You Could Have Had Some, And Now You Have None

, , , , , , | Legal | October 9, 2020

I have booked and paid for a room at a small, local motel two months early for an event I’m attending. Shortly after I book my room, I find out that another, bigger, event has been scheduled for the area the same weekend I’ll be there. Naturally, the room rates for the hotel rise because of the bigger event, but I don’t think anything of it because I’ve already paid for my room.

When I arrive at the motel to check in, the owner is running the front counter.

Owner: “Hello, welcome to [Motel]! How can I help you?”

Me: “I have a reservation for [My Name].”

Owner: “Okay, great! Are you here for [Other Event that I’m not going to]?”

Me: “Nope, I’m here for [My Event].”

Owner: “Oh, yes! So, it looks like that’ll be $110 per night for three nights, for a total of $330.”

Me: “Um… no, my reservation should be paid for already.”

Owner: *Starting to turn rude* “Oh. Well, it doesn’t show that it is paid for, so you’ll have to pay now.”

Me: “I have the receipt from my reservation right here.”

I show him the printed receipt.

Owner: “Hmm. Well, there must have been an error with whatever site you booked through. We have not received payment for your reservation, so you need to pay now.”

Me: “I booked my room directly through your own website. I didn’t use any third-party service.”

Owner: “I see. I’ll tell you what. This ‘receipt’ you have—” *literally does air quotes* “—claims that you paid $80 per night. Our rate right now is $110 per night because of [Other Event]. For you, I will let you pay only the difference of $30 per night.”

Me: “No. When I booked my room, the rate was $80 per night. I have proof right here with this receipt that I paid that $80 per night. You cannot change the rate after I pay the original price. I’m pretty sure that’s illegal.”

Owner: “No, no, hotels do it all the time. What you paid when you book the room is only a deposit. You have to pay the rate for the nights you actually stay.”

Me: “Please cancel my reservation and refund my money. I am not staying here tonight.”

Owner: “I cannot refund money that I have not received.”

Me: “Give me five minutes to call my bank. I’ll have them find the transaction record to prove that I paid.”

Owner: “Fine. Call your bank.”

I walked out to the parking lot and called my bank. Not surprisingly, the representative was able to find the transaction using the information I gave them from my receipt. I told the representative what was going on, and he advised that my best option was not to keep pointlessly demanding a refund but to walk away from the motel completely and have my bank dispute the transaction with the motel’s bank.

Fortunately, I had enough money in my account to walk into another hotel that still had vacant rooms. When I told the employee at the new hotel what had happened at the first motel, she called her manager up to the desk. After hearing my story himself, the manager asked to see my receipt from the first motel, and then told the front-desk employee to give me the same $80-per-night rate that I had paid for the first motel instead of their advertised rate of $130 per night for those nights! He said I was the fifth person to walk in that night after fighting the first motel over the same thing I went through, and they were happy to make the price adjustment because it meant they could fill more rooms.

Four days after my phone call to my bank, the money from the first motel was back in my account. My event went great, and I’m definitely planning on going back next year and staying at the second hotel.

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