.

The email also mentions the inn’s favorable reviews online, which could be interpreted as a threat to populate the Internet with not-so-favorable reviews.

Given that, I’m not really surprised that the Pensione didn’t move an inch.

My position on rate mistakes, also called “fat-finger” fares, is well known. If it’s a reasonable price (one cent fares don’t count) and the travel business confirms the rate in writing, it should honor the price.

By my count, the Pensione confirmed its $200 per night rate three times; twice verbally and once in writing.

If, however, Baker knew the B&B was quoting erroneous rates (say, she’d seen it on a certain popular travel website that begins with the letter “F”) then I wouldn’t consider her case. That would be stealing.

But there’s no evidence of that happening.

My only hesitation in asking the Pensione to honor its initial price is this: I’ve seen the emails between the hotel and guest. The B&B seems to have taken a hard line on this case.

Yes, they mistakenly confirmed a $200 rate, and they admit it in writing. But in their estimation, it’s a mistake, and it can be corrected at any time before the guest checks in.

I’m not sure if the B&B will change its position, even if I ask.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/glenn.valentine.750 Glenn Valentine

    How does an institution prove that a ‘mistake’ is anything different than a classic bait and switch? I would treat it as such.

    Regarding my position on ‘fat-finger’ fares…. most corporations should have the technology and processes to catch if a fare/price is too low before publishing it. If they don’t, that is THEIR problem not the consumers, and all such prices should be honored.

    (And, no, never lucked into a fat-fingered fare, so don’t have a horse in this race).

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    The owner should look at it as a lesson learned. Had I been the OP, I would’ve just confirmed the reservation dates. If she had it in writing, why would she need to confirm the price? That tells me that she had a feeling the price she was quoted was too good to be true. (Think about it: When you confirm hotel reservations, do you confirm pricing or just the dates?) That said, had the OP showed up on the day with the written confirmation, the owner would’ve probably had no choice but to accept the rate, otherwise the room would likely go unused that night. So I say the owner should just eat the difference as it’s her staff that made the mistake.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    I’m with Chris. If a rate is so low that a reasonable person would know its an error that tough luck for the consumer. But if the rate is within reason than the property should honor it. Accordingly, the B&B should honor the rate.

    I’m not prepared to state that the owners lack integrity. I suspect that they are probably pissed at the tone of the letter and are digging in their heals because of it. Its been my experience that in some small businesses, the owners have an emotional attachment to the business that goes far beyond the profit motive. This is especially true if the business is one that the owners have wanted to do for years and years and/or have really poured themselves into.

    If they were my clients, I would recommend that $65.00 a night isn’t worth such grief and negative publicity.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    How does an institution prove that a ‘mistake’ is anything different
    than a classic bait and switch? I would treat it as such.
    Fairly easily. You would look at the circumstances of the error. How often does this error happen. What were the consequences? Did the institution reap a windfall from it? What is the background and reputation of the owners. How did the company remediate the situation.

    As far as technology is concerned, technology fails sometimes. Errors happen. I was once going to reserve a room at a Westin. Every class of room was quoted for $75.00. The regular rooms, the deluxe rooms, the junior suites, and the full one bedroom suites. I’m sure someone could convince themselves that the hotel was simply having a special or a sale. It was an obvious error, which was fixed the next day. It doesn’t seem right to purposely attempt to profit from someone’s honest mistake.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    I don’t understand that logic. She has a confirmation in writing that shows both the days and the price. Why is is reasonable to call the hotel to confirm the dates, but not the price. Why distinguish one from the other? If anything, I’d probably confirm the date, the price, and the room type if it were anything other than a standard room. But then again, I don’t confirm bookings unless there is a special reason.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    When you book a hotel or air ticket or car, if you choose to call to confirm, do you confirm the pricing? I surely don’t. It’s not that it’s IL-logical to do so, I just think most people wouldn’t confirm pricing; they’d simply confirm the dates to make sure they aren’t left stranded. After reserving, dates / availability can change; it’s rare that prices do, especially if you’ve been given one on a confirmation.

