Gift Card Error In Your Favor: When Do You Tell The Hotel?

A reader emailed us to ask what he should do about an accounting mistake he discovered with some gift cards. He suspects the different parts of the hotel don’t update the card balance in real time, but it could also be that the hotel’s employees aren’t processing the card correctly. Now he’s wondering whether he should have said something.

I recently visited a Palm Springs resort with 3 hotel gift cards, valued at $100 each but purchased at Costco for $75 each.

Big water slides, lazy river pool, 106 degrees. The kids loved it. And I loved the discounted gift cards good for food, drink, rooms, services — anything on property.

But the discount got a lot better. And not in the hotel’s favor. Apparently gift card readers at the hotel’s restaurants, bars and gift shops don’t communicate with each other, or don’t have a way to update gift cards with current value. So I spent $50 in snacks at one pool, and spent the same $50 again the next day at another pool. The $40 I spent for the breakfast buffet was still on the card when I paid for the room.

Truth is, I wasn’t trying to rip off the hotel. I didn’t keep a balance sheet for each card. I assumed the hotel would do that for me, and that they would tell me when the cards ran dry.

Should I have said something to staff? Would it have made a difference? Or am I supposed to inventory my own purchases and just toss the card when it’s spent?

Let’s set an ethical baseline first, and agree that it’s not okay to keep quiet about an obvious error if you see it as it happens; in addition to cheating, this is a sort of theft by omission (although maybe not to the courts; I am not a lawyer).

When it comes to cash transactions, fixing this is usually no problem. You can point out the error immediately and do your best to rectify the situation. Plastic payments bring a new level of complexity, however, especially when you add employees who may not possess the technical skills to troubleshoot the issue.

So how much should you have to do in this situation to fulfill a good faith effort to pay what you owe? Should our tipster have gone to the front desk and offered to settle the charge? Or if he noticed it after he got home, is he free and clear?

Comments

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  1. dragonfire81 says:

    I would inform of the error on the cards, but I wouldn’t expect to have to pay up for the errors. It wasn’t deliberate on my part, I did everything by the rules, it was just the hotel’s system that caused the problem. In my opinion that’s on them to correct, not me.

  2. c!tizen says:

    Hey, consumerism works both ways. If they had charged you any extra cash this story would be totally different. I would let them know as this kind of error could seriously impact their business, which means some people would end up losing their jobs because people don’t want to be fair with what they spend. I would say it’s cool if it were just a couple of bucks and a one time fluke that you figured out later, but a never ending gift card is kind of a big deal.

  3. Alvis says:

    Hold off on reporting it. We need to run, um, some tests of our own. Now what was the name of that resort, again?

    • DariusC says:

      Yes, let us not be too hasty now… This may be an isolated issue… it may not… let’s not jump to conclusions.

  4. Nighthawke says:

    If they want to shrug it off, GET IT IN WRITING! Verbal shrug offs can easily turn into credit score dings that can sting.

    • SBinVA says:

      And just how would a business go about dinging a credit score for a gift card purchase?

      • Nighthawke says:

        By wanting the full value of the card reimbursed if there was an error? They can take you to court to attempt to take back the value of the card if they can justify it.

        • SBinVA says:

          If they can’t update the card balances, I hardly believe they could identify the user for such things as snack bar purchases, etc.

          Gift cards are nearly as anonymous as cash, and the hotel doesn’t know how to count.

  5. Bativac says:

    Something similar happened to me with a Visa gift card. My wife and I got it as a wedding gift and immediately spent it on dishes or something. Neither of us kept track and when I logged in to check the account, it was “overdrawn” by a couple bucks.

    That wouldn’t affect me, since my name wasn’t attached to the gift card. Would it come back to the person who bought the card, though? What if they paid cash? Does Visa just eat the overdraft?

    • Bob Lu says:

      Many gift cards allow a small amount of overdraw just to make them a little more easy to use. Clearly not in OP’s case, tho.

