They renamed the hotel and canceled my reservation

Vladitto/Shutterstock
Vladitto/Shutterstock

Liz Egland thinks she has a reservation at a Holiday Inn. But she’s wrong. The hotel has canceled her reservation and wants her to pay more than double to get it back. Is it allowed to do that?

Question: I made a reservation at the Comfort Inn in Troutdale, Ore., this fall, and received a confirmation number. At that time I was told that the hotel was in the process of being sold and would become a Holiday Inn Express and the reservation would be honored.

Last month, I got a call from the Comfort Inn that the sale had gone through and to contact the Holiday Inn Express Troutdale directly to verify my existing reservation. When I made this call, they indicated they no longer had a reservation for me, so they will not be honoring the contract I had with the Comfort Inn.

I asked to speak to a manager and was transferred to the voicemail of the general manager. He called me back and indicated they no longer have a room for me, and the Comfort Inn should be putting us up somewhere else nearby, which would not be near the area where we are attending an activity those nights, so we might as well stay at home each night. He also said that the Holiday Inn Express summer rates are now over $200 per night. I had made a reservation at $90 a night.

Is this legal and or ethical? Do we have any recourse? — Liz Egland, Portland, Ore.

Answer: The hotel should have honored your reservation. That’s the ethical thing to do, especially given the fact that they knew the Comfort Inn would be reflagged as a Holiday Inn Express before your stay.

Hotels are regulated by your state, so you would have to consult Oregon’s lodging statutes and review its applicable contract rules to determine if the hotel broke the law by canceling your reservation. But you don’t really need a lawyer to tell you this is wrong, do you?

By the way, there are scenarios under which a hotel might modify an existing reservation. Let’s say you booked a room at a run-down property before it was sold, and between the time you made the reservation and your stay, it was purchased and the new owners gutted the property and gave it a top-to-bottom facelift. The resulting product would be priced higher, and I can see why a property might either cancel the reservation or modify it, asking you to pay a new, higher room rate.

That doesn’t seem to be the case here. You could have taken your grievance a step farther, reaching out to Holiday Inn and Comfort Inn through their corporate websites. They could have applied some pressure on their hotels to do the right thing, which would be to either rebook you at a hotel close to your event or honor your existing reservation.

I contacted Holiday Inn on your behalf. The hotel’s general manager called you and offered to honor your reservation at $10 above the original price, which you agreed to.

Should hotels be allowed to cancel their reservations when they're reflagged?

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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 . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • y_p_w

    Troutdale?

    If I were staying there and had plenty of time to get a reservation, I’d pick McMenamin’s Edgefield. That place is just so fun. I’m guessing that whatever activity they were doing was probably at Edgefield, which was originally the Multnomah County Poor Farm. It’s a bit difficult getting a hotel reservation there.

    http://www.mcmenamins.com/54-edgefield-home

  • Jerry

    One of the things to consider but was not mentioned in the article. Did the consumer pre pay or make a deposit for the room? If in fact she did, then a contract was created, and her reservation should have been honored. I

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Those provisions generally require that the purchased property be a single family residence (curiously duplexes may qualify) and that the owner intends to reside in that property. A hotel would be wholly outside of that purview.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I dimly remember an article that Chris posted 2 – 3 years ago, and the advice that I gleaned from it was to CALL the hotel/motel a week prior to my trip to confirm my reservation and to let them know when I was coming in, if I had that information. I’ll add your advice to call ahead if I’m running late to that. Thanks!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I am not going to assume anything here.
    ————————————-
    Sure you are.
    hat the fundamental nature of contracts. If contracts were not written that way, they would each be 200 pages long.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Hey Carver, I have to agree with Michael_K on the fine print thing. I’m looking at some reservations I just made with a variety of lodgings for a trip I hope to take late next month and all the T & Cs available to me run along the lines that I understand that I have to pay for a night’s lodging if I don’t notify the hotel/motel by a set time on a set date that I won’t be coming.

