Q: I booked one of Hotwire’s “hot rate” hotel deals in New York. Many of the hot rate deals I was looking at fully disclosed the hotel’s resort fee. I chose one that did not make such a disclosure. I received a room at the InterContinental New York Barclay.
The next day, I called Hotwire customer support to inquire about the type of room I was getting. I also wanted to confirm that there was no resort fee. The customer service agent informed me that I would, in fact, have to pay a $35 resort fee for the night. I explained that I did not know, or have reason to know, of this resort fee at the time of booking. She referred me to Hotwire’s terms and conditions, which say that Hotwire rates do not include special fees such as energy charges, convention fees, resort fees and parking fees.
The terms do not state how or when these fees are disclosed, nor do they give me a reason to know that I could potentially be liable for mandatory, undisclosed resort fees.
I am appalled by the way Hotwire has handled this situation. I have spent hours on the phone with the company over the past week. I’ve probably talked to nearly a dozen customer service agents. I was even hung up on by a supervisor after politely refusing to take “no” for an answer. All I wanted was for Hotwire to subtract $35 from my bill.
A Hotwire representative said I could send my receipt to the company after my stay and the company’s “research team” will look into it. But I was given no guarantee of a refund.
A: Hotwire promises to disclose all mandatory fees. When it failed to, the company should have either allowed you to cancel your reservation or honored the original price. Instead, a representative told you it would consider refunding the fee.
Hotwire’s “hot” rates show you the hotel name only after you complete a nonrefundable booking. Resort fees are another matter. They’re mandatory extras, often charged after you’ve agreed on a rate. Hotels charge resort fees to make their prices look lower than they are. Resort fees are unfair and deceptive, and should be illegal.
You did everything you could to avoid a Hotwire resort fee and still failed. That’s because Hotwire didn’t disclose the fee. One of my researchers called Hotwire three separate times to see if it was a fluke. All three times, Hotwire still didn’t disclose the mandatory $35 per night resort fee.
I contacted Hotwire on your behalf. Separately, you also reached out to Hotwire. (Expedia owns it.)
“Mr. Stack indicated that the hotel informed Expedia of the new resort fee on June 4,” a rep confirmed. “Unfortunately, due to a technical glitch that we are investigating, the fee did not flow to our systems until July 2. Because Mr. Stack booked on July 27, we have decided to reimburse him for the full cost of the resort fee.”
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.