    • Link_Shinigami says:

      Seriously? I was once a penny short and they busted me with a “NOT ENOUGH FUNDS”. I’m jealous you got away with going over. But you wouldn’t have to worry about that as once the card is paid for, it’s done. Anything that happens while you use it in lines of over draft, I’d say they did it (It might be a new policy thing…) just to help you out with that 25 cents you went over thing

  6. pantheonoutcast says:

    “Let’s set an ethical baseline first, and agree that it’s not okay to keep quiet about an obvious error if you see it as it happens”

    Speak for yourself. You don’t get to establish arbitrary yet “universal” rules of ethics, thanks.

    • JMILLER says:

      Which is exactly the problem. If you do not accept that it is morally wrong, then how do you have any right to ever complain about a company taking advantage of a consumer? The company CEO or other person can easily say, well morally I think it is ok to trick old ladies if they are too stupid to not know better. It is ok to slash their tire if you advised them they needed new ones but wouldn’t buy them.

    • PTB315 says:

      What happened in your life that made you so angry at businesses? This is at least the second time you’ve made it blatantly clear that any mistake in your favor in a transaction with a business leaves you with absolutely zero responsibility to correct it or even bring it to their attention. You have to be the most anti-business commenter I’ve seen on this site. You have consistently indicated that any situation that enriches a customer at the expense of a business has no ethical or moral ramifications for the customer. I assume you mean as long as the situation does not involve the customer taking any action that is definably illegal.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        “You have to be the most anti-business commenter I’ve seen on this site”

        You apparently have limited reading comprehension skills. It has been well-established that I am among the more *anti-consumer* commenters on this site. When people do something stupid, I’m usually the first to call them out.

        And I don’t believe in “ethical or moral ramifications.” That sounds vaguely religious, and quite frankly, judgmental. Gift card reader didn’t work? Oh well. Should I give back the $50 bill I found on the ground, too?

        • Mike says:

          “Should I give back the $50 bill I found on the ground, too?”

          This example doesn’t work because finding a random $50 is anonymous. In the case of the gift card it would be more like seeing someone drop $50 on the ground, because you know who lost the money and how much, just like the person in this article.

          If you saw someone drop $50 on the ground would you give it back to them?

          • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

            Stop making sense to the curmudgeonly.

          • pantheonoutcast says:

            If I saw someone drop $50 on the ground, would I give it back to them?

            Good question. Little old lady at the supermarket? Yes. I would. In a second. Loud obnoxious guy who cut in front of me at the deli? Nope. No way.

            Ethics, and ethical behavior in general, are not always so black and white.

            • TheGreySpectre says:

              I fail to see what is different about the loud obnoxious guy, sure he is being a jerk but that doesn’t give you the right to steal from him. Somewhere you seemed to miss the two wrongs don’t make a right lesson.

              • pantheonoutcast says:

                “Somewhere you seemed to miss the two wrongs don’t make a right lesson.”

                Again, I didn’t ask you to impose your ideas of morality, which sound vaguely Christian, on me. It is my belief that in the vast majority of cases, two “wrongs” do, in fact, make a right.

                Here – I’ll give you an example, by way of hypothetical. Let’s say that your insurance company denies your claim for medical treatment because they believe your condition is “pre-existing.” You spend a great deal of time arguing and pleading with them, but they steadfastly stand behind their bottom line. You cannot afford this procedure on your own.

                Some time later, you are walking through the park and you come across a wallet filled with cash. It’s well over a thousand dollars, and just enough for you to pay for your medical procedure. You notice that the license in the wallet identifies the owner as the president of the insurance company that denied your claim.

                What do you do? If you keep it, you can afford the medical treatment, and save your life. If you return it, you can quite possibly die, but at least you’ll go out with some vague sense of righteousness. So, do you keep it?

              • pinkbunnyslippers says:

                He’s not technically “stealing”, he’s just not returning what was lost. That’s his right to do so.

                It’s also his right, per his own standards of morality, justice and comeuppance as he likes to call it, to decide whether or not he chooses to participate in the whole “2 wrongs don’t make a right” social more, so long as it isn’t egregiously against any laws.

                Everyone has their own set of morals. They may at any one time, align or misalign with what the rest of society *thinks* they should be (ethics), but they’re his to have regardless.

