Bitten by a surprise $250 pet fee in my hotel room

By | June 22nd, 2010

It’s been a while since we looked at the pets-in-hotel-rooms controversy. But today I have a cautionary tale about taking your dog on vacation.

Jennifer Sapasap booked a room through Hotwire in Arlington, Texas, recently. Since Hotwire doesn’t reveal the name of your hotel until after you buy it, she didn’t know she’d end up at the Quality Inn. Nor was there any way of telling the property via her electronic reservation that she was bringing her dog. (Hotwire has a helpful section on flying with pets, but no such information about hotels.)

So Sapasap says she phoned the hotel after finishing the booking and asked about her animal companion.

I was told yes, [they allowed dogs]. When checking in I was told there was a $50 pet deposit. No problem.

Our room was a dump, but we were basically only there to sleep for one night so we didn’t complain. I was told since we had already paid for the room I just need to leave the keys in the room to checkout.

But after checking my card online I saw a $250 charge from the hotel. I called and spoke with Keith, the general manager. He was extremely rude and told me while there was no damage reported, the room I was in was not a “pet” room therefore the $250 was for a deep cleaning since they didn’t know about my dog.

I said obviously I told you about my dog or I wouldn’t have a $50 pet deposit! Basically we got nowhere and everyone I talk to “cannot help” Is there anybody who can help me?

I suggested Jennifer put her complaint in writing and send it directly to Quality Inn, which she did. It routed the grievance to the property, which answered her:

After talking with front office manager Matt He stated he was never notified of a Pet at check in as all pet rooms are located on first floor If this had been the case then your room would be located on first floor for ease of taking pet to outside.

Upon check in you signed and agreed to $250.00 pet fee if pet is found in non pet room

General Manager

Interesting response, on a number of levels.

I thought I’d try. Here’s what Keith wrote back to me:

In regards to the question posed, we are indeed a pet friendly hotel. Due to special needs of our guests and as a courtesy to those with pets, all of our pet-designated rooms are on the ground floor. The registration cards signed by guests upon check-in read as follows:

“Pets are welcome in some rooms at a fee of $50.00 per stay. There is no fee for recognized ADA service animals. If the hotel is not notified of a pet a cleaning fee of $250.00 will be applied.”

Please note that the $50.00 is a fee and not a refundable deposit as the room must still be more thoroughly cleaned than a room not occupied by a pet.

Mrs. Sapasap has already contacted both the hotel and our Guest Relations on this matter and did, in fact, sign this agreement, which can be provided if necessary, without notifying our front desk team of pet occupancy.

Please feel free to contact me with any further questions.

That sounds better — but still, Sapasap is looking at an extra $250. I’m willing to bet that’s more than she paid for a night at the Quality Inn through Hotwire.

What’s the lesson to be learned here? Is it not to bring a pet if you’re booking through an “opaque” site? To avoid the Quality Inn? To get everything in writing when you check in, to avoid a “pet cleaning” surprise?

All of the above, perhaps. As I review Sapasap’s case, I see someone who says she tried to do the right thing — if her account is to be believed, she was more than up-front with the hotel about her dog and was willing to pay extra for the room. The Quality Inn’s attitude, at least initially, seemed to leave something to be desired.

Opaque sites are not really set up to handle travelers with special needs, like large families who require two queen beds and a pullout, or people with pets who might have to pay an extra fee. I’d definitely consider booking elsewhere if you’re traveling with Fido.

Sapasap’s next option — probably her last option — would be to dispute the $250 charge on her credit card.

(Photo: J narin/Flickr Creative Commons)

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