Recently, not only have hotels begun to overbook more rooms when they can, they've also begun to short change some travelers when too many guests show up and they run out of rooms. Before, when a hotel was overly full, the guest would be re-booked to a comparable hotel at no charge, and given free transportation there. This is usually referred to as 'walking' the guest.
However, as money's running short, the comparable part of the unwanted hotel change is often overlooked and the guest is moved to a less desirable hotel.
Here are 5 tips on making sure you're not swindled out of what you've paid for:
1. Refuse the alternative room
Just say no if the alternative offered isn't as good or better than what you booked. Or, if you simply don't want to change hotels. Just remember to be polite while standing your ground and try to work with the hotel staff. If all rooms at your standard are booked out, suggest getting an upgrade to a suite. And if everything's really booked out, ask for a free meal or two in addition to the replacement room.
2. Know what's really going on
Often, a hotel will have other rooms available, but they're booked by guests seen as more profitable than you. Those are frequent guests (those with loyalty cards), corporate guests, and other VIPs such as those booking directly with the hotel. So ask the question: "Do you have any rooms still waiting for other travelers."
If a member of staff admits they do, use that as leverage to secure a better hotel as your alternative unless you can get them to free up one of those rooms.
3. Use your frequent guest status
If you actually are one of the frequent guests mentioned above, now might be a good time to mention your status as one of their VIPs. After all, a hotel doesn't want to walk a guest that's likely to come back time and again.
4. Have a sense of humor
Maybe it doesn't seem very useful, but keeping your sense of humor in a fraught situation can defuse it quickly and secure a good compromise. Remember that the hotel staff doesn't like walking you either (unless you've already proven to be a pain in the ass, that is) and could use a laugh too. If nothing else, it makes the experience more bearable.
5. Just be nice
We all like to be nice to those who are nice to us. So being friendly and pleasant can be your best ally in avoiding an involuntary hotel room downgrade. In fact, just being nice to the hotel staff will often trump frequent guest status or other 'VIP' criteria. After all, if you treat the staff as if they're the VIPs here, a rare occurence, they'll want to return the favor.
So, those are my 5 tips for making sure you're not getting the short end of the stick when your hotel might walk you. Do you have any experience of being moved to another hotel after overbooking? If so, how did you feel about the experience?
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That's a shame
I would have loved to see some more information on that research. In my dark hours (the day job...) I'm in marketing.
Jack on 27 May, 2009