            • Straspey says:

              Your reasoning is faulty in this case and you come close to cutting yourself with your own sword.

              The loud, obnoxious guy has just as much a right to have his $50 erturned to him as does the sweet little old lady.

              In your scenario, you actually become the arbiter of ethics – in this case, who is more deserving of having their dropped $50 returned to them ?

              I respond to you because I also have issues with the idea of a generally accepted code of ethics, when in many cases ethical behavior can be very subjective – much the way beauty is in the eye of the beholder; and tend to agree with many of your comments.

              However, when we allow our emotions of the moment (“This guy is an asshole and he’s pissing me off. So screw him. I’m keeping the $50.”) it really becomes nothing less than a judgement call based on our own set of standards.

              During political arguments, people will often proclaim, “You can’t legislate morality!”

              But of course that’s not true.

              You *can* legislate morality and, in fact, we do it all the time.

              • pantheonoutcast says:

                “it really becomes nothing less than a judgement call based on our own set of standards.”

                Yes. Exactly. I don’t see how that’s faulty reasoning at all. My actions are always based on my own standards. Well, at least the ones that aren’t illegal – I’m not going to drive 75 MPH in a stolen car while transporting a kilo of heroin and an underage prostitute in the backseat.

                But not returning $50 to an asshole who cut me off in a store and was too busy pushing and shouting to realize that he dropped it? My standards dictate that he deserves some sort of misfortune. Now, I could yell at him for cutting me in line, or tell him to stop being so loud and obnoxious, and escalate the problem, which could possibly put me in a situation where something illegal could transpire, OR I could quietly pick up the $50 and laugh at him as I go and spend his money.

                I see nothing wrong with applying my standards of morality, justice, and comeuppance-ness as long as doing so doesn’t egregiously break the law.

                • CarWontGo says:

                  I suppose if you were all-knowing (hmm, sounds vaguely religious), you might be in a better position to play judge what outcomes put the cosmic equation of come-uppance in balance.

                  But how do you know that the the “loud jerk” in front of you wasn’t going to take that $50 and use it to buy medicine for his sick child? And how do you know the sweet little old lady isn’t really a psychopath who stole her $50 from her employer’s petty cash fund?

                  If it’s not obvious to you that “using my own standard of judgment” is just another name for “indulging my selfish desire not to treat people with fairness because it deprives me of the emotional thrill of seeing people I don’t like suffer,” it is to the rest of us.

                  • pantheonoutcast says:

                    The odds are in my favor that those things aren’t true. I know that smug people would like to be able to turn the tables in an argument with hypotheticals like that, but experience has taught me differently.

                    I’m not omniscient, but I’m certainly not naive either. Try again.

                    • CarWontGo says:

                      If you want to base your standards on your own opinion of “the odds” that’s fine, but don’t kid yourself that it’s the same as holding a principled ethical position.

                    • FrugalFreak says:

                      Karma may be at work, why screw with that? The hotel may have overcharged someone and karma is deducting it back.

                      hey it sounds right.

        • coren says:

          Yeah I was gonna say – of all the ways that one might describe you, anti-business is one of the last I’d choose.

        • PTB315 says:

          Prior to your response, I thought you were anti-business. At your implied suggestion, I read through some of your comments. I was wrong, you’re not anti-business. You’re either the most dedicated troll I’ve ever seen, or just the type of person who seems to have the entire world figured out and has no problem declaring so, but cannot be bothered to properly address the statements of people who disagree with what you’ve decided. You have no problem proclaiming that you call people out for being stupid, which I guess means anyone who disagrees with your outlook on life.

          Regarding your ethics statement; questioning someone’s argument is a critical part of a reasoned argument. Neither ethics nor morals by their definition imply religion. They can be a part of religion, or they can have nothing to do with religion. As for judgmental, I have no idea what you were getting at there. Disagreement involves one person’s judgment against another’s statements I guess, but by the very act of disagreeing you are judging, which brings me back to not knowing what you were trying to say. Was it just an attempt to make me seem like an asshole? Are you trying to say that by using the words “ethics” and “morals” that I’m automatically saying I’m better than you? If that’s the case, I’m not. It’s impossible to compare two things (such as each of our sets of ethics) when you contradict yourself or create conditions that dictate your actions.

