Holiday Inn's Online Reservations Are Non-Refundable?

Make sure you read everything you click, warns reader Jason:

Just a tip to pass along that I am finding out the hard way…

Make sure you read the fine print when it comes to making online reservations to a Holiday Inn through their website. I recently booked 4 days in a Washington, DC hotel late next month for a short vacation for my wife and I. Recent events in out life led us to have to cancel our vacation. When I called today to cancel my reservations, I was told that my purchase was “non-refundable” and they would be unable to return my payment. I then called the hotel i made my reservations with direct, and they too told me that they *could* cancel my reservation, but my payment was “non-refundable” since i booked online. Sure enough, when I went back to look at my online receipt, there at the bottom it tells me that if I cancel, my payment is non-refundable.

The worst part is that I am quite loyal to Holiday Inn and their other brands. I not only joined their Reward Club a few years back, but I *always* use them first when looking for a hotel, and rarely go anywhere else. Now, when I am in a jam, it turns out that brand loyalty does not mean much to them. Now, they are essentially charging me almost around $495 for canceling a reservation more than a month in advance.

I plan on calling them again on Monday to try to get someone to help me out of this, but at the moment, things are not looking good for me. I’ve sent an e-mail appealing my case to as many addresses I could find, so hopefully that will help. If any of your users can offer me any hints on how to swing this in my favor, it would be much appreciated. Oh, and if anyone has Stevan Porter’s contact or e-mail address that would be a huge bonus too.

We clicked around the Holiday Inn website and saw that Holiday Inn’s policy was to charge a cancellation fee of one night’s stay for all the hotels we chose. We looked at two hotels in New York and one in Washington D.C.

The warning read:

Canceling your reservation after 6:00 PM (local hotel time) on 22 June, 2007, or failing to show, will result in a charge equal to the first night’s stay per room to your credit card. Taxes may apply. Failing to call or show before check-out time after the first night of a reservation will result in cancellation of the remainder of your reservation.

We assume that since you paid in advance, the story is different. Do the readers have any suggestions for Jason? —MEGHANN MARCO

(Photo: Ben Popken)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Echodork says:

    Chargeback. Plain and simple. You’re being charged for a service you did not receive, and it’s unreasonable to think the hotel incurred any expenses if you cancelled a month in advance.

  2. FatLynn says:

    Can you get your CC company involved? Some have travel protections or insurance you may be able to use, depending on the reason for your cancellation.

  3. acambras says:

    This doesn’t sound right — it sounds worse than dealing with the airlines. It doesn’t seem like a customer who booked in advance should have his planning “rewarded” with having to pay for 4 night, when he didn’t even stay one.

    Is it possible he could do a chargeback for at least part of it?

    I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in February. I had reserved (not prepaid) for 3 nights, but at check-in I informed them that I’d only need the room for 2 nights. No problem — I paid for 2 nights.

    It was an overpriced dump, btw.

  4. FatLynn says:

    I take that back. When I search in D.C., the first hotel that comes up offers a cheap rate, but it says:

    Room and Rate Information
    Rate Type: Advance Purchase
    Rate: $119.99 (USD) per room, per night CONVERT CURRENCY
    View Estimated Total Price †
    Rate Description: Special Savings! Reservations require full prepayment for the entire stay at time of booking. Fully non refundable. Prepayment is charged to credit card between time of booking and day of arrival and is non refundable. No refunds if cancelled or changed.
    Deposit Required: A deposit for the entire stay is due at time of booking.
    Tax: 14.5% per night not included in rate effective 29 June, 2007 thru 2 July, 2007
    Daily Parking Fee: $25.00 (USD)
    Number of Rooms: 1
    Number of Persons: 1 ADULT(S), 0 CHILD(REN)
    Check-in Time: 03:00 PM
    Check-out Time: 12:00 PM
    Modify or Cancel Policy: Canceling your reservation or failing to show will result in a charge for the entire stay per room to your credit card. Taxes may apply.

    * I understand that by selecting this checkbox, I have read and accept the reservation terms & conditions stated on this page. I certify that I am at least 18 years of age and at least as old as the minimum check-in age of the hotel at which I am making this reservation.

    * I understand that by selecting the confirm reservation button, I am authorizing a charge to the credit card number provided for any specified deposit requirement and/or cancellation fee that may apply. Cancellation fees are non-refundable.

    Looks like you may be out of luck on this one, unless the circumstances forcing you to cancel are really extreme.

  5. jacobazizi says:

    You should put a stop payment one the credit card, or contest the payment with your credit card company. either way should work. I once got away from spending 1200 to a mariott villa b/c the room was a bit damaged after we left, they wanted to charge us for damages and and an extra night that we were not going to stay. I put stop payment and contested the charge. Hotels are so scummy.

