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Why won’t Starwood let me change my reservation ?

Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com
Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com
Carol Pratt is stuck with three pre-paid nights at a Starwood Hotel. Even though she wants to move the reservation by a few days, the hotel won’t let her without losing all of her money. What’s going on?

Question: I made a pre-paid reservation at the W New York – Downtown. The rate description said it was non-refundable and a penalty would apply for changes. When I tried to change it to a few days later, I was told that the reservation was actually non-changeable, and that should I cancel it, I would lose the money and need to book three new nights.

I contacted the W hotel’s central line and pointed out that the rate description for non-refundable rates stated they were non-refundable and non-changeable. That’s not the same thing as “a penalty for changes,” which is the language in the terms for the rate I had booked.

I was essentially told that the penalty was 100 percent of the pre-paid room rate. As a result, I kept the original reservation, and made another for the extra two nights, which was cheaper than canceling and rebooking.

I e-mailed customer service asking for a review. I had been expecting to pay a higher daily rate and to pay some kind of penalty fee. But I received a prompt reply reiterating the first reservation agent’s statements. I was told that pre-paid rates are “non-cancellable, non-changeable and non-refundable” and that a penalty is charged for cancelling, as well as that changes cannot be made.

The bottom line is that I am now paying over $1,700 for 5 nights when, at most, I believe I should be paying $1,262 for three, at a higher daily rate, plus a reasonable penalty fee. I think Starwood’s reply does not address the issue and that a “known glitch” on the rate description does not excuse them from from adhering to the language on both their website and their confirmation e-mail. Am I off base here? – Carol Pratt, Washington

Answer: You are not off base at all. If anything, Starwood is off base. The way I see it, you’re not canceling or changing your reservation, because you still intend to stay at the hotel on some of the days you had originally intended to be there.

The W Hotel, which is owned by Starwood, appears to be interpreting its own rules in a way that is most advantageous to the company. It is saying: If you make any change to this reservation, you lose everything, even if you intend to stay in the room for part of the original booking.

I’ve reviewed the correspondence between you and Starwood, and the interesting thing is, it knows it was wrong. “The wording of the cancellation policy in two different phrases is a known glitch,” it says in an email to you. “Our Web Team is working as fast as possible to get this corrected.” (This case was resolved several months ago, and the problem is now fixed.)

You took your case to the highest level you could, but were still getting form responses. By the way, I list all the higher-ups on my consumer advocacy site.
Your next stop would have been a credit card dispute, which is something I recommend only as a last resort. Calling me was the right move.

I contacted Starwood on your behalf. A company representative got in touch with you immediately and suggested that in the future, you reach out to the hotel directly before taking your complaint to corporate. That’s good advice.

The W changed your reservation to the three nights you wanted without a penalty fee, which is far more than you had asked it to do.

Did the W handle this complaint correctly?

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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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  • LFH0

    When it is stated that there exists “a penalty” for making changes, the ordinary expectation is that the amount of the penalty would not be equal to the entire cost of the service. But more critically, if a consumer believes that a change penalty might be incurred then the consumer ought to exercise due diligence and ascertain the magnitude of the “penalty” before making that reservation . . . to rely on one’s “ordinary expectation” in this type of circumstance is to invite disappointment.

  • http://lazytravelers.net/ Andy Shuman

    SPG was wrong. It’s that simple. I agree that contacting the property’s general manager directly should be the first move under similar circumstances. Hotels don’t want people to hate them, while anonymous corporate bureaucrats would often prefer playing it safe.

  • Dutchess

    Starwood got this all wrong, but I’ve seen this in the past. You call the corporate number and you get an unhelpful agent who does nothing but read their scripts. Heck, as I was reading this I was thinking….Call the property directly….call directly. Glad they resolved it, I’ve always had great to exceptional service at W properties, I’m glad they resolved this.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Always call directly. That should be the first stop. The exception is if your frequent guest status affords you access to special agents, e.g. Starwood’s SPG Platinum or Ambassador reps. They can go to bat for you with the property. Otherwise, call directly.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I love Starwood and its hotels. This is one area where I don’t love Starwood, or any other hotel chain for that matter. If you book a prepaid rate for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Not only can you not change the dates, but if you don’t check in on Monday, but say try to check in on Tuesday, the entire reservation has already been cancelled. That seems highly unreasonable.

    So, one one of the very few times I booked a prepaid, non-refundable hotel reservation, I booked it one day at a time. Instead of one reservation for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I booked each day separately. When I checked in I had the reservations linked.

