Ridiculous or not? Hotels eye airline-like rebooking fees

I‘m always on the lookout for new fees, so when Katherine Walton emailed me about her recent stay at the Chateau Timberline, a hotel in Packwood, Wash., she had my attention.

Walton needed to cancel her reservation a day before her arrival.

“An agent told me they would charge a $100 fee – the price of one night,” she says. “So even if they are able to rebook the room I will not get a refund.”

Cancellation penalties like that aren’t uncommon. I double-checked with the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and it confirmed that such fees are routinely charged.

“Many times, it is the first night’s room charge,” says Joe McInerney, the association’s president. “It depends when it is canceled.”

What set the Chateau Timberline apart, as far as I could tell, was that it didn’t disclose the fee to Walton, at least not until she needed to cancel. Also, its terms and conditions are a somewhat unusual. Read them for yourself.

Here’s the relevant language in its terms:

CANCELLATION POLICY & LATE PAYMENT: Should Guest fail to pay as agreed, or requests a cancellation, Manager may sell Guest’s dates to any third party.

If Manager is able to re-sell Guest’s dates at net rates of at least equal to those charged to Guest, Manager will refund Guest’s Use Fee less a Re-Booking fee as specified by Manager.

That’s a little vague, according to Walton. It also leaves the door open for other unspecified fees.

“This fee is not listed anywhere online other than saying it is ‘specified by manager’,” she says. “This seems excessive.”

I asked Chateau Timberline about Walton’s cancellation. It didn’t respond.

Here’s what I’m worried about: While it may be a standard practice to penalize guests who cancel their rooms by charging for one night’s lodging, the newer terms and conditions I’m seeing seem to lay the framework for the opportunity for new fees. In addition to charging a night, there’s a possibility of a “rebooking fee” that uses the airline model – and airline logic.

Airlines charge a $150 fee to rebook tickets. Does it cost $150 to change a ticket? No. Airlines say the fee covers the revenue opportunity they lost. Passengers say that’s a money grab.

When I read the Chateau Timberline’s terms, I see a little bit of that logic. They may not be charging $150 for the revenue opportunity, but they’re coming closer. (I could be reading into it; the fine print is confusing.)

Already, hotels charge non-refundable rates – and not always clearly disclosed – so can gratuitous rebooking fees be too far away?

I’d like to think not. I prefer to believe that Chateau Timberline’s terms simply veered a little from the industry standard, but that at the end of the day, it’s still a hotel at heart, not a wannabe airline.

But I’ve been observing this industry for too long to be absolutely convinced of that. I know that any competent hotel revenue manager would love to make every room totally nonrefundable, charge customers a rebooking fee to use what’s left of the credit, and perhaps a mandatory resort fee while they’re at it – and to get away with it.

All the more reason to be vigilant, to read the fine print and to know your rights the next time you reserve a hotel room.

(Photo: lumiere fl/Flickr)

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://dreamtravelblog.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/a-walk-in-the-park-nelson-new-zealand/ James in Phnom Penh

    I like the variable pricing that some hotels offer: cheaper, non-refundable rates, higher but cancellable with no penalty rates. If hotels decide to adopt non-refundable policies, it should be clearly stated when you input your credit card number. But you can be sure from now on, every time I hand over my number, I’m going to double check the fine print…

  • Phil

    One way around this if you are willing to take a chance is to book a refundable room rate and then, when you completely sure you will arrive, or a few days prior to arrival, cancel and rebook the non refundable rate.

  • MichelleLV

    I don’t know how well that would work, but I like the idea.   I always wait until the last day or two to book a hotel.  

  • othermike27

    What’s next – a charge for each bag you bring??  :)

    And they’ll fine you every time you slam the door I bet

  • Tony A.

    What’s the big deal? We are simply moving from a full-service to an a-la-carte pricing regime. Those who want full service can pay the full price associated with it. Those who don’t care, can choose to pay the lower price for unbundled service. And yes, CHANGES COST MONEY BECAUSE HUMAN BEINGS ARE NEEDED TO PROCESS CHANGES. I want to be paid to do a job, too.

  • emanon256

    Most of the hotels I stay at only offer the non-refundable rate far in advance.  If I book within a week or two of arrival I often can’t find a room, or if I can it’s very expensive.  When I book a month or more in advance, Ill choose the ~$10 more a night it costs to get a refundable room.