    Since I’ve had to stare down managers and ask them to either provide my confirmed reservation or walk me, where can I find something in print to back me up?

    Thanks!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s actually not what I stated. But your misunderstanding is understandable. I stated that each hotel has a policy regarding being walked. Being walked just means that they find another hotel for you. As far as compensation, that’s a different but obviously highly correlated issue.
    As far as Marriott goes, it spells out the walking policy in detail for Gold and Platinum members.
    If you can find the contract which is incorporated by reference into your reservation,( not an easy feat) you will actually find the hotel’s obligations in a situation where they are unable to provide you with a room even though you have a reservation.
    This contract is separate from the loyalty program (e.g Starwood v SPG)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    You won’t find the fine print on your reservation. Its incorporated by reference, a perfectly legal but somewhat disingenuous as few would know to look). I had to obtain this contract as I helped a corporate client against Hilton about 8 years ago.

    PS. This contract is not online and it’s separate from the online T&C

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    You’ve proven the point by three statements:

    1. The buyer’s attorney “tries”. It doesn’t mean he or she is successful. What do you think the seller’s attorney is doing all this time. Exactly the opposite. . That’s why the buyer’s attorney will insist on due diligence reports as a condition of the sale.

    You are correct though in that a buyer will always try to characterize the sale as an asset sale. The problem is that 1)the seller may be unwilling since the liabilities remain with him and 2)the creditors may decide the litigate the point. Especially is the new business includes any of the previous business’s goodwill.

    2. Every business deal is unique…

    3. The promise of consideration ( consideration includes remuneration) is sufficient. Money does not actually have to exchange hands.

  • Chester P. Chucklebutt

    During the process of the sale the booked room should be treated as a liability (or asset, depending on your point of view) that runs with the property. The new owner should not be able to unilaterally cancel or modify the reservation; they knew what they were getting themself into when they purchased the property.

  • Michael__K

    My question wasn’t only about compensation. Which hotel have you ever come across that has something in writing “which explains that being walked is part of the contract?” Where did you find it?

    When I’ve been walked, I’ve asked to be pointed to written policies, and I’ve always been told that they don’t exist (other than the case of Marriott’s Ultimate Reservation Guarantee, which is for elite members).

    I’m looking at a future Marriott reservation confirmation right now. I see nothing in the confirmation or in any of the embedded links about being walked — other than the elite program guarantee.

    For Holiday Inn or Hilton or every single other hotel chain or OTA I have ever booked a reservation with, I’ve never come across any such written policy anywhere. And I’ve made an effort to look for such a policy….

  • Bryce Leinan

    Having worked for a reflagged hotel, I know that some reservations have to be manually rekeyed into the new hotel management system, however, I’ve never heard of a reservation being cancelled. I stayed in a Westin which was converted to Crowne Plaza without issues…

  • Michael__K

    Carver, would you be able share what the “incorporated by reference” reference looks like? I’ve pasted the full text of a future reservation confirmation below, with personal info redacted. Thanks!

    Reservation for xxx

    Confirmation Number: xxx
    Check-in: xxx
    Check-out: xxx

    Modify or Cancel reservation

    View hotel website
    Maps & Transportation
    Reservation Confirmation
    Dear xxx,
    We are pleased to confirm your reservation with xxx by Marriott. Below is a summary of your booking and room information. Enjoy your stay at xxx — warm, welcoming, affordable. Whenever you travel, keep us in mind because it’s always a great day at xxxx

    Planning Your Trip
    See what’s happening in xxx during your stay
    Check out some of xxx’s top attractions
    Book with Hertz: Save up to 35% and Earn 500 Rewards Points
    Book Cars, Tours & More – get great rates on local tours and attractions

    Reservation Details
    Confirmation Number: xxx
    Your hotel: xxx
    Check-in: xxx
    Check-out: xxx
    Room type: xxx
    Number of rooms: x
    Guests per room: x
    Guest name: xxx
    Reservation confirmed: xxx
    Guarantee method: Credit card guarantee, Master Card
    Special request(s): xxx
    Summary of Room Charges Cost per night per room (USD)
    xxx
    Regular rate
    Estimated government taxes and fees xxx
    Total for stay (for all rooms) xxx
    Complimentary on-site parking
    Changes in taxes or fees implemented after booking will affect the total room price.
    You may modify or cancel your reservation online (see details below), or call 1-800-228-2800 in the US and Canada. Elsewhere, call our worldwide telephone numbers.

