Over this past weekend, some crazy rains tore a path through a portion of the Mid-Atlantic, leaving entire areas without power or other utilities and forcing some residents to turn to hotels for shelter. But some people in New Jersey have accused local hotel operators of trying to cash in on area residents’ misfortune.
One man says that when he looked at the room rates for one Wyndham-operated hotel, rooms were going for around $79 a night, but when he went to check in, suddenly the hotel wanted around $100 more per night.
The Fox affiliate in Philadelphia reports that the average price listed online for a room at that particular hotel had been around $67 a night.
And at the hotel next door, the average online listing was $110 per night, but when the reporter called to book a room he was told it was actually $189.
Both the general manager of that hotel and the owner of the first hotel we mentioned blamed the skyrocketing rates on the busy holiday season. However, neither hotel could provide prices from last summer to compare to these numbers.
In what is surely just a huge coincidence, shortly after being visited by the TV news crew, the hotel rates dropped back down to reasonable numbers.
Even if the hotels weren’t actively out to gouge consumers, they probably want to avoid the appearance of impropriety, as the New Jersey Attorney General’s office issued a statement yesterday warning businesses in the affected areas to not gouge residents, not just because it’s a crappy thing to do, but because it’s also illegal.
According to New Jersey law regarding price gouging during a state of emergency, anyone charging in excess of 10% higher than they normally would faces civil penalties of up to $10,000 for the first offense and $20,000 for the second and subsequent offenses.
And each individual sale would be considered a separate offense. So even if a hotel only gouges four guests, that could be up to $80,000 in penalties.