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Time for me to move on - charged a cancellation fee after being told I wouldn't

Time for me to move on - charged a cancellation fee after being told I wouldn't

Old Apr 13, 19, 9:12 am
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Time for me to move on - charged a cancellation fee after being told I wouldn't

Barring a miraculous change in tune from Marriott, I just finished my last paid stay at Marriott this past week (except where I have no other options - which I know will sometimes happen given Marriott's size).

I had a reservation at a former Starwood hotel. Back in the old days, it had a very clear cancellation policy when I booked it. It would say "You must cancel by 6 PM local time on [Day Before Arrival] to cancel with no fee." Now, all hotels have the incredibly vague "You may cancel your reservation for no charge until [Day Before Arrival] (1 day[s] before arrival)." What does "arrival" mean? Who knows? It isn't defined anywhere in the T&Cs (despite "arrival" showing up everywhere). While still not as clear as Starwood, Marriott could have even used "standard hotel check-in time" which is at least a specified time I can look up for each hotel. Instead, no, it is vague "day of arrival".

As such, I've been unnecessarily stressed whenever I have had to do a late cancel (and I've been avoiding them entirely). Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to change plans (had to switch cities anyways, had the opportunity to stop by home for the night rather than a hotel), but I didn't make these plans until the day before.

When I decided to try to make the change, it was 5:45 PM local time for the hotel - which was very close to the old cut-off window - so just to be safe, I called Marriott reservations (yes, shame on me, I should have called the hotel - but that's not the point). I asked the reservation agent to confirm that I would not be charged a cancellation fee given the current time and she said "yes". I stayed on the phone with her while I cancelled the reservation and asked her again when the app popped up "You may be charged a cancellation fee - continue?" and asked her to confirm again that I would not be charged a cancellation fee - and she did. She promised I would not be charged a cancellation fee. So I cancel, and I booked a new flight (had I not been able to cancel, I would have just flown to the original city I had the reservation in).

The next day, I receive a folio with a cancellation fee. I was surprised given that I was reassured that I would not be charged. I called back to the Reservations line asking them to take care of it given that they had promised I would not be charged. The new agent said that "there is nothing that I can do, but I can ask the hotel to waive the cancellation fee since you're a Platinum member..." It doesn't matter whether I have status - it matters that I was charged a cancellation fee after being told I wouldn't.

But I figure, that's okay, Reservations has no power to fix anything anyway, and this is why I have an Ambassador. I dropped my Ambassador a note to go fix the issue (given the promise of Marriott that I would not be charged a cancellation fee) and assume it will get fixed.

Yesterday evening, I received a note from my Ambassador saying that "unfortunately there is nothing we can do given the cancellation policy stated by the hotel."

I am absolutely flabbergasted. I honestly don't blame the hotel here (which is why I am not reaching out to them directly). Marriott is at fault here, and they should make me whole. They have a vague cancellation policy - so vague their own reservation agents don't know the rules and misinform their customers - and then take so little accountability for that they refuse to make a customer that stays nearly 200 nights at their properties whole.

I am going to escalate this to customer care, and if I do not receive a resolution of this within a few days, I will be contesting the charge with Amex. I have already cancelled all future paid Marriott stays (after this week) and am looking elsewhere. I feel like I've put up with a lot of abuse over the merger in the past year, but this is a straw too far. Unlike Starwood, I don't trust Marriott to protect me as a customer. They only protect the hotels, not me.


EDIT / UPDATE as of Thursday 4/18: After requesting that my Ambassador escalate to Customer Care and waiting 5 more days, I finally received written confirmation that I would get my fee refunded a week after I was charged. That said, I never received any apology nor received any clear explanation of (1) what the actual cancellation policy is or (2) why I was charged to begin with. So it's a mixed victory.

