Q: This summer, I made a reservation by phone for a stay at the Days Inn property in Maui, Hawaii. I was quoted $108 a day plus three free breakfasts for me and my son.
When we arrived, it took more than 45 minutes to check in. After all that waiting, we signed paperwork that did not show the price until the very last sheet, which showed a much higher rate than $108 per night for five nights.
I gave the receptionist my confirmation number, and was told that the rate I’d been quoted by phone was wrong. The actual rate was between $129 and $189 per night, depending on the day, plus tax.
The receptionist told me to call reservations back. I called the same evening we arrived and was on the phone for over an hour. Reservations called the hotel back, and a representative later told me that the company was going to write up the hotel because the receptionists were rude and put reservations on hold three times with no resolution.
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I was told that an investigation would take place and that I would hear back within 10 days. I never did. When I checked out, the hotel would not let me leave without paying the whole amount.
I’ve sent a detailed letter to the CEO of Days Inn with a return receipt requested. It was signed for, but I never got a response. I’d like Days Inn to adjust my rate and refund the $600 extra I had to pay. Can you help me?
A: Days Inn should have charged you the rate you agreed to pay when you made your reservation — no more, no less. Your case underscores the importance of taking a printout of your reservation, including your rate, when you travel. Make sure there’s a reservation number, in case you need to verify the rate with your hotel. Don’t trust the company to keep these records; it might or might not, as you discovered.
Days Inn properties such as the one you stayed in are independently owned and operated, so corporate can’t always tell a hotel what to do. That might be why even Days Inn was getting hung up on as it tried to fix the price discrepancy. But the warning signs that this might be a difficult stay were there long before the pricing dispute: A 40-plus-minute wait to check in, even on a busy day, suggests that the hotel has some operational problems.
You imply that the hotel wanted to lure you in with a low rate and then charge you more, a classic bait-and-switch. I want to give the hotel the benefit of the doubt. Maybe its operational challenges extended beyond your long wait. Perhaps its reservations systems were affected as well, making it difficult to see the rate you were quoted.
The Days Inn property tried to address this by offering you a military rate, but you still were out $600, which is far too much. Incidentally, a $108-per-night rate in Maui is really, really good. Maui has a well-deserved reputation as a pricey destination.
You might have tried contacting one of the Days Inn customer-service executives. I list their names, numbers and email addresses on my consumer-advocacy site: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/wyndham-hotel-group/.
I contacted the company on your behalf, and it adjusted your rate, refunding the extra $600 you’d been charged.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.