          Unless your statement “I don’t believe in ethical or moral ramifications” is your ultimate statement on ethics in relation to your actions. In which case, that is in fact the stupidest thing I have seen in quite some time. I’m going to hope that you were joking; otherwise interacting with you is a complete waste of time.

          Ethics (or morals) are probably the most important part of functioning society. If you have to interact with other people in a way that affects you and the other person, ethics dictate all. Without ethics there cannot be trust, without trust you cannot have interactions with another person for fear that they are going to take advantage of you.

          Further, stop attacking people for using the words “ethics” or “morals” when you do the exact same thing in response to those people. You create contrived examples that are similar to the central issues in every way except the actual central issues. You call out the author and tell him not to define your ethical baseline, but fail to actually define your own ethical baseline, let alone try to justify it.

          You occasionally throw the word logic around in your comments. Logic is used to determine whether an argument is correct due to the reason being valid, or invalid due to a reason being a fallacy. Your comments read like a laundry list of examples of fallacies. You typically state opinions and use bullshit to dismiss people who disagree with you. At least that’s all I’ve witnessed from you, particularly in your comments on this story. Unless you’re responding to a statement that is blatantly wrong, and can be quickly dismissed as such. On one occasion I found where you state “facts”, you ignore or miss the ones that actually matter. My example being a previous “argument” (And I use that word extremely loosely here to define my and others interactions with you that I’ve read) that we had regarding doggy bags at a restaurant. http://consumerist.com/2010/03/restaurant-we-dont-charge-enough-for-this-food-so-you-cant-have-a-doggie-bag.html

    • Mike says:

      So you think it is totally OK to let the mistake go even though it was obviously a mistake? And that isn’t stealing how?

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        It’s not stealing because he paid for the items and services in good faith. There was no intent to deceive or to take an item without paying.

        No intent, no crime of theft. Sounds more like he got lucky.

        Would you say that he was “stealing” when he bought $100 gift cards for $75 apiece? After all, the guy knows full well that $75 does not equal $100. If we’re going to take “ethics” to the extreme end, then accepting a discount is just as “unethical.”

        • coren says:

          There is a very large difference between an item being on sale (or regularly priced, as they are at Costco) for less than it’s value and getting goods or services for free that a business did not intend for you to get for free.

          Also, it is theft now that he’s realized. When it was just an honest mistake – he had no intent to get anything for free. Now he realizes he did get it for free – if he doesn’t attempt to rectify the mistake, he did steal, because he has the intent to not pay for whatever he received.

    • coren says:

      So everyone gets screwed is what you prefer?

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        I hardly think “everyone” got screwed in this case.

        • coren says:

          Not at all. But if everyone kept the same ethics then if the OP overpaid somewhere, someone else would pocket the difference.

          • pantheonoutcast says:

            I bet you the OP did overpay somewhere. $50 for snacks at the pool? Twice? Want to bet he bought a $5 soda or something? You can’t honestly believe that the food at a vacation resort is reasonably priced.

            So, if it’s unethical for the OP to keep the billing error secret, then it is equally unethical for the resort to charge $11 for a hamburger (or whatever). If ethics are truly “universal”, then the same standards should apply to both the resort and the OP. But they don’t.

            Someone tried this same tactic when I suggested that if the movie theaters are going to charge $6 for M&M’s, then I am going to bring in my own. “Well, that’s unethical!”, they cried, and, “That’s stealing!” Well, so then is the movie theater overcharging me for refreshments.

            I see it as reaching a state of equilibrium.

            • coren says:

              The two are somewhat different. The word overpay can mean to pay more than what is owed (in the case of the soda, paying 5 dollars when it was priced at 2) or to pay more than the items value (to pay 2 dollars for a soda, period!). If the hotel is charging 50 for those snacks and the OP agrees to pay that price, he may pay more than their value, but he didn’t pay more than he owed.

              Paying more than was owed is what I meant by overpaid.