  6. levenhopper says:

    A chargeback wouldn’t work, because when he made the reservation he knew it was unrefundable. Or — he should have known if he had read…

    Buyer be ware.

  7. acambras says:


    Oh, well then that makes sense. Sucks for Jason, but underscores why it’s important to read the fine print before clicking. :-(

  8. creamsissle says:

    I’ve noticed more and more hotels offering a lower rate in exchange for the condition that the reservation is non-refundable. Airlines have been doing business this way for years, and we’ve accepted it. If you need the flexibility, don’t book a non-refundable reservation.

  9. tedyc03 says:

    He should contact corporate and complain. Insist on a credit for a future stay. They might not be willing to refund his money but they might be willing to give him that credit.

    I won’t be booking at Holiday Inn Express any time soon though.

  10. ancientsociety says:

    WAIT! But it’s says:

    Cancellation fees are non-refundable.”

    Not the entire hotel reservation, just the fee for cancelling. Something smells fishy…

    This is absurd. If this is the way Holiday Inn does business, looks like I’ll be finding other accomodations when travelling

  11. bedofnails says:

    Insider tip, they will more than likely allow you to apply that entire dollar amount to a future stay, just change the dates.

  12. Pupator says:

    I make HIE reservations all the time for work and pleasure travel. They could not make it any more clear that some rates are non-refundable. The rate type is called “advance purchase,” and as shown above, they make you click a check-box that indicates you understand that this particular rate is non-refundable.

    All of there other rates are 100% refundable if you cancel even as late as 5:59pm on the day of the reservation.

    This was a case of a consumering not reading the boxes he was checking and agreeing to.

  13. stopNgoBeau says:

    I’ve been using Holiday Inn for years, and am a Priority Club member as well.

    Cancellation policies vary from hotel to hotel, and depend upon the rate you choose. I reserve and cancel hotels all the time with no problem. Some hotels do require you to cancel a few days in advance to get a refund. Others will only refund all but a nights stay. These hotels are by far in the minority. Most will not charge you as long as you cancel prior to 6pm the day of check-in.

    There are “advanced purchase” rates that you can get that are really cheap, but have a no cancelation policy. I have always found these as well marked. The cancelation policy is even printed in red just above the “submit” button. You also have to check a box that says you read and agree to the rate information.

    I’d say its always wise to read the rate information before booking any rooms.

  14. bedofnails says:


    This is the same policy as booking with any extranet site (, expedia, etc.)

    It is how hotels are able to offer lower rates, but continue to keep strong cash flow and booking pace.

  15. jburland says:

    How can people be so naive?
    If you get a cheap hotel room/airline seat/ car rental, conditions apply.
    Can’t this guy read?
    But go ahead, accuse the service provider of devious practices. Everyone’ll believe him.

    And no, I do NOT work for Holiday Inn.

  16. bedofnails says:


    Look out, people might think you work for Walmart or the TSA.

  17. castlecraver says:

    Report CC as stolen. Get replacement card with new account number.

  18. bdgbill says:

    If you do not get your money back I would call them and tell them you are coming. Call them each day of your reservation and tell them you were “delayed” but you will be coming the next day.

    If you are forced to pay for a room you cannot use you should at least make sure that the room is sitting empty and not sold again.

    I make 1500 hotel reservations a year for myself and my employees and this kind of thing is becoming more and more common.

  19. hellinmyeyes says:

    Days Inn did the same thing for (to?) me last time I reserved a room online. They let me know this is an “online special” rate and that the rate would be different if I called to reserve (which it wasn’t) and that it was an absolutely non-refundable reservation if I reserved online. They didn’t present any alternative for a refundable reservation at all other than to call that hotel location directly and reserve. Of course, naturally, the girl at the front desk there told me I could reserve online. Anyway, I didn’t have to cancel, fortunately… I would say you gotta read the fine print, but in the case of the Days Inn site, it’s extremely 100% in bold clear that it’s non-refundable.

  20. Tylas says:

    The major pitfall is that if he does cancel the reservation but is charged the entire amount he is effectively paying for no service rendered, which is illegal (just like the credit repair services). So if you can cancel the reservation at the hotel then he may have a leg to stand on and possibly dispute it through the credit card company.

    And yes I know it’s a buyer beware world we live in, but isn’t anyone else just getting a little tired with these tyranical service fees on the internet masking as a “convienence”?

    – T

  21. matukonyc says:

    Indeed.. if they offered a lower price with the condition of non-refundable prepayment, that’s it. Unfortunately, I don’t think the consumer has a leg to stand on here, although he should surely attempt to use his loyalty as leverage for a credit in the future.