  • emanon256

    Most of my hotels stays offer a free cancellation by 6pm the day of arrival or there is a 1 night penalty.  Some are 3 days in advance.  A few resorts I have gone to have had a 45 and even 90 day no-cancelation policy or I would forfeit the entire stay, I thought those were excessive, but made it both times.
    What gets me is when the airline cancels my flight and it happens after 6pm on the day of arrival.  Then I lose that night at the hotel too and the airline is never willing to pay for the lost night.
    I hope hotels never start charging a change fee like the airlines do.  I can loosely see the airlines point, they will lose revenue and they still have to pay for fuel to fly the plane with one less person.  But lately every flight I take is 100% full, so it’s not like they are losing revenue.  They are also charging standby fees, so they make more money, $150 from the person who cancels and an extra $75 from the person who takes their seat.

  • Jeremy P

    I agree Tony.  I answered Yes to the poll, but it is a qualified Yes – I think they should only charge fees if it is a lower-priced, nonrefundable booking like what the airlines offer.  They should still offer a full-priced, refundable (like airlines as well).

  • Mark K

    Unfortunately, the non-refundable rate for last minute reservations (if it is even available) is usually not much better than the refundable rate at that point.  The savings occur when you book very early.  The hotel hopes enough people booking the non-refundable rate months ahead will not show up that it more than makes up for the discount offered.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1556838763 Nancy Marine Dickinson

    This is a bit of a “Yes and no” type question, I think.  If one cancels the day of their reservation, possibly.  If one cancels 24 hours before, then no.  However, if they sold the room, all monies should be returned to the cancelling guest.  But that puts us all at the mercy of the hotel to honestly let us know when a room is re-sold, which will NEVER happen.

    The rules are too in favor of the company and not the consumer.  Yes, we all have the option to vote with our feet but by the time we’ve come to realize that’s what we need to do, we’ve already lost money…

  • hotels in ramapuram chennai

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  • AutoSlash

    The key thing for customers to keep in mind is that if you want to get a good deal as well as protect yourself, shop early and often.  Not all policies are uniform.  The cancellation penalty can vary by property, as well as which channel you book (hotel website direct, hotel via phone, online travel agency, etc).  

    Book the best price you can get with the most liberal cancellation penalty.  Ideally you’d look for something that offers no cancellation penalty as long as you cancel within 24 hours of your arrival day.  While more restrictive terms like a 100% cancellation penalty may be tempting since you can often get a lower price, I’d advise against it.  The reasons are twofold:

    1. Obviously if your plans change, then you forfeit the entire amount you paid.  You may have every intention of making the trip, but sometimes life gets in the way (illness, weather, etc.)

    2. By keeping your options open, it gives you the opportunity to continue to shop around.  Most people don’t realize that just like airfares and car rentals, hotel rates rates can change all the time.  There a very good chance that you’ll find a lower rate if you’re diligent and check prices on regular basis through various channels (ideally daily).

  • Mark K

    I agree that the exact amount of the rebooking fee should be disclosed on that page or somewhere before the reservation is finalized.  If it is $100 or one night’s rate or whatever, it needs to be stated or the manager can charge anything they want and point to the contract.  

    I do not find the cancellation fee actually charged to the OP to be any different than most hotels will charge even for refundable rates if you do not cancel before a specified time.  Since the cancellation was done on the day of arrival, it is not likely that the hotel would be able to rebook that room for the night and would be out the revenue if they were already fully booked and turned others away.

    In general, the terms posted are outrageous make me NOT want to stay there!  Things like guest “will remain on property during booking.”  What?  I can’t go into town for dinner?  Or guest must follow all rules as indicated in the “Welcome” book. Doesn’t sound so welcoming to me.  Or “Will return all furniture, kitchen utensils, appliances, books, phones, equipment etc. to their original positions.” Or the best one: “Will not post photos, videos or reviews of, or comments about, the property to websites, publications, reporting agencies, or contact property owners without Manager’s written approval.” Is the property so bad they don’t want any publicity at all?   And finally, “Manager may assess the Guest a fee equal to the total Booking Fees for each violation of this contract.”  That is the one that made me decide to never, ever, stay at this property because if I put the spatula in the wrong drawer in the kitchen I have violated the contract and could be fined!

  • MikeZ

    How can these conditions even be enforceable. they don’t specify any actual monetary amount and the consumer is at the whim of how the manager feels or how good looking the customer is. I cannot see how this is even enforceable. She should file a comlaint with her bank or credit card and ask for her funds back.