            • pinkbunnyslippers says:

              Nobody ever said it wasn’t unethical for the hotel to charge outlandishly for their goods and services. A vendor isn’t going to charge more than the market will bear – so your argument is now starting to blend economics with social mores.

              I’m not sure how any movie theater would ever reason that you bringing in your own M&Ms is “stealing” or “unethical” – it’s just not good business for them, which is why they’ve got a policy against it, not because it goes against society’s views on wrong and right.

          • coren says:

            The two are somewhat different. The word overpay can mean to pay more than what is owed (in the case of the soda, paying 5 dollars when it was priced at 2) or to pay more than the items value (to pay 2 dollars for a soda, period!). If the hotel is charging 50 for those snacks and the OP agrees to pay that price, he may pay more than their value, but he didn’t pay more than he owed.

            Paying more than was owed is what I meant by overpaid.

    • pinkbunnyslippers says:

      Ethics are pretty universal since they apply to more of a social system in which your own personal *morals* are applied. Chris isn’t setting your own moral baseline, get your boxers out of a bunch.

  7. jariten says:

    Frankly, I don’t track the ballance on gift cards. When they run out I pay the overage. I never would have noticed something like this…especially when I had three identical ones on me. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, but certainly would be willing to pay if they do track it down.

  8. Nogard13 says:

    I guess I’m not as good a Samaritan as most others here. I wouldn’t say a word and just keep going.

    If it were a mom-and-pop then I would, but a big hotel or resort can afford to eat the charges.

    • PTB315 says:

      That’s why businesses feel that if you’re a huge customer, they will be sure you are never inconvenienced or frustrated. If you’re just another of the 98% of the country that doesn’t have enough money to stand out, you get treated as part of a large group that they only put marginal effort in to keep happy.

      Your tiered feelings toward business is the inverse of their feelings towards customers. They’re too big to make you feel bad about. You’re too small for them to give a shit about.

      I can’t imagine a single situation where a business completely materialized out of nowhere, skipping the “mom and pop” step. If you go back far enough, everything was once a person or small group of people starting something new and being good enough at it to grow. Then one day, (which absolutely no one has figured out how to pin down exactly when and where the change occurred,) they were no longer the loveable “mom and pop” store, and had become the “captains of industry/ rapists of the weak” industry.

  9. NarcolepticGirl says:

    “Truth is, I wasn’t trying to rip off the hotel. I didn’t keep a balance sheet for each card. I assumed the hotel would do that for me, and that they would tell me when the cards ran dry. “

    What? You mean you expected the card would stop working? or do you mean a hotel employee will come chase you down to let you know how much you spent and that there is no more money on the card?

    In any case… If it were me, I would send an anonymous email or letter stating what’s happening and leave it at that.

    • Ophelia says:

      I would assume that when all the money was spent, the card would no longer work, and the employee I was trying to pay would say “Ok, there was $3 left on the card, your remaining balance is $42″

      I don’t think that’s unreasonable to expect, it’s how gift cards work in the rest of the world.

  10. Beeker26 says:

    If you had no intention of ripping them off then you have nothing to lose by informing them of the issue.

    It’s possible they’ll figure things out after the fact (such as after a monthly audit) and then send you a bill for the difference, including interest. Or worse, just send it to collections.

    • Dover says:

      I assume they swiped his credit card in case of incidentals, which they have the right to and will charge for any remaining balance if they figure out their issues.

    • trentblase says:

      I think the problem here is that he spent more than he otherwise would have because of the error. If he noticed the error and kept spending, then he should inform and pay the difference. If he didn’t realize until after the money was spent, well its not necessarily fair to hold him to the difference because he was trusting the hotel to cut him off. In that case, informing may mean he has to pay for the hotel’s mistake. Then there’s the anonymous option, because te hotel should definitely be informed… Otherwise the problem is potentially passed on to the next consumer, who may rack up thousands, and that won’t end well no matter who ends up paying.

  11. skylar.sutton says:

    I disagree with the ethical baseline. One of the reasons the retail industry celebrated credit transactions in the first place, was that the balance was set in stone and could not be exceeded (unlike “checks”). Consumers have come to understand that as a core function of a credit card (“denied transactions”). I don’t believe the submitter has any responsibility beyond notifying the hotel that they have a problem in their credit systems.

