No room at the Hampton Inn: Hilton won’t discuss its oversold/walk-in policy
I’ve contacted Hilton several times to ask about their “walking” policy on overbooking/overselling and despite my best efforts, they just wouldn’t answer my very simple questions. Why?
If you are considering booking travel or signing up for a new credit card, please click here. Both support LiveAndLetsFly.com.
If you haven’t followed us on Facebook or Instagram, add us today.
A customer incident
Without going into detail in this article (another will follow with more information), a client of my travel agent was informed directly by the property that there were no more rooms for the traveler and that he should find another property. However, they don’t seem to be following the protocol by which the hotel finds them another hotel room (whether in the same brand or not.) Overselling happens all the time, and my team and client have it often experienced, the more one travels, the more likely this is to happen, and this client is away from home approximately 39 weeks per year.
The hotel’s odd response prompted a phone call from me to the hotel to figure out what was going on and then a clarification email to Hilton to make sure I understood the policy correctly.
What happens when a hotel oversells its rooms?
Most travelers understand what happens when an airline overbooks a flight and denies boarding, resulting in kicked-out passengers. Airlines, hotels, and car rental companies are selling more tickets, rooms, and cars than they have because many travelers miss flights or connections and if they don’t oversell, they would end up with unused inventory. Revenue managers have done the math and found that removing or denying service is less costly than the cost of customer service issues for a minority of customers. Constantly empty seats are simply more expensive, especially in business class.
The Ministry of Transport has very clear rules on this for air travel. If someone offers their seat, they can (sometimes) negotiate a generous cash payment or voucher and get a seat on the next flight out of their destination. If no volunteer shows up, the ousted passenger is removed from the plane and eligible for compensation of up to 4x the price of their ticket. United Airlines had a horrible public relations problem when it couldn’t find such a volunteer and dragged Dr. Dao off a flight. However, they don’t have a policy for cars or hotels.
In most hotel chains, the policy in an oversold situation is to contact the guest when the oversold occurs, relocate them within the chain or to a nearby hotel convenient to the guest at no additional cost to the guest ( and usually a refund of the night they paid for at that hotel.) Most oversold situations occur close to check-in day. For example, an airport Hilton hotel may find a large number of canceled flights due to weather, the hotel is overbooked, and management tries to accommodate guests at a nearby Homewood Suites (a Hilton Worldwide company) . If this is not possible, they will usually start working with the hotels closest to the one booked both in size and distance.
The guest, though inconvenienced and disappointed, is not rendered homeless for the night and is compensated for his troubles. This usually falls on the night audit (sometimes the only staff member on duty) as late arrivals arrive at an overbooked hotel. The guest is then “accompanied” (not literally) to the new hotel with an apology and compensation if necessary.
Hilton does not make this information readily available
Hilton does not disclose this information and requires you to dig to find it. Hyatt has it on their website. Accor puts it in its terms and conditions, Marriott puts it in plain language, and IHG has a similar policy in full display. Hilton doesn’t really carry it, so I wanted to clarify some questions about oversold situations (both to better understand as it’s not readily available and to understand the issue for my client.) Here are the questions relevant to this which I posed to Hilton PR earlier this week:
- If a [confirmed reservation] does not offer language that it needs to be “reconfirmed” days before arrival, is there any reason to believe that it would not fall under the walking policy for an overbooked/oversold hotel?
- Is Hilton’s overselling policy as follows: “Customer should be transferred to another Hilton branded hotel if possible. The hotel must pay the full cost of the first night’s stay, including all expenses incurred such as transportation and phone calls to family members and associates. The hotel must complete an online form and submit it to Hilton to ensure that the guest receives the stay/night credit and all points associated with the stay if the guest was unescorted..”
- Do franchise establishments have to follow these policies or are they exempt? When would an exemption apply
- What would a franchise property do if there are a) no other Hiltons in the area to walk to, and b) there are no hotel rooms available in the same city, so there is nowhere to walk?
- What is the priority for choosing who to accompany when accompanying a guest? Check in time, elite status, date booking made?
- If a hotel is fully booked for several weeks, additional bookings will be taken in the meantime (oversold), however, at a certain point these bookings will no longer be taken – what is this threshold (5%? 10%)?
- When does a hotel receive reservation details from Hilton.com?
- If a corporate client books an entire hotel, will there be [a] reason not to do these re[-accommodations] in advance [of] on the day of check in?
My attempts to reach out
In the spirit of trying to get the right information for readers, I contacted Hilton an incredible number of times where they ignored almost all of my questions. Here is the log of those communications:
- Monday, February 21, 2022 11:05 a.m. EST – The above questions have been sent.
- Tuesday Feb 22, 2022 4:42 PM EST – I called Hilton PR as I had not heard anything.
- Wednesday, February 23, 2022 4:52 p.m. EST – I forwarded the original email to Hilton PR as I heard nothing back.
- Wednesday Feb 23, 2022 4:53 PM EST – I called Hilton PR as I had not heard anything.
- Wednesday, February 23, 2022 8:22 PM EST – Hilton PR responded without responding to the above, but stating that I needed the guest’s permission to speak to this specific issue.
- Wednesday, February 23, 2022 9:30 p.m. EST – guest replied – all granting permission to speak about the issue
- Thursday, February 24, 9:10 p.m. EST – Hilton PR only responds to guest issues and only says the following which can be attributed to their excessive walking policy:”Hilton properties work hard to accommodate all of our guests at all times. In the rare event that we are unable to accept a booking, we endeavor to provide alternative accommodation at one of our nearby properties.“
- Thursday, February 24, 10:18 PM EST – I’m responding pointing out a few errors in the rest of their response, but note that they still haven’t given an answer as to what their walking policy entails. Not a single point was addressed “but that does not answer ANY of the questions regarding Hilton’s walking policy, particularly as it relates to franchised properties” and then I offered to push the post to give them time to answer.
- Friday, February 25, 2022 4:16 PM EST – Guest calls to advise that a Hilton PR