  22. Hitchcock says:

    You are probably out of luck with a charge back. But most places that offer “non-refundable” booking, will offer you a credit that you can use on future reservations. See if they will offer you that. Since you always book with Holiday Inn, you shouldn’t have a problem using the credit up in the future.

  23. bedofnails says:


    No he won’t. As someone within hospitality finance, any charge backs will be met from the hotel with a copy of the policy the client agreed to when making the online reservation. This “click” = a “signature” according to the Visa/MC merchant agreement. The OP will loose if the hotel can provide a copy of the original reservation, contact information, and the aforementioned policy.

    This is not the case with AMEX, this language is different in most AMEX merchant agreements; and the “click” agreement policy is very hard to validate from the merchant side when dealing with an AMEX chargeback.

  24. bedofnails says:


    Report CC as stolen. Get replacement card with new account number.

    That is credit card fraud.

    I bet you’re the first one in line to complain about new “fees.”

  25. Shadowman615 says:

    I don’t know why he didn’t know that. I have booked using the lower pre-paid rate at Holiday Inn before. They make this perfectly clear when you’re reserving the room: You’re being offered a lower rate — the catch is, it’s non-refundable.

    So if you want to pay in advance and get the lower rate, great, but don’t whine about it if you have to cancel. If your plans aren’t definite, reserve the room at the extra 10% or whatever. I don’t think this qualifies as “fine print.” They’re quite up front about it, actually.

  26. seawall says:

    Do your best to write that letter explaining that you were confused and that you wish the website were more clear about it (though it seems like they might be fairly clear). Ask them to give you a break this one time and that you’ll stay loyal to them. From what I’ve seen on hotel sites lately, the discount isn’t worth the risk of the prepay.

  27. MiltyKiss says:

    Most hotels/motels will try to keep your money unless you get that one manager that cares and gives it back to you.

    Chargebacks won’t do much good because Holiday Inn can just point out the “no refund” clause.

  28. aparsons says:

    I wonder if there was a special event going on in DC at the time he needed a hotel. A lot of hotels catch wind of special events (graduations, concerts, conventions) and change their reservation policies accordingly. Marriott showed a pre-paid nonrefundable rate when I went to my sister’s graduation. But it was clearly marked alongside the quoted rate.

    I can see why they do this. It prevents people from shopping around and booking rooms at every hotel just to see if the rates drop at the last minute. So, blame yourselves for this policy :)

  29. scoobydoo says:

    This is just NOT what a chargeback is for. Chargebacks are not for when you fail to read fineprint and feel you deserve your money back.

    Almost every hotel booking site now offers “Internet only” rates that are non refundable and non cancelable. It sucks the poster lost his money, and that he fell for the trap that hotels have set, but this sadly isn’t one of those cases where he could just do a chargeback.

    The only (and best) suggestion so far is to plead with the hotel to let him stay at a different time. Don’t expect money back, or to be able to stay at a different hotel, the hotel itself loads this rate and money went right to the hotel, not corporate.

    And next time, make sure to read the fineprint…

  30. latemodel says:

    As a last resort, do four separate chargbacks, one for each night. When a cardholder files a chargeback, the merchant is out $25-$50 regardless of the outcome of the chargeback request.

  31. Yarbz says:

    If a refund cannot be coerced from the corporate office, Jason should simply call the hotel back and tell them that the room will be used and not cancel it. Then call a homeless shelter and tell them that there is a nice room available at the Holiday Inn for 4 nights. The Holiday Inn will love you and so will the shelter… Well, at least the shelter will…

  32. bostonmike says:

    The worst part, in my opinion, is that these advance-payment non-refundable hotel rates are also often non-transferable. So you can’t sell the reservation on craigslist, or let a friend take the reservation instead. Plus you can’t leave after a night (and pay for just that one night) if the hotel room turns out to be unacceptable, or if the hotel amenities aren’t as described, or for any reason that you would normally switch to a new hotel the next day.

  33. flashing12 says:

    I almost (stress ALMOST) got caught on this once myself, but since I am extremely sensitive to any service that I must pay in advance I opted for the (only slightly) higher non-prepaid rate. I have since avoided Holiday Inn and their affiliated since then and I ONLY book where my reservation is guaranteed by my card and NOT paid in advance

  34. miran says:

    I had prepaid for a hotel room for a college football weekend. You had to cancel an month in advance to get a refund. Sadly, a member of our party was called up for deployment 2 weeks before the game and suddenly no one wanted to tailgate. (Tailgating in the south is a professional sport for those who are unaware.) I called the hotel. I told them that if my money was not refunded (as the room would likely be sold again) I would be offering it up to one of the area radio stations as a give away cos if it’s paid for with my money I can use the room however I want.
    I image the threat of a bunch of unsupervised teenagers was a significantly motivating factor in my refund.