  • Dave_D70

    Sometimes “schnitt happens” and they have to accept that it does. This sure reminds me of some issues I had with a series of hotel bookings over Memorial weekend – all with Super 8. I had made all three bookings earlier that month – the first through a popular non-opaque booking site and the other two directly through the hotel’s site. For some reason, only the one booked through the third-party site was problem-free.
    When I showed up at the second of the three Super 8 locations (where I’d be staying 2 nights), I was informed that I was booked into EIGHT rooms for those 2 nights. I made it clear that it was just me – and much to that manager’s credit, after gathering some information, he got the extra charges reversed by the time I was ready to leave for the next leg of my trip.
    However, when I walked into the Bottineau Super 8 to check in, I learned that I had four bookings for that night. When I pointed out it was just me, the clerk ran around the corner to get her husband – and when he realized that I was right, he then actually proceeded to berate ME! It was hard to catch what he was saying at times because of his accent, but I did gather that the error had caused the hotel to be sold out that night and now he had 3 empty rooms on a normally busy travel weekend (given my time of arrival, they likely would remain empty). For a few minutes, I was actually wondering if he would even GIVE me a room at all. It was also an exercise in self-control when he declared that he would KEEP the extra charges!
    I got a room in the end, and it was nice enough, but boy, I couldn’t wait to get the heck out of there in the morning; the same lady was manning the front desk and was mildly surprised I was checking out so early and without partaking of the breakfast either. When I got home, I immediately contacted Super 8 corporate about this issue – the whole process went very smoothly and I actually got a full refund of that stay.

  • Elmo Clarity

    Personally I don’t see this rate as so low a reasonable person would think it a mistake. This is a 25% discount. Not really that unreasonable.

  • Elmo Clarity

    Given that this is a B&B, I’m not sure I would want to stay there even if they finally relent and honor that price. Because of the more intimate nature of a B&B with the owner/managers than in a typical hotel, the atmosphere might be a lot more negative. Since they do have it in writing and I honestly don’t think a 25% off per night rate is unreasonable to expect, would they have some sort of legal remedy they could pursue?

  • BillCCC

    This seems to quite an easy call for mediation. Their first email should have been a little more polite and they should have only stuck to the facts rather than mentioning integrity and professionalism. This would have made me less inclined to do anything for them.

  • Raven_Altosk

    They should honor the rate, but I think the OP’s letter is a bit over the top.

    If the owner won’t budge and still rejects the rate as “an error,” perhaps they could come to middle ground and honor the $200 for a room rather than a suite?

    Look at me, trying to mediate today…lol.

  • JenniferFinger

    $200 per night doesn’t strike me as a “fat-finger” rate. $100 a night might. And charging another $65 per night after confirming 3 times (including in writing) a $200 per night rate screams “Chris, please mediate!”

  • Chris_In_NC

    I agree. While the rate of $200 may be “low” for the particular room type on a holiday weekend, it is not unreasonably low to even experienced travelers. Furthermore, the rate was confirmed in writing and verbally. While I’m not ready to accuse the property of a malicious bait-and-switch scheme, the owner’s approach really makes me question their business acumen. Frankly if this is how this property operates, I wouldn’t want to stay there.

    Out of curiosity, I went to the B&B’s website and “researched” rates for 3 random weekends. Rates ranged from $165 to $305 a night. So, a $200/night rate is NOT unreasonable, especially in today’s day and age, when discounts could be found. I strongly disagree with the notion this is a “fat finger” rate. Had the rate been $20, yes, but $200 is reasonable for the average traveler.

  • Chris_In_NC

    The problem with so called “fat-finger” rates, is that in today’s day and age, it is unclear what is a “mistake” and what is a “good rate.” While a $3 RT ticket in F class is obviously a mistake, others aren’t so obvious.

    Some recent examples I have encountered
    A Marriott hotel in Washington DC recently offered weekend rates of $67 a night. Rack weekday rates are $229. Is this a “mistake” or a legitimate rate?

    I stay frequently at a Renaissance property. Regular rate weekday rate $229/night. For 2 weeks this past July they offered a $99.95 weekday rate. I booked 3 nights at this rate. It was honored. Met the manager at the concierge lounge and asked about the promotion. Confirmed it was a legitimate rate. It was a limited special and he was happy that I took advantage of it.

    1 year ago, was searching accommodations, and found a Ritz Carlton that was offering a bed and breakfast package for $139/night, which is unusually low for a Ritz Carlton. Confirmed that it was a legitimate promotion.