  • philpm

    To me , this isn’t just a yes or no question.  It mostly depends on when a reservation is cancelled.  And this isn’t the same as the airlines, who routinely overbook and therefore usually lose no revenue if a passenger cancels.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I had a thought, which leads to a question.  I’m staying at a convention hotel next week where the reservation had to be made over the phone in order to get the discounted rate.  I asked about the cancellation policies – the normal “by 6 p.m. of the day of check-in”.  How would a hotel be able to enforce a cancellation penalty such as the one imposed on Ms. Walton for a phone reservation?  There aren’t any T & C disclosed over the phone. (And not every place sends a confirmation e-mail.)


  • cjr001

    That’s odd. Because when I cancel a hotel room, I can do it with the click of a mouse button. Which means I’m the only human being involved in processing the change; the rest is done automatically by computer.

    Cancellation fees such as this are not “ala carte”, but simply a money grab.

    Nobody should try and model anything after the airlines.

  • LadySiren

    Hah! This so reminds me of “Master of the House” from Les Miz.

    Enter M’sieur
    Lay down yer load
    Unlace yer boots
    And rest from the road
    This weighs a ton
    Travel’s a curse
    But here we strive
    To lighten your purse
    Here the goose is cooked
    Here the fat is fried
    And nothing’s overlooked
    Till I’m satisfied
    Food beyond compare
    Food beyond belief
    Mix it in a mincer
    And pretend it’s beef
    Kidney of a horse
    Liver of a cat
    Filling up the sausages
    With this and that
    Residents are more than welcome
    Bridal suite is occupied
    Reasonable charges plus some little extras on the side
    Charge them for the lice
    Extra for the mice
    Two percent for looking in the mirror twice
    Here a little slice
    There a little cut
    Three percent for sleeping with the window shut
    When it comes to fixing prices
    There are lots of tricks he knows
    How it all increases
    All them bits and pieces Jesus!
    It’s amazing how it grows!

  • Eric

    WOW!  Enforcing that first one about remaining on the premises may very well buy the manager a criminal charge for kidnapping.

  • Ndally

    I have no problem with a cancellation fee if the cancellation is close to the arrival date, however stating that there is no cancellation allowed is a little too much, also, something else in their agreement makes me very uncomfortable.  “(Guests) Will not post photos, videos or reviews of, or comments about, the
    property to websites, publications, reporting agencies, or contact
    property owners without Manager’s written approval.”  In other words, if this place is a dump, I can’t tell anyone?  What ever happened to free speech?  I can certainly tell you that is is one puppy who will not be staying at this property

  • Nywonder

    These problems are why the wife and I stick with the large hotel chains whenever we travel. Hilton,Marriott,Starwood hotels etc. It is the very rare occasion that one is not available.

  • http://www.colorfulplaces.com Henry Williams

    I like that idea phil but itll be a pain to always do that

  • Linda Bator

    Actually, if you visit their site, you realize they are part of a rental company, not just a hotel.  That’s the reason for the privacy issues, and why they reserve the right to charge for cancellations, as this is a more difficult property to “re-sell”

  • Bodega

    It isn’t my business to tell hotels if they should or shouldn’t charge a cancel fee.  If I don’t like their policy, I don’t have to stay there.  But if I am going to stay there, clarity of their cancel policy is required.

    When I started in the travel business, back in the stone age, there were no cancel fees on tickets.  The public, constantly changing their minds, made the fee come into place.  Yes, it has risen over the years from $25 to now up to $300 on some fares and it doesn’t cost the carrier that much to change a reservation. It is in place more as a deterrent.  I you ever paid for a meal for a guest who said they were attending your function but then didn’t show up, you would understand the idea of charging.  People flake out and if there is a fee associated with that, they are less inclinded to cancel or not show up.

  • Dsched

    Yeah, the airlines are pirates that way. It always really bothered me that they could boot you from your flight and not be responsible for costs you incur as a result. The “logic” that they still have to pay for the fixed costs is not logic at all. They are not providing a service you paid for because of THEIR mistake (overbooking the flight), even if that mistake is a routine decision they make deliberately. 

    If I make a mistake that inconveniences my customers, I compensate them for any losses they incur as a bare minimum and usually provide them with additional free services to compensate for the headache. I don’t consider that amazing customer service, just basic decency.

  • Dsched

    Here’s the thing: The hotel industry has high vacancy rates. Except at very popular hotels or peak times of year (Thanksgiving, Christmas) hotels are happy to have 75% occupancy. That means there’s no opportunity cost to them of having your reservation. They don’t deny accommodations to other guests because you booked, because they have a ton of other rooms available. Since they didn’t turn away other customers, you shouldn’t have to wait for your room to get re-booked to get your money back. The hotel takes virtually no risks accepting a reservation.

