Q: I made a prepaid reservation at the W New York Downtown. The rate description said it was nonrefundable and a penalty would apply for changes. When I tried to change it to a few days later, I was told that the reservation was actually nonchangeable, and that should I cancel it, I would lose the money and need to book three new nights. I contacted the W hotel’s central line and pointed out that the rate description for nonrefundable rates stated they were nonrefundable and nonchangeable. That’s not the same thing as “a penalty for changes,” which is the language in the terms for the rate I had booked.
I was essentially told that the penalty was 100 percent of the prepaid room rate. As a result, I kept the original reservation, and made another for the extra two nights, which was cheaper than canceling and rebooking. I e-mailed customer service asking for a review. The bottom line is that I am now paying more than $1,700 for five nights when, at most, I believe I should be paying $1,262 for three, at a higher daily rate, plus a reasonable penalty fee. Am I off base here?
A: You are not off base at all. The way I see it, you’re not canceling or changing your reservation, because you still intend to stay at the hotel on some of the days you had originally intended to be there. The W Hotel, which is owned by Starwood, appears to be interpreting its rules in a way that is most advantageous to the company.
I’ve reviewed the correspondence between you and Starwood, and the interesting thing is, it knows it was wrong. “The wording of the cancellation policy in two different phrases is a known glitch,” it says in an e-mail to you. “Our Web Team is working as fast as possible to get this corrected.” (This case was resolved several months ago, and the problem is now fixed.) You took your case to the highest level you could, but were still getting form responses. Your next stop would have been a credit card dispute, which is something I recommend only as a last resort. I contacted Starwood on your behalf. A company representative got in touch with you immediately and suggested that in the future, you reach out to the hotel directly before taking your complaint to corporate. That’s good advice. The W changed your reservation to the three nights you wanted without a penalty fee.