    • PTB315 says:

      That wasn’t the ethical baseline. The ethical baseline was simply “if you are witnessing an error and could prevent it by speaking up, then you should.”

      Your statement can be boiled down to: “X is bad. Y was developed to prevent X. If X occurs despite Y, then all responsibility is absolved for the parties involved. It’s Y’s fault, no matter what.”

      But Y (the issuer of the card), may not be the one hurt by the error. No information is provided on who is responsible financially for an error like this. Thus, the hotel might be hurt. It’s not clear who will ultimately eat the error. Therefore, it would seem the most basic thing that should be done is to notify the hotel that they might have a widespread problem with the cards.

      I don’t know if the cards were issued by Visa or someone similar, and what the rules are regarding errors like these, particularly who takes the loss.

  12. Bob Lu says:

    I think it is enough to just inform the hotel staff that there may be some mistake regarding the gift card. Don’t even have to mention that the mistake is in your favor. If they fix it, good. If they don’t, better.

  13. areaman says:

    If the hotel contacts the OP about the discrepancies, the OP should charge the hotel a $25 gift card use review fee, a $37 record pulling fee, personal research fee of $15/hour, etc etc.

    And keep charging these fees until there’s about a dollar difference between what services/goods received and money paid. Then the hotel and OP can settle up in cash.

  14. trey says:

    that company, given the opposite situation, probably would not inform you that they were overcharging you, so why do you feel morally obligated to inform the business?

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      So because they would screw you, you’ll screw them?

      You should always act ethically. Otherwise you’re just as bad as the companies you loathe.

      • Bob Lu says:

        You sound if that was a bad thing?

        Jocking aside, bank/other business can walk away from the reversed situation only when 1. it is a honest mistake and 2. you don’t report it within a certain amount of time.

        To be minimum fair, the same rules should apply on OP’s case.

        • trey says:

          wake up and see the real world in front of you…. you mention banks… well, they got a FUCKING BAILOUT when they screwed up. but for some unknown reason you seem to think that we should be playing by morally correct rules when dealing with morally incorrect corporations. good luck with that.

          • coren says:

            Yes, because being just as bad as the bad companies is a morally solid way to go about things. Not to mention that if customers are nothing but jerks and opportunists, businesses won’t be inclined to treat them well either.

            • trey says:

              where have you been? businesses DONT CARE ABOUT YOU! when are people going to wake up and realize they are getting screwed? i guess in your world it would be better off to continue paying on a house you are underwater on because it would be the “moral” thing to do. man, have these companies got their hooks in you. the only time companies would do that is… wait for it… NEVER!!~! because it doesn’t make financial sense. you keep your morals, i will keep my money.

              • coren says:

                My credit union does. My local grocery store does. Woot does. Amazon seems to. Zappos does.

                Your argument about the loan doesn’t fly – it’s a contract with options basically. I get loaned the money on the condition I pay it back in x increments on y day every month. If I choose not to, the collateral (house) i put down gets taken from me. There’s nothing immoral about choosing to exercise that option.

          • coren says:

            Sorry, but I have trouble believing that he didn’t know he was overspending his card. 50 bucks in snacks for two days, not to mention 40 for the buffet – all on one card? And he noticed because when he went to pay, that money hadn’t been deducted.

            And I’d have a similar expectation of being told “hey, card’s empty, need some more money please” – but I also generally expect a receipt so I know what I have left as well…

          • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

            Here’s the thing, though…some folks don’t let what the generic “they” or how “they” behave dictate their morals and ethical behavior. Otherwise, we’re left with just situational ethics and weak false equivalency arguments, as it seem you’re advocating. And those suck. That is all.

  15. Dover says:

    Call them up, ask for a manager or supervisor, explain the situation, pay anything you owe. Hopefully they will fix the problem in the future or people might try to take advantage of it, but just because there is a security hole doesn’t mean you get to jump into it.

  16. Straspey says:

    There are stories of people who move into a new apartment and find that the gas and electricity has been left on and running, so they just assume it’s okay to keep using it without notifying the power company or setting up a new account in their name.

