Wednesday 28 January 2015

GUEST BLOG: A review of bad charges

It is a fact of modern life; nobody reads the documentation. From the technology we buy, to the software we use, to the financial agreements we enter into we maintain a serene distance from the tangled legalese of the documents that supplement these exchanges. Less than 8% of users read software agreements, which may be why so many people are shocked to learn they don’t actually buy music from iTunes, they simply licence it.

There was an example last year of a hotel in Blackpool deploying the surreptitious art of the small print. The Broadway Hotel charged a couple £100 for leaving a bad TripAdvisor review with the justification that the clause was included in their booking T&C. The terminology used by the hotel is broad, “For every bad review left on any website…” Theoretically posting a photo with a derisory caption of the offending room on your Instagram account could lead to a punitive pay out.

The most disconcerting element here is that the hotel chose not to notify the couple that money was going to be debited, breaking trust between travellers and hotelier in relation to their banking details. In my estimation a more professional process would be to contact the couple about the offending article and offer them a chance to remove or redact it while citing the hotel’s policy.

So what should travellers be aware of? Firstly check the standard inclusions, breakfast, Wi-Fi, taxes, etc. and make sure they meet your expectations. Secondly have a go at reading the T&C supplied with your booking. These can sometimes be impenetrable but should at least contain section headings to let you navigate to find what’s important. Finally if you’re not sure, ask, hotels would rather answer a simple question than deal with a disappointed, or angry, customer.

Hotels should always strive to present a clear picture of potential charges. This ranges from tax inclusivity in rates through to charges for late checkout, currency conversion fees, Towel deposits and similar, preferably through the use of a single sheet summary attached to the booking. The simpler and clearer it is put, the less disagreement there can be later on. Meanwhile travellers should seek out as much information as possible as complacency about the costs associated with staying at a hotel may have a sting in the tail.

This post was written by Mike McConnell of Supranational Hotels who are exhibiting at the Business Travel Show on 25-26 February 2015. Register now for a free visitor pass

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