Christopher Elliott, The Travel Troubleshooter, July 9, 2013
Liz Egland thinks she has a reservation at 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?
Q: 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 more than $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.
A: 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 rundown 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.
(Christopher Elliott is the author of "Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals" (Wiley). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at [email protected]. Christopher Elliott receives a great deal of reader mail, and though he answers them as quickly as possible, your story may not be published for several months because of a backlog of cases.)