    They go happily along like this for a year or two – until one day they receive a bill in the mail from the power company for $12,000 for all the gas and electricity they’ve consumed since they moved in.

    No doubt, many consumers here would be up in arms, screaming and ready to go to court, claiming that it’s up to the power company to keep track of their own supply lines and figure out where their product is going.

    Wrong.

    The courts have ruled in favor of the power companies and against the consumers in all such cases, calling it something like “theft of services”.

    It’s like if you hide in the bathroom while riding the train in an attempt to avoid having to buy a ticket, and then claim it’s the railroad’s responsibility to check the bathrooms.

    All this is to say that I would suspect that the OP could be held financially liable for uncharged expenses. If he’s staying at a resort, they must surely have an imprint of his credit card and if he leaves without sorting out this business, he may find the charges showing up on his credit card statement in a month or two, after the resort discovers the error – which they will when they go to reconcile their books.

    • Bob Lu says:

      “It’s like if you hide in the bathroom while riding the train in an attempt to avoid having to buy a ticket, and then claim it’s the railroad’s responsibility to check the bathrooms.”

      How about those passengers left on the plan after landing? Should they also be charged with extra fee “for the trip from the runway to hanger”?

      What is important is the intension. In the case of gas supply, the users can clearly figure out there is something wrong by common sense. Also, there is no way for gas company to know when you moved. (Although I think here are still details missing in the story. Didn’t the gas company sent any bill to anyone during the year?)

      As for gift card, it is reasonable for consumers to not keep a precise track of card balance. However I agree, once you know there is clearly something wrong, you should at least stop using it.

      • skylar.sutton says:

        I concur. In the example supplied for utility companies there was a blatant intent to defraud on the consumers part. In the submitted story above, the submitter didn’t appear to have a malicious intent.

        • Straspey says:

          To quote the OP:

          “Should I have said something to staff? Would it have made a difference? Or am I supposed to inventory my own purchases and just toss the card when it’s spent?”

          So, since he readily admits that he’s aware (or even suspects) that the resort made an error in his favor, the only question left is one of “intent”

          Does he intend to step right up and bring this to the attention of the resort staff; or does he intend to simply just wait and see what happens – possibly in the hopes of it never being discovered ?

          And as mentioned by another poster above – if the error had been in reverse, and the resort had inadvertently overcharged him – do you think he would be asking whether he should mention it now, or wait and see if they correct it themselves ?

          Who was it that said, “Intent is nine-tenths of the law” ?

          • Bob Lu says:

            In OP’s case I agree she should inform the hotel. (See my earlier comment.) However your original comment gave me the impression that you were saying it is generally the consumers’ responsibility to keep track of their gift card balance.

  17. Michaela says:

    I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t tell. If I were a business owner, I would expect someone to tell me about the situation, so I have to do the same.

  18. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Call ‘em and tell ‘em. The services/money do not belong to you. Period.

  19. fsnuffer says:

    The answer is yes. You should report it.

  20. UberGeek says:

    To paraphrase a post from a similar article, sitting here speculating how someone else should react leads to a totally different answer than sitting here deciding how I will react. It’s easy to say the OP should be honest and settle up, but if I were in his shoes I’d probably think, “Alright, I drew the ‘Bank error in your favor. Collect $20.’ card!!!”

  21. faea says:

    As a hotel employee who does the Night Audit I can say that every night the entire hotel or resort has to balance. If something like that came up the night auditor has to investigate and figure out what happened. Honestly one of two things would happen. The excess would get posted to the room, if the guest is still staying. Or the magic words ‘write off’. It is policy in most hotels that if its hotel error it doesn’t get charged to the guest. In that case even if the OP told the hotel, where it is clearly a hotel error, it would get writen off. It would only really matter if it is an excessive amount. In that case the hotel can figure out which room the OP stayed in and charge the credit card on file.

  22. htowninsomniac says:

    You should tell them. If you still have a balance on the cards that shouldn’t be there, the resort should get that money. Depending on the amounts, it may be defensible to refuse to pay more than you had on the cards, though, because you had probably expected to be told when you run out.