    It’s the same with airline reservations. If I’m flying somewhere like Los Angeles, I often book 2 one way tickets so if I need to change the outbound flight, the return flight isn’t affected.

    Its a shame that we need to jump through these hoops to protect ourselves.

  • TonyA_says

    Never prepay, simple.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    That’s good advice.

  • Justin

    Sometimes, gaming the system is the only way to come out ahead. I concur that a hotel has no right to cancel a reservation for failed check-ins. I’ve already paid for a given set of days. Whether or not I sleep there is my business.

  • Justin

    Great advice, but not always practical. Last minute hotel rates are much higher and room availabilities are no guarantee. For instance, I had a scheduled hospital procedure planned months in advance. Unbeknownst to me, a major event was taking place and rooms were booked up everywhere. Took 3 hours to find a hotel with an opening.

    Now, I don’t assume. I check, though try to avoid advance reservations wherever possible.

  • TonyA_says

    Even if you prepay, you are NOT guaranteed you won’t be walked.

    Heck, I was checked in a Hilton once and when I got back all my bags were packed and moved to a Holiday Inn because Henry Kissinger arrived.

    In case you don’t remember who this guy is.

    Read: http://www.commondreams dot org/views02/0611-03.htm
    Is Henry Kissinger a War Criminal?

    Thirty years after the death of Charles Horman inspired a
    bestseller and an Oscar-winning movie, his widow still pursues those
    she believes are really to blame — including the former U.S. secretary
    of state. It’s one reason the quest for international justice makes the
    United States so nervous.

  • FQTVLR

    When booking a hotel and choosing what rate to book the first question I ask myself is can I afford to lose the entire amount on a pre-paid, non-refundable booking. If the answer is no then I book a higher more flexible rate.
    But the OP saw a note for a penalty for change and believed the reservation could be changed for a fee. Starwood admitted the error on the website and confirmation. Therefore they should have allowed the change for a fee immediately. But I agree that the OP should have contacted the hotel itself rather than central reservations. The hotel manager and other employees have more authority and interest in making appropriate exceptions to vague rules than those in a call center customer service office.

  • John Baker

    Sorry Chris … The rest of the western world considers moving dates as a change to the reservation. In some cases, this change may move you from a cheaper to more expensive rate (weekday to weekend or the reverse) so it isn’t apples to apples always.

    I agree that the W should have made the penalty (100%) for changes clearer. I think this goes back to what others have said. Why prepay for a hotel? You gain so little on the rate.

  • John Baker

    And how does prepaying change this? The hotel has availability or not. VERY close in, it becomes risk / reward question. What’s the discount you receive vs the chances you’ll no show.

  • John Baker

    Completely agree… If its prepaid, its mine for the duration whether I sleep there or not.

  • Justin

    Celebrity has it’s privileges. Never read the book, but did a quick Google. Very interesting!

  • Justin

    Penalty and forfeiture are not the same verbiage. I doubt any judge upholds a “penalty” as 100% loss.

  • Justin

    Prepay guarantees a room. Sometimes events cause a city to sell out of hotel space. I faced the issue one time on a recent trip to the hospital. I rarely advance book, but try to check hotel for availabilities. Now I am more careful if I suspect a sell out to book in advance.
    Rates can be 20-30% cheaper to book in advance.

  • Meredith Putvin

    One thing, and I know this as a former employee, Never call the corporate line. Let me follow by saying never call the hotel and ask for reservations if you are looking for a resolution. All this will do with Starwood is re-route you to a Region Reservation Center (at least you will be speaking to call center in the US unless you call after hours and then you are speaking to Ireland) It is not that they won’t help you, it is that they *cannot- help you aside from firing off an e-mail to the hotel for you (Though that could have changed as well.) You honestly are better off speaking with the property directly and the Call center has *NO Override capacity*. No for them is not *No we won’t* it’s *No we can’t.* I cannot tell you how many escalated calls I took as a lead where I had to fire off a form letter myself, then advise the caller I will have a manager review. But also the Web rates being non-refundable has been like that for as long as I can remember. But again, asking the property directly will often bring a quicker resolution. Call Centers are not empowered to do anything except take reservations and field calls. The Decision Ultimately is in the hands of the Property as well as the Inventory controls. Corporate Services toll free is better used for problems with SPG and other Starwood related promotions. When it comes to the hotel… Welp, I was the agent that said screw the cross selling rules and at times to get a customer the city they needed when they needed it in a sister property. While I was there, that rule changed to be flexible. I was also the agent that would help the corporate account rather than bouncing the caller back to the hotel.