    Contact us if you have questions about your reservation.

    Canceling Your Reservation
    You may cancel your reservation for no charge until 06:00 PM hotel time on xxx
    Please note that we will assess a fee of xxx if you must cancel after this deadline.
    If you have made a prepayment, we will retain all or part of your prepayment. If not, we will charge your credit card.
    Modifying Your Reservation
    Please note that a change in the length or dates of your reservation may result in a rate change.
    Rewards Account Information

    Your Rewards level: xxx
    Your Rewards number: xxx
    As a xxx member, you can enjoy the following benefits during your stay (may vary by hotel):
    xxx

    Travel Alerts
    All rates at this hotel include complimentary breakfast and in-room high speed internet access
    Download the Marriott Mobile App. The Perfect Travel CompanionTM
    Please Note: All Marriott hotels in the USA and Canada, are committed to a smoke-free policy.
    Learn more
    The Responsible Tourist and Traveler
    A practical guide to help you make your trip an enriching experience
    Look No Further
    You’ve received the best possible rate – guaranteed.
    Privacy, Authenticity and Opting Out
    Your privacy is important to us. Please visit our Privacy Statement for full details.
    This email confirmation is an auto-generated message. Replies to automated messages are not monitored. Our Internet Customer Care team is available to assist you 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Contact Internet Customer Care.
    Promotional email unsubscribe
    If you provided us with your email address for the first time, we will send you a follow-up email to welcome you. We will also send you periodic emails with information about your account balance, member status, special offers and promotions. An opt-out link will be included in each of these emails so that you can change your mind at any time.
    If you would prefer to opt out of such emails from Marriott International, Marriott Rewards or The Ritz-Carlton Rewards, you may do so here. In addition, you may unsubscribe from The Ritz-Carlton email community here
    Please note: Should you unsubscribe from promotional email, we will continue to send messages for transactions such as reservation confirmation, point redemption, etc.
    Confirmation Authenticity
    We’re sending you this confirmation notice electronically for your convenience. Marriott keeps an official record of all electronic reservations. We honor our official record only and will disregard any alterations to this confirmation that may have been made after we sent it to you.
    If you have received this email in error, please let us know.
    Terms of Use::Internet Privacy Statement
    ©1996-2013 Marriott International, Inc. All rights reserved. Marriott proprietary information.

  • Assana Fard

    I’ll be one of the black sheep and say yes, why not! Not because I’m on the side of the hotels, but because it appears that more and more customers feel entitled to “stuff”. The same way we want to be able to change reservation we have, any time, without any consequences, the businesses should too (as long as they don’t snarf the money).

  • James Penrose

    Where this gets interesting would be in the details of the contract selling the hotel and the applicable contract law in that state.

    Looking objectively and remembering I am not a lawyer. The reservation is with a given company at one of their properties. If that property is no longer owned by that company, it would seem there is no obligation on the face of it for company “B” to honor a reservation you made with company “A”.

    But…if the contract conveys assets and the selling company’s “good will”, those reservations are assets since quite likely the occupancy rate and booking levels figure strongly in the cost of the sale and thus the purchasing party would seem to be bound to honor existing reservation.

    When a landlord sells an apartment building, the leases remain in force and are not cancelled simply because someone else now owns the place.

    Be interesting but very expensive to see what the legal opinion would be on this sort of thing especially as I suspect the buying party often plays fast and loose with this since they stand to make more money since very few would care to spend the money involved in trying to litigate on the above theories.