  23. milty456 says:

    Why is this even a question…”Should I steal”….cmon…do unto others…of course you should tell them…

  24. milty456 says:

    This article should be on another site…perhaps moralist.com?

    • coren says:

      “What’s my obligation when there’s a price mistake in my favor” definitely sounds relevant to this site…

  25. drburk says:

    I have a hard time with situations like this. My initial response is to scoff “it’s not my job to run their business.” It is a business’s job to hire staff and implement system that provide the best services available if they cannot manage to charge my account properly or send me a bill correctly I feel no obligation to them after all I’m not paid to manage their accounts or do their bookkeeping. I do feel a need to pay what I owe especially if service was top notch.

  26. Geekybiker says:

    Like most moral issues- If you have to ask, you probably already know what you should do. You aren’t asking because you don’t know what is right. You are asking because you want someone to give you permission to do something you know is wrong.

    • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

      Most insightful comment in the thread. +1,000 Imannuel Kants to you

  27. leastcmplicated says:

    If the company mistakenly overcharged you there would be a big outrage, but when their system makes a mistake you’re wondering whether or not to let them know and go on taking advantage of a broken system? Sometimes I wonder where peoples morals are.

  28. Ilovegnomes says:

    My vote is to make them aware of what happened. Let them decide what they want to do. If they say that it was their mistake and don’t worry about it, then you are free and clear (but write down who you spoke to, on what date and time). If they ask you to pay the balance, then you do so and then you don’t have anything to worry about later on. I’m for resolving things up front so that you don’t experience unpleasant surprises later.

  29. coren says:

    Sorry, but I have trouble believing that he didn’t know he was overspending his card. 50 bucks in snacks for two days, not to mention 40 for the buffet – all on one card? And he noticed because when he went to pay, that money hadn’t been deducted.

    And I’d have a similar expectation of being told “hey, card’s empty, need some more money please” – but I also generally expect a receipt so I know what I have left as well

    • RandomHookup says:

      Well, he had 3 $100 cards, so it’s understandable he might not have figured out the balance…especially if he wasn’t getting a receipt and didn’t segregate the cards at all.

      • coren says:

        Ok, I guess I could see him handing over a “different” card each time and not noticing right away (although he says on the same card. Benefit of the doubt though). But at final checkout, I find it hard to believe he didn’t know something was up (as evidenced by what he says about checking out)

  30. Dallas_shopper says:

    I’m of the “let the hotel eat it” mentality. It’s their responsibility to correctly price their services and receive payment at the time of use whether it’s by check, credit card, etc. Their responsibility.

  31. DrRonster says:

    Enjoy the gift cards and allow for futher testing by fellow consumerists.

  32. bdfromnj says:

    I’m not sure that I would have said anything. Carma….how many times have these big companies over charged a consumer and never refunded the money to them. Carma will get you every time. Just like the supermarkets over charging on sale items. You report it to them and the next day, they are still charging the wrong price. They have our information on the ‘club cards’ that we have to subscribe to in order to get the supermarkets discounts. With having to have to scan the ‘club card in order to get the sale price, they knew we bought the product that they were inadvertently over charging us for. They could notify us to come in for a refund…..they don’t. I’m sure the hotel chains do the same thing. How many of us REALLY go over the bill when we check out. (though I do….)

  33. haggis for the soul says:

    Of course you should have let the hotel know. As quickly as you would want to know if it was working against you. People really struggle with this?

  34. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    I would ask to see a statement of everything spent on the cards. If they couldn’t produce it, tell them that you’re concerned that you may have over-spent the cards and if there’s a way to track that. If they say no, then I would walk away unless you know EXACTLY how much you overspent on them.

    It is the hotel’s responsibility to track those purchases, not yours.

  35. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    I would ask to see a statement of everything spent on the cards. If they couldn’t produce it, tell them that you’re concerned that you may have over-spent the cards and if there’s a way to track that. If they say no, then I would walk away unless you know EXACTLY how much you overspent on them. Just as you would have to provide a receipt to prove that you were overcharged something, the hotel should have to provide a record that you were undercharged, especially when you’re the one trying to rectify the situation.