  • Dsched

    No, hotels typically UNDER-book. And that’s equally important, because that means that they have empty rooms sitting there a majority of the time. They’re paying the fixed costs on those rooms regardless how many people book, and the vast majority of the time, they aren’t actually turning away other customers because of one customer’s reservation. While I wouldn’t be surprised or particularly bothered by a hotel charging for cancelations at the last minute, it’s important to understand that a guest who cancels is not costing the hotel any money. If the hotel says they are, then the hotel is just counting its chickens before they hatch, and throwing a fit if they don’t.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=530479200 Dana Scheider

    If you want to be pedantic, constitutional liberties are only protected against infringement by the government. But I’m not staying anywhere that has that provision regardless.

  • y_p_w

    Why?  Most people who can’t show up are likely to eat it if it’s clearly disclosed as non-refundable.  The hotel has to hold it.  The only other thing I can think of are casino hotels with discount rates.  Often special rates are contingent on the purchaser being there to likely gamble.

    If you can somehow get part of it back (if the room is rebooked by someone else) then some people might cancel even without a guarantee.

  • Steve R

    Did I read in the terms and conditions that *all* bookings are nonrefundable and noncancellable? That seems pretty excessive. (Frankly, there was a lot in those terms and conditions that would make me steer clear of this place). Anyway, in general terms, charging for the first night of the stay when a guest cancels a reservation after the cancellation window has passed doesn’t bother me. The difference is that most hotels allow cancellation of a non-prepaid reservation as late as 6pm the day of arrival. Even if they require 24 or 48 hours notice, I still think that’s totally reasonable.

    In any case, my position on this has always been that the hotel/place of business has no right to benefit from a guest’s cancellation. What I mean is that if a guest cancels and the room goes vacant, I understand their point of view and I think that they have every right to deny a refund based on their cancellation policy. If a guest cancels and the room is re-rented, then the guest deserves a refund because otherwise the hotel is selling the same room twice.

  • Steve R

    My problem with airline cancellation fees is that they profit from overbooking. If I buy a nonrefundable ticket and don’t fly, they still get my money AND more often than not, they’ll resell the seat. If the seat goes empty, then I understand their position and wouldn’t expect a refund…but if it does not, then they’re profiting twice for the same seat, which IMHO is wrong.

    I also think that if a passenger buys a nonrefundable ticket and is involuntarily bumped from their flight due to overbooking, they ought to be entitled to much greater compensation than they currently get – I’m talking about a refund of 5-10x what they paid (and not in vouchers, either).

  • y_p_w

    They have their own reviews.  I’m guessing that they’re approved before they’re posted:


    In any case, I’m not sure how enforceable this is.  Check it out:


    Expedia actually uses the TripAdvisor reviews.

    “Just adequate”
    “Don’t Stay Here!!!”
    “I won’t go back”
    “Good and Bad”
    “This one should be avoided”

    I’ve never been to Packwood, but I know that it serves as a gateway community for Mt Rainier National Park.  If I were going there, I rather go camping, although Packwood is the only place to get a shower these days after they tore down their old visitor center with pay showers.

    The place seems more like a motel than a “Chateau”. When I hear that word, I think of something like this:


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=530479200 Dana Scheider

    The problem is that neither hotels nor airlines typically incur any actual costs as a result of people flaking out. Airlines overbook to the point where most flights are 100% full anyway. Hotels, conversely, are almost never 100% full, so they aren’t turning other customers away because one customer booked a room. If they’re just getting excited over revenue they think they’re going to get, then that’s too bad for them. I thought I was going to get a bonus last month and I didn’t. Cry me a river.

    And although I basically agree with your point about not having to avail oneself of their services if one objects to their policies, my agreement with that statement would be contingent upon the existence of a perfectly competitive market. Because there are high barriers to entry in the hotel industry (i.e. high capital requirements and market saturation), new competitors rarely enter the market and, when they do, find that it’s more profitable for them to charge the same fees as existing players. In other words, their high capital requirements effectively insulate them from the risk of customers going to other properties with more reasonable policies since those properties are unlikely to enter the market.

  • y_p_w

    In a place like Packwood?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=530479200 Dana Scheider

    The issue isn’t if the room goes vacant. It’s if the room goes vacant *when there are other customers who would’ve stayed there.* Most of the time the hotel doesn’t turn away any other customers. For instance, a hotel could have 200 rooms and 150 of them booked (which is a good proportion in that industry). If one of those guests canceled, then they have 51 free rooms that night instead of 50. They didn’t turn anyone away due to only having 50 rooms available, so having that one guest cancel is like if they’d only booked 149 to begin with. Fees they charge on that cancelation don’t cover any incremental increase in costs for the hotel because no such increase exists.

