Allergic non-smoker charged smoking fee

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Jul 20, 2018
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#1
I recently stayed at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Boynton Beach, FL at 2001 West Ocean Drive. I stayed two nights in two different rooms. Room 208 July 13-14th, and room 202 the 14-15th.

After checking out at 11am and after attending to my reason for being in Boynton Beach, on my drive home at 6:30 pm (7 and a half hours after leaving the hotel) I received a call from my bank’s Fraud Prevention department stating that my bank account had several questionable transactions attempt to access my account. It turns out the hotel submitted 10 individual transactions against my debit card ranging from $1.00, $3.50 up to $150.00. As a result, my bank froze my account, canceled my debit card, and has locked me completely out until they are able to send me a new card which will take a week to receive. (Here being the 20th, five days later and still not access to my bank.)

I called the hotel, and I believe the man who answered said his name was Michael. He stated that they did process the transactions because he said “we have evidence you smoked in the room.” At no point did the hotel even attempt to contact me by telephone prior to processing the transactions, and why was it necessary to submit 10 back to back transactions which resulted in my bank account being frozen?

I told him that that is completely impossible for someone to have smoked in the room as I am a non-smoker with a severe allergy to smoke. My boyfriend who was staying with me, however, is a smoker, but I cannot be around him while he smokes, otherwise I will fall instantly sick and my throat will swell shut. So if he smoked in the room with me, I assure you an ambulance would have been seen in parking lot with paramedics in the lobby looking for me. On top of that, I specifically requested the rooms we stayed in at check-in because they were right beside the back stairwell of the building so my boyfriend had ease to run in and out when he needed to smoke. His clothes do, at times, smell of smoke—all smoker’s clothes do, I’m sure—which makes me nauseated, but after he returns from smoking he always takes a shower because of my allergy.

I asked what evidence they have of someone smoking in the room and the man refused to say what it was, and simply said “You need to talk to the general manager about it.” I asked to speak to him/her, was told “She’s not here.” I attempted to call back several times the next day and still was told that the manager is unavailable and have not received a call back.

And as I stated, we stayed in two separate rooms as I thought we were only going to stay one night (13-14th) but something came up and I had to book a second night separately. The first night had no issue, so why are we having an issue with the second night night?

I sent an emailed to guest relations at hi-guestrelations@ihg.com. They sent my complaint to the Hotel to email me back. I received an phone call the next day at 6pm from Maybeline who says she’s the manager and to call her back—but she’s leaving for the day and won’t be back until tomorrow.

I return her call the next day, today the 20th, and she states that they have “video proof” of a wrapper and loose tobacco in a trash can and the room smelled lightly of smoke, so she charged me a smoking fee. I informed her that 1) my bank account has been frozen due to the flagrant multitude of transactions processed to my account, and 2) she charged me $267.50. Their smoking fee is $250 and 3) I’m severely allergic to smoke and there’s no way for smoking to have been done in that room. She had no words for the inconvenience of me being locked out completely of my bank account, but stated she would review and after counting up the transactions refund anything that was collected above their fee. However, she would not be refunding me the remaining $250 and there was nothing she could assist me with further.

I called Guest Relations back at Corporate, and was basically told that this is a policy issue and only the hotel can handle it, and there’s nothing further they can do.

What else can I currently do?
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
17,114
15,592
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New York
www.promalvacations.com
#2
Did your boyfriend by any chance throw out an empty pack of cigs. In the garbage before he left? If that’s all they are basing it on- where are the ashes as proof that there was actual smoking going in?

Right now you should dispute any charges on your account. If the bank froze your account I am assuming that they didn’t process the charge.

If it goes further, then I would escalate it to the Executives we show on file.

I am curious though- if you are allergic, how does the smoke on your boyfriends clothing and hair not cause an allergic reaction?
 
Jul 20, 2018
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#3
It’s quite possible he threw away the wrapper in the trash can, but they have no proof of ashes or the like. All she said is she has video of “a wrapper and loose tobacco” in a trash can, and the room had a smoke smell.

The charges did process through to my account. My bank has opened a fraud claim / case since they locked my account, cancelled my debit card, and are issuing me a new one. I’m trying to prevent the hotel from stating they are valid charges when they clearly are not.

The smell of smoke, or third-hand smoke, does make me nauseated and gives me a headache, but it’s second-hand smoke that I’m severely allergic to and cannot be present for. And my boyfriend takes great strides to keep his troubling vice from impacting my health. He always showers after he smokes.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
17,114
15,592
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#4
Tell them you want to see the evidence- particularly ashes which is the ONLY proof smoking was done in the room, not a thrown out cigarette pack. Unsmoked tobacco is unsmoked - if it was smoked it would be ashes.

Push on your credit card company- make sure you filed a dispute saying you did not smoke in the room. I don’t think a claim or fraud is going to do it. You need to say “no one smoked in the room- I am disputing the charge because I can guarantee there were no ashes in the room”.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
7,935
7,823
113
San Francisco
#6
Oh my, what a mess. Hotels have been known to erroneously charge their guests a smoking fee. Bashing smokers has become quite the popular sport in this country. Your use of a debit card is a real problem; there aren't as many safeguards for you as a credit card. I would stay off the phone.

Compose a concise, polite email stating the facts, no emotion, no accusations. State that the hotel has produced no proof of their charge. Ask very politely for proof there was smoking in your room and request a refund of the smoking charge. Submit it to IHG customer service. Give them two weeks and if no reply or you don't like the response, use our Company Contacts to work your way up the executive ladder, waiting a week between each submission. Keep in mind that the person reading your letter did not cause your problem. Your job is to make that person want to help you. And for heaven's sake, tell the boyfriend to leave no smoking materials anywhere near your room in the future. This will require patience; I once had a billing dispute with a Florida Holiday Inn and it took six months to receive a credit for the erroneous charge ... and I'm top level at IHG Rewards. Hotel managers are a strange lot.