    Speaking of car rentals, have an upcoming trip next month. For unexplained reasons, car rental rates dropped from an average of $330 a week to $100/week a few days ago. It’s not a mistake, because it dropped for several companies across the board (Dollar/Thrifty, Avis, Budget) I re-booked the car rental at the new rate.

    So, the implications that because a rate is discounted by 70% means it is an obvious mistake is not true. In today’s world of dynamic “yield-management” pricing, anything can happen. I consider myself an experienced traveler, yet, even I would not have assumed that the $200 rate the OP had confirmed was a “mistake.”

  • Chris_In_NC

    Raven, according to their website, rooms start at $165/night, so the B&B would actually make extra if they were in a room!

  • emanon256

    Yes you should Chris, yes you should. A $265 v. $200 is hardly a fat finger rate in my opinion. Had it been $65, then that could too good to be true. But the fact that it was booked via a live person at $200, confirmed in writing at $200, and then re-confirmed by the proprietor means she has a valid case. I am not sure what her e-mail said, but it sounds like it was not a good idea to send it, and could possibly hurt her case, but I hope not.

    Couldn’t her reservation be considered a contract, meaning the hotel has to provide the service at the rate promised, or find her alternate accommodations and pay for whatever they cost, and she still pays the B&B the agreed upon rate? It’s been many years since I took a law class. So I don’t know. But I feel like this is a strong and valid case in need of Chris.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Yes, but Labor Day is a holiday weekend, so wouldn’t the rate be on the higher end?

  • Raven_Altosk

    And that’s why I’ll leave mediating to Chris and other professionals in the trade! :D

    That, and nothing I say before 6AM can be considered legit….

  • markblei

    As a former travel agent, if we misquoted a rate that we had taken deposit n, it was our bad. If a hotel or property owner confirms a rate in writing, and a client goes and plans a trip around it , they shoukd ( with good humour) honour the rate. I booked an inexpensive hotel once in New York in between the time I had to leave one apartment and move into another . It was ten days, I had my reservations in writing and had confirmed verbally. I got an email the morning I was supposed to check in , cancelling my reservation . I had words with the manage, where I politely told him I expected his hospitality would include honouring his commitment , and keeping me out of the cold . He of course made room for me. You have to be polite, because no one wants to help an impolite person

  • Kevin Mathews

    Couple things here strike me as odd:
    1) Does the owner of this B&B understand standard business practices? I’m betting that she didn’t realize when she tried to put the screws to a customer, that the $195 difference in rates over the course of the weekend would probably cost her a lot more in the long run due to the bad publicity.
    2) Who calls to confirm the accepted rate? I can understand calling to double check that the reservation is still in their system and that they didn’t accidentally get deleted out of the system, but why open the door and ask to make sure the rate is still valid? I’m not saying that she should’ve been deceptive or anything, but why open that door and even give the Owner a chance to review that?
    3) What is the cancellation policy at this place? is she allowed to cancel without penalty?

  • mbods

    It totally wrong not to honor the rate. Not good business practices and bad customer service.

  • vmacd

    If they don’t honor their original, confirmed rate, she should send them a bill for all the time she’s wasted communicating with them, all the time she spent planning the trip, the cost for rebooking her airline tickets, and her boss can send a bill for time he/she spends rebooking her vacation time. Hotels, airlines, etc. have no idea how much time and effort goes into planning a vacation.

  • sirwired

    $200 vs. $265 is not a clearly erroneous rate. They should absolutely suck it up and honor it.

    And if she had been quoted the proper rate to begin with, she may have chose other lodgings.

  • User921394932

    They can take the additional $65 out of their employee’s pay check.

  • Chris_In_NC

    Maybe, maybe not. I guess we’ll never really know?

  • User921394932

    I’m assuming she didn’t place a deposit, so there wouldn’t be consideration, and hense no contract. Even if she did place a deposit, the B&B might have some stipulation where they don’t have to honor a misquoted rate.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    I agree that a 70 percent reduction doesn’t, by itself, suggests an obvious mistake. For example, hotels in places that have high and low seasons often have great discounts. Palm Springs hotels, many of which charge $250 pe rnight and up, are currently going for $79 during midweek. Of course, it hot has Hades there right now… Also manyy business hotels have fire sales during holidays and weekends.

    The difference in this case is only about 30%.

