Of course, this observation has nothing to do with any opinion regarding taxes… instead, I’m just super shocked how many hotels charge money after specifically stating in the award booking receipt I’d pay $0.00.
To go from zero to any amount of money means, at least to me, that there’s something really wrong. But when I’ve asked a hotel about this in person, nothing seems to happen, and it seems normal. But first let me explain what’s happened to me before, where I drew the line, and the results of the actions I took.
There are two main examples of this happening recently. Multiple times in the last tour of Europe did I notice taxes on rooms, but lately it seemed more than normal. Typically it’s $3 here, or $6 there… not a big deal.
But recently I checked out of a Radisson and got a bill for $34. “Um, it was a points night and I didn’t charge anything to the room.”
“Yes sir, this is the city tax”.
Okay, whatever. I know how this goes so I just paid it. Then I double checked at my next location. Yep, the confirmation when making the booking clearly stated that I’d spend $0. So I forwarded that email and pointed out the price I should have payed, and then I sent a picture of the receipt.
What really doesn’t make sense to me is that the bill at check out gave a percent for the different taxes. Something like 6% of one tax and 3% of another.
Hmm. Last time I check 9% of $0 is $0. How could they possible get $34? Which was basically the point of my email. I summed it up with two short points. 1) Your confirmation is $0 in taxes, and 2) the tax is 9% of $0, so where did $34 come from?
I didn’t get an answer on how 9% of an award night is $34, but I did get a refund. No worries.
The Big One
As I’ve said this has happened to me on hotel bookings many times before. Certainly a low percentage but definitely happens depending on the area and the chain. However, they were all small enough that I never made a fuss.
But last fall (2013) we took my Mom to Paris. Luckily a week before going a Holiday Inn in Paris went on IHG’s PointBreaks List (a list of hotels for 5,000 points a night). This is a sweet deal, so I booked 2 rooms for like 8 nights, since my mom wanted to do a lot in Paris.
The idea was that I would be spending a few points for two rooms but spending a week in hotels for free, for us and my mom. Imagine my surprise when early in the morning on the way to the airport, I mean like 5am early, when there’s one lowly staff on duty… I get the bill and it’s something like 10 Euros a night per room.
Uh… I don’t think so. I can’t remember the exact cost but over $200 for award nights!
However, it was clear that she was just doing her job. She hit check out, it printed a bill. So I paid and that was the first of two times I emailed a hotel over bogus fees and taxes that weren’t accurate to what I booked.
Here’s the kicker
I started thinking about it. The one in Paris only bothered me because it was so many nights. But really, it’s only because it was so many nights in a row that I noticed the big bill.
But think of all the hotels where I paid similar amounts just spread out over months or years. I’ve easily paid $200.
So at risk of sounding self-entitled, or like I’m trying to avoid taxes… I’m definitely going to keep track of whether or not confirmations mention the possibility of any more fees or taxes. If they specifically say the taxes are $0… then I’m going to tell them. “Hey look, it says right here that my final bill should be $0.”
This could easily make me look like a jerk, but I’ll try to be selective to times where it’s clear, and not be rude. Carrie likes to say, “ask clarifying statements”. Although I could take her advise and probably still end up sounding like a jerk.
For instance with a ‘clarifying question’ like this: “So are you stupid, or do you not know what zero dollars means?”
But am I right? Is this just mean, or is this actually a cheap move by the hotels? Inadvertently or not, if they aren’t supposed to be charging, then they shouldn’t be collecting money.