  • emanon256

    From a revenue accounting perspective, hotels are recording expected revenue based on reservations.  So when a customer cancels at the last minute, the revenue isn’t realized.  This can throw of their cash flow projections and in some cases can be problematic.  A hotel also has to determine staff scheduling and food services in advance based on projected guest count as well.  So when a customer cancels within a few days of arrival, this actually is costing the hotel money.  It’s not possible do to revenue projections after the fact, that’s why they are projections.  So I wouldn’t say hotels are counting their chickens before they hatch, they are following GAAP in regards to their accounting.
    I still hope they don’t start charging cancelation fees or change fees.

  • Tony A.

    You might be clicking but REVENUE ACCOUNTING ain’t.

  • Bodega

    A cancellation does cost a hotel in some fashion and of course especially if that room doesn’t get rebooked.  We are in a free market place where inns can set their own cancel policies.  If the public doesn’t like it and stops booking, then the inns will adjust the policies.  If the policies are clear, then if you don’t like it, don’t book. 

    Just because a hotel isn’t 100% full doesn’t mean people won’t turn away from booking.  That room that gets cancelled at the last minute may have been requested several times.


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=530479200 Dana Scheider

    I understand that stuff, but as a business person I just don’t think it holds water. There are more than enough data in the hospitality industry to make pretty accurate predictions about what proportion of reservations will cancel, and accounting adjustments are a daily part of doing business. If a hotel is taking its reservations at face value to forecast revenue and staffing needs, then it should get new managers.

  • Tony A.

    Dana, are you saying the cancellations don’t cost the hotel/motel anything? Really?

  • harold

    Outrageous ! !   People should vote…. with their feet.

    The overall occupany rates for most catagories of hotels is nowhere near 100%.  Therefore competition should marginalize these rapacious hotel operators.

  • Chris in NC

    I’ve never had a problem with airlines offering refundable and non-refundable rates. What I do have a problem is the spread between the rates. $107 for a non-refundable, non-changeable fare; $771 for a refundable/changeable rate? are you kidding me? Is the promise of an assigned seat and refundable fare worth the $665 difference? Granted, this is just an example, but a real-live example that I just priced out for my travel.

    What irks me, are those who say “I don’t have a problem with non-refundable rates because I always show up.” Yet, we hear stories every week about someone booking a non-refundable rate, followed by the need to cancel because of a sob story (I entered the wrong dates, my dog is sick, I had an emergency, my flight was cancelled). When hotels give in, all it does is penalize those of us who play by the rules and book rates that offer flexibility.

    Truth is, I approach reservations and cancellation policies differently for business and leisure travel. For business travel, there are too many factors that are outside of my control, and flexibility is key. As many times that I have cancelled a hotel last minute, I have also stayed there last minute. In my opinion, it works out at the end. 

  • Chris in NC


    I don’t have a problem with a hotel charging one night’s rate as a deposit to prevent travelers from making bogus or duplicate reservations. 

    However, the nature of business travel is that last minute changes are inevitable. Most business hotels (that are not in resort areas) offer cancellation by 4PM or 6PM the day of arrival. It has worked for years, why the need to change it now?

    If hotels choose to offer additional discounts for a non-refundable, non-changeable rate, and clearly discloses the terms and conditions, I’m fine with that. However, if a hotel wants to charge a cancellation fee for all reservations, then I won’t stay there.

  • Bodega

    Your last line says it all.  Walk with your wallet if you don’t like a policy.  Just wait until rental car companies get into this!  Some already have discounted pricing for prepaid rates with strict policies on cancellation.

  • Bodega

    And airlines, in the past have used the business traveler to help pay for the cost of the flight.  Those low nonrefundabel tickets don’t usually pay for operating the plane, thus are more strictly capacity controlled.  Now, some of the higher fares have change fees that didn’t use to exist.  When the economy tanked, businesses stopped using the fully refundable, changeable fares and either made employees go to nonrefundable or switch to a carrier like Southwest.  Notice now that Southwest doesn’t allow funds to be transferable?  Interesting timing!

  • Cheryl

    Unless I’ve just been lucky, all the hotels that I have booked allow for a cancellation up to 24 hours before the reservation date with no charges incurred.  As for asking if people want “fees” that seems a bit silly!

  • Cheryl

    Not does it appear that she booked a non-refundable room, usually that is disclosed up front.  Get the cheaper room for the non-refundable rate…

  • emanon256

    There is data on how many people typically cancel, but when you work in the hospitality industry, you need to be prepared in case they don’t cancel.  You must take reservations at face value for staffing purposes, if you don’t and are not prepared; you end up with a customer service nightmare. Also, accounting wise, you need to be prepared incase more people than you anticipate cancel.  Yes there is data, but past performance does not always reflect future actions.