    The fat fingered fare that we discussed eons ago included a Ritz Carlton for $2.00 when it was supposed to be $200.00. Some people actually argued that it wasn’t an obvious error and wanted the hotel to honor that rate.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Goodness gracious, is this B&B owner in need of a vacation!!

    I’ve gotten lower rates before and questioned them at the time of receiving them, not mere days before arrival.

    While I can agree the letter is a bit much, I also don’t know what transpired in the telephone call. I don’t want to assume the B&B owner was sweetness and light while the OP ran around with their hair on fire, nor do I want to assume the opposite, either.

    My guess is, this is an OP who is at the end of their tether trying to get a B&B owner to do the right thing, which is honor the rate they confirmed three times, once in writing. I would imagine they were being as polite as they could be given the circumstances. Were someone to pull this on me, I’d have cancelled, found other accommodations, even if it meant staying in a Motel 6, and let the tourism board know there was a B&B pulling a fast one against tourists.

    But one other thing is: it’s Seattle. There’s tons of places to stay, probably for less than the B&B is asking, that would have a kitchen and breakfast each morning. Why give these guys your money after they’ve clearly showed they don’t deserve it? I’m pretty firm in my thinking that I won’t do business with unscrupulous business owners, no matter what.

  • sanibelsyl

    The Inn should have honored her rate, there is no doubt about that. I recently quoted a rate (reading it off my complex website, which was erroneous) and held to it even though the rental guest saw my own website rates which was definitely higher. He had my written quote and I felt there was no reasonable cause to stick to the actual rate. He was told of he error soon after he booked, so there was little time lag, but it was my mistake so I paid for it. Despite the legitimacy of the OP’s expecting the Inn to hold their rate, I voted NO to your involvement. The OP has already poisoned the well to some extent with her language and veiled threat of a bad review and I do not think your intervention is warranted at this point. But then again I am very protective of your time as I know there are a lot more complaints then there are Chris Elliot’s.

  • plodder gui

    “Bakers says she can’t afford to spend another $65 a night for her accommodations…”

    Oh please. Then they shouldn’t be traveling because God forbid there’s an emergency and they have to open their wallet.

  • Chris Johnson

    It’s confirmed in writing. ’nuff said.

  • $16635417

    After that note to the B&B, would you really want to stay there now?

  • Elmo Clarity

    Oh please! This comment is completely uncalled for. Many people travel on a budget and the extra money would have to come out of somewhere else. If there was an “emergency”, the rest of the trip would probably be cancelled or modified to accommodate the change. But to have to modify things at the last minute because of someone else’s mistake like this is just wrong.

  • EdB

    Let me guess…. You are the owners of the said B&B?

  • LeeAnneClark

    One would think that, but properties often have promotions, discounts and various other reasons to offer a lower price. I also feel it’s not the customer’s responsibility to go see what they charge on other dates. Sure, we frequent travelers generally do that as a matter of course, but it should not be a requirement to be familiar with the pricing patterns of a property we book, just to guard against dumb employee mistakes.

    And even if they had, the $200 rate was well within the range of reasonable, especially if they were running a promotion.

    They booked the room, were quoted the rate three times, including in writing. Done.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yeah, but you have the option of blaming it on lack of sleep due to the baby, and then we all get misty-eyed and forgive you. ;-)

  • cowboyinbrla

    There are cities which are Labor Day destination weekends where hotels fill up, and there are cities where Labor Day is a day hotels empty out and they’re crying for business. And which cities are which can change over time. There’s a major event in New Orleans over the Labor Day weekend during which hotel rooms are at a premium in the French Quarter and on Canal Street. But the event became popular many years ago in part because that weekend was normally a “dead” weekend in the city and hotel rooms were cheap and plentiful, particularly as it comes at the end of a peak “hot” season when few tourists want to be present in 100+ weather.

    Legally – I don’t know what can be done; hotels bump people periodically and the place could easily claim overbooking and bump the person, and probably re-sell the room for a higher price. But morally – they did wrong, and business-wise, they did stupid. They turned what could have been a great word-of-mouth experience – “They found out they’d underquoted on the room, but agreed to honor the rate and welcomed us with open arms” – into an experience that’s going to be picked up by search engines for a long time to come: B&B retroactively tries to gouge customer for higher price.