  35. lawmage says:

    What you should do is call up the manager of the hotel and explain that since the room is non-refundable you’ll be subletting to another guest, taking out an ad on craigslist perhaps.

    You probably don’t actually want to do this as you’ll be on the hook if any damages occur to the room, but if might make them consider just refunding your money just to get rid of you.

  36. bedofnails says:


    As a last resort, do four separate chargbacks, one for each night. When a cardholder files a chargeback, the merchant is out $25-$50 regardless of the outcome of the chargeback request.

    This is so completely wrong.

  37. bedofnails says:


    But usually they can modify the dates.

  38. miran says:

    For game day weekends in the south, rooms must be reserved about 10 months in advance. (Tailgating is a professional sport here in the south) We’ve done this on multiple occasions. The last time we had to cancel 2 weeks before the game day. One of our party was called up for deployment and priorities changed. The hotel required a months notice for cancellation to get a refund. Well, I informed them that I was sure they’d sell the room and I could have my money back, but if they didn’t, I’d be sure to offer it up to the local radio station the day before the game as a giveaway.
    If I’ve bought the room, I get to use it as I see fit. I’m sure the threat of unsupervised teens in their hotel had something to do with my refund arrive the day prior.

  39. FatLynn says:

    @bostonmike: If the hotel is really sub-par, you can do a chargeback, but you would have to have a very specific and verifiable complaint, i.e. you take pictures of roaches running around your bed, or they advertise a pool and there isn’t one.

  40. shdwsclan says:

    Chargeback might not go through if they fight it and send their policy to the credit card company and show them how you are trying to circumvent it.
    Always read the fineprint and my 9 rules of capitalism before making any purchase.

    One o the rules mentions why people would be “nice” to you aka the “loyalty” program, which basically means that if they sell your information to everyone, then youll get a tiny discount.
    Banks call it free checking…..
    Hotels and stores call it rewards zone or loyalty club
    Credit card companies call it rewards or miles…or whatever
    Computer manufactures call it trialware…

  41. Bulldog9908 says:

    Holiday Inn’s website is very clear about this. I’ve booked non-refundable rooms through them before, but when there is any uncertainty, I opt for the higher, refundable rate.

    For those suggesting charge backs, that is credit card fraud. He agreed to accept a lower rate in exchange for not being able to cancel (whether he was careful enough to read the words next to the rate or not). Holiday Inn is holding up its end of the bargain, so trying to abuse a charge back to recover his money is both unethical and fraudulent.

  42. BeastMasterJ says:

    I reserved a room at Days Inn with a non-refundable internet rate a back in April for a convention in July.

    I noticed that the room wasn’t refundable, but 3 nights for $150 was pretty good, and I wasn’t likely to bail out, so I took it. Sometimes you gotta run the risk for the reward. And yeah, the “fine print” is repeated and boldfaced a few times, so it’s not exactly sneaky, even if it is a little unfair.

    Now I just have to avoid life-upheaving events for the next 2 weeks, lest I should cancel my reservations…

  43. tedyc03 says:

    @castlecraver: Right.

    Because committing credit card fraud is a good idea.

    Anyone for calling the FBI for the reward? Anyone?

  44. mconfoy says:

    Yes, they are clear, and if you want a great deal, then use it. I have, but not for more than one night if I am not certain. And reporting the cc stolen won’t do jack unless you are claiming charge was fraudulent. Not sure why this whole thread exists frankly. None of this is new as far as hotels are concerned, they make it so obvious that you had to be half asleep to have missed it and we are talking Holiday Inn Express, so you are not talking that much money.

  45. texasannie says:

    I stay with Holiday Inn Express all the time, and make all my reservations on the Priority Club website. As others have stated, it’s explicitly stated that the charges are non-refundable. If you’re not 100% sure you’re going to use the room, wait until you ARE sure, then pay what they charge you then. The difference in price still will be less than paying a reduced rate for reservations you didn’t actually use.

    I like Holiday Inn Express. The ones I’ve stayed in have always been clean, comfortable, and staffed by helpful people. I never stay anywhere else. I don’t work for them, but I am a very satisfied customer.

  46. joeblevins says:

    I am going have to side with Holiday Inn on this one. There was no ‘fine print’. This was a case of just not paying attention.

    In 100% of my business travel I just guarantee my room. But for personal travel, I might be tempting to pre-purchase a room, but I tend to just find the lowest rate. My work and life can affect my vacation plans, so I know better.