  • Don

    What part of “non-refundable” is unclear. Once you pay you are locked. End of story. The hotel, in good faith, took the reservation and possibly declined other reservations for the same nights, knowing they had a booking that was non-refunable. If you don’t want a reservation with restrictions, then book one without.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Fortunately, its not even gaming the system. There is no ethical or moral precept, or contractual right which is being violated.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The term penalty for changes. That implies that the days can be changes for a fee, much like an nonrefundable airline ticket can be changed for a fee. That’s the part that is unclear.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    No its doesn’t guarantee a room. Not in the least.

  • EvilEmpryss

    Now I’m curious why someone thinks that where you sleep matters if you’ve already paid for the room (assuming that’s what the down vote was for). The business got its occupancy money, so what’s the fuss?

    And as for gaming the airlines on tickets, yeah, I’ve gone and purchased a separate one-way to deal with a last minute itinerary change because it was cheaper than paying the change fee and the difference in ticket fare.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It’s good general advice.

    It’s a matter of risk/reward. The likelihood of something messing up your plans (the risk) vs. the savings (the rewards)

    Starwood has a prepaid third night free promotion. In the early 2000s, the promotional rate was the same as the regular, ordinary rate. I’d book this rate after I landed at the destination airport. The risk of change was negligible, the reward was a 1/3 saving on my hotel folio.

    When I took the California State Bar Exam, the best refundable rate was about $160/nt at the hotel. I found a promotion on the Sunday Travel Page (yes, I’m dating myself) for a prepaid, nonrefundable, 3rd night fee rate of $80. Given the odds of me not showing up were nil, I was very happy to prepay $160, instead of paying $480. The $320 savings were very much worth it.

    And sometimes it’s moot. If the hotel is only offering prepaid rates then you’re stuck or go elsewhere.

  • TonyA_says

    For one thing, I cannot understand why your OP had this problem. I went to the W NY website and tried to book a room for 2 nights (26-27 FEB).
    The price for PREPAY and POSTPAY were exactly the same.
    Why would anyone bother to prepay?

    Spectacular, non-smoking: King Bed, 220 sq ft / 20 m², Wi-Fi internet for an additional charge, Rainforest shower head, Bliss bath products

    Prepaid Rate

    Penalty for changes/cancellations
    Deposit required

    This reservation must be paid in advance; there is a penalty for changes and/or cancellations.

    USD 324.00
    Per Room / Night
    + charges & taxes
    = USD 375.29

    —- VERSUS —-

    Flexible rate

    No penalty for changes/cancellations until 02/25/2014
    No deposit required

    Please see terms & details link for cancellation policy.

    USD 324.00
    Per Room / Night
    + charges & taxes
    = USD 375.29

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Prepaying can give great savings. See my personal story above.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Perhaps it’s still too early for me, but how do you know those rates were in effect when the OP made her reservation?

  • TonyA_says

    I just picked a random date :-)
    I am not sure why the date should matter on a high class hotel.

  • BroncoWidow

    Hi – OP here. I agree – “non-refundable” means you cannot cancel and get any money back. However, that doesn’t address changes. There were several rates from which to choose. One was “non-refundable and non-changeable” (the cheapest rate). One was “non-refundable and changeable with a penalty” (slightly higher rate, but still less than rates that were refundable). I fully understood the “non-refundable” portion, but deliberately chose the rate that WOULD allow for date changes, understanding I would pay a penalty. I agree that my mistake was in not calling right then to ask about the $$ amount of the penalty, and would not have booked if they told me the penalty was 100%. If there wasn’t a difference in Starwood’s mind between these two rates, why would they offer them at different $$ amounts? Evidently they don’t anymore…..!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I made the mistake of getting stranded in LA during the E3 conference. Rates skyrocketed. The cheapest rate I could find was $250 for a Best Western. The hotel that I had just checked out of (the Westin) jumped from $250 to $750.

    The higher end hotels that I’ve been as a guest do pay attention to occupancy, although they try not to admit it. :)

    Edited. In fact, both the Beverly Hilton and the SLS have had discounted points stay during Christmas. Something that rarely happens.

  • emanon256

    The only benefit to purchasing a R/T domestically rather than 2 one-ways, is that they charge the change fee per reservation. So if I book 2 one ways, and have to change both, its $400 in change fees. If I book a R/T and change both, its $200 in change fees.

    I am guessing the down vote is for the fact that the hotels actuaries determine the rates by estimating how many pre-paid people will cancel, and how many of those rooms they will be able to sell. So the whole reason the rate is lower is because they will re-sell some of those rooms and get double payment for those rooms. If this weren’t the case, they would not offer discounted pre-paid rooms. I however, am not the down voter.

