UPDATE 6 April: This is one time where some good came from complaining. The webmaster for the Nebula event was told to add the fine print on the deposit to some of the pages (though I don't see those changes put in as yet). I was able to explain to Hilton why their disclosure isn't as good as they think. I will admit there is a decent chance someone filling in their credit card info manually in the guarantee area might notice that the deposit is being taken right away, but for an HHonors member signed in with the info pre-filled "we will charge $145 one night's room and tax right away" doesn't look much different than "we will charge $145 on night's room and tax if you don't cancel" if you quickly check over things on a 3-page reservation screen en route to the final "accept" button. That needs to be better. The payment of the deposit needs to be indicated in the reservation confirmation. There should be a receipt-like substance in the process. Finally, since they are taking a deposit, the fine print needs to be more clearly state what happens to the deposit. Right now it says you can cancel the reservation 72 hours ahead, it doesn't clearly say if the deposit will be refunded or not once you do so. This isn't a good place for ambiguity. I also do not like that this is yet another example that right now the only squeaky wheels that get the grease are the ones who use Twitter. If I hadn't written this letter, posted it, and tweeted to it, I'd have been stuck with the see/hear/speak no evil monkeys at the phone customer service or waiting a very long time to get a response to a letter. An e-mail complaint would probably have been handled with the same smug complacency as my phone call. So I want to give SFWA and Hilton some credit for their response, but I'd still give Hilton an incomplete until they address some of these issues on a corporate level instead of on an individual basis with me.
April 2, 2011
Mr. Christopher J. Nassetta
7930 Jones Branch Dr., #1100
McLean, VA 22102
Dear Mr. Nassetta:
I am extremely upset with how Hilton handled the taking of a one-night deposit on a reservation I made at the Hilton Washington for the SFWA Nebula Weekend event in May.
When I visit the event web site, and click their hotel booking form and am taken to the Hilton website for the event page, see attached page, there is no indication that deposit will be taken.
When I click on “Terms & Conditions,” there is no indication that a deposit will be taken.
When I go to the “Select Room & Rate” page, the Rules & Restrictions say nothing about a deposit being taken.
When I go to the Guest Information Page, the prominently displayed “Your Pending Reservation Details” does not say that a deposit will be taken.
In the 2nd page of the Guest Information, the depost information is indicated in the Hotel/Guarantee section. Unfortunately, this screen is pre-filled when you sign in with your Hilton HHonors account, and I think a lot of people aren’t going to look again at a pre-filled screen.
In the 3rd page the deposit is hidden in very very small fine print that nobody reads.
Finally, after burying the information after multiple places where you DO NOT inform guests that you will be taking a deposit, you send an e-mail confirmation for the reservation which says nothing -- nothing -- about the fact that you have been charged for the night. No acknowledgment, no receipt, no nothing.
And then when I get my credit card bill, the only identifying information is the hotel, there’s no information regarding the confirmation # for my reservation, and the arrival date is given as February 24 instead of in May when this reservation is actually booked for. So even after I’ve been charged, it’s impossible to tell what the charge is for.
When I called customer service to complain about this, everyone was annoyingly smug in acting like I should have of course noticed the deposit was being charged, wouldn’t anyone! And when I asked for the address of corporate HQ so I could write you a letter, I was given the customer service address in Texas. Even after I specifically asked Johnathan Shorters in Guest Assistance “that’s the corporate HQ, you didn’t move to Virginia, I thought you moved to Virginia” he continued to insist that he had given me the corporate HQ.
Well, since you’re shading the truth of the deposit multiple times during the reservation process, why not lie to me when I call Guest “Assistance" and ask for the address of your corporate headquarters.
If you want to take a one-night deposit, it should be abundantly clear that you are doing so. The fact that you are taking a deposit should be prominently indicated in the exact same place where I give the final click to confirm. And after you have taken the deposit, you should clearly acknowledge with a receipt and in the e-mail confirmation that you have done so. You did none of that. The information regarding the deposit could have been provided in at least three or four different places where it was not. The disclosure near the final click is hidden in fine print. And you do nothing to acknowledge or receipt the transaction afterward.
This is a miserable excuse for how to run a business.
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