Legalfilter: I need advice if we should sue or not!
July 31, 2008 6:59 PM   Subscribe

Legalfilter: I need advice if we should sue or not!

We booked a hotel online, received our booking/reservation confirmation and arrived at the hotel in DC.
They then told us that we didnt have a reservation and they were sold out.

We then called the central office and the woman there could only give us a generic excuse to do with the credit card (but if we have received the confirmation, they have received the money..right?).
What i suspect, is that they made a mistake and dont feel they can admit it and now blame it on a generic credit card error.

They also said that they cancelled the booking an hour after we booked it but we received NO information of the cancellation what so ever.

We drove 300 miles to get to the hotel where we had a reserved room and they just left us standing there in the middle of the night.
I dont think this is acceptable behaviour from a top class hotel, so what do you guys think?

If you need any more information, feel free to ask!
posted by freddymetz to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wow, that sucks! I'm no laywer, but I bet "The Consumerist" ( would like to hear about this...
posted by Echidna882003 at 7:07 PM on July 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

Letter to the CEO
posted by yort at 7:08 PM on July 31, 2008

1. did you call your credit card and find out what happened on their end?
2. did you book with the hotel directly or through a third party (expedia, etc.)?
posted by moxiedoll at 7:12 PM on July 31, 2008

I'm not a legal guy so I don't know whether or not you have a case, maybe you do maybe you don't, I don't know and yea that sucks but deal with it out of court. Do you really feel like going through the hassle of a lawsuit over a lost reservation, I'm sure if you explained the situation in a civil manner to the hotel manager they'd be more than willing to reimburse you plus compensate you for your trouble. Just don't go in there screaming with threats of lawsuits, you catch more bees with honey than vinegar or however that old proverb thing goes.
posted by BrnP84 at 7:12 PM on July 31, 2008

but if we have received the confirmation, they have received the money..right?

Speaking only to this part of your question, most hotels I have stayed at don't actually charge the credit card until you check in/out. Might be worth checking into?
posted by lalex at 7:16 PM on July 31, 2008

I'm with BrnP84. Trying moving up the chain of command. If that is not working then I would follow echinda's advice notify the consumerist.

What kind of damages would you asses out of your whole ordeal?
posted by keepmathy at 7:25 PM on July 31, 2008

Was the reservation made directly with the hotel chain online or with a promoter or some third-party reservation company?
Did you show them the print-out of your confirmation?

Don't even think of a lawsuit over such a thing. Write the CEO of the chain and see if they apologize and perhaps make an offer of some kind to soothe your anger.
posted by JayRwv at 7:26 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

1. It sounds like you were dealing with a syndicator. If so, your beef is with them, not with the hotel.

2. What was your harm? What did you do when you were turned away?
posted by yclipse at 7:35 PM on July 31, 2008

I wouldn't think that suing was necessary - letters of complaint to the appropriate people would be my starting point.

I would assume you're not suing for unjust enrichment (i.e. they didn't take your money then screw you over), so I imagine you want some compensation for being put out by this. No need to leap straight to litigation - just mention in your letter that you feel that some sort of compensation is in order. As long as the letter is businesslike and reasoned, you should find they'll sort you out.

Some things here might help.
posted by djgh at 7:50 PM on July 31, 2008

Response by poster: i havent called the credit card company yet, but thanks for the tip!
Yes i booked it from a third party.
And in this location the next hotel was twice as expensive as the one we had booked so we had to drive around further out stopping by every hotel until we found one in our price range which wasnt sold out for the night, with a family of four (including children) it wasnt a pleasant experience.
posted by freddymetz at 8:02 PM on July 31, 2008

Response by poster: oh, and thanks guys - i think youve talked me out of suing. Seems like the letter to the CEO is the best idea so far. How do i go about finding him?
posted by freddymetz at 8:03 PM on July 31, 2008

What is the hotel? I am sure if you post it, people can turn up the name. Go to the hotel web site, and look for something like "about this company" or "investor relations". Those will generally link to the management team.
posted by procrastination at 8:25 PM on July 31, 2008

No, you shouldn't sue.
posted by zippy at 8:40 PM on July 31, 2008

Response by poster: its the l'enfant plaza hotel in dc
posted by freddymetz at 8:49 PM on July 31, 2008

Write a letter to the hotel chain addressed to the CEO or to the head of customer relations. Don't whine or make outlandish demands (like payments for your pain and suffering), but explain clearly and directly how disappointed you were at the customer service you received when you showed up at that hotel that evening. You understand that mistakes get made, but you were shoved out the door late at night in a strange city with small children, blah blah sobstory.

Just make it clear to them that they have an unhappy customer who was displeased first at the reservation being lost, and then by the poor service by the frontline staff. If the mistake cost you something (like you had to pay for a $200 room across town, instead of the $100 room you thought you had reserved), make that clear; more likely, though, is that there wasn't much financial cost to you, but rather you are just needing to make clear how unpleasant an experience it was to you, how it was not of the caliber you thought you could expect from their company, and so on.

My experience is that these letters usually result in a discount or a freebie for one's next stay at that hotel, but I suppose it is conceivable to get something more (like a partial reimbursement of your more expensive room). You will not get a big payout for your pain and suffering, or for your embarrassment and inconvenience -- if they did that for everyone whose reservation they lost every day, they would go broke really fast.
posted by Forktine at 8:55 PM on July 31, 2008

Suing wouldn't be your first option, but if complaints up the company chain of command get you no where, it might be useful to investigate your rights. In fact, it's always a good idea to know your options. It makes for a better negotiation especially if you decide not to sue.

You said you booked this online - what document or text did you have to scroll through to accept? It would be helpful to look that over and to be safe, print out a copy. Also, what happened next in your story. You drove 300 miles and arrived at midnight with no room. Did they finally get you a room or did you drive 300 miles back? Did you stay at another hotel?

A relevant story.
posted by abdulf at 9:52 PM on July 31, 2008

After doing an internet serach, it looks like l'enfant Plaza Hotel in DC is owned by Crestline Hotels and Resorts, of which Dave Durbin is President and CEO, but I couldn't find and email on him. Crestline owns a whole S-load of nice hotels.

Crestline Hotels & Resorts appointed Alfred D. Wiles, CHA, as General Manager for the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel
General Info Comments:

Hope this gets you started! Take luck!
posted by Acacia at 10:20 PM on July 31, 2008

A lawsuit should be the last resort, after you have exhausted all other options for getting satisfaction.

If the hotel had the booking at some point and can't explain why it was canceled, it does sound like their screw up. Explain this to them and ask them how they can make it right for you. Maybe they can give you the difference between the rooms in cash, but I doubt they will. Maybe you can get them to set you up with another free stay and maybe tickets to some even in town.
posted by gjc at 7:59 AM on August 1, 2008

Yes i booked it from a third party.

There's your problem. It's probably not the hotel's fault. A site like will often "reserve" a room even though the hotel is booked up--there is significant lagtime between the hotel and the third party's communication on open rooms.
posted by mattbucher at 8:53 AM on August 1, 2008

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