Shady Hotel asking for Astronomical incidental deposit prior to check in
April 2, 2019 3:58 PM   Subscribe

A while ago on Hotels.com I booked a hotel in downtown Philadelphia. It appear to be a private hotel (called China Garden) it was for 4 nights and cost around $530 which I already paid via credit card. I thought nothing about it until today, a week prior to start of reservation, when I received a message from the hotel asking for a $350 in incidental deposit via credit card on their own form which they ask me to download, fill out and return to them "no later than one business day before your arrival." Can they do that?

The Hotels.com message system literally warns "never provide credit card info in a message or a on a website after completing your Hotels.com booking."

My questions are:
1. $350 incidentals deposit seems outrageously high, it's more than half of the total cost of the stay! Can they ask that? I am afraid that if I pay they will just lie and say I did a bunch of rock star style damage to the facilities and refuse to refund me.
2. I am weirded out by their insistence that the deposit needs to be paid via their own form before I even arrive to the hotel. Is this type of practice allowed?
3. What kind of recourse do I have if I don't want to pay the $350 incidental deposite before I even leave for my trip? If I don't comply with their request, can they refuse to honor the reservation? The stay is nonrefundable per the Hotels.com receipt.
4. Is there another source on the internet where I can get answers about this?
posted by Pantalaimon to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (17 answers total)
 
Call Hotels.com and talk to them -- they do not allow their vendors to do this.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:00 PM on April 2, 2019 [36 favorites]


It's also kind of unusual that they charged you in advance for the room. I don't think I've ever had that happen. I've definitely never had any hotel charge for incidentals in advance...they just keep the card on file in case something comes up.
posted by pinochiette at 5:33 PM on April 2, 2019


Are you sure this place exists? I see no reviews on Yelp, beside something for a restaurant of the same name, and no pictures on Tripadvisor (aside from some stock generic photo of Philadelphia, supposedly from a "visitor" to the hotel, which I've never seen before). Hotels.com does not do a ton of vetting, and sometimes non-hotels -- stuff like airbnbs -- end up listed on the site. I've found some sketchy-looking properties in other cities on these listing sites, and I'm suspicious of this place after doing some googling.

As others have said, call them ASAP, because there's a non-negligible possibility you're getting scammed here.
posted by shaademaan at 5:38 PM on April 2, 2019 [13 favorites]


It seems to exist (on Arch Street in Chinatown) but the address shows up on Zillow with individual units available. It’s a condo building, I think.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:45 PM on April 2, 2019


It's a condo and the $350 is mentioned in the hotels.com listing.

Mandatory fees
You’ll be asked to pay the following charges at check in or check out:
A 5.0 percent city/local tax will be charged
Deposit: USD 350.0 per stay

posted by betweenthebars at 5:57 PM on April 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


Hotels.com customer service is very good in my experience and they'll help you out. Personally I would nope the heck out of this arrangement if AT ALL possible. My gut doesn't like it and I don't think yours does either.
posted by bleep at 6:26 PM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


Mandatory fees
You’ll be asked to pay the following charges at check in or check out:
A 5.0 percent city/local tax will be charged
Deposit: USD 350.0 per stay


Note that this says the deposit will be charged "at check in or check out," not a week in advance via a form you fill out. There's no way I'd send a form with my credit card info, ever. And if the terms say it's to be paid at check in, I'd insist on paying it only at check in, in person, with written assurance of the conditions on which will be returned at check out.
posted by The World Famous at 7:00 PM on April 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


Just an update: I confess I did not read the fine prints when booking the hotel and missed the $350 deposit requirement. But both the amount and also the demand to pay up days prior to check in is still outrageous to me!

So I called Hotels.com customer service and the agent on the phone is apologetic but apparently there is nothing they can do about the situation. It seems Hotels.com has no policy against the practice of demanding a incidentals deposit prior to check in.

I'd insist on paying it only at check in, in person, with written assurance of the conditions on which will be returned at check out.

The place has self-checking and no staff around apparently. I would be more comfortable with written assurance about the condition on which the deposit will be returned at check out. But I feel I have no leverage to make that demand since the the reservation is not refundable. If I refuse to pay the deposit without written documentation they can just refuse me entry to the building . . . .
posted by Pantalaimon at 8:48 PM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I would call back and talk to them about fraud. They are asking for written information of your cc number not thorough the hotel.com payment system.

Tell them you need it cancelled and refunded asap.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:17 PM on April 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


Their own terms say that the deposit is to be paid at either check in or check out. They should abide by their own terms, at the very least.
posted by The World Famous at 9:17 PM on April 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


You might want to call back and try a different agent or escalate
posted by shaademaan at 9:30 PM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


So I called Hotels.com customer service and the agent on the phone is apologetic but apparently there is nothing they can do about the situation. It seems Hotels.com has no policy against the practice of demanding a incidentals deposit prior to check in.

No, but as The World Famous has pointed out:

Their own terms say that the deposit is to be paid at either check in or check out.

So call Hotels.com back and escalate until you get a rep willing to comply with their own T&Cs.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:07 AM on April 3, 2019 [7 favorites]


This is extremely strange. This place has only four reviews on hotels.com (since November), all 10.0 "exceptional", and no reviews at all on TripAdvisor. I would push hotels.com to give you your money back and book somewhere else.
posted by sunflower16 at 4:50 AM on April 3, 2019 [4 favorites]


If the next customer service rep you speak to cannot help you, ask to speak to a manager. Be extremely polite and also exceedingly firm and willing to wait until a manager is available. This has helped me get what I need. Just last week Verizon was refusing to cancel my elderly dad‘s account, which I am also on, because I had no idea what his original pin number was. I was super polite, simply kept repeating that my dad was elderly and disabled, I was unable to take him anywhere physically to cancel the account, and that I would be delighted to wait for a supervisor. Periodically the rep would ask if it was OK to put me on hold and then go away. After this happened three times she returned to cheerfully let me know that she would be able to cancel the account over the phone after all. Of course, I thanked her profusely. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 5:05 AM on April 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


How are they asking you to return this form to them? By email? I'd write back to them and say that you're not comfortable providing your credit card number that way, and see what their next move is.

And then if they won't budge, I'd call Hotels.com back and tell them that you're not opposed to the deposit qua deposit, but that they're asking you to do something desperately insecure with your CC info. You might get more traction that way.

But yeah just in general this sounds super shady. It might be some result of Hotels.com not giving them access to your credit card directly, so the hotel wants it so they can charge you in case you break stuff... but it could equally be so they can scam you. If you can get out of the reservation I'd go elsewhere. It's not like there's a shortage of hotels in Philly.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:39 AM on April 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


When you get this resolved, be a mensch and document your experience in the comments section on Hotels.com and Trip Advisor and whatever else. Save the next person from dealing with the crap you're worried about now!
posted by mccxxiii at 1:27 PM on April 3, 2019 [4 favorites]


Your credit card company will very likely take your side in a dispute like this.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 6:37 PM on April 3, 2019


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