  • Linda Bator

    Of course they are!   If everyone at the hotel made a reservation, and the hotel was “sold out” based on those reservations, then they all cancelled last minute, how do you think they made any money???  That’s why the cancellation fees on last minute cancels.  To offset the lost revenue for the room they COULD have rented to someone else!

  • Linda Bator

    So when you DON’T SHOW UP, they should charge YOU 5-10 x the amount too???  Ridiculous answer.  The reason for the overbooking policy is because people historically DON’T show up — so they have to try and maximize the earnings potential per flight.  And they do get you out on the next available, and compensate for those delays over 4 hours.  Some people just want more and more. 

  • Linda Bator

    There is a vast difference between a large hotel, and a small private enclave such as this.  Once of 300 rooms doesn’t make too much of an impact.  But 1 of 10 for 7 days?   HUGE impact.  Especially when the resort is a seasonally-operating one, and only has a short amount of time in which to make its money.

  • y_p_w

    All depends.  I’ve gotten great rates with a fully-disclosed non-refundable rate.  Some stays can be cancelled 24-72 hours before 6 PM on the night of the stay.  Some can be cancelled the same day up to 3-6 PM.

    Now a place that has non-refundable up-front payment is unusual unless you’re dealing with opaque resellers like Priceline or Hotwire.

  • acproductions

    The hotel has already recouped its “loss” by keeping the first-night charge.  There is no need for them to charge even more.  Life happens; sometimes it’s inevitable that you have to cancel.  I had a family emergency happen last Thanksgiving Friday, and was very grateful that not only did Starwood not charge me a cancellation fee plus the points I had redeemed, but REFUNDED the full amount of points.  They also helped me out at Mammoth when I had to cancel at the last minute, and did the same thing.  It helped it was a big weekend at Mammoth and they were able to rebook my room without delay, but they still went way beyond the call of “duty” to their guests.  And I agree that the two options – refundable vs. lower non-refundable works for many travelers.

  • Bodega

    Actually y_p_w, many hotel chains are going to advance purchase, nonrefundable room rates.  Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn are three I just dealt with yesterday and it was in my GDS and on their websites, too. 

  • Bodega

    They don’t keep the first night if they can rebook that room, so the fee covers them for their time and effort due to the cancellation.  I get it.   Again, if you don’t like a hotel policy, don’t book a room there.

    Starwood vs a smaller owned property is not a fair comparison.  They can recoup revenue from other places and other venues within their hotels.

  • Chris in NC

    Then charge a fair price, across the board. Throw away yield based fare management, and charge based on actual operating costs. Frankly, the business model of having extorting higher fares from corporate to subsidize the cost of travel is a non-sustainable business model. Why would hotels follow suit?

    Why should a OW flight from DCA cost 6X as much as a flight from BWI to the same destination? Am I the only one that thinks this pricing structure is ridiculous?

    Because when the economy rebounds, many businesses won’t suddenly resume using the outrageously priced, fully refundable, changeable fares.

  • Chris in NC

    In the last 2 years, an increasing number of Marriott hotels are offering non-refundable, non-changeable rates. You have only 24 hours after making the advanced reservation to request a change. After that, its a done deal.

  • $16635417

    If I owned a hotel and imposed strict cancellation policies, yet people continued to stay at my property, why would I change?

    Simple solution. If you don’t like it, don’t book it.

  • Rachel G.

    I agree too. The question should be “why shouldn’t hotels charge this fee?”. Sure, customers don’t like it, but they also will complain if they feel that they paid too much.

  • Bodega

    I am not defending the way the airlines do their fares, but can’t you hear the cheapies who asked for bare bone fares (no meals, no luggage, no blanket, no onboard entertainment) complain when that $99 fare they are so use to becomes come $300-$700, if they were to go to one price across the board.
    As for the DCA flights, WN doesn’t fly there and they have brought down fares at IAD and BWI. 

  • Sfox

    How to make sure i’ll never stay at a place. Definitely something to keep an eye out for. I do book a non-refundable room for a twice a year business trip to New York, staying at the Washington Square Hotel. Their site makes it impossible (well, for most of us, I would think) to miss the distinction, which is to their credit.

  • y_p_w

    Yes – in fact that’s what I was getting at.  In addition to that I’ve seen different cancellation policies outside of non-refundable rates.  Sorry if I didn’t separate the two thoughts.

