As many of you now know, I do and have traveled a fair amount, stayed in some of the best hotels, flown about every major airline and dealt with plenty (good and bad) along the way.
I write this because I HAVE to report one of the most bizarre and maddening things that recently happened to me. I write this because of my frustration and anger but also so all of you out there in cyber land will be aware of this and hopefully circumvent this from happening to you.
About a week ago (the weekend of Halloween 2011), I had a Gig (singing job) in San Diego, CA. I was asked to sing at a private birthday party for a couple who was about to be married the next night. This was their rehearsal dinner/party. It was a great time surprising the about-to-be-newly-weds with some Broadway, Opera and Italian Neapolitan Songs. Everyone had a great time. I returned to my hotel, The Marriott Courtyard San Diego Mission Valley to retire for the night.
As all hotels go, this one was nondescript and pretty much average for this type of hotel-pedestrian. Fine for what I needed it to be-a place to rest and get out of town in the morning.
I got up the next morning without drama and headed back up to Los Angeles for the remainder of the weekend.
Fast Forward a few days…
Sitting at my computer to pay some bills, I went online to my Credit Card to look at charges. I see a charge for 268.00 from Marriott, the Hotel I stayed at for my singing gig a few nights before.
I immediately called the hotel and was told that this was a “Smoking Charge” attached to the room. I then asked who was smoking and I was told I was. I then, as I usually do, bypass whoever I’m talking to and ask for the manager. I then experienced a man by the name of Art Colliente at the aforementioned hotel. I again asked what the exorbitant charge was and he reaffirmed the previous representative’s comment. It indeed was a “Smoking Charge” attached to my room. I then again asked, “who was smoking?” This man then said “You were!”. Well, I then proceeded to tell him that I do not smoke, nor have I EVER smoked. I then asked him why he thought this and the response I got was one for the books: “There was paraphernalia in the room, let’s just leave it at that….”. Wow! I was dumbfounded and then quite irritated. I asked him who saw this “Paraphernalia” and Mr. Colliente got hostile with me saying, “You were smoking in the room and I am not removing the charge…the only thing you can do is call your credit card company and dispute it.”. Well, I was astounded…I have never smoked in a room, nor am I a smoker. I had no one in the room that smoked and now I was faced with a situation that I write about, Accused of something I didn’t do. Worse of all, there seems to be NO recourse for this kind of erroneous behavior by a Company in this situation.
I have done some research in this arena and have found some very interesting results. Case after case of Hotels charging their customers for smoking in the room. News Channels have done exposes and articles about it.
What’s really interesting is that not more than a couple of weeks ago, I was in Hawaii at the Kona Fairmont Orchid. At that hotel, I called the front desk because I kept smelling smoke while I was sitting in my room. It got to the point that the manager at the hotel sent me a nice note apologizing for the incident with some Macadamia Nuts.
It bewilders me when I asked “What is your evidence?” This person who represents Marriott can blatantly give me verbiage that is so vague and finite and then accuse me of an act I didn’t do and with Gestapo-type tactics, charge me and then not do anything about it.
Well, they might be right on that front…we will have to see. I did take Mr. Colliente’s advice and immediately called my Credit Card company and filed a dispute.
But one thing is that I do know the power of Social Media. I also enjoy writing letters and calling people. And that’s what I’ve begun doing. I have called Marriott Corporate. I was told that they cannot do anything about it (I believe this because Marriott is a franchise and therefore Marriott is only in name on most of their Hotels and not directly managed by Marriott, per se) and that I have to take it up with the actual hotel. With Mr. Colliente…can you believe it? Well, believe it. That’s what I was told.
I also urge all you travelers that are planning on staying with any Marriott Chain Hotel or any other for that matter to read the fine print when you check in. Most now make you initial a little box that says if you “smoke” in a nonsmoking room you will be charged…and charged you will be. Sometimes whether you did or not. Think twice about this. Also think about how you would circumvent this charge from happening to you. Even going so far as to considering “What if I was going to be charged this smoking charge…?” What would you do before you checked out to prevent this. Crazy huh? How would you? I’d like to know your thoughts. I would also like to know if you’ve experienced anything like this.
I’m attaching some interesting links for you if you’d like to see what been out there on this topic.
Happy Travels! Most of the time they are fine.
Triatheletes Charged for a Smoking Fee in a Comfort Inn.
NON Smoker gets slapped a “smoking charge” in NY.
Google Review of this #Marriott hotel.
Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma slammed a guest $200 for smoking…but wasn’t.
La Quinta in Louisiana slams a couple who didn’t smoke. Via Trip Advisor.
USA Today Travel featured a couple who were slammed by a Hyatt.