If you're like most travelers, your largest single expense is probably lodging. Make sure you get your money's worth with these seven tips for dealing with hotel troubles.
1. Know how to handle hotels' overbooking.
Hotel managers routinely deal with problems associated with â€œoversales,â€ the industry term for booking more reservations than there are rooms. Even the best hotels engage in the practice, because a consistent percentage of all reservations are either canceled or result in no-shows. Often the hotel will have a nearby â€œsisterâ€ property or an arrangement with another chain or hotel to honor overbooked reservations. If this is the case, you can usually get an upgrade to a larger room or suite at the substitute property for no extra charge. If the room is the same or inferior to the one you have reserved, demand a rate reduction for your inconvenience and ask when a room at the hotel you originally chose will become available.
2. If there's a problem with your room, deal with someone in authority.
Try to settle your dispute with the front-desk personnel, but if you're still not satisfied, ask to speak to the general manager. Keep in mind that it's the job of the front-desk staff to solve problems without involving the general manager. Use this knowledge to your advantage in disputes over small matters. If your problem is a big one, though, cut to the chase and demand an audience with a person in authority.
3. In a dispute with a hotel, pretend you're already in court.
Write down the names of everyone you speak with, when you spoke with them, and what he or she said. If you have a camera, take photos relevant to your complaint. This information is handy for presenting to corporate public-relations personnel, who are very sensitive to these occurrences, and are often quick to compensate unhappy guestsâ€”sometimes quite generouslyâ€”for their troubles.
4. Ask for an adjustment or complete refund.
If hotel personnel are unable to deliver what you were promised, ask for an adjustmentâ€”a lower rate, for example, if you've gotten a lesser room than the one you were promised. If you received a confirmation notice and brought it with you, your claims will be all the more convincing.
5. Be specific, focused, and fair when resolving problems with hotels.
Regardless of the problem, be very specific about how you would like to see the situation resolved, but be fair: If noisy neighbors kept you awake one night of your two-night stay, don't demand a refund for both nights. You have a better chance of resolving your dispute if your expectations seem reasonable. Also, hotel managers have been trained to let aggravated customers vent until they tire of arguing, so be sure to initiate a dialogue rather than droning on ad nauseam. Stay focused, and reiterate your specific demands if the conversation veers away from the problem at hand.
6. Get confirmation of the resolution in writing.
Hotel managers have been known to say anything to put an end to a disagreeable situation. Once you and management have agreed on a solution, get confirmation of your agreement in writing.
7. Contest hotel charges.
If you believe your complaint was not handled satisfactorily, get the names of the people involved, keep your receipts, and call your credit-card company when you get home. Major credit-card companies have departments that deal with contested charges, and most companies will not charge your card while the matter is under investigation.
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