Monday, July 22, 2013

How to get screwed on vacation. Otherwise known as why Choice Hotels suck.

I don't know if you remember, but WAY back in February, after our flight to Florida had been booked, I was extensively looking for hotels within our budget. We had a small budget which basically ensured we'd either have to find the steal of the century or we would be staying in the ghetto.

Well the Orlando hotel was a breeze to book and while it wasn't in the ghetto, it ended up being the run down entry point to a larger time share facility just down the road. Which of course had it's one draw backs considering there was no free breakfast as outlined online nor was there free wi-fi because it was down for no apparent reason, but you also got slammed about a time share presentation anytime you walked into the lobby. And the best part of those is that we all know they are absolute scams yet they scoff at you like you are the real asshole here for not buying in.

But the hotel in Spring Hill was my real nightmare and I didn't even know it until I showed up. You see, back in February I booked the hotel online and like most hotels now, it was an advance rate, meaning you pay now and stay later. Which, not a big deal as I had the funds and I've done this before with no issues. It was supposed to be a Quality Inn, and I booked it through choicehotels.com. My entire stay came to $259.32, and it left my checking account on February 8.

All was well until I showed up.

And found out that it is no longer a Quality Inn, it is now a Motel 6, which is not associated with Choice Hotels. I really didn't care until I found out that while my reservation (name and number of nights) transferred, my payment DID NOT. This meant I could either stay in my rental car like a homeless person for the next four nights OR I can pay Motel 6 $245.24.

To say I was pissed is an understatement.

Then to find out that AGAIN, no free breakfast despite it clearly being listed online?

It's a good thing I was too tired to yell at someone.

The desk attendant told me that while this sucks, there isn't anything he can do and I'd  have to call Choice Hotels. So I decided that I would just continue with my vacation and deal with it when I got home. Unfortunately, when I got home calling and dealing with the people at Choice Hotels is a nightmare.

The first person I got, Roxanne, tells me straight away that "this happens all of the time" and to just dispute it on my credit card.

Which, I cannot do because it was a debit card.

So I call back 5 minutes later and I get Roberta who initially is a dream because she actually is taking information down. I get a reference number which turns out to be very important if you want anyone to actually speak to you, and she says I have to email her proof I paid for the hotel a second time and we'll go from there with my refund. That was July 3.

On July 4th, while at the parade celebrating our independence, Roberta calls and leaves a message saying there was basically nothing she could do, just dispute it with my credit card.

WHAT PART OF "IT'S A DEBIT CARD, NOT A CREDIT CARD" IS DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND?!

I wait until Monday to call back because I'm fuming and I also have a leaking toilet and birds in our bathroom vent to contend with.

On Monday I talk to someone else who said basically, they can't do anything for me. I have to now go to my bank and have a conference call and go from there. They are going to instruct my bank how to file a dispute.

*sigh*

So I go to the bank. I fill out all of the necessary paperwork to dispute this. I leave there feeling like maybe, just maybe, I'll get my money back.

But no.

As it turns out, you can't dispute a charge if A) you authorized it and B) it was more than 90 days ago. Even if it's basically fraud, which this feels like fraud all around, there is nothing they can do on their end. And they felt terrible, and I even talked to the person who manages this for all of their branches. I went to the top brass and nothing.

So what do I do? Do I call Choice Hotels and get the "dispute it on your credit card" even though they don't know the difference? I mean, I'm really pissed off. What gets me is that their advanced rate says "cannot be cancelled, changed or refunded". Which is kind of understandable if I do any of these things, but it's OK if they do? And I understand hotels get bought out, that's not the issue. The issue is that they should have contacted me, they had my email, phone, and address- they had several ways in which to contact me and had all of February, March, April, May and part of June to do so to notify me that A) my reservation is not at a Quality Inn, B) I still hold a reservation and C) what do I do with my pre-paid room.

But no.

Because basically- they are running some kind of scam. And it's bullshit. Don't ever book a hotel through Choicehotels.com. Never, ever. They have some of the worst customer service I have ever encountered and they will rip you off.

So that, folks, is how you get scammed on your vacation. The lesson here is avoid Choice Hotels, don't ever use a debit card to reserve a hotel, and don't ever pre-pay.

6 comments:

Ruth said...

I never prepay. I always have this fear that I will end up getting the shaft, like you did.
Have you filed a complaint with the BBB? No company likes to have their rating go down. Put complaints everywhere you can think of. Facebook is a good place. Everyone that likes their page will see it. A lot of companies don't let you just write a comment, but you can comment on one of their statuses. I do that all the time when a company pisses me off.

ComfyMom~Stacey said...

The 90 day rule applies to credit cards as well. At least it has to any I have had, so it wouldn't matter if you had used a Visa and those idiots know that I bet.

I've been hung out on the 90 day thing when prepaying for tickets and it sucks. You are basically left dependent on the retailer's better nature to get your money back and plenty of retailers don't have one.

Steff said...

And I thought I was getting shafted when the reservation didn't tell me about the $25 resort fee for my $30 room! That sucks, and that's good to know to never go through them and to ALWAYS use my credit card!

Martha Woods said...

Damn! Thanks for the warning, but that sooooo sucks. I can't believe they're hanging you out like that! I'd be pissed too.

Mom Taxi Julie said...

I'll make sure and avoid that one, that's horrible!

Anonymous said...

Choice Hotels seems to be designed to rip people off. Customer service is as bad as I have ever seen.