After Keith Murphy checked out of his Marriott hotel room, he was charged a $250 fee for smoking in his room and $43 for taxes on the fee, but there wasn’t any smoking in the room — so why is Marriott billing him?
Question: I stayed in the Marriott hotel in Birmingham, Ala., over the New Year holiday. After checking out, I noticed additional charges of $250 and $43. I hadn’t been notified of any additional charges, so I attempted to call the hotel. The front desk wouldn’t answer. The reservation line answered and transferred me to customer service. The customer service agent asked me to hold while the charge was researched, and then hung up on me after about 15 minutes. I gave up that evening and called the next day. I had been told that the general manager would be available at the time I called, but when I called, they said he was off. I finally got through to an assistant manager who said the $250 was a smoking charge and the $43 was for tax on the smoking charge.
I told the assistant manager that I was on medication for pneumonia and certainly didn’t smoke. I asked for evidence and she said that a smoke odor in the room required them to send the curtains to a dry cleaner. There was no physical evidence presented to me. She also said that several other rooms were charged for smoking over the holiday. I think that I am being wrongfully lumped in with other rooms. Marriott won’t budge. Can you help me obtain a refund?– Keith Murphy, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Answer: Marriott shouldn’t have billed you for a smoke odor in the curtains if you didn’t smoke in the room. When you finally reached the Marriott assistant manager, she should have taken your recovery from pneumonia seriously. She also should have considered the likelihood that your room was caught up in a sweep of rooms that had smoking occupants.
Adding insult to the $250 smoking charge was the $43 tax imposed on the smoking charge — bringing the total to almost $300. We’ve never seen tax imposed on a smoking charge, so we had questions about the applicability of such a tax.
According to the Alabama Department of Revenue a hotel must charge tax on a separate cleaning fee if it is “in addition to the charge for the use of a room.” The assistant manager told you that the curtains had to be sent to a dry cleaner, so it appears that the hotel appropriately imposed tax on the cleaning fee that was added to your room charge.
Although your communication with the hotel had been via phone, we suggested that you send an email to Marriott customer support. We also suggested that you also send emails to Marriott executives whose contact information you could find on our website. We also suggested that you review posts, or post your question in our help forums.
In addition to your emails sent to Marriott executives, we contacted Marriott on your behalf. You were contacted by a Marriott executive and informed that the claims of smoke odor were insufficient to charge you the smoking fee. We are quite pleased that you received a full refund of the smoking fee and the tax that you requested.