What should we tell Kathryn Chao? Should she give her hotel one last chance to do the right thing? Or is it time to file a credit card dispute?
That’s a timely question, considering we just posted Will Leeper’s frequently asked questions on credit cards yesterday. (Thank you, Will.)
Here’s the problem: While Chao was shopping for a reasonably priced hotel in Philadelphia, she found herself talking to a reservations agent from the Hawthorn by Wyndham in Philadelphia, who assured her that she could make a no-risk reservation.
“I was informed that it was not a reservation, but that they would hold a room until 6 p.m. and then it would be canceled,” she says. “But they do appreciate a courtesy call.”
That’s not what the Hawthorn site says. I quote:
Will my credit card be charged if I don’t cancel and don’t show up?
Yes, reservations are automatically guaranteed to your credit card. You will be charged for the first night’s stay only. To avoid being charged, reservations must be canceled in accordance with the cancellation policy outlined by the hotel for the rate and dates booked.
So you can only guess what happened next. She found a cheaper room elsewhere. She didn’t call to cancel.
“Then I discovered a charge of $195 on my card,” she says.
Chao contacted the hotel, asking for a refund.
The front desk agents kindly heard me out and told me I was misinformed. They said that their hotel policy is to charge if the customer doesn’t call back or check in by 6 p.m. They then referred me to the manager for further assistance.
I tried many times to contact the manager, but every time I called I would get transferred to voicemail. After I left two messages with no returned call, I asked if it was possible to stay on “hold” until a manager became available. They declined my request.
She sent a written complaint to Hawthorn corporate, but has received no answer. Incidentally, here are the names, numbers and email addresses of the Wyndam Hotel Group (owner of Hawthorn) executives.
Chao believes her next step is to file a credit card dispute, but she also wants to give the hotel every chance to make this right. She wants us to tell her whether to go for the dispute or continue working with the hotel.
“Am I going about this the best way?” she asks. “What other steps could I take towards solving my problem?”
And that’s where you, dear readers, come in.
Here’s how I see it: If a representative misrepresented Hawthorn’s cancellation policy, then it is indeed on the hook for the $195, no matter what the written policy says. But only Hawthorn has the recording of that call, and I bet it’s not in a sharing mood.
On the other hand, even occasional hotel guests know what the industry standard cancellation policy is, and that it doesn’t work the way Chao thought it worked. And some of you will say: “She should have known better.”
I think Chao may have a final answer from Hawthorn. The credit card dispute, a last-ditch effort to recover her money, may be her best option. I just don’t know if it’s the right option.