  47. RaslDasl says:

    Count me on the Holiday Inn side as well. I have chosen the non-refundable rate for some stays (usually a one-nighter) and willingly paid a bit more when my plans were subject to change. For me, it’s cheap travel insurance. And I am almost always pleased with Holiday Inn Express, more regularly than the more expensive Holiday Inn locations.

  48. banned says:


  49. specialed5000 says:

    I travel for work all the time (200+ hotel nights last year) and have Platinum status at both HI and Marriott. I have had this same thing happen to me twice and since those times I never select the prepaid non-refundable rate (what was I thinking when work reimburses me anyway). Holiday Inn is the only chain I know of that sometimes offers these rates. Fortunately, both times I successfully asked the manager not the charge me as a courtesy to a Platinum member (50+ nights a year at Holiday Inns).

  50. FightOnTrojans says:

    Am I missing something here? If I understand this correctly, the OP is cancelling his reservation, not going to use the service, and the hotel will still be paid as if he was occupying the room.

    However, since he cancelled, the hotel management will know they have an open room, and can possibly rent it out to another person, at possibly higher rates (since it may not qualify for the early-bird rate).

    So, not only can this hotel get paid twice for the same room, the amount of profit they can clear from it would be tremondous, since the costs of providing the room should essentially be covered by the OP’s non-refundable reservation. Whatever they charge that person would be pure profit on top of the profit from the OP! There is something definitely wrong here.

    Yes, non-refundable is non-refundable, and I understand that for items that cannot be reused nor resold, or with a time-value. However, with this much advance notice, in a tourist destination, during a busy period, I don’t foresee that room remaining unoccupied. At minimum Holiday Inn should allow him to retain the credit (maybe with some minor cancellation fees). If the room is rented to another person, a full refund would be appropriate since they were still able to fill the room (and probably at higher rate). I don’t believe that Holiday Inn should be allowed to double-dip. Good luck to you, OP. I really hope Holiday Inn reconsiders this strategy, as it will quickly alienate loyal customers (me included).

  51. bostonmike says:

    Homewood Suites offers prepaid rates as well. First you go through the page that says “lowest rates guaranteed” and “no prepayment”, and then you get offered the lowest rate which is a prepaid non-refundable rate.

  52. RandomHookup says:


    Actually you might be on to something here. It would be interesting to look at the housing laws around DC to see if this were covered. Certainly a landlord can’t do this to a tenant breaking a lease (the double dipping, that is). In some states, a hotel can’t even throw out a guest without going through the court for an eviction.

    Probably a longshot, but what the heck?

  53. MommaJ says:

    I think the best approach to this is to analyze the non-refundable payment provision as a liquidated damages clause (see Wikipedia for a decent explanation of liquidated damages, but it’s essentially agreeing in advance to the amount of the other side’s damages if you don’t keep your end of a contract). And liquidated damage provisions are non-enforceable if they aren’t reasonable or don’t properly compensate the party for likely losses. Since it’s probable the room will be rebooked when cancelled so far in advance, it appears the hotel will recoup the cost of the room and is only justified in charging a rebooking fee of some type. I’d head to small claims court for this one (since you really can’t expect your credit card company to deal with the legal niceties), and I think you have a very good chance of success on this basis.

  54. TomT643848 says:

    You should try one of the Hilton chains. I cancel and change my length of stay frequently. Never have been charged a dime, even if I was late canceling.

  55. bedofnails says:


    Hotels are not regulated under the housing laws, since they are for “transient” residents. You would have to stay more than 30 consecutive day in a hotel to achieve “non transient” status.

    Again, people are so far away from the original point. The OP reserved a room, is trying to break his guaranteed reservation and credit card contract. What the hotel does with that room if he does not show up is completely irrelevant.

  56. bedofnails says:


    I’d also like to point out that under the cardholder and merchant agreement, after attempting a chargeback that is denied, you can go to what is called arbitration – in arbitration, the client can be penalized if he looses again, while if the outcome is this time in his/her favor – they recoup their original claim, as well as an additional penalty.

    This of course in no way applies here of course, as the hotel is completely honoring the original booking agreement, while the customer is refusing to.

  57. FightOnTrojans says:


    But don’t you see something inherently wrong with the hotel’s ability to basically get paid twice for the same room for the same days? I’m not disputing the non-refundable part, that’s the way it is written, and the person agreed to it, and I understand why the hotels do it. At least let him keep the credit to apply it to another time (minus whatever nominal and reasonable fee they want to charge) as long as the customer gave reasonable notice to the hotel of his change in plans. If not, then allow him to transfer it to someone else via Craigslist or whatever other method. I still believe that there is something wrong with allowing hotels to double-charge for the same room. If it isn’t against the law, then it should be.

