Story of an Attempted Rip-Off

A few weeks ago, I flew over to Honolulu to participate in a Friday luncheon meeting where the topic of the day was to be “train travel” in general and long-distance train travel in particular. Because it was more convenient and I wanted the opportunity to have dinner that night with friends, I decided to spend that night in Honolulu.

The Ala Moana hotel is located near the meeting site and I’ve stayed there many times before this, so I went on line and made a reservation. A few minutes later, back comes a confirmation email: my reservation is confirmed. That’s when I first realized I had been dealing with, not the hotel.

On that Friday morning, I flew to Honolulu, participated in the lunch meeting, then was dropped off at the hotel. They had my reservation, the room was ready and, a little after six o’clock, I left the hotel for a most enjoyable dinner with friends.

The next morning, I showered and checked out, paying the bill with my credit card. There was only one charge: $231.17, which was the amount I had been quoted whenI booked the room. 

Fast forward about 10 days. The day’s mail includes our regular monthly statement from Mastercard and — Whoa!  The charges for my one night at the Ala Moana Hotel are now $446.08—almost double the correct amount!  What the hell happened?  

A phone call to the hotel confirms that my total charges were indeed $231.17. The person I spoke to says (probably disclosing information he should have kept confidential) the hotel’s payment for my room came from Agoda Travel in Singapore.

I email Agoda Travel asking how and why are they involved. They respond by saying how much they value my business and asking for a copy of my bank statement.

I email since I now know the room was booked through their website.  They respond by saying how much they value my business and noting that the taxes and fees that apply to a hotel room rate are clearly spelled out in their basic agreement. 

I am confident this would not have happened if I had booked the room through the Ala Moana Hotel’s official web site. Instead I had used a site that appeared to be the hotel’s web site, but was in fact an on-line travel agency.

If you book your hotels personally, I suggest that you use the official hotel web site and not an on-line reservation service. Since the hotel pays no commission when you book direct, you could very well get a slightly bigger room or a room that’s closer to the elevators or has a better view.