Last edited by ethernal; Apr 18, 19 at 11:32 am
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Old Apr 13, 19, 9:23 am
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Send your cancellations and replacement reservations to Arne and Flueck.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 9:27 am
  #3  
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Did the OP call the general STARRIOTT customer service number or call his/her Ambassador and hit 0 or whatever to be transferred (or alternatively call the Ambassador 24/7 number)? It would be especially disappointing if Ambassadors don't know the rules and don't bother to check, even when being asked explicitly twice to verify. The agent should have called the hotel to avoid any potential ambiguity.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 9:38 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Did the OP call the general STARRIOTT customer service number or call his/her Ambassador and hit 0 or whatever to be transferred (or alternatively call the Ambassador 24/7 number)? It would be especially disappointing if Ambassadors don't know the rules and don't bother to check, even when being asked explicitly twice to verify. The agent should have called the hotel to avoid any potential ambiguity.
I called the general Reservations phone number because I don't know the general Ambassador 24/7 phone line, and I never call my Ambassador (always via email because I usually do administrivia on my phone while waiting in lines at airports). This is the first time I've called Marriott in probably a year.

My perspective is that it shouldn't matter - I was immediately recognized as having Ambassador status on the phone when I was picked up, so I assume that there is routing that is happening somehow.

Again, maybe I could have "done things better" - but given that Marriott doesn't make it easy to find the Ambassador number and I was in a bit of a rush to get an answer I figured I should be able to trust a Marriott Reservations specialist to.. you know, answer questions about my reservation.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 9:55 am
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OP, I would be upset as well, but wouldn't call this a loss until I called the hotel and asked for a refund. Take a screenshot of your call log showing the call at 5:45. IMO you haven't tried to get it fixed all the way yet...certainly not enough to throw down on Marriott for good. Not trying to play "blame the victim" just suggesting you might be stopping a little hastily.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 10:23 am
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Originally Posted by orca15 View Post
OP, I would be upset as well, but wouldn't call this a loss until I called the hotel and asked for a refund. Take a screenshot of your call log showing the call at 5:45. IMO you haven't tried to get it fixed all the way yet...certainly not enough to throw down on Marriott for good. Not trying to play "blame the victim" just suggesting you might be stopping a little hastily.
Why should the onus be on the guest to run down every possible channel? The CS agent told OP there wouldn’t be a charge. Then there was. I’d be disputing the charge rather than dealing with Marriott’s Kafkaesque customer service.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 10:34 am
  #7  
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OP - I think that you are spending way too much time on what is likely a simple error.

1. Send a complaint noting the relevant facts (keep it to 2-3 short declarative sentences. Most of what is in your post is not directly relevant). Ask that a refund be issued within 7 business days.

2. On the 8th business day, file a chargeback dispute. You may be asked for #1 , so have a screenshot handy if needed.

Stuff happens.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 11:25 am
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Not sure why so many are adverse to calling the property. They are ALWAYS the final arbitrators of policy. I recently goofed up and booked the wrong date of arrival for an upcoming stay. The booking was cancelable, but my very lucrative rate was no longer available. A call to the property resolved the issue within minutes, and I was proactively booked at the original rate with bonus points and assigned an enormous suite. Moral of the story is CALL THE PROPERTY. They have a closer symbiotic relationship and level of empowerment to the franchisee than any Bonvoy representative, no matter what's inscribed on their business card.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 11:33 am
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Originally Posted by flyme2 View Post
Not sure why so many are adverse to calling the property. They are ALWAYS the final arbitrators of policy. I recently goofed up and booked the wrong date of arrival for an upcoming stay. The booking was cancelable, but my very lucrative rate was no longer available. A call to the property resolved the issue within minutes, and I was proactively booked at the original rate with bonus points and assigned an enormous suite. Moral of the story is CALL THE PROPERTY. They have a closer symbiotic relationship and level of empowerment to the franchisee than any Bonvoy representative, no matter what's inscribed on their business card.
I agree with this. The hotel is really the entity with all the power. Bonvoy reservations is likely putting you on hold to call the hotel anyway.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 11:43 am
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
OP - I think that you are spending way too much time on what is likely a simple error.

1. Send a complaint noting the relevant facts (keep it to 2-3 short declarative sentences. Most of what is in your post is not directly relevant). Ask that a refund be issued within 7 business days.

2. On the 8th business day, file a chargeback dispute. You may be asked for #1 , so have a screenshot handy if needed.

Stuff happens.
This happened a few days ago and I didn't get worked up about it - I figured it would be easy to fix. I did exactly what you said to do. I asked for the cancellation charge to be refunded/waived based on the fact that (1) the cancellation terms are unclear and (2) I received confirmation from Reservations that I would not be charged. I did this both with Reservations and with my Ambassador. I have now asked for an escalation to Customer Care in hopes that they will resolve it.