  • emanon256

    Several pre-paid listings I have seen recently have said, “Non-Refundable, Non-Cancelable, Penalty for Change. Penalty is equivalent to 100% of reservation.”

  • Cam

    The old I want to pay the cheapest room rate but have the flexibility of the more expensive one strikes again.

  • jim6555

    I recently made a reservation for the Sheraton LAX Airport Hotel (a Starwood property) for one night on December 3.The following conflicting information was in the Terms and Conditions that was part of the conformation emailed to me:

    NONREFUNDABLE 100.00 PCT PENALTY
    CANCEL BY 1800 HOURS ON DAY OF ARRIVAL, LOCAL HOTEL TIME
    TO AVOID A CANCELLATION PENALTY

    I checked into the hotel on Dec. 3 so the cancellation clause was of no consequence. I wonder what would have happened if I had cancelled prior to the stated cancellation time and asked for a full refund? When it comes to legal language, Starwood needs to get its act together.

  • jim6555

    Hotel sites offer the pre-paid discounted rates because they are competing with Priceline, Hotwire and other opaque sites. The opaque sites do not reveal exactly where, in a city or zone, you will be staying until after you purchase your room. Those rooms are always non-refundable. The hotel sites tell you.prior to purchase, which hotel you will be staying at. In exchange for a discount, you give up the right to cancel or make changes just as you would on an opaque site.

  • emanon256

    Not actually true. The hotels offered discounted pre-paid rates before opaque sites came into existence. Also, the hotels give the inventory they do not believe they will be able to sell to these opaque sites to sell at a discount. They are not competing with their own inventory. They have experts determining what can be sold at what rates, how many people will now show, what won’t see on what dates, etc.

  • jim6555

    Dates do matter. I stayed in New York City this past Veterans Day weekend. The rates for most hotels were about 50% higher than those quoted for the following weekend. Even the high end hotels raised their rates, but the percentage of increase was lower than the increases of the less expensive properties.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Exactly Jim. The language to avoid a cancellation penalty implies that it’s avoidable. It looks like one lawyer just slapped on the language for a general reservation onto the non-refundable one.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    The language of the reservation implied that it was refundable which penalties. If the reservation is non-refundable, they should have said so more clearly.

  • TonyA_says

    Oh, what I meant was are the dates where the W hotel would want prepaid only? Or dates where prepaid would be substantially cheaper than post paid?

    I guess I can easily answer my own question by firing up my GDS and searching a bunch of select dates for W NYC. But I’m too lazy to do that this Friday before Xmas. Still need to figure out who I missed buying a gift for :-)

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Here’s another way of putting it: Don’t call an 800 number. Look up in whitepages the local number for the hotel with their local area code. That stands a good chance of getting someone at the front desk.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    That’s interesting Carver. But don’t you pay a penalty in the form of a higher rate for two one way tickets? But then you get the flexibility.

    Great idea about smurfing pre-paid hotel reservations.

  • TonyA_says

    The dead giveaway is a VOUCHER. When the guest is not the real customer to the hotel, then a voucher is needed (since the guest paid someone else and that someone else is paying the hotel, usually with a one-time use credit card).
    This phenomenon started long ago with Tour Operators (TO) and FIT providers. They needed a way to put different travel services together and sell it as package.
    Expedia and Priceline got smart and reused the same idea.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Not lately. They seem to be the same for the past few years, at least on my routing.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    What’s cross-selling?

  • BroncoWidow

    The cheapest room was non-refundable AND non-changeable. The rate selected was non-refundable and changeable with a penalty. Refundability and changeability are two different issues in terms and conditions. (Hence, many non-refundable airfares we hear about here are changeable with payment of a change fee.) I was more than willing to pay the prevailing rate for the new dates under the same rate code, plus a change fee. I was not willing to forfeit the entire amount plus pay for new dates when that was not part if the terms and conditions I selected – and were also listed on my confirmation. If I had chosen “non-refundable and non-changeable”, then I would agree with you and would tell myself to suck it up!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I generally don’t find Starwood’s prepaid rates to be much different than regular rates except for the nights free promotion (10+ years running). You will however see nothing but prepaid rates when the hotel is virtually assured of selling out, e.g. New Years Eve in Pasadena and the hotel is 500 feet from the parade route.