  • bodega3

    I voted yes (finally a valid letter for help to
    Chris!). The $200 rate isn’t a huge discount to raise any questions. I have booked accommodations for clients for 3 decades and have come across early booking rates that were very low and valid. Not sure how this reservation was booked, but the B & B should honor the original nightly rate.

  • mszabo

    For all we know that $265 rate could already be discounted vs the rate the B+B wanted to charge. So the real comparison would probably be $200 vs $350 or something. Still I completely agree $200 a night clearly seems legitimate. Really anything over $100, I’d consider legitimate based on the link saying this is a moderately priced hotel.

    Personally, I’d say a little too much interaction between the hotel/customer here. I’ve never asked for a price confirmation after booking (and having the written price). When confirming the reservation I would have just asked to confirm the room. Then I would have complained directly to the manager/credit card company during the stay. With the written price confirmation wouldn’t this just be an easy chargeback if the hotel charges a different price?

  • LeeAnneClark

    You wrote: “I suspect that they are probably pissed at the tone of the letter and are digging in their heals because of it.”

    Keep in mind, this letter is coming long into their discussions. There were phone calls to resolve the issue first. It sounds to me as if the customers started out reasonable and pleasant, and were treated rudely by the B&B, and by the time they got to sending that email they were on their last nerve. I don’t blame them for their anger, nor do I blame them for accusing the owners of lacking integrity because as it stands, they DO lack integrity, by not honoring the rate!

    Either way, the owners have a professional obligation to honor the rate regardless of the attitude of the customer. They certainly have no right to “dig in their heels” and do something unethical simply because they didn’t like the tone of the email.

  • MikeInCtown

    I do not think it was unreasonable for her to confirm the pricing. It is a B&B and she may not have stayed at one before. She was also concerned about costs, having wanted the kitchen suite so that they would not have to spend money on food. Given the situation, I think it is perfectly acceptable to confirm all aspects of the reservation.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow. Aren’t you a peach? :-/

    Their reasons for not wanting to spend the $65 are immaterial, and really, none of our business. They were quoted $200, they shouldn’t have to pay a penny more.

  • IGoEverywhere

    I would show up with the original reservation in hand, pay with my AX card, then dispute the charge upon return. That’s easy effort compared to what they are going through now. As a travel agent, I will not stand for changes once confirmed outside of newly imposed taxing, not resort fees.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Nope, never said it was unreasonable. Just that it was unusual. I think 95% of people wouldn’t ordinarily confirm pricing (and 3 times, to boot). I’d just say: “Just wanted to confirm you have xx room for me on xx date, as discussed.” As another poster said, it just courts trouble if you already have a confirmation on pricing. I don’t think she did anything wrong, just out of the ordinary.

  • IGoEverywhere

    I needed to stay at the Marriott Courtyard CVG airport last June. The Galileo system guarantees the accuracy of Marriott. I got the room for $15.00. It said special, but is a guaranteed rate. They went nuts at the front desk, They did accept the rate after using the guaranteed in writing comment. Recomfirmation sometimes lead to hitches. Jus tgo and demand the rate. My son has extra rooms in the Queens Anne section if they throw you out.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I don’t think that the originally quoted price of $200 was unreasonable, although a phenomenally good deal. I think the B&B should have stuck to their originally quoted price and sucked it up. But I voted “NO” to mediation. Why?
    I lived in Seattle for 2 years and have visited friends made there over the years. One of the things I found while working there and later while visiting is that businesses really don’t care what you think of them. There are enough other people in the world that will replace any lost business that you represent. I realize I’m over-generalizing and that there are great people in the Puget Sound area (otherwise I wouldn’t go back and visit them!).
    Threat of bad review? Pffft. Threatened loss of revenue? Double pffft.
    If this were a corporate hotel chain, I’d say “Go get ’em, Chris!”. It’s not; it’s an individually owned B&B. Rotten as this situation is, it can’t be fixed or mediated.

  • SooZeeeQ

    Pretty bad when a confirmation in writing in not guaranteed, and I do believe they should have honored it.

    Even without the terse letter to the B&B, it is risky to let someone down like this with the likes of YELP and other sites – this one – to give a bad review.

  • lorcha

    What Pensione Nichols is saying here, is that even if they offer a rate and confirm it in writing, they can change their minds about it any time they want and just charge you a higher rate because they feel like it. Your option at that point is to “take it or leave it”.