    It boils down once more to corporations simply not giving a hoot about the customer and only providing service under protest and with extreme reluctance since they would greatly prefer you just send them money and never show up.

  • James Penrose

    Especially as the Hilton I used to work next to closed out its food facilities and only had in-house dining when major conventions booked in.
    Nearest restaurant was about three blocks away not counting office building lunch counters closer that were only open a couple of hours a day and not at all on weekends.

  • Bill___A

    Although I’m glad that they reinstated the reservation, they should not have been even allowed to create this issue.
    As for the $10 extra per night, was it really that important to the Holiday Inn manager to get that extra $10? If they would have honoured the reservation at the original rate, then that would have been the right thing to do.
    However, the “moral victory” he might have scored in having that rate go up $10 a night is quite frankly pathetic. I the scheme of things, what is he gaining by taking that extra money from someone who has already been so stressed out over this that they had to get Chris involved?
    After all of this, I should think that an apology is in order and they should adjust the rate to EXACTLY what it was. One complimentary night is in order also due to the trouble caused by this incident.
    It is great that Chris was able to mediate this to a more acceptable level, but shameful that Comfort/Holiday Inn don’t take care of things better. A standard takeover contract might read that all existing reservations should be honoured.
    And yes, the GUEST should have the option to cancel at no penalty if they reflag.

  • Bill___A

    I’m going to guess that she didn’t, otherwise they would have mentioned a refund or lack thereof.

  • Jason Hanna

    Wasn’t there a story a few months ago that was the exact opposite of this? The hotel was reflagged and the customer wanted to cancel a non-refundable reservation?

    Maybe i’m thinking of this one.. http://elliott.org/blog/the-inns-owners-are-out-why-wont-they-waive-my-cancellation-penalty or maybe this.. http://elliott.org/is-this-enough-compensation/what-does-marriott-owe-me-for-a-reflagging-nightmare/

  • TonyA_says

    Thanks. You actually answered my question about what happens when the “new” hotel has a different reservation system.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    For reservations made via the website(s)

    Marriott: By using this website you are accepting all the terms and conditions set forth below.

    Starwood: The offer of such goods and/or services
    is conditioned on the user’s (“User(‘s)” or “You(r)”)
    acceptance of the terms and conditions and notices set forth herein and on
    other pages of the Site (collectively the “Terms”).

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I think a customer should be able to cancel a reservation upon the hotel being reflagged. I think that reflagging is a material alteration of the circumstances by the hotel that is almost a breach sufficient to make the contract voidable within a reasonable time after notice.

  • Michael__K

    The excerpts you quote link to the general website terms… which I don’t believe mention any possibility of getting walked—

    Marriott: http://www.marriott.com/marriott/termsofuse-us.mi
    Starwood: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/corporate/terms_conditions.html

    Starwood mentions overbooking only in the context that they are not responsible for errors (such as overbooking) by third parties suppliers that are outside of their control. For their own properties, they only say that room type is not guaranteed.

    Marriott makes no mention of over-booking whatsoever outside of their elite loyalty terms.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I was responding specifically to your questions about incorporation by reference. The point being that your reservation papers do not form the entire contract between you and the hotel.

  • Michael__K

    So where is the rest of the contract between the guest and the hotel if not on the web page that’s actually linked to that reference?

    I’ve checked the sorts of references you cite for several different hotels and OTA’s and I don’t see any with terms that explain overbooking and/or getting walked. You wrote “this contract is not online” so I thought maybe there are references to addresses or phone numbers for requesting additional details. But I don’t see that either. When I’ve called general customer service I’ve been told there are no written policies that customers are privy to.

  • Jason Hanna

    If that’s the case, then I assume you agree that the hotel should have the same option and nothing is out of line with what happened in this situation? i’ve read through your other comments, and I can’t tell which side you’re coming down on here..

    It seems to me that the majority of people are arguing for whichever side benefits the consumer the most. Having their cake and eating it, too.

