Charging a deposit on loyalty stays without disclosure and changing cancellation policy at will - is the hotel industry being plagued by “franchise fraud”?
I recently booked a Marriott property with my Bonvoy Loyalty Points. At the time of booking, a cancellation policy of 48 hours prior to arrival without penalty was displayed to me by Marriott(dot)com. Additionally, there was no information disclosed about a credit card deposit required with this booking. However, the property subsequently charged my credit card on file with Marriott a $122 deposit for this 3-night stay. This was on top of the Bonvoy Points that were deducted.
As my plans changed, I decided to cancel. I then discovered that my reservation had been changed to a “Pre-Pay and Stay” rate that was not cancellable. To figure out what was going on, I did a test booking for another reservation at this same property. It still was coming up with a 48-hour cancellation policy with no deposit disclosed.
Accordingly, I called the elite number of Marriott to cancel. The agent was also unable to cancel my “Pre-Pay and Stay Rate” and so she called the hotel, which informed her that they had changed their policy and that cancellation was now only permitted within 24 hours after booking. The agent also did a test booking while speaking to the property and found the same thing that I had. The hotel showed a 48-hour cancellation policy and there was no information relayed about a credit card deposit.
The property informed this agent that they would refund me the points and the credit card deposit since I was an elite member of the Bonvoy Program. I have since been refunded the deposit and the loyalty points were re-deposited into my account. However, I have a few questions:
- How is a hotel property changing loyalty redemption reservations with a 48-hour prior cancellation policy to a non-cancellable pre-paid rate?
- Why is the hotel charging a deposit on loyalty stays without disclosure to the customer?
- Is the property purposefully turning cancellable rates into non-cancellable ones and keeping deposit monies that it collects without disclosing to the customer that a deposit will be collected in the first place?
- Is this franchise fraud?
To look at these questions and many more related to loyalty program frauds, gaming and database breaches, join us at the Loyalty Fraud Prevention Conference (http://www.LoyaltyFraudEvent.com) in Brighton from the 7th to the 9th of May 2019.
Editorial by Christopher Staab
Managing Partner, Ai Events and Co-Founder, Loyalty Fraud Prevention Association