To many people, making and breaking a hotel reservation seems like a simple thing. You give a credit card number to hold the room for late arrival. You get a confirmation number. To get all your money back, you know you should cancel by . . .
Well, in many hotels, by 6 p.m. on the day of your scheduled arrival. In others, by 4 p.m. In still others, a full day ahead. Or two full days ahead. Or more, depending on the hotel, the locale and the season.As a recent batch of communiques from the battlefield to this office suggests, travelers and their hotels frequently fail to hotel's policy in advance, and never assume that one hotel follows the same policy as others, even if it shares a brand name. But sometimes even those precautions aren't enough, and a little feistiness is in order. Consider these tales from the front.
- A psychologist from Orange, Calif., Fredrick L. McGuire, journeyed to England this summer with his wife. In advance of arrival, McGuire said, they had reserved two nights at a hotel in Manchester. But they decided to change plans and canceled the reservation, assuming that since they had given more than four days' notice, there would be no charge.
On return to California, however, the McGuires' Visa bill showed they'd been charged for two nights at the hotel. This angered the McGuires, who recalled that their confirmation letter from the hotel's management never mentioned its cancellation policy. When the hotel management declined to split the difference in this dispute - that is, accept payment for one night rather than two - the McGuires got even angrier. Now they're protesting this charge through their credit card company. No word on the resolution so far.
- Janet Kessler of Ventura, Calif., had friends coming to visit in July from out of town. She made a reservation for three nights at a local chain hotel at a discounted rate. She remembers being informed that the cancellation deadline was 6 p.m. on the night before arrival. But when her friends' plans changed and Kessler needed to reduce the reservation from three nights to two, the clerk told her the special rate applied to three nights. She complained vehemently and the refund showed up in Kessler's next credit card bill.