guest post by Sherry Gray
You plan and save for your perfect vacation, pack, get on a plane and arrive at your destination…only to find there’s no room at the inn. The hotel room you booked months in advance is not waiting for you and now you’re in a strange city with your luggage at your feet and nowhere for your family to sleep. Sounds like a nightmare…and it happens more often than you might imagine.
The good news is that the hotel doesn’t want bad press, so the management will do everything it can to help you find a room elsewhere.
The bad news is that elsewhere might not meet your needs or desires. This is especially true if you had not planned to rent a car and no hotels have available rooms within walking distance of your intended destination. If special arrangements have to be made, ask the hotel to pick up the tab. You can also pressure them to upgrade your room for free. Don’t give up, just stand your ground until they cough up a solution. Hey, you never know. Maybe there are no rooms in the entire city, but the presidential suite is available. It could happen.
Hotels overbook because rooms are like a perishable commodity. If the day goes by and the guest doesn’t show, the sale opportunity is lost and they can’t get that revenue back. If they book two guests for the same room and only one shows, they get to keep the no-show reservation fee as a bonus, so they make extra money on that room for the night. If two guests show up for the same room, they still get the room money…and in most cases they just have to make a few phone calls to find a room at another hotel. Most of the time, overbooking is a winning situation for them. Occasionally, problems arise and they wind up paying a little compensation, but most guests who have to be moved are too confused, anxious and angry to press for inconvenience perks, so they break even.
Stuff happens, and in some cases you’ll be bumped from your room no matter what you do. But there are a few things you can do to ensure that you’re not one of the travelers who gets booted.
Tips To Avoid Hotel Overbooking:
- First and most importantly, book your room with a credit card. This does mean putting up a deposit in advance, but it also means that you have legal recourse. They promised you the room in writing and you have proof. Make sure they spell your name right.
- Make your reservations well in advance and confirm a few days before your vacation.
- Print out everything they send you – reservation confirmation, room details, etc. If you call the reservation in, ask for written confirmation by email, fax or letter. Check to make sure they actually spelled your name right. If not, correct it and ask for another written confirmation. Then take it with you. You’ll want to wave it in the manager’s face while you’re yelling. Preferably in the lobby of the hotel, in full view of other guests checking in. Professional embarrassment is powerful incentive.
- Notify the hotel if you want late check-in or if you’re delayed for any reason. They will consider you a no-show and give away your room if you arrive late, and there’s little you can do about it because you broke the contract. They might even keep your reservation fee.
- To better assess your chances of getting booted, ask the hotel if they are hosting a convention or event at the same time, or if there is a huge citywide event going on. Unless you’re visiting to attend the event or convention, you might want to find lodging in another area.
For perspective, consider what happened to the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2008 World Series against the Phillies. Game three in Philly was washed out by a huge storm and scheduled to be replayed the following night. But the Rays had already given up their rooms…they planned to leave right after the game to gear up for game four on their home turf. With the city stuffed to its limits with baseball fans, ironically there to see the game, there weren’t enough hotel rooms for the team in all of Philadelphia. In fact, they had to leave the state. They wound up at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware, 35 minutes away.
Just imagine the hotel overbooking nightmare in Philly, with a stadium full of fans plus the media, all extending their stay an extra day – extended stays are another reason you might get bumped.
Generally speaking, if you do get bumped, here’s what you’re entitled to:
- The hotel you booked should make new arrangements and provide transportation to the new hotel.
- If you paid in advance, they should pay for the room, and if the room is more expensive, they should pay the difference.
- They should offer free use of a phone to notify others of your change of plan. Personally, I’d use it call my aunt in Hawaii for a chat while I waited, but I may be just a tiny bit vengeful.
- Ask about additional perks if you are enrolled in a hotel loyalty program.
Other reasonable requests that might be offered or honored include room upgrades, complimentary stays at another time, free movies, and if finding a new room takes a long time, ask for a free dinner or drinks while you wait.
If the hotel staff is uncooperative or rude, the hotel they try to park you in is a fleabag in cracktown or so far away it costs you a small fortune to get where you need to go, make noise. Call the hotel management in the morning and if their answers leave you unsatisfied, go corporate with your complaints…and go online. Let them know you’ll spread the tale in the comment section of every hotel review site on the internet. Take that.
Photo Credit: russellsmith on Flickr.