Frequent travelers know too well the following scenario.
Bad weather leaves a traveler arriving to his hotel tired, weary and woefully late. The traveler pre-paid for the hotel reservation. He now tries to check-in. Alas the late-night desk clerk tells him there is now no room in the inn.
“How can that be?” asks the weary traveler. “You knew I was coming, right?”
The desk clerk blushes. “Well, sir…uh, not exactly, because you weren’t actually here when someone else arrived…so they got here first, we apologize.”
“But, I paid ahead for you to save me a room. Did you lose my reservation?”
The desk clerk’s color deepens. “Uh, well, not really…”
The clerk clears his throat. “But here is what we will do for you, sir. We are going to, at our expense, put you in another hotel just down the street.”
The traveler sighs, “I don’t want to go to another hotel. I’m hungry and thirsty. I want to go to the room I reserved here, turn on the television, lay down and finally relax.”
“Yes, sir, and you’ll be able to do all those things just as soon as you arrive in the other hotel just down the street.” The clerk’s mouth thinly smiles.
“How far down the street?”
“Oh, um…about 9 or 10 miles.”
“But my conference is right across from this hotel.”
“I’m so sorry about that, sir. It’s just that we overbooked the hotel and when we do that…”
“We overbooked the hotel. You know, we promised to put up more people than we actually can.”
The traveler’s body becomes taut. “Why, would you do that?”
“Well, naturally because we don’t want to have any empty rooms.”
“Why does it matter if my room is empty, I’ve already paid for it haven’t I?”
“Um, well, yes, but…”
“And if I don’t show up y’all keep the money, right?”
“Yes, sir, of course.”
“Why do you say of course?”
“Because we had to hold a room for you.”
“Okay, great then I’ll take that one.”
“Which one, sir?”
“The room you say you held that I paid for with the money you already have.”
“But, I just told you we gave it to some one else. There are no rooms now.”
The traveler clenches his teeth. “So, we both agree that I’ve done everything I said I was going to do, correct? I mean I paid for a room for tonight. I told y’all I’d be here and I’m here, right?”
“Certainly, sir.” The desk clerk’s eyes search the distance.
“And what has the hotel done that it agreed to do?”
“Um, what do you mean sir?”
“Well, has the hotel kept its promise to me?”
“Did you hear me?”
“Yes, sir I did,” the clerk whispers.
“Are you going to answer me?”
“Well, I suppose it appears we didn’t keep our promise…but we’re trying to make it right by putting you up somewhere else. Isn’t that enough?”
The exasperated traveler restrains himself. “No it isn’t frankly. I paid you to provide me a room at this location, not another. I paid you to let me have full access to a room right when I got here, not to be treated like a domesticated beast hauled from one locale to another miles away in the middle of the night.”
“Well, sir,” the rattled clerk responds, “I can say again we’re very sorry, but all we can do is find somewhere else to put you.”
If you’ve had this experience in the last four years, I’d love to hear from you. Hotel chains intentionally and routinely overbook their hotels and breach their contracts in the process. Frequent travelers have the power to stop this nonsense by filing class actions against hotels that engage in this brand of insanity. We’re filing one of these cases in the near future and will enjoy working to end this absurd practice.