I agree that my post is impassioned here, but this is a forum. I'm allowed to do that.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 11:49 am
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Originally Posted by flyme2 View Post
Not sure why so many are adverse to calling the property. They are ALWAYS the final arbitrators of policy. I recently goofed up and booked the wrong date of arrival for an upcoming stay. The booking was cancelable, but my very lucrative rate was no longer available. A call to the property resolved the issue within minutes, and I was proactively booked at the original rate with bonus points and assigned an enormous suite. Moral of the story is CALL THE PROPERTY. They have a closer symbiotic relationship and level of empowerment to the franchisee than any Bonvoy representative, no matter what's inscribed on their business card.
My reservations and contracts are booked through Marriott. The hotels use a Marriott platform to manage room inventory, billing, and invoicing. I book my rooms through a central Marriott system. All of the hotel webpages are hosted on a standard Marriott page. From my perspective, my primary contract is with Marriott and not the hotel. The hotel is the channel that Marriott uses to fulfill its contract with me. Of course the hotel operates within a framework and has significant independence within that framework - they set the specifics of a cancellation policy for example. Perhaps that is not the actual legal construct of the hotel reservation, but that is what it feels like to me. If Marriott does not want to set that expectation, perhaps they should not set up their booking structure to make it seem that way.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I feel like this is the fundamental difference between Starwood and Marriott. With Starwood, corporate would have closed with the hotel to make sure this issue is resolved. With Marriott, you're probably right - I am forced to go through the hotel. Marriott takes no ownership of protecting the guest. But of course, I can't even contact the hotel via e-mail anymore. So I guess let me call and have no audit trail of our discussion and just hope they do the right thing.

I am not okay with that, especially when Marriott is the one who told me that I would not be charged a cancellation fee. In my eyes, the hotel didn't do anything wrong. Marriott is at fault here, and they should fix the mess that they created.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 12:04 pm
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Originally Posted by flyme2 View Post
Not sure why so many are adverse to calling the property. They are ALWAYS the final arbitrators of policy.
I don't disagree, but for example, I had a European reservation and a question about the upcoming charges. I was averse to calling the hotel because I did not have ready access to a phone line with calling outside the U.S., and I don't speak the language at the destination. I reached out to Marriott in the U.S. because of two reasons, first, the above and second, the email with the charges was generated by Marriott, with a Marriott contact number in the email. Now, the agent I reached was proactive and suggested she contact the hotel directly to inquire. She then relayed the information and the name of the person who confirmed it to me, so I had a trail to follow if there were issues at the hotel, which there were not.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 12:51 pm
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Agree with OP here, been staying with Marriotts for 15 years now, and I've had to write customer care more times in the past 18 months than in the preceding 13.5 years combined. The whole thing has gone downhill.

When writing in to complain about a property issue, Customer Care seems very quick to reply that "they've forwarded the complaint onto the property and the property will respond to me directly." Or something similar to that. While I'm glad the individual hotel is responding to my issue, many times they are just explaining to me their version of events or re-iterating the terms and conditions. I'm aware of what's written, I want someone to take OWNERSHIP and (if needed) compensate accordingly. Customer Care just seems to be the middle-man these days, shuffling complaints onto the properties while simultaneously not bothering to compensate the account holder.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 9:33 pm
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I think we are all owed a screenshot of what the confirmation email stated as the cancellation policy.

The OP has not been clear or convincing that he cancelled within the allowable timeframe. We are only fed a bunch of what was and what might have. been.

Be forthcoming OP.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 10:25 pm
  #15  
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Originally Posted by clublounger View Post
I think we are all owed a screenshot of what the confirmation email stated as the cancellation policy.

The OP has not been clear or convincing that he cancelled within the allowable timeframe. We are only fed a bunch of what was and what might have. been.

Be forthcoming OP.
Really? Do you not have any current Marriott reservations?

It's the boilerplate language on each reservation. The issue is prior to what time of day must the cancellation be made. Here are a couple of examples from my reservations:

You may cancel your reservation for no charge until April 21, 2019 (2 day[s] before arrival).

You may cancel your reservation for no charge until May 13, 2019 (3 day[s] before arrival).
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