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hotel disasters

What to Do When a Hotel Tries to Screw You

You’ve carefully picked out the perfect hotel and made a reservation. But then you show up and nothing goes as planned. Maybe they assign you a terrible room. Maybe they’ve lost your reservation altogether. When these or other worst-case-scenario hotel disasters strike, here’s what to do.

When the Hotel Loses Your Reservation

Your best line of defense against a lost reservation is to plan ahead. Call a few days before you arrive to confirm your booking, and have a copy of your reservation saved on your phone or printed out. If you’ve paid a deposit, make sure you point that out, too (since you’ll have proof from your credit card company). If the hotel has space, it should accommodate you. If it can’t, insist that it helps you find a room at a nearby property at no additional cost to you.

When the Hotel Gives You a Bad Room

You’re going to get stuck next to the ice machine or the elevator eventually. If you’ve scored the worst room in the hotel but it still qualifies as the room category you paid for, there’s not much you can do except politely ask for a new room.

Make the request immediately upon getting to your room (without touching anything) so that the hotel staff doesn’t have to clean the room again if they move you. And if you can, check-in early so that there will be more empty rooms for you to choose from.

When the Hotel Walks You to Another Hotel

Sometimes, being “walked” to another hotel (in which your original hotel is overbooked, so it has to pay to put you up somewhere else) works in your favor. You’ll generally be taken to a place that’s either the same level or nicer than your original hotel, and you may be offered some freebies to make up for the hassle.

The downside: If you booked a stay longer than one night, you may have to deal with the inconvenience of changing rooms/properties multiple times. Negotiate for additional freebies, a nicer room category, or the ability to stay at the new hotel for your entire stay. The hotel knows that it’s in the wrong here, so it should bend over backwards to accommodate you.

When the Hotel Tries to Downgrade You

When the hotel downgrades you to an inferior room class, you have two options. If you don’t really care about your room, you should simply ask to be compensated for the difference in price between the room level that you received and the one that you booked. But if you had your heart set on a nicer room, insist on being upgraded rather than downgraded if your original room level isn’t available.

If the hotel is fully booked and can’t accommodate your request for an update, it should refund you the price difference. You may also be able to negotiate for additional perks to make up for the hassle, such as a late checkout.

When the Hotel Authorizes Your Credit Card for a Large Amount without Telling You

Hotels often hold a large amount of money on your credit card in case you damage the room. The money is never actually taken out of your account, but you don’t have access to it while the hold is in place. If the hotel doesn’t give you advanced notice that it’s doing this, and you have limited credit available, ask the front desk staff to lower the hold or split the amount across multiple cards. Hotels are generally willing to work with you on this.

When the Hotel Hits You with Sneaky Fees

A recent NYU report found that U.S. hotels collect about $2.5 billion in fees and surcharges each year. These fees, which can range from resort fees to mini-bar restocking surcharges, inflate your bill and may catch you off-guard at checkout.

Make sure you read the fine print on your bill when making your reservation so you’ll at least be prepared. If you don’t want to pay certain fees, ask at check-in if the hotel will waive access to certain amenities (like the hotel gym) in order to let you skip the fee.

When the Hotel Charges You for Movies or Minibar Items You Didn’t Use

Electronic minibars are the worst—they’re equipped with sensors that will automatically charge you if you remove an item, even if you’re simply moving it so that you can fit in your own food or drinks. This can lead to an uncomfortable confrontation at checkout. Most hotels will take your word for it if you say you didn’t take anything from the minibar or order a movie that you’ve been charged for, but if the hotel doesn’t believe you, your best option is to dispute the charge with your credit card company.

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Follow Caroline Morse’s travels on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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