  • Daddydo

    The world again is full of the feeling of entitlememt! Penalties, non-refundable; that is all part of buying the cheapest room rate. The penalty ended up 100%, so another rule was allowed to be broken. Customer service has nothing to do with rules and you keep breaking them in the name of advocacy. What’s the difference in buying a non-refundable airline ticket and wanting to change the dates – $200.00 penalty plus new fare difference. The only difference is the W penalty was 100%. I am in the minority on this vote, but I am contacting Travel Weekly to do an article that W allows modifications, so everybody can do this if you call the hotel directly based upon this article.

  • sirwired

    Starwood messed up here, but one commment: ” The way I see it, you’re not canceling or changing your reservation”.

    If you alter the days you plan to stay, that sure sounds like a change to me, even if the days overlap.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Agreed, but suppose you merely reduce the days; stay 2 out of the 3 days?

  • MarkKelling

    Actually I have found that the prepaid reservations are the first to get walked at many of the hotels I stay at so they can make room for someone who is willing to pay a lot more on a close in reservation rate. On a recent business trip, one of my coworkers had a prepaid room. He was sent 4 miles away to a similar hotel while my room was not prepaid and I got to stay at the original hotel. The difference in the room rates was $25 a night for a $400 a night room.

    And I always book in advance. It has been many years since I took a chance on just showing up somewhere and trying to get a room. That night in Vegas where I had to sleep in my car taught me a lot about hotel reservations! I just don’t PAY in advance because the few dollars difference I find at the hotels I want to stay don’t add up to enough to make the no show risk worth it.

  • TonyA_says

    Ok so you were able to perk my interest enough to do a Hotel Search in GDS for W NYC.
    For this New Year’s Eve (watch the ball drop), forget it. No Availability.
    For Valentine’s Day. No problem. There is very little difference between prepaid and postpaid.
    People need to pay attention to the details here.

    Here is what you will see in GDS for WH chain:

    Deposit Required

    NON-REFUNDABLE RATE

    FULLY PREPAID, NON-REFUNDABLE OR CANCELABLE

    CANCEL – NONREFUNDABLE 100.00 PCT PENALTY

    -versus-

    Guarantee Required

    FLEXIBLE RATE

    CANCEL – CANCEL BY 1 DAYS PRIOR TO AVOID 1 NIGHTS PENALTY

  • TonyA_says

    If you actually go to the SI LAX Gateway Hotel website and book a one day PREPAID rate, for 07JAN, you will read this:

    Cancellation Policy
    The time for canceling without penalty has passed. If you cancel, the forfeiture amount will be a 1 night penalty. If you cancel after 4:00 PM hotel time on 01/03/2014, the forfeiture amount will be 100 percent. There may be additional applicable charges and taxes.

    In other words, you cannot cancel without a penalty.
    The only question is HOW MUCH is the penalty.
    If you are spending only one night, then it is 100% penalty.
    If you are spending more than one night, then if you cancel before 4PM Minus 3 days of start of stay, then you can mitigate the damage to one night stay. Otherwise you lose everything.

    I guess the cancel by date and time can change but the gist is the same.
    You will lose money if you cancel :(

  • omgstfualready

    Never say never. Ditto for always.

  • omgstfualready

    Agreed. Always and never are terribly ways to live. I’ve done prepaid non-refundable on amazing rates at places I know about or have stayed already. I am prepared to lose the money when I book should something come up. The Nine Zero in Boston for $70 a night for 4 nights? That entire booking was like getting 3 nights free. Well worth the risk of losting a few hundred to save a thousand.

  • omgstfualready

    I learned from them too on the points (sorry Chris for mentioning points, inhale, exhale, count down from 10 and you’ll be just fine….). I had two nights on points but only needed the first night. I thought when I was at check in they could alter my reservation to cancel the second night since it was within the cancellation time and then check me in for the now just one night. Not so simple. She checked me in, then tried to cancel and that wouldn’t work and many calls between me and the corporate and me at the desk it got worked out but it took probably an hour.
    I learned to do each night individually like you.

  • omgstfualready

    That has been the greatest positive unspoken change in the industry. I can book one-way flights and fly the time I need and not worry about the price being five times higher. I like JetBlue from PIT-BOS but the return flight is not late enough so I do them up and USAirways back and get somewhat satisfied.

  • Justin

    I don’t tend to stay in High End joints. I pick middle of the road. Clean, basic, but not Motel 6, Super 8, etc. I have found most of these hotels have generous cancellation policies.

    Choice Hotels allows changes or cancellations if not using Advance Rate.
    Red Roof (Stay Some) allow cancellation until 4PM the day of check in.
    I don’t stay at other hotels enough to know their policies. 99 percent of my visits are at Comfort or Quality Inns.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Does GDS show if there is a multi-night requirement

  • JenniferFinger

    Starwood acted only after Chris stepped in, which shouldn’t have had to happen.