  58. swvaboy says:

    I worked for a Holiday Inn for 15 years. He not only clicked one time, but three accepting the cancellation policy. I know; I have dealt with many people wanting to cancel. Yes it is up to the hotel to refund if they want to, but the rate is so low because of the anticipated cancellations and no shows. Thus the rate averages out to be a higher rate on the books

    It is recorded in the system as such and each click can be proven to the credit card companies.

    Also, the 3 charge backs or a chargeback at all never cost us unless we blatantly did something wrong or failed to give a credit we promised.

    Read the fine print, why do you think that Holiday Inn has the “Lowest Internet Rate” guarantee. Also, Steve Porter will just send your case to Guest Relations (see below), and send you a letter about hotel being independently owned and operated.


    PS: The more you call the more adamant that the hotel will be against the cancellation. You know the Power Trip thing. Your best shot is calling 1-800-HOLIDAY and asking for guest relations. They will ask the hotel for you; however, if you are not a Platinum Priority Club Member (60 nights or more a year) they will not put much pressure on the hotel for you.

  59. swvaboy says:

    I forgot, he can sell the resercation if he can. It happens all the time during specail events.

  60. YlimE08 says:

    I smell bullshit. I worked in a hotel for several years and I have NEVER heard of charging someone for a reservation they cancelled a month in advance. Our individual hotel policy stated that if someone made a “guaranteed” reservation with a credit card and didn’t cancel or show, we COULD charge them. 99.9% of the time we never did unless we had a full house and could have sold the room to someone else.

    That being said, a guest’s credit card was never actually charged until they checked out. Making a reservation online or through the 1-800 number with a credit card simply put a room on hold.

    Now for a nickel’s worth of free advice. When possible, call the hotel directly. If you find a good deal on a room online, find the hotel’s number, call them up and see if they will honor the online price. I’m sure it isn’t true for every hotel, but we generally had some wiggle room. Besides, you can find out specifics like cancellation policies, amenities, ect. that may differ from one hotel to another depending on the individual owner.

  61. jpp123 says:

    I love the homeless shelter idea – call the manager of the property and make it clear that unless you get a refund you are going to have a different homeless person in the room every night.

  62. bedofnails says:


    I see nothing wrong with the house receiving double revenue for any given bed. Simple economics. Hotels do this all the time with “city-wide” events and “no-shows”.

    However, I do agree with you in that the guest should then be able to modify the dates (with reasonable restrictions, i.e. non holidays, avoiding higher occupancy dates, etc.) In this however is the rub – the hotel is in to make the most possible money for every bed on any given night. Given this, allowing a guest who wants to default on their reservation and “re-schedule” the opportunity to do so, the hotel may be shooting themselves in the foot.

  63. jburland says:

    So stating common sense on this forum gets one lumped together with WalMart and TSA?
    A voice of reason in this rabble of “gimme gimme”s

  64. swvaboy says:

    @YlimE08: Why do you smell that.

    Yes if you call the hotel direct you possibly will get a good rate, but we never quoted the internet “No Cancel Rate”. The reason; less chance, on the hotels part to mess up the cancellation policy while telling the guest. Rates will vary from hotel clerk to clerk and hotel manager to manager, just depending.

    99% of our rates could be canceled up to 4pm on the day of arrival, unless there was a special event going on, and then our cancellation policy was the same as the internet rate but the rate was higher. You book it & you can not cancel it.

    The hotel is a “for profit” institution, if you do not like the parameters of the rate, book the rate that is $5 to $10 higher and you have the option of cancelling. It is just like when I fly somewhere, I do not take the lowest rate, I take one that gives me some flexibility to change, etc UNLESS I am absolutely positive that there will be no changes, and then I go for the lowest rate that I can get.

    You do not get a loan for a car and decide later that the interest rate is too high and decide to cancel it, the same goes for most “for profit” businesses. You do not buy something on a 90% clearance rack with no returns and decide later you want to return it and are upset because you cannot (As long as there is nothing wrong with it). The restrictions get tighter the lower the price.

  65. bostonmike says:

    You do not get a loan for a car and decide later that the interest rate is too high and decide to cancel it

    Actually, yes. It’s called refinancing, or simply paying it off.

    You do not buy something on a 90% clearance rack with no returns and decide later you want to return it

    The non-refundable hotel rates are 10% or 15% off, not 90% off. And you can always sell or give away the clearance rack item, but the hotel is doing their best to make sure that the reservation has no residual value when they say you can’t change the name on the reservation.

  66. acambras says:


    I would think the threat of bad publicity would induce the hotel to give you a break. Businesses look especially bad when their policies adversely affect a member of the military (even if it was indirectly in your case).

  67. YlimE08 says:

    I just talked to a representative from Holiday Inn via their toll-free number. She said what he purchased (from the information given) was a pre-paid non-refundable rate and the site tells you this 3 times before the transaction is complete.