    Also – I think I wrote down an incomplete thought.  What I meant was that non-refundable up-front payments are typically very well disclosed, and it would be unusual for the terms to be hidden in fine-print. The opaque sites also disclose this.

    I’ve certainly booked a few non-refundable rates myself. It got a pretty good deal too.

  • y_p_w

    Yeah – I’ve gotten a good rate at a Hilton property.  I’ve also seen non-refundable rates at Holiday Inn locations.

    I rather screwed up the thought.  I’m very much aware of clearly disclosed non-refundable rates, but I was in a hurry to finish up and hit post.

  • Jim Zakany

    You mean the revenue accounting program?

  • Ruggerangel

     I love the hotels here. if i could have the chance to go again, ill stay forever.


  • Brooklyn

    There’s a problem with all these new restrictions that are supposed to give us a better price if we agree to them: once the restrictions and fees are firmly established, the price goes up and the old price – which included all the things that we now have to pay for – becomes the new price with the additional fees tacked on. It happened with self-service gas stations, then airfares and now hotels. The solution is to regulate the travel industry, establish base services (the ones that they provided before all this madness started) and THEN let them compete on price.

  • Sasha

    I have a problem with “At the managers discretion” but I don’t think that a 24 hour cancellation policy is wrong I do think that a 3 day cancellation requirement is not unreasonable.  As a traveling public we have become so ‘ oh I think I’ll do that or Oh, I think I’d rather do this’ that reservations seem to be more of a just in case type of thing. Hotels do make plans based on who is going to be in their hotel so canceling on short notice does require some expense.

  • Dillonyork01

    Terms & Conditons State:
    Will not post photos, videos or reviews of, or comments about, the property to websites, publications, reporting agencies, or contact property owners without Manager’s written approval.

    WELL  I would post a review on Trip Advisor  with PICTURES AND on my Facebook page for sure.  FREEDOME OF SPEACH violation maybe?

  • Gretchen

    I disagree with “the Hotel takes virtually no risks accepting a reservation.”  Hotels forecast their need for staff based on reservations.  If people can make reservations and cancel last minute, the fluctuation in scheduling would be a nightmare.  Everyone from housekeepers, bell staff, front desk and restaurants.

  • Dfjkh

    Hotels can certainly charge rebooking fees is that is what they think will help their business – provided that they are disclosed properly (on every page during the booking process).  If they don’t, that calls for government regulation to compel them to do so.  I don’t think most hotels would go for it, because the revenue calculation of having an essentially non-refundable room versus and someone not booking it outright vs having a 24/48hr refund policy wouldn’t make sense.

  • TMMao

    If 10 guests booked and then canceled their rooms, that could affect more than just those 10 rooms.  Maybe the hotel had to turn away a group of 50 because they only had 45 rooms remaining.  Once the 10 cancel, then the hotel has 55 rooms available but they’ve now lost the group business which costs them much more than just 10 rooms.

  • Beth

    Some of these comments explain why many hotels, like the airlines are coming up with these rebooking fees.

    Because many travelers now days, thanks to the internet, keep canceling at the last minute if they find a cheaper hotel or find a last minute deal or as one of your comments stated below they will book at the regular rate and then cancel that if a cheaper rate becomes available at the same hotel.

    The worst offense to me, is the traveler, who books the room, then checks back, sees a lower price offered, but NOT on the dates he booked and demands they give him the lower rate anyway, because he is Mr. BiG shot traveler and is a member of their hotel  club.

    Can you buy stock and then 3 months later the shares are cheaper and tell them you want your money back so you can buy it at a lower price

    It is driving the hotels nuts.
    If I cancel my spa appointments within a certain time, I get it charged to my charge card.

    When I cancel my doctors appointment within 24 hours, I pay a fee.

    When I canceled my dog’s vet appointment the evening before, I got a call from the office manager that if I did this again within the year, I would be charged the office visit fee.

    There are many fine restaurants in major cities, if you cancel within a certain time limit, you are paying a fee.

    Who knows if they rebooked other people, I am not getting my money back,

    The same Doctor who charges me for canceling an 11:00am,appointment the afternoon before, gets upset when he cancels his hotel the day before  and gets a fee.

    Why is the travel business supposed to be so different and not charge anything?


  • Kevkev

    If there is no cancellation fee or rebooking fee, there will be a lot of people will book airline ticket or hotel room without really have plan because they allow to cancel it due to whatever reason. This will be the same as department store, people buys a lot of stuffs because they can return it if they regret or don’t like it. Some will take advantage from this loophole. I agree with cancelation fee.