  • TonyA_says

    My GDS supports multiple-nights rates.
    It will display the optional rate indicator – “*” beside the rate; meaning “Rate includes multiple nights”.

  • MarkKelling

    I don’t stay at the high end joints either except when I am forced to do so for work. I prefer Marriott or even Holiday Inn over the Ritz. And it’s not just price. I want to be left alone when I am in my room and the pricy places always want to come in and put chocolate on your pillow or something else I am perfectly capable of doing myself. :-)

    I think all hotels allow you to cancel with no penalty if you don’t purchase the pre-paid rate or reserve the lowest advance rate. I use the AAA option a lot because it often gives the same rate as the pre-paid one but allows the cancellation options that the regular rates do at the places I stay. Even if AAA doesn’t save meas much money as a pre-paid rate, the cancellation option makes it worth while.

  • MarkKelling

    Most hotels these days state “PENALTY FOR EARLY CHECKOUT” or will cancel the remainder of your stay if you do not arrive to check in for your first night (and charge you for 1 night). This makes it difficult to not stay for the entire reserved number of nights if you are trying to save money.

    I’m sure that a hotel will work with you if you are delayed arriving and miss your first night as long as you let the hotel know directly. As far as checking out early, I have found it better to just not check out if you are leaving a single day early (leave your key in the room and just go). Multiple days early and the hotel usually will work with you on the penalty.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I haven’t seen the early check-out language in some time. But even then it was around $50. I don’t understand the rationale behind not checking out if you have to leave one or more days early.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Your co-worker did a prepaid rate to save less than 10%. Cheap, unwise, or inexperienced traveler?

  • Jason Hanna

    Similar, but different situation I just dealt with. I booked a suite for 2 nights at Great Wolf Lodge in Concord for this weekend as a Christmas present for the kids. Third year I’ve done this, but went with a bigger suite to allow more people to come along this year.

    I always book in late September/early October because they put out some solid deals at that time. Once the deal came up, I read the terms of it.. In one place, it said valid on stays to December 19th, another place, on the same page, it said valid on stays to December 24th. Site would only let you book up to the 19th with this deal. Called and asked.. They said the 19th was the correct end date. Ok.. No problem, mistakes happen, it was pre-booking.. They’ll put out another deal later on that goes up to the dates I want.. 15% off vs 20% off, but.. No biggie.

    They then sent me a “Hurry, deal ends tomorrow” email that AGAIN said booking to December 24th were 20% off, but site only allows up to the 19th.

    Posted a query about it on their Facebook page.. They got back with me, said it was only supposed to be to the 19th, but, they gave me the discounted rate and opened it up on their website to allow anyone to book at the discounted rate up to the 24th since the error was on their side and it happened twice.

    Now this is similar, but is really apples-to-oranges as to the OP’s problem, because mine occurred prior to booking, but, I couldn’t have asked Great Wolf for anything more, other than fixing the site the first time I brought it up.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Starwood needs to have their CS department re-trained. To put a customer through this kind of stupid does nothing but generate bad PR. In my experience, hotel people need to be told what you want, you can’t expect them to come up with a solution. I’m a Diamond person at Hilton and made a booking error several months ago. I called my “priority line” which you would assume is full of really good CS people. The rep tried to blow me off by saying they couldn’t cancel my res, I would have to call the hotel directly, blah blah blah. Finally I reminded him that I held the highest status Honors designation and I expected HIM to call the hotel, unscrew the problem and call or email me confirmation. Hilton usually has the BEST people and training, so I was really surprised that I was expected to spend an hour on phone trees and hold … to solve a problem that is CS’s job. So before you pick up the phone, figure out what you want the CS person to do to help you.

  • BroncoWidow

    All of this happened last January. The multiple rates they used to offer have evidently been consolidated and clarified.

  • MarkKelling

    Claims he was in a hurry and clicked on the wrong one (we get to do our own travel arrangements until we get to a certain level in the company unless we are traveling with a senior exec). Oh well, lesson learned – on business don’t prepay.

  • MarkKelling

    Usually when I have to leave a day early I don’t find out until after checkout time. So I end up getting charged for the extra time anyway. If I go ahead and check out, I don’t get the credit toward my frequent stayer program in some hotels even though in many cases I have been charged for the full day.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Gotcha. I understand.

    Although, if it’s a hotel that I frequent, I would see if they would waive the late check out time. At one hotel, I got a 9pm check out because they were relatively empty the next day.

