One Mile at a Time writes about Marriott cracking down on people booking hotels that haven’t yet opened — speculatively, hoping for compensation when the opening date inevitably delays — and in particular warning people trying to do this while using credit cards “that will not authorize the forfeiture amount.”
There are really two issues here.
- Making speculative bookings you don’t plan to keep, knowing the hotel isn’t likely to open and will wind up offering you compensation. Marriott will rarely be able to ascertain intent, and their failure to open is their fault not the customer’s.
- Using credit cards that don’t have enough credit, or prepaid debit cards with perhaps just a few dollars available on them, in order to prevent a hotel from properly collecting a charge when a guest doesn’t show up and doesn’t cancel the booking in time. This is really a problem with Marriott’s IT, even though it’s a fraudulent activity taken by the customer.
Marriott has a history of losing money from customers who provide payment methods that won’t cover the room rate. When they first launched mobile check-in with keyless entry there was a rash of customers in California using invalid cards or cards that wouldn’t authroize the required charges making one night stays and never being charged. My understanding is Marriott had to make good to the hotels because their IT failed to account for this.
Marriott says they’re,
advis[ing hotels] to preauthorize the late cancel penalty amount as soon as the reservations show active in their systems and to cancel any booking where the credit card declines.
This underscores another Marriott IT fail. When you book with Marriott, even on a prepaid rate, Marriott doesn’t automatically charge your card. This is something Starwood was better than Marriott at. Marriott’s system relies on hotels to get their new reservations and manually charge the cards themselves. Some hotels are better about doing this than others.
I have no problem with making a speculative booking at a hotel that hasn’t opened yet. I love visiting new hotels when they first open. There’s often a lot of interest in a new property and I can share the experience with readers. But these bookings are always speculative because I have no way to know if the hotel will open on time. I’ve made bookings, bought plane tickets, and found out at the last minute that the property was delayed. It can be fighting tooth and nail to get a hotel chain to make good.
I do have a big problem providing credit cards that won’t cover cancellation charges. It’s a trick I know many people used to use with Priceline — if you got an error from Priceline’s system that your credit card didn’t work it meant a hotel bid was going to be successful. That revealed something about the price they’d accept, and some people would then go back and make a lower bid. It was a form of ‘free re-bid’ trick but a grey area one at best.
However rather than temporarily disabling customer accounts, Marriott needs to fix its IT and better manage construction projects.