    Personally, I look at this as if a hotel is sold/reflagged, then any reservation that is.. Maybe 2 to 3 months or less from coming due is set in stone. New owners have to accept and customer is bound to the terms when the reservation was made. Over 2 to 3 months, then notification should be made to the reservation holder and a short time period opens where either side can back out. That, of course, will just lead to “I didn’t get notification…” claims. Assuming that the new owners close the hotel for renovations or similar.. Then they’re on the hook for walking the customer.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Numerous places. Everything from the $200 smoking charge listed on the folio slip to the placard on the wall stating no guests after 10pm. All are part of the policies that you must abide by and are part of your contract.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The assumption is incorrect. It presupposes that both the customer and the hotel have equal rights. That is not true. For example a customer can cancel a room before the cancellation period. The hotel cannot.

    The reason why you can’t tell where I fall in general is because I myself don’t know. I’m more inclined to side with the customer because the reflagging was the hotels action, not the customers.

  • Michael__K

    If the hotel is overbooked and won’t let me stay, I’ll never see a folio slip or a placard on the wall.

    When you wrote:

    you must read the fine print which explains that being walked is part of the contract that you have with the hotel.

    I thought that meant that you’ve seen such fine print (re: being walked) for one or more hotels and may be able to point out where or how I might find it. If you can do that, I would be grateful. And other readers might be interested too. Thanks.

  • Jason Hanna

    I’ll agree that it isn’t black and white.

    There’s this.. “When I made this call, they indicated they no longer had a reservation for me”

    Which.. Doesn’t necessarily shout to me that they cancelled the reservation. No doubt there’s two different reservation systems in play here, and a strong possibility that the OPs reservation just never made the trip from Comfort’s system to HI’s system..

    Something that’s actually a nagging question for me.. Why does a hotel room at a HIX cost $200 in Troutdale, OR? Moot point because it does, but still..

    Something else… It seems there was no correspondence with Comfort after the “Hotel’s been sold.. Moose out front should have told you”.. Wonder if the OP ever contacted Comfort again to see if the ‘missing’ reservation was just a mistake/oversight?

    I’d say from my perspective, without full info.. Onus is on Comfort for anything.. The reservation was with them. If the best they can do is unacceptable.. Then hand any monies back over and be done.

    Now.. The BEST outcome is that Comfort and HIX work together on this situation to provide the best service possible to the customer. I don’t think the OP is particularly asking for anything egregious here.

  • Marcin Jeske

    I think Carver has it just right citing a “material alteration of the circumstances” on the part of the hotel. A reservation is an agreement between you and the hotel that you will show up and give them money at a certain date, while they in return will provide you with an expected standard of accommodation.

    If you don’t show up or provide the money, the hotel has the right to cancel the reservation… conversely, if the hotel changes the standard of accommodation, you have the right to cancel the reservation.

    These rights are over and beyond any “free cancellation 24 hours in advance” offer from the hotel.

    In the Troutdale case… the reflagging was a change in the accommodation, giving the guest the right to cancel, but there was no change in the guest’s part of the agreement (showing up on a certain date with money in hand), so not supporting the hotel’s right to cancel.

    On the other hand, I have read of reflaggings in the past where guests already staying at the property were kicked out, and if the reflagging is at all bitter, it is easy for the old and new management to cause lots of inconvenience for guest, despite that seemingly not being in any group’s interest.

  • DeVon Thomas

    That’s the way it works if the hotel is sold out. They pay for accommodations for 1 night at another hotel, and usually bring you back for the remainder of your stay. If everything is sold out in the area, the hotel with availability may be a distance. It appears they were not really sold out because they accommodated you which he should have done when you called the first time.

  • Daddydo

    I really don’t see any laws being referred to or broken. Rights are a totally different thing; they are being taken advantage of. We went through a lot of negotiations with a very reputable hotel when they rebranded Crown Plaza to Sheraton. It is a courtesy, not at right or a requirement. When 1 agency tells a hotel good bye, it does not really hurt, but when an agent tells the entire ASTA chapter, that hotel is destroyed. Travel agent always protect their clients!