  • y_p_w

    I think “early check out” might mean that they may not charge for those days after checking out other than the fee. Most hotels I can just walk away and expect to receive a message of the final bill if I don’t go asking for it. Sometimes I get the final bill slid under the door.

    They probably want to be able to recoup some cost of rooms they might not be able to reserve if the hotel was fully booked.

  • y_p_w

    I think cross-selling is selling additional services with “partner” businesses.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-selling

  • y_p_w

    I’ve had “glitches”. One was for free parking, which would have been $20 at this hotel. I booked on Priceline and it said parking was included. When I checked my reservation again, that line mysteriously disappeared. I called the hotel and they couldn’t find it on my reservation. I had printed out the original reservation confirmation and showed it to the desk clerk. A trip to the manager’s office and it was included.

    I also had a case where we went Black Friday shopping at a local outlet mall and didn’t want to drive home like zombies. They showed a special where a $50 gift card for the mall and $30 gift card for a restaurant was included at a higher rate. The last minute rate was $80 but with this deal it was $100. Sounded good to me and I even called in and the clerk said it was valid. Got there, the manager was working the desk (said he sent most employees home for Thanksgiving) and “I wish they’d fix that”. He did knock the price down to the last minute rate, but I wasn’t going to push him on the deal. He said that the requirement was one day at this rate and one day at the full rate of $150. So in that case someone is paying $250 to get $80 worth of stuff, when you could spend $160 and also pay less on room taxes.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Perhaps one of the TAs can assist. If I buy 2 one way tickets and need to change both, can I have the PNR’s linked and only pay one fee?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Happened to me once. Very expensive lesson.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    At least though its fully disclosed. Otherwise, I would not expect a penalty to be more than one nights charge.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I gave up on Hilton. I found the Diamond Desk useless and not empowered to do much of anything. Jumped over to Marriott.

  • LFH0

    I recall once upon a time a guest could, as an option, reserve a guaranteed room because of anticipated late arrival–since hotels always held rooms for free until 6:00 p.m. (or 4:00 p.m. in a few places)–but today, virtually all hotels demand that guests guarantee their payment for a room. That is, we’ve from hotels guaranteeing a room to be available to guests guaranteeing that they will pay (regardless of rooms actually being available).

  • LFH0

    Being “walked” like that has long been a concern of mine. I don’t drive, and usually arrive at a hotel on foot. Although the first hotel would almost certainly pay for a taxi from its location to that other hotel four miles distant, I would likely need to walk back and forth between that distant hotel and where I really need to be, perhaps more than once daily. That wastes at least two hours each day, a substantial burden to undertake while traveling. Fortunately, where I’ve been walked, either it was not that distant to the other hotel, or there was a good enough public transportation system that mitigated the inconvenience. But I do travel periodically to rural areas where distances are great and public transportation is non-existent, and being “walked” would be a great inconvenience.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Changing times :(

    In theory, if the hotel was sold out, you could recovery your nonrefundable guarantee. Double dipping is rarely allowed in contracts, except of course for airlines, but that’s another rant.

  • TonyA_says

    Simple answer is NO. The change penalty is for reissuing a TICKET. You will pay one penalty fee each time you change a TICKET. So if you change 2 tickets (each having a penalty) you will pay 2 penalties.

  • TonyA_says

    Carver Clark Farrow

    I like to explain that a PNR and an e-ticket are really two separate things.

    You can put both your outbound and return flights on ONE PNR.

    But you have a choice to ticket the flights together in ONE ticket; or each separately so you will have TWO tickets. Needless to say, the flights are still on ONE PNR, regardless..

    See example below.

    You have ONE PNR with 2 flight segments
    1.1CARVER/CLARK.FARROW*ADT
    1 AA 108O 01FEB SA LAXSFO SS1 655A 825A/O $ E
    2 AA 209O 05FEB WE SFOLAX SS1 540P 710P/O $ E

    *** BOTH SEGMENTS TICKETED TOGETHER ***

    PNR PRICED ON 20DEC FOR TKTG ON 20DEC
    * NONREF/SVCCHGPLUSFAREDIF//CXL BY FLT TIME OR NOVALUE
    * PRICING RULES VALIDATING CARRIER DEFAULT AA
    ** 01FEB DEPARTURE DATE/ 21DEC IS LAST DATE TO TICKET
    * FARE MAY CHANGE UNLESS TICKETED *

