Hotel Group Stops Selling Rooms At Closed Hotels, Marketing With Fake Website

In one of the sketchier things I’ve seen out of hotels in the United States, the owner of 27 hotels in northern lower Michigan takes reservations for their more expensive properties, and walks guests to the cheaper ones. They also own a deceptive website purporting to be the area’s “Chamber of Tourism,” recommending only their own hotels.

The Michigan Attorney General got involved, and the hotel group has settled the case. They have to pay $65,000 which will go to customers and to the state and they’ve agreed to stop taking reservations for hotels that are closed. They also have to “remove the ‘official seal’ from the [tourism] website and include disclaimers” stating that the hotel owners own he site.

This agreement covers 27 hotels including Choice, Wyndham and Best Western brands,

Crown Choice Inn & Suites Lakeview & Waterpark, The Beach House, Bayside Hotel of Mackinac, Waterfront, Bridge Vista Beach Hotel & Convention Center, Bell’s Melody Motel, Bridgeview Motel, Budget Inn Mackinaw, Cabins of Mackinac, Capri Motel, Clarion Hotel Beachfront, Comfort Inn Lakeside, Days Inn Lakeview, Fairview Beachfront Inn, Hamilton Inn Select Beachfront, Mackinaw Beach & Bay, Northwinds Motel, Best Western Plus Dockside, Quality Inn & Suites, Ramada Inn Waterfront, Starlite Budget Inn Mackinaw, Super 8 Beachfront, Super 8 Bridgeview, Sunrise Beach Motel, Thunderbird Inn, Waterfront Inn, and Welcome Inn.

The state’s investigation was easy. An employee made a reservation at the Crown Choice Inn “which offers a waterpark.” On arrival he was walked to the Hamilton Inn. And he had no choice in the matter because he was told “he was past the point where the reservation could be canceled to receive a refund.” They wouldn’t honor his booking, but they were still going to keep the money.

Sketchy hotels are going to do sketchy things. Video went viral last May when this group kicked a “Dumb Democrat” out of the Crown Choice Inn & Suites in Mackinaw City after she complained about flooding in her room. This is the hotel that the state made a reservation at to investigate the scam.

You rented the room, it’s your bathroom now. You’re responsible for the room. Stop being an indiot…Stop being a dumb Democrat. Now go to your room, pack your stuff and leave.

The manager, part of the family that owns these hotels, kicked her out of the hotel, saying he’d charge for the room and for damage.

If there’s one consolation in all of this – 27 hotels were scamming and deceiving guests and not a single one was a Marriott.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This story did not involve Marriott. But, it’s a sad statement about Marriott to note consolation that it was not involved.

  2. @creditian. Hyatt doesnt need to scam you. They already overcharge for substandard or at best regular rooms…

  3. It does nothing to absolve the fraudster – who sounds to me like he got off too easy – but its disturbing that the State of Michigan seems to have only investigated these people because of their political speech on social media making fun of the “Democrat” they had just ripped off. Would the highly partisan Gretchen Whitmer have investigated these sleazes had they been Biden supporters making fun of the Trump supporter they just ripped off? I wonder.

  4. Mak, based on the hotel owner’s comment, it sounds as if the hotel owner might be a Trump supporter. If the investigation were politically motivated, it would seem the evil Democrats would have gone after the hotel owner irrespective of who the victim was. Note that the investigation was about a systematic pattern of “walking” guests. Walking guests was not the only complaint about this ownership group. (I am not a liberal Democrat.)

    Separately, the hotel chains know this stuff is going on yet they take no meaningful action against this type of owner. And, if we really wanted to turn this conversation political, note that the Marriott family is solidly Republican. (Again, I am not a liberal Democrat.)

  5. Gary, have you reached out to the other national chains for comment?

    Each of the affiliated properties should be kicked out.

  6. In 2017 I got “walked” from a non-existing hotel in Battle Creek book through Marriott. In practice it was a construction site with an un-finished hotel. Marriott told me that their “walk” policy did not apply and I had to contact the Indiana owner who after some correspondence gave me some Marriott Points. And as I recall, the Marriott fine print covers this case. Talk about washing their hands.