    If he had made a reservation for a regular or discount rate (AARP, AAA, etc.), he could have cancelled without penalty.

    From what Shirley, Sheila, Sheryl, (I forget which it was) told me, he was purchasing in advance to get a more deeply discounted rate.

    Mystery solved.

  68. slapstick says:

    You know, he is bound by the agreement, and he did agree to the policy, which he admitted.

    Just because it’s their policy doesn’t make it a good policy or a consumer-friendly policy. Other people have admitted in the comments to making the same mistake, which they say they won’t repeat, and I’m sure the fellow who fell into it this time won’t do it again. Still, he’s being charged for a service he can’t use, and I have to agree that’s pretty lame, and I’d want a way around it as well.

    Read the fine print is a valuable lesson, but don’t do business with a company that has poor policies you disagree with is even better.

  69. jburland says:

    It’s not small print – at least no smaller than the body of the descriptive text on their reservations form.

    And the Modify and Cancel Policy is highlighted in red – usually a colour designed to attract attention.

  70. FightOnTrojans says:


    I still have a problem with the double-charging. That’s like a restaurant taking your leftovers and selling it to someone else. The hotel wants to make sure it gets paid for the room. If he cancels so late that the hotel doesn’t have enough time to rebook it with someone else on a night when they are fully booked, then I agree, he should pay for the room. However, if they are able to rebook the room with someone, they should give him a credit for another night. I tend to lean towards seeking out a compromise with the customer to hopefully gain his loyalty. Small upfront cost, a little extra work, but a happy and loyal customer.

    I had a Holiday Inn Express employee help me out with a bad situation one night (booked a room at a competitor’s place that turned out to be horrible). She gave me an extremely low rate and got me out of there. I then turned her mostly empty hotel into an almost fully booked one by moving 15 families out of their competitor’s hotel and into hers. She and I were in constant contact the whole weekend as I added additional families and she didn’t give me any hassle. I still remember everything she did, and for that I stay at HIE whenever I travel. A story like this disappoints me.

    Oh well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  71. acambras says:

    It would be a nice goodwill gesture for HIE to give him a refund (since he’s been a repeat customer and he gave them lots of notice), but I don’t think it’s required. It sounds like he accepted the terms of the deal — prepay and get a lower rate, but if you cancel, you’re SOL. If there was any possibility that he wasn’t going to use the room, he shouldn’t have agreed to the deal.

    I reread the post — he keeps referring to a reservation, but this is a prepay thing and it sounds like the terms were pretty clear.

  72. tourpro says:

    Hotel rooms are perishable items. Rates are based on Supply and Demand. All the whining is making me ill.

    In a high demand situation, the seller can make the rules. Imagine if the place and time you need is sold out. Even if you were willing to book a year in advance, pay up front, twice the normal rate, and make your own bed, you’d still not be able to get a room. Ha!

    On the other hand, saavy travelers who find plentiful supply and a hungry operator will likely be able to negotiate a great rate. I’ve often given the double senior Triple A walk-in rate when I feared going down with empty rooms.

  73. bnissan97 says:

    Holiday Inn. Shame on you!!

    Do they have on their site a screen or prompt that states that this sort of reservation is non refundable and make you click “yes” I read this before you continue?

    If they don’t they should.

  74. gjhead says:

    Hey everyone, this was my post, and I just sent the following update e-mail to Consumerist. I thought I would post it here for everyone in the thread to see:

    Thanks for posting about my reservation issue that I told you about the other day. I found lot of the responses in the thread rather interesting. In response to some of the comments, I knew I made a mistake once I reread my reservations. I simply didn’t pay attention enough while making my reservation to see that it was a non-refundable one, and I learned the hard way that I need to pay better attention. My reasons for sending the tip to you were two-fold; 1: I wanted to give everyone else a heads-up on the policy in case they made find themselves making the same mistake as I did. and 2: even though I knew I made a mistake, I still thought it was quite ridiculous that I would be out nearly $500 for canceling a reservation more than a month in advance. I thought someone on Consumerist may have an idea that could help me out.

    Anyway, it turns out my daily visits to Consumerist paid off for me. The same day I sent an e-mail to Consumerist, I also sent e-mail to the Priority Club Customer Service, Online Reservations Customer Service, and also the specific hotel I reserved at Customer Service. Also, I thought I would try to send an email to Stevan Porter (Head of US operations) but any e-mail I tried just bounced back. (I was guessing at what the e-mail address would be.) However, an e-mail I sent to Chief Executive, Andrew Cosslett *didn’t* get bounced. Yesterday when I came home from work, I was surprised to have a message on my answering machine from a representative of Mr. Cosslett in the Executive Offices of Intercontinental Hotels Group. He explained to me that they had reviewed my email and to call him back in order to talk about what they could do for me.