    TICKET BASE USD TX/FEE USD TKT TTL USD
    ADT01 87.44 28.36 115.80
    *TTL 87.44 28.36 115.80

    FBC ADT OA14EQY1
    ADT LAX AA SFO43.72AA LAX43.72USD87.44END AA ZPLAXSFO XT5.00AY
    9.00XF LAX4.5SFO4.5
    TX 6.56US 7.80ZP 5.00AY 9.00XF

    *** OR, EACH SEGMENT TICKETED SEPARATELY ***

    1 AA 108O 01FEB SA LAXSFO SS1 655A 825A/O $ E

    PNR PRICED ON 20DEC FOR TKTG ON 20DEC – END TRANSACT TO STORE
    * NONREF/SVCCHGPLUSFAREDIF//CXL BY FLT TIME OR NOVALUE
    * PRICING RULES VALIDATING CARRIER DEFAULT AA
    ** 01FEB DEPARTURE DATE/ 21DEC IS LAST DATE TO TICKET
    * FARE MAY CHANGE UNLESS TICKETED *

    TICKET BASE USD TX/FEE USD TKT TTL USD
    ADT01 43.72 14.18 57.90
    *TTL 43.72 14.18 57.90

    FBC ADT OA14EQY1
    ADT LAX AA SFO43.72USD43.72END AA ZPLAX XT2.50AY4.50XF LAX4.5
    TX 3.28US 3.90ZP 2.50AY 4.50XF

    2 AA 209O 05FEB WE SFOLAX SS1 540P 710P/O $ E

    PNR PRICED ON 20DEC FOR TKTG ON 20DEC – END TRANSACT TO STORE
    * NONREF/SVCCHGPLUSFAREDIF//CXL BY FLT TIME OR NOVALUE
    * PRICING RULES VALIDATING CARRIER DEFAULT AA
    ** 05FEB DEPARTURE DATE/ 21DEC IS LAST DATE TO TICKET
    * FARE MAY CHANGE UNLESS TICKETED *

    TICKET BASE USD TX/FEE USD TKT TTL USD
    ADT01 43.72 14.18 57.90
    *TTL 43.72 14.18 57.90

    FBC ADT OA14EQY1
    ADT SFO AA LAX43.72USD43.72END AA ZPSFO XT2.50AY4.50XF SFO4.5
    TX 3.28US 3.90ZP 2.50AY 4.50XF

  • Cam

    Yes you are right. If the way the term was written was one night’s penalty then that’s the approach the hotel should have taken. You were right to stand you ground.

  • y_p_w

    Cancellation policies vary wildly. I’ve seen anything from 72 hours from 6 PM the day of the stay to up to 6 PM the first day.

    Now if they could all be like rental car reservations, which mostly aren’t secured with a credit card number. You can basically not show up and the only recourse would be they refuse to rent to you in the future.

  • Justin

    The only industry where double dips are acceptable is at Dairy Queen or an Ice Cream Parlor. Otherwise, legislation needs to ban companies from profiting twice. Either X company resells seat or hotel room, or the item remains unused. Hotel being the worst as if I book a room for 5 nights, the room is mine. Apparently, the hotel has my money but dictates where I sleep.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I would hope that you would be able to negotiate a comped taxi ride between the hotels. At my sister’s wedding a bunch of folks got walked. A voucher for a return cab was provided

  • Justin

    Sometimes spending a few extra dollars buys a piece of mind. All depends upon circumstances and risk. Do your circumstances change often or is the track record for keeping a reservation remain stellar? Some people are never get sick, are time, and go regardless of life. Those people benefit from Advance purchases. The remainder of the crowd might leave travel up to chance

  • Annie M

    When people book these non refundable rates, they are paying less for their room than they would be booking a refundable rate and most of the time, once someone books one of these and then has to change or cancel, they will never book these rates again.

    The only reason I voted no on this is because their website was deceitful and contradictory and Starwood knew it. Otherwise, when you book these kind of rates you shouldn’t come crying when you have to change your dates. It is only a few dollar more a night for a refundable rate, don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.

  • BMG4ME

    It seems obvious to me that when I book a prepaid rate, I cannot make any changes. Prepaid rates are usually considerably cheaper than a flexible reservation. I am amazed that Starwood agreed to make the change. it shows what a customer-focused company they are.

  • BMG4ME

    I am Platinum at Starwood and their customer service is outstanding, the fact that they changed this reservation when they really need not have, proves that.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree 100%. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with Starwood.

  • jpp42

    This is something that Southwest introduced to the market years ago, and I have to believe competing with them is a big reason the legacy carriers switched to this. Unfortunately the huge one-way penalties still seem to apply for many international routes.