    This is no proper way to do business. Sure, Pensione Nichols may regret having offered that rate and may consider it a mistake in hindsight, but it was a legitimate offer, and it was confirmed in writing. Baker acted on Pensione Nichols’s offer and revoking their offer will cause Baker monetary damages, which they may need to attempt to recover through the court system.

  • S E Tammela

    The owner doesn’t know the first thing about running a business… she should have honoured the rate and then berated her employee. The fact that she can’t manage her own staff is not the customer’s problem.

    But as for the customer, it’s yet another tiring case of, “I’m a customer, and I demand that you do what I want!” When you want something done and you can’t expect it by LAW, being rude and obnoxious will only result in a refusal. It doesn’t matter what’s right morally, if you’re rude to someone, why should they do anything for you?

  • EdB

    This is not another case of “do what I want.” This is a case of “do what you promised.” The OP is asking for nothing more than what they negotiated for with the business in good faith.

  • Elmo Clarity

    The OP may have legal remadies available to them. They have a written offer that the business is no longer willing to honor. This could be breach of contract. Even though no money has been exchanged, there is an agreement that is one party does something (stay at the B&B) they other party will accecpt as compensation the agreed upon amount ($200/night). So if the one party shows up fulfilling there end of the agreement and the other party refuses to honor their agreement, you have breach.

  • TonyA_says

    I also voted NO, not because of the merits but because it does not make sense to pursue it further. If I am already at odds with the owner of a B&B, then I wouldn’t like to stay there. What will they do? Give me evil stares while I am at their home? Serve me cold breakfast? Spike my tea? Give me dirty sheets and towels? I might as well can it quits and go somewhere where I (and my $200) will be liked and appreciated. Sometimes it’s more than the money or the “principle”. You just have to move on and enjoy life. We all know already – this B&B sucks.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UJC5HI5WQKB6P56XX7IOTMJKYA Faboo Frank

    You might think so, but that’s not always the case. I stayed at a very upscale Omni for Labor Day weekend last year (booked two rooms) and got a very good rate for this property. Was just back there earlier this summer (not a holiday weekend) and paid top rates, about 35%/night more than last Labor Day. You just never know. I did later find out that it was some kind of festival in the small town and that jacked up the rates, I believe.

  • TonyA_says

    Wow, that’s too harsh on the employee.

  • Joe Farrell

    The problem with the conclusion that its not fair to take advantage of an obvious mistake is the sob stories we hear on here all the time of people making a booking error and booking 18 nights instead of 1 or some such silliness and the hotel’s first response is screw you.

    Look – it seems to me that these folks should not be staying here anyway at this point – the relationship seems damaged beyond hope and what kind of response are they going to get when they arrive?

    Yes – they booked a room 6 months in advance – you know what happened? The owner took the reservation without knowing it was a holiday weekend – you KNOW thats what happened. Now they have sellers remorse that they could have sold the room for $200 more than they did.

    In this case – they need to SAY that – own up to a mistake for being stupid – and make some reasonable offer. Like split the different or provide groceries or some accomodation. Telling the people that they pay more or don’t come adds them to my list of never stay at properties – the B&B has this reservation for SIX MONTHS. Its a done deal at this point.

  • Bill___A

    A B&B is a far more intimate place than a hotel, and a deeper relationship between the proprietor and guests is required.
    It is wrong for this place to confirm the rate of $200 and then revert to a rate of $265. It is even more wrong for them to persist in changing a rate they already confirmed. They will not make a loss, they will merely lose money. When there is a $65 per night mistake then it is pretty much assured that someone is not going to get their way. If the B&B misquoted the rate and confirmed that misquote, then it is their error and they should eat the $65 per might.
    However, in my opinion, things have degraded to the point where adjusting the rate would still result in an unpleasant stay for both the guests and the hosts.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Just e-mail the B&B in question and tell them you would never do business with them because of their shady practices.

  • SallyLu

    That is probably not legal. Not sure about WA, but definitely would be illegal in CA.

  • SallyLu

    I’m planning a trip in just a couple of weeks and if the hotel I booked was suddenly $65 per night more expensive, I would have to cancel the entire trip. This isn’t an emergency. It’s an owner who is refusing to do what is right.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Your comment was not very nice. Some people scrimp and save to go on vacation and any additional expense would hurt. If they have to spend an extra $65 per night, that is extra money they are not spending in restaurants or tours.
    In addition, their whole trip to Seattle might be tainted by this dishonest behavior of the owner of the B&B.
    Don’t assume everyone is rolling in money.