  7. So let me understand, I book at one hotel for a higher price, show up after the cancellation period, and they don’t have the room that I reserved and want to walk me to a substandard hotel, but I don’t have the option to cancel or get a refund for the difference? I would raise Holy hell with them, walk out, and dispute the charges.

    This sounds like a guaranteed room, which the Hotel is required to hold a room for you as it is already paid for. However, if I show up, and you don’t have the room I have already paid for, the cancelation clause is null and void, the hotel did not hold up its end of the bargain. It is MY choice weather I accept the hotel room you want to walk me to, not theirs, and if I do accept, I get refunded the difference if the room and property are not similar.

  8. I say this as someone from that particular part of Michigan: This family is notorious in this part of Northern Michigan. I know someone who owns one of the few hotels and restaurants in Mackinaw City not owned by this family.

    They are very much disliked by the entire community. So much so that the real local chamber of commerce disowned them when the controversies were first publicized in the news.

    If you’ve ever been to the Mackinac Bridge, they have the huge oversized house to the east about 150 yards from the bridge. They control the local village government and have gotten away with zoning and planning issues that everyone else can’t get away with.

    This has also happened at Marriott properties before. See Exhibit A, the Sheraton in Charlotte, North Carolina:

  9. UnionTHIS, you pretty much have it right.

    I was booked at a top-category Marriott — a paid stay with a confirmed reservation for a suite. Not an upgrade request. Not a Suite Night Award request. I had (still have) the confirmation email. The Ambassador service team confirmed the reservation was for a suite as well as the rate. The property said my reservation was only for a standard room. I provided the email confirmation. The manager was “confused” . . . but I would be only getting a standard room. I agreed IF I was charged for the standard room. The manager said my reservation indicated the room rate (for a suite). I replied that the reservation also said for a suite. The manager would not budge. The Ambassador service team, in spite of acknowledging the reservation was for a suite, ultimately said that the dispute was a room rate issue and I would have to work it out with the property. Are you (stinkin’) kidding me? I was still > 24 hours prior to check-in so I canceled the reservation. I’ve since gone down a different path and I’ve never looked back.

  10. robbo, regarding the subject story, there is a picture of the owner/manager. He appears to be Redneck. Best not to be conclusory.

  11. too funny a “dumb D” in Michigan the land of Democrats??? That is the majority so someone did not know the facts???

  12. In other news… Marriott will be franchising 27 hotels in Northern lower Michigan… Details to follow.

  13. @robbo
    Let me guess, you are racist?
    Actually I do not have to guess. Guess which race commits the most mass murders in America?

  14. The Attorney General should have prosecuted the hotel owners and managers for fraud. The comment about dumb Democrats was fabricated to obfuscate the fact the hotels are owned by a family of prominent Democrats.

  15. @James
    African Americans commit the majority of violent and property crime in America despite comprising 16% of the population.
    Guess which party was founded in 1827 to promote slavery? It was the same party that dominated every slave state in the Confederacy. The same Party that founded the KKK in 1867. The same Party that invented poll taxes, Jim Crow laws and segregation.
    Indians own a disproportionate number of hotels in America. That is not a racist statement, just an accurate observation.

  16. Deng Li – There’s video proof of the “dumb Democrat” comment imbedded in the article.

  17. I think the politics are irrelevant. Why are they not prosecuting this scheme as fraud? The settlement is barely a slap on the wrist,

  18. I’m surprised Econo Lodge wasn’t in the mix. I showed up 30 minutes past cancellation time and once I saw the “lodge” decided that my dog and I would continue east. My fault, I didn’t take the time time change going east bound to Van Horn, Texas into consideration. Their fault for deceptive pictures.

  19. All of them should lose their hospitality licenses for a year and a $5,000,000 fine. Michigan needs the funds.

  20. No wonder the economy is doing badly, all these regulations holding back businesses. If only Trump was president businesses would be free to do whatever they want!

  21. Gary,

    Will there be a link to this article as a counter-point in your next post about your Airbnb concerns ? 🙂

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