ORLANDO

‘Keystroke error’ turns $289 rate into $28

keyQuestion: I recently found a $28 per night rate at the Westin Imagine in Orlando. I was amazed. I booked the room, and several days later I called the hotel to ensure that it was a legitimate rate. They confirmed this, so I booked nonrefundable airfare, and have been happily anticipating my getaway weekend ever since.

That is, until this past Monday morning, when I received an e-mail from the hotel’s director of revenue management saying that the rate was caused by a “keystroke error” during data entry. The actual rate was $289. The Westin offered a rate of $99 per night as an apology, but refused to honor the original rate.

I contacted Westin at the corporate level, and the hotel offered to waive its mandatory valet parking charge of $18 per night, but insisted it couldn’t honor the $28 rate. Then the manager of the hotel responded, offering to throw in an extra 5,000 loyalty points.

I’m writing because I don’t think I’m getting fair treatment by this Westin hotel. If there is anything you can do to help, I would be extremely appreciative. — Terry Capps, San Diego

Answer: If you book a rate that you know is an error, then you shouldn’t expect the hotel to honor the price. But $28 per night wasn’t an obvious “fat finger” rate, and the fact that Westin confirmed it certainly didn’t help.

If the hotel had offered rooms at $0, then this would be a different story. Actually, it wouldn’t be a story at all. If a business mistakenly prices something at a rate no reasonable customer believes is valid, it shouldn’t be required to honor that price. But you can find hotel rooms at $28 a night.
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Orlando theme parks prepare for fireworks fury

fireworks

Heads up! Orlando’s theme parks are preparing for their Independence Day fireworks extravaganzas.

Pyrotechnics expert Andrew Hage checks the connections of several fireworks at the top of SeaWorld’s 400-foot-tall Sky Tower. In the distance is Manta, the park’s new roller coaster. SeaWorld has special fireworks displays this July 4th weekend. The sky-filling displays can be seen at 10:30 p.m. today and tomorrow. Our friend John Frost over at the Disney Blog has a roundup of all the other Fourth of July shows.

And speaking of Manta, as you read in this morning’s interview with Robert Niles, his readers named the new coaster their top pick for best coaster of the summer. Here’s a video we recently shot of the ride.


What we did this weekend: golfing with pirates in Orlando and exploring Maitland’s Mayan Courtyard

Golf and pirates! Who can imagine a better combination? Not Aren, Iden or Erysse, who tried their hand at minigolf.

Aren, Iden and Erysse visited the Mayan Courtyard at the Maitland Art Center. Not shown is Iden falling into the fountain. We decided to keep that out of this video. After all, he has an image to uphold.

You can see more pictures here and view archived videos at our travel video site.


10 things I love about Hyatt Place

hyatt-place

I stayed at the Hyatt Place in Lake Mary, Fla., this weekend, one of the “new build” Hyatt Place properties that opened in January. Sharp looking hotel, isn’t it?

That’s the first thing I liked about it.

express-check-in

2. Checking in is super easy. No need to wait in a line — just talk to the kiosk.

fireplace

3. Who is your interior decorator?

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4. Nice pool.

shower1

5. Now that’s a shower.

melons

6. Healthy breakfast. Go for the melons.

hyatt-place-window

7. Everything is color coordinated, right down to the doors.

wine

8. They have a wine bar. How cool is that?

hungry

9. Hungry? The computer will take your order.

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10. Free PC lets you print out your itinerary … or find a good restaurant.


Can they charge a “resort fee” for a hotel I bid on?

Ray Richardson thought he found a deal when his Priceline bid on an Orlando hotel landed him a reservation at the Radisson. But then he got his bill.

It contained a surprise $6.95-a-day “resort fee” to cover the cost of the Radisson’s pool, exercise equipment and other amenities.

Can it do that?

A cursory look at Priceline’s terms suggests the answer is “no.” The online travel agency promises that the “total charges” for a room would “always be disclosed” before a reservation is made.

This is particularly important for its “name your own price” service, because customers don’t pick the exact hotel — only the class of hotel. If they knew there were a resort fee, then these price-sensitive customers could avoid the property.

But a closer look at Priceline’s terms reveals that the Radisson fee is allowed.

Depending on the city and property you stay in, you may also be charged resort fees or other incidental fees, such as parking charges. These charges, if applicable, will be payable by you to the hotel directly at checkout.

I’ve encountered this problem with Priceline before, and there’s no easy fix. Back in 2006, I worked on a case involving an “upgrade” on a bid hotel that ended up charging a resort fee. The customer disputed the charge on his credit card and won.

Richardson could have also protested the fee when he checked out. At a time like this, when hotels are bending backward to make guests happy, the resort might have reduced the fee.

He says he used none of the hotel’s facilities. That’s an argument that also might have worked.

“This would seem to me to be a deceptive practice to make Priceline users think they are paying less,” he told me.

I don’t know which is worse: Priceline, for failing to disclose a resort fee on a hotel someone bid on, or the Radisson, for charging a fee that should be part of the room rate.

Call it a draw?