  • Extramail

    Can the OP not go to the b & b and, if the proprietor charges their credit card more money, then dispute the charge with your written confirmation? Or can’t the b & b pull a bait and switch and add the additional expense as a resort charge? There are so many ways proprietors quote you one rate and charge you another, I could go on and on and on . . . (for those who don’t get it, my point is that it seems these days we never know what the end fee is going to be in any part of the travel industry!

  • http://www.facebook.com/CarverFarrow Carver Clark Farrow

    I not quite as convinced that she started out pleasant. I’m don’t think the BB is justified in its behavior, but I think that’s the reason for the position.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CarverFarrow Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree that the rate does not appear to be an obvious mistake. Accordingly, the OP was perfectly correct in booking it and the BB should honor it.

    With regards to the first paragraph, I believe it should go both ways. If the travel industry was more flexible in showing leniency when travelers make obvious errors, I think people would feel more charitable when they make mistakes.

    The problem is that the travel industry is fragmented into an infinite number of individual providers each with their own paradigm.

  • LeeAnneClark

    You may well be correct. Note that I didn’t say I was “convinced”, only that it “sounds to me as if…”.

    Regardless, the B&B has a professional and ethical obligation to honor the price they quoted. The tone of the email from the customer is immaterial to the issue. If a business can increase prices or even deny service to a customer just because they don’t like their attitude while trying to resolve a dispute, that opens up all kinds of problems, doesn’t it?

  • Joe Farrell

    Whats amazing to me is I just checked – there are still – 4 weeks out – two kitchen type suites available to book. Given the choices one has in Seattle . .. I think that there may be a lot of open and available rooms –

  • http://www.facebook.com/CarverFarrow Carver Clark Farrow

    I don’t think the deposit is important, but the contract almost certainly had a clause that a mistaken rate is not enforceable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CarverFarrow Carver Clark Farrow

    I quite agree that the tone shouldn’t matter. But what can you do?

  • EdB

    I don’t think a clause like that would be enforceable. Allowing a clause like this would allow any business to offer something at a very low price but when you went to get the service they tell you it’s another price because it was a “mistaken” price. Basically would allow bait and switch to be legal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jennifer.black.589 Jennifer Black

    Actually, for the location, there are remarkably few places available with kitchens. It’s right downtown, steps to Pike Place Market and there’s only one other hotel with kitchenettes nearby that I know of. And the one other that I’m familiar with is a step down in quality (and missing the views that Pensione Nichols has)

  • andrelot

    I think fat-finger mistakes are seller beware. While I’m willing to give them some leeway in unconfirmed bookings or verbal dialogues, once a hospitality or transportation service has confirmed some reservation in full and in writing, it should be obliged to honor it.

    While I’m aware with Chris Elliott’s stance on fat finger errors, I think companies should be held to higher standards in a digital age. Especially companies that are in the market for services such as lodging or transportation where there is just no “reference good-faith price” to be considered.

    Indeed, I’m more willing to cut some slack to a car dealership that put a $ 850.00 instead of $ 8,500.00 online ad for an used Honda Civic than to any hotel or airline or cruise line. Especially considering how there is now a widespread expectation costumers’ reservations are final once they’ve filled credit card number and clicked “pay”.

    If hotels and airlines were required by law to honor prices confirmed to guests in writing, I bet they’d place safeguards or change their processes such that “unusual” fares were not displayed to costumers before an employee bright pop-up red window appearing on their data center.

  • Nica

    I believe that since it was confirmed more than once, it should be honored.

  • Lauren Braden

    Downtown Seattle is likely to be pretty booked up already for Labor Day weekend.

  • https://plus.google.com/115197896619361127605/posts Aaron W

    $200 for a B&B in Seattle is clearly not a “fat finger” rate. That’s an employee who’s unable to read from a rate card, or was mistakenly giving a discount they weren’t authorized to give.

    If they’d been quoted $20 the B&B would have a case here… but arguing with a customer over an unintentional 25% discount is shameful, and the Pensione Nichols deserves any and all negative attention or reviews they get as a result of this.

