Avoid the latest hotel scam

This is one ‘walk’ you definitely don’t want to make.

You arrive at your hotel only to be told it is overbooked and the room you reserved is not available. As compensation, you are offered accommodation at another property that the hotel may or may not claim is comparable in quality. The only trouble is, it’s not — and you have been, in industry-speak, officially ‘walked-down’.

In an article on CNN.com, ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine Christopher Elliott says the reason for the practice is simple: pure profit. When a guest is “walked” the hotel must cover the cost of your new accommodation — and it can save money by sending you to a lesser property and pocketing the difference.

Even in a downward economy that has seen room occupation rates at an all-time low, people are still being walked down, experts say. In fact, according to Elliott, in some cases the hotel may not be actually booked, but holding rooms in reserve for VIPs.

If you’re downgraded…

So what if it happens to you? Elliott offers these 5 tips.

Refuse the room. Instead of immediately agreeing to the alternative accommodation, politely stand your ground and remind the hotel that you have a guaranteed reservation. Even if you still have to move, chances are that you’ll be sent to a better property.

Try to find out the real story . When a hotel says your room isn’t available, it doesn’t necessarily mean the hotel is full. Often managers hold back a number of rooms for VIPs just in case one happens to show up. Understanding that full doesn’t always literally mean “full” can be useful when you’re negotiating the terms of being relocated. If a hotel employee admits that a few rooms are being held for late-arriving VIPs, you might talk your way into a better hotel.

Invoke your status . If you’re a frequent guest, and you’re in danger of being walked down, this would be a good time to reveal your program membership card or any other clout you might have. Again, even if you’re “walked”, it may not necessarily be “down”.

Use humour. You may not feel in a humourous mood, but cracking a joke just might help. In his article, Elliott quotes a guest faced with a walk down from a Marriott property in Los Angeles. “What would you do if J.W. Marriott were in town?” he asked the clerk. “Well, I’m sure we’d find Mr. Marriott something,” the employee responded. “Well,” the guest replied, “I have it on good authority that he’s not coming — and I’ll take his room.” The clerk laughed — and in the end, managed to find him a room.

Be nice. When faced with an involuntary downgrade, you may not be feeling very nice either — but putting on your diplomatic hat could make the difference between being downgraded and upgraded. If you’re told there’s no room at the hotel, politely ask to speak with a manager. Hotel employees frequently go out of the way to help a friendly guest.

See to the details. When a hotel is overbooked, it should do everything it can to make you happy. If you’re being moved, ask for perks such as taxi fares and complimentary breakfast.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Vinko Murko

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