Bitten by a surprise $250 pet fee in my hotel room By Christopher Elliott | June 22, 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 Keith 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) Christopher ElliottChristopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus mel wow, so I see hotels are doing this all over the place. i had the sullivan hotel in rockhill new york flat out lie to me over the phone saying there was a one time nonrefundable fee of $69’s and i was okay with that, but then got charged $270 and when i called to ask, the desk clerk said they had double booked me and would refund the amount. i waited a couple days and got refunded only $20’s and so called again and was told it was something totally different, a pet cleaning fee. i’m trying to dispute it as i actually cleaned up after myself, empying all trashcans, linens in one pile and then got charged this? besides this i had asked for a handycap room which they couldnt accomodate me. really upset and nearly broke my neck using the bathtub. then get home and find out i have the extra almost 300 dollar charged on top of the $600 for the room. really upset and will discourage anyone from using this hotel. mel oh and i had white sheets and comforter in a ‘pet friendly room’… Josh Josh dogs leave hair and scents. not $250 worth (that’s plain extortion) however yes there would be an ability to sense if a dog had been in the room. as others have mentioned, the article doesn’t add up because unless the customer was intending to con the hotel first, it appears the hotel is trying to con the customer with their confusing policy. This whole story is about who’s conning who. Don’t hold this one incident against all Quality Inn (chain). It’s one blockhead manager dealing with one sore thumb customer. This could happen ANYWHERE – caveat emptor! Does not mean you can’t stay at a Quality or else this will happen to you. Does not mean that whatsoever. Nor does your avoiding a Quality Inn “help” this poor customer or get even with anybody. The lesson of the story is to ask questions before making nonrefundable payments to any hotel. If giving up your credit card, know the terms and get something in writing to protect yourself. Josh Josh That’s not at all off topic, but it is generally off reality. It’s not the W. It’s Freaking Quality Inn. They don’t do that level of cleaning once a year. They probably spray febreeze and run a vacuum twice instead of once. Josh Josh how does anyone know if the pet fee is on there until you go and check out? there is obviously a difference between paying the $50 and thinking you might have, but never actually getting charged because all they do is swipe your credit card for incidentals, incidentals which may or may not include $50. The Quality probably never even collected the $50 fee, according to this article. Instead it appears as though either they baited and switched her, or she cleverly checked in without verbalizing her dog to see if she could get away with $0 instead of $50. Either, she did or didn’t tell them about the pet but her sigining the $50/$250 paperwork does not constitute notifying them, it does authorize however the hotel to charge her $50 UP to $250 (not both, obviously). The paperwork clearly backs the hotel’s right to collect $250 from people, probably to discourage people from playing the smuggling game, as well as to keep pets confined to first floor rooms where they can be -ahem- “cleaned” more regularly. Josh Josh THIS somepeoplearestupid what does it matter, the damage is still the same shit head Josh Josh Nope. Not if the rug costs a third to replace and was already stained anyway. Not if the room was a tenth of the size. Not if your clean-up crew is paid $8 an hour instead of $14 plus bennies. It’s absolutely NOT the same. And the “damage” is hypothetical, because someone bringing a pet into a room is not necessarily causing damage nor wear. The $250 fee is to discourage damage or wear, but it is not to say $250 worth of damage was created in this instance, or that any of the money will be spent on renovating the room for the next guest.