A surprise $250 smoking fee from my hotel — but I don’t smoke!

Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
Seth Elsen receives a mysterious $250 charge on his credit card after staying at a La Quinta hotel. Now the property’s general manager is hiding from him, he says. Can he get a refund?

Question: I recently stayed at a La Quinta Inn and Suites in Walla Walla, Wash., with two guests. We were there one night, and everything went fine.

Two nights after I checked out, I noticed a $250 charge on my credit card, in addition to the $100 fee for the room. I called, talked with an assistant manager, and was told that it was a smoking charge, and that I needed to talk to the general manager about it.

I asked when she’d be in, and was told the next morning. I didn’t get a call back. I called again during the weekend, talking to other front desk people, trying to find out when the manager would be in.
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Smoked out of the Days Inn

no smokingQuestion: I have a concern that I tried addressing with a specific Days Inn and with Wyndham, which owns Days Inn, but have not received a response. I recently stayed at the Days Inn in Fernandina Beach, Fla. I made a reservation for a non-smoking room and was given a smoking room when I checked it.

I spoke with a manager, who told me he was sorry he couldn’t offer me a non-smoking room. The only rooms the hotel had left to sell were smoking rooms.

So, my question to Wyndham is: Is it their policy to accept a reservation for a non-smoking room when no such room exists? I wrote to Wyndham, but after several emails, it stopped answering.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Hotel burns nonsmoking guest with fee

Question: I prepaid for a room at the Ace Hotel New York through a site called Jetsetter.com recently. I had stayed at Ace Hotel in Palm Springs a year ago with a group, and had been thoroughly impressed with my stay.
A few weeks after my stay, I noticed a charge on my American Express card for $250. I inquired with American Express regarding the charge and after a couple of weeks Amex informed me that, Ace charged me a smoking fee.

There’s just one problem: I don’t smoke.

In fact, I suffer from allergies and can’t even be around people who smoke. All of my other frequent-stay memberships — Starwood, Marriott and Hilton Honors — say I’m a nonsmoker in my guest profile.

Is this just another way for hotels to make money? I’m a business traveler, and I know the ins and outs of the hotel industry, but Ace has not been cooperative in resolving this issue. Any help you can provide to shed some light on this ridiculous charging practice would be much appreciated. — Bernardino Suva, Los Angeles

Answer: Ace shouldn’t have charged a smoking fee unless you smoked in your room. If you’re a nonsmoker and are allergic to cigarette smoke, it’s unlikely you’re responsible for fumigating your quarters.
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Ridiculous or not? A $20-a-night fee to “guarantee” a non-smoking room

Editor’s note: I’ve changed my Wednesday feature, “That’s ridiculous!” to make it more interactive. Now you can vote on whether a new fee or practice is — or isn’t — ridiculous. By the way, if you’ve seen something outrageous that you’d like to nominate, please .

When Teri Salmons clicked on the MGM Grand’s website to reserve a room recently, she found an “unbelievable” new fee.

Next to options for early check-in ($20) and late check-out ($20) she saw a $20 per day fee for “guaranteeing” a non-smoking room.

That’s right. You have to pay extra if you want to stay away from the smoke.

“Most hotels are either all non-smoking these days, or at least the majority of their rooms are non-smoking,” says Salmons, a Baltimore-based consultant. “What will they think of next — pay toilets?”
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Can this trip be saved? They didn’t have my smoking room, so who pays to fix it?

Like 21 percent of other Americans, Larry Vail smokes. Having a room where he can light up is important when he travels, so when he booked his accommodations at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort & Spa through Bookit.com, he made sure it was a designated smoking room.

“This was our fifth trip to Jamaica and we have always reserved a smoking room without any problem,” he says.

Not this time.

Even though the all-inclusive resort offers smoking rooms online, and even though Bookit.com says he had one, he didn’t get one when he checked in.
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A fee for lighting up in our room? But we don’t smoke!

Question: My brother, his wife and two kids, ages 17 and 20, recently visited me to attend my wedding. They booked a room for one night at the Best Western Yucca Valley Hotel & Suites. When I returned from my honeymoon, I learned the hotel had tacked on a $250 charge for smoking in a nonsmoking room.

My brother and his family do not smoke. Never have. When I called the hotel, I was told that a housekeeper had found ashes on the windowsill in the room. I asked if it was possible if one of the housekeepers or a workman had smoked in the room, not realizing that it was a nonsmoking room. I was told in no uncertain terms that none of the employees had smoked in the room.

I asked to speak with the manager and was told she was not there but I could leave my number and she would get back to me. I did this several times over the past two months, but the manager is never there. I’ve also tried to contact the hotel’s owner, but I’ve never been able to get through to a real person. Can you help? — Barbara Prestridge, Yucca Valley, Calif.

Answer: Best Western shouldn’t have charged a $250 cleaning fee unless it had hard evidence that your brother and his family were lighting up in the room.
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