What to Do If Your Hotel Has More Beds

When an airline books a flight in excess, they lure travelers with money, food, or an overnight stay as a last resort to avoid inadvertent collision with passengers. But how do overbooked hotels deal with this problem?

Unsurprisingly, hotels are also playing in the overbooking game to protect themselves in the event of a cancellation – just check out this list of reader experiences at the Points Guy . Worse, unlike airlines, hotels also have no legal obligation to provide any specific form of recourse in case your room is occupied (although any decent hotel should try to accommodate you anyway).

If you happen to check into a hotel where there are no more places left, several things can happen. At best, you get the room you ask for (or another at the hotel) and some other dumbass loses. In the next best case, you are that schmuck, and you can be “walked” – a term for a booked hotel that will direct you to another hotel.

Depending on how timely the request is, as well as overall demand, the replacement hotel room could be even higher. (However, judging by the answers from readers at Points Guy magazine, this scenario seems to be the exception rather than the rule. They can just as easily move you to a smaller or lower quality room than what you originally requested.) Worst Scenario, in which you may find is that the hotel will completely cancel your reservation. After all, a booking is not a contract , so the hotel may decide to cancel your booking without giving any reason.

What to ask

If you are standing at the front desk and told that your room is busy, there are several things you should try to accomplish. First, as with airlines that pull you off a flight, ask for the maximum compensation possible. This means that they have to pay for the alternative accommodation and transportation to the hotel. They should offer you discounts on future stays or other amenities. (Depending on the hotel, they’ll send these requests on a case-by-case basis, so you might as well aim for the stars. Just don’t expect everything.) According to TPG , you can even request a specific hotel if they get a new one.

And always complain to an upline manager you can find who may be more receptive to your complaint (or rather, more capable of offering you various forms of compensation). Lifehacker technical editor David had a friend who stayed at the booked hotel and as a result got a different room than she requested. She complained to both the hotel and the third-party booking site she used and received a refund of $ 50 and $ 120, respectively. As we said earlier, it never hurts to ask for any kind of compensation you may receive if the trip cannot be arranged.

As TPG mentions, if you have hotel loyalty status, you can indeed be guaranteed a room in case of overbooking. If that fails, don’t be afraid to use your status when it comes to getting a better deal.

What can you do to keep you from walking? Well, it depends a lot on the demand for the room, and that’s not exactly what you can predict, but it does help to check in early. Those who checked in the past tended to go more often, Reneta McCarthy, a senior lecturer at Cornell University’s School of Hospitality Management, told the NYT . For this reason, if you are running late, call the hotel immediately to alert them – and to minimize the chances of you being stranded upon check-in.


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