  • Kentlady

    If you read the terms and conditions at the hotel’s website, it also says this:
    “ADVANCE LODGING RESERVATION: The Booking is an ‘Advanced Lodging
    Reservation’ as governed by Visa/MasterCard Terms & Conditions.
    Barring problems beyond Manager’s control, the Property, or an equal or
    better substitute, will be provided to Guest on the dates indicated.
    Guest agrees the booking is non-cancelable and non-refundable unless, at
    Guest’s later written request, Manager is able to sell Guest’s dates
    according to the Cancellation Policy below.”

    So the guest should have already known it was non-cancelable and non-refundable.

  • Carver

    That brings up a good point.  Does it actually require human intervention to cancel a hotel room.  I seriously doubt it, but does any one know for sure?

  • Carver


    I think Dsche is correct.  Most hotels of any size permit unlimited booking and cancellations up to 6pm the day of check in.  That strongly suggests that it’s not a nightmare.

    Part of the hotel’s forecasting is that people have the ability to book and cancel so this is taken into consideration when making said forecast.

  • Carver

    Unlikely as hotels reserve the right to overbook just for that very reason. More likely the hotel would book the 55, and walk 5 guests assuming that every single person who booked a room actually showed up, a highly unlikely scenario.

  • Carver

    I’m confused.  Is this a tongue in cheek post, or something that you actually read somewhere?

  • Carver

    Agreed 100 percent. The hospitality industry uses very sophisticated software to project occupancy rates in advance.  Its called a dynamic revenue management system.  Part of its functionality is making a determination as to what percentrage of guests are likely to cancel. 

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

    yeah, but in your example, you are out the same money whether the guest shows or not.

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

    That does’t really make sense. The two circumstances are not analagous.

    If I pay for a plane ticket and I dont’ show up, the airline has received what they wanted from me, i.e. the price of the ticket.  My showing up just means that the airline has a seat that they can double sell

    By contrast, if I am involuntarily bumped, due to the airlines fault, the airline, in trying to maximze revenue, has caused a huge financial detriment to me.  I will be late to my destination, I may have to incur additional costs in hotel, food, toiletries, etc.

    Its also reasonably likely that I will miss my connection, lose out of deposits, and the list continues.

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

    I agree with your position, except that hotels, unlike resorts, seem to be ina very competitive marketplace.  Same with car rental agencies.  That’s why hotels and car rental companies have far more generous policies that airlines.  Car rental companies generally have 100% cancellation allowance.

    Also, most hotels are not owned by the chain, but are merely franchised,  further diluting the power of corporate, as opposed to an airlines which is the only “owner”

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

    Agreed.  Many of the posters, myself including, are assuming a large chain hotel with hundreds of rooms.

    And I am more willing to accept an restrictive cancellation policy when dealing with a small business that has to manage its inventory so carefully.

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

    In theory you would be right.  The adminstration would be a nightmare.  Suppose two guests cancel identical rooms and the hotel picks up on additional guest.  Should the hotel send eacha check for half.  Suppose they paid different rates?   I don’t know.

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


    Hotels follow much the same model.  Consider, Thursday and Sunday nights in a business (i.e. non-vacationing) locale.  A Thursday night by itseld is considered weekday, but becomes weekend pricing when paired with a Friday and the prices drops considerably.  Likewise Sunday is a weekday unless paired with a Saturday stay in which it becomes a weekend stay and the price drops.

    Did the cost to the hotel change.  No.  But weekend travelers (again in non vacationing locales) are considered leisure travelers and hotels charge them less than business travelers.

    Same model.

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

    Except for the huge disparity between refundable and non-refundable tickets, I quite agree.  It make sense to provide different goods and services to different market segments.

    When I travel for business I have different needs then when I travel for work, and the pricing structures understand that.

    When I travel for business flexibility is much more important and I am willing to pay a premium.  On vacation, its not nearly as important and I’d rather save the money.

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

    And what about me who doesn’t need those so-called base services.  I want a discount.  Last year, I got rates as low as $29OW from SFO to LAX. 

    I much rather all services and fees be clearly disclosed so I can choose what I want rather than have someone tell me what I need.

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

    A little class warfare :)

    I’m on of the traveler’s with elite status and yes, I expect special treatment.   Why.  Because I regularly chose your hotel, even though the hotel next door was cheaper and more convenient. 

    For example,  I had a bankruptcy hearing in LA on Wednesday.  I stayed 3 blocks away although there was a  very comparable hotel next door to the hearing office.

    Accordingly, by me picking regularly picking your hotel, you give me certain concessions and perks. Its a tit for tat. Everyone is happy.