By Christopher Elliott
Question: I have had an ongoing dispute with the Econo Lodge Motel in East Hartford, Conn. This spring, I called the hotel directly and made a reservation for that evening for a single night’s stay, at a cost of approximately $75. We checked in at 10:30 p.m.
The next morning, I asked what I needed to do when I checked out. A clerk said that everything had been taken care of the night before. We went to our room, packed, and left at 7 a.m.
When I got my credit card statement, I was billed for two nights. I called and was told I had stayed two nights and that the computer system “confirmed” this. However, I only stayed the night, regardless of what the computer says.
It has basically come down to a “he said/she said” scenario. They claim that because of the computer documentation and the fact that they sent a housekeeper on the second day, that I stayed a second night.
When I called the hotel, it refused to credit me for the second night. My husband contacted the hotel and reached a compromise with the manager, who agreed to refund half of the second night stay, basically splitting the cost of the room. We never received this credit.
I tried to dispute the charge on my credit card, but they couldn’t help. I appealed to the corporate offices of Econo Lodge, but they just referred me back to the hotel. Can you help me?
Lenore Davies, Cheltenham, Pa.
Answer: Econo Lodge should have only charged you for one day. The most compelling proof that you stayed one night would have been your reservation and quoted room rate.
That’s one of the advantages of booking either online or through a trusted travel agent: You get a written confirmation of your reservation, which you can refer back to in case of a dispute. Because you made your arrangements by phone, you had no proof that you were only supposed to stay at the hotel one night.
Still, the hotel should have asked you to sign a form acknowledging the room rate and the number of nights you were staying. If you made a reservation by phone, you have to pay close attention to this contract, because it’s the next best thing to a written confirmation.
Asking a hotel clerk what you need in order to check out isn’t the same thing as getting a hotel folio under your door or from the front desk. You should have asked for a bill when you left, not taken an employee’s word for it.
After you were charged for the extra night, the hotel (and failing that, your credit card) should have stepped in to fix it. I’m not sure why that didn’t happen.
Econo Lodge should have at least sent you an explanation for why it was charging you for two nights, but it appears that even that was asking too much. Instead, it simply refused to give you a meaningful answer, beyond denying your refund request. I think you deserve better.
I contacted Econo Lodge on your behalf. It apologized and refunded the second night.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
&Copy; 2011 Christopher Elliott distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.