  • purplekat99

    If it was confirmed in writing, then it should be honored. I booked a hotel 2 months in advance for a super cheap rate in a small town in New Zealand during peak months over the phone and when I followed up via email the same day with a confirmation in writing, I received a response the following day saying the person on the phone quoted me the wrong rate and to confirm my booking at the new rate. Since I was tight on time and the town was tiny, I approved it. Annoying, but since I got it in writing, what else could I do. At least it wasn’t a surprise at check-in.

  • john4868

    I know I’m late to the party on this one…
    This is one of the few areas where Chris and I hold opposing views on something and I come down on the side of the consumer.
    Here’s my stance – I don’t care why it happened. Once something is confirmed, its confirmed. If a business wants to save money going digital, that’s great but there’s a risk that you might accept a booking for a bad rate. That is not the purchaser’s problem. That’s yours. In the case of online booking engines, nothing says that you have to charge and confirm immediately. You have the option of having a human do a common sense check before confirming the booking and rate.
    On this one, the property had multiple opportunities to catch their error and didn’t. They own the mistake.

  • http://www.talestoldfromtheroad.com/ Dick Jordan

    Offer made to rent the room for $200/night. Offer accepted. Consideration: Guest booked months in advance, so given discounted rate. Result: B&B has contractual obligation to rent room at quoted rate. Basic contract law.

    Additional factor requiring quoted rate to be honored: B&B owner could have reviewed booking shortly after it was made, notified guest of error, and offered another room at the same rate, or given the guest an opportunity to cancel and re-book elsewhere. Instead, B&B owners doesn’t raise the issue until contacted by the guest to confirm the reservation. Forcing the guest to either pay more, or cancel, might have left the guest scrambling to find affordable and desirable accommodations in Seattle for Labor Day weekend.

    And what would the B&B owner have done if the guest had not called to confirm, and just showed up, written rate confirmation in hand? Would she have told the guest to either pay the additional $65/night, or go elsewhere?

    This B&B owner needs to follow the example of Seattle-based retailer Nordstrom: The customer is always right (even if we’re right and the customer is wrong!) It pays off in the long-run, even if not in the short-run, to operate this way.

    Cost to B&B due its employee’s error in owner honors the quoted rate: $65/night. Cost to B&B for loss of good-will, reputation, future booking from this guest and probably some readers of Chris’ blog, due to failure to honor the rate (which the owner initially indicated she would do): Beyond calculation.

    I actually considered staying at this place on my last trip to Seattle because I thought the location was good and prices reasonable. I’m hardly likely to do so next time I head to my former hometown.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CarverFarrow Carver Clark Farrow

    Offer made to rent the room for $200/night. Offer accepted. Consideration: Guest booked months in advance, so given discounted rate. Result: B&B has contractual obligation to rent room at quoted rate. Basic contract law.
    Its alot more complex than that. You have to look at the contract as a whole before you can speak meaningfully about the obligations of each party. For example, is there an escape clause. If the contract was drafted by an attorney knowledgeable about travel, then there are several escape clauses all on favor of the property.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CarverFarrow Carver Clark Farrow

    Every business generally have disclaimers that they are not liable for errors. Have you ever been to the grocery store and they have a flyer apologizing for an error in the weekly specials and that they will not be honoring that price?

  • http://www.talestoldfromtheroad.com/ Dick Jordan

    It’s not a complex contractual situation, Carver. Nowhere on the B&B’s Website is even a cancellation policy stated, let alone an “escape” clause that would let it force a guest to choose between paying more than the confirmed nightly rate or canceling the reservation. Presumably nothing of the sort was contained in the confirmation sent to the guest, either.

    Vacation home or condo rental properties might have a list of rules and conditions that apply to their rental. Hotels, motels, and B&B’s often have rules payments, deposits, refunds, cancellations, pets, children, extra guests in rooms.

    But I can’t think of any type of lodging that I’ve stayed at where the owner reserved the right to change the rate or room type after booking. And I can’t imagine anyone agreeing to book a room at any place that did so.

  • mira

    Maybe the mistake was originally made by the owner. There are a million reasons why the guest was mis-qouted. Charging $65 a night to the employee who’s name is on that mistake is even more unethical of a situation! The employee, if being paid minimum wage, is probably not even making that much a day. Pleee-ase!!