    Well, I just got off the phone with them, and I am happy to say that they have agreed to allow me to reschedule my reservations. The representative was kind enough to explain that being a member of the Rewards Club and my loyalty as a customer came into play when they allowed me to reschedule. I thought this whole situation was handled very well by them and I thought the agreement was very fair.

    Granted, it took an e-mail to the Chief Executive of ICH Hotel Group, but they did end up coming through for me. So hats off to them for doing me a *big* favor. My wife and I are looking forward to our rescheduled trip in a few months!

  75. pda_tech_guy says:

    Well hello there, I am new to the comments, but have been a fan for months. I work part time at a holiday inn express. We shall not name the city in which it is located.

    Basically when you make a reservation online, you get to choose from a variety of rates. The first rate is the cheapest, and it is called the “advanced purchase rate” This rate is usually about 10 to 15 dollars cheaper then the walk in rate for that day, but the catch is, well its advance purchase. You cant cancel, and it is non refundable.

    Then there is the discount rate, which is what we call the AAA rate. Most hotels require that you show a AAA card, and the rate is usually 5-10 dollars cheaper.

    There is then the “best flexible rate” this is the walk in rate.

    And Finally, there is the “1000 bonus points” if you are a priority club member, you get an extra 1000 points (for about 10 dollars more)

    When you reserve under any rate “other than advanced purchase” it is just a reservation. But when you choose the advanced purchase rate, you are pre-paying for a cheaper rate, but you cant cancel. The fact that you are a priority club member usually doesnt help either. The best thing to do in this case though is ask for the General Manager. They are then only ones that might be able to help.

    Hope this helps.

  76. jdmays says:

    I had a similar experience with Holiday Inn Express. After speaking to a “manager” about it on the customer service line they also agreed to let me reschedule to a later date. They also said if one of my co-workers needed to use the reservation they could do so. My co-worker just tried to use the reservation and he was told he couldn’t. Of course, this infuriates me and I will never ever stay at a Holiday Inn Express again.
    I read through the preceding comments and my thoughts on this are:
    1. I acknowledge that I clicked the acceptance of the conditions on the rate. Holiday Inn Express is within their legal right (IMHO) to charge me for the reservation no matter how unfair I may think it is.
    2. By reserving and essentially prepaying for my room online and well in advance (and also trying to cancel well in advance) I provided a tangible benefit to their business. Mainly, letting them know they would be able to rent me the room during a certain period, etc.
    3. As a business traveler who is frequently staying in hotels I often have the need to change reservations at the last minute. I also have a need to make reservations in advance so I can ensure I’ll have a place to stay. It isn’t just on a whimsy that I may have to change a reservation – it’s just a necessity of doing business that sometimes plans change at the last minute.
    4. There are many hotels that cater to the business traveler and I suspect the industry is very competitive. Rarely is Holiday Inn ever in a situation where they are the only option available.

    While they may have a legal right to screw me on the reservation I don’t have to like it and I don’t have to patronize their hotel in the future. They will get the money from the reservation but never again will they get my business. Not only that, but I will tell as many people as possible about this and I suspect many of them will not patronize Holiday Inn Express either.

    Will Holiday Inn go broke because I’m unhappy with them? Of course not. But it will hurt them and in a competitive industry I imagine the cumulative impact of this policy of theirs will cost them dearly.
    My advice: Never ever stay at a Holiday Inn Express.

  77. Anonymous says:

    I book by telephone through for a Holiday End Express. I did not realise that it was non-refundable until I tried to cancel. I explained to that I did not understand it that way when I was booking. The service person that took my booking did speak plainly enough and we had some static going on. I as to speak to a supervisor and was told that I would be told the same “that our policy”. I said OK “Let them tell me that”. I was then put on hold for 3 min. The same rep. came back on to tell me that my credit would be credited the a refund.
    I also learned that I was not getting a lower rate. I could have got same price direct. And I got a lower price on another brand hotel than I could have gotten form

  78. MarkS says:

    Just to let you know before you make a reservation at a Holiday Inn Express. I had made reservations three weeks ago online and like everone else didn’t pay much attention to the cancel policy because most hotel chains allow cancelations 48 hours before scheduled stay. Not Holiday Inn Express, I just tried to cancel because of hurricane Irene a catorgory 2 hurricane was bearing down on Cape Hatteras NC where I scheduled to stay and you would think they would let me cancel my reservation because of the hurricane NO WAY they could care less about me and would not let me cancel my reservation. I'[ll eat this one but never again. I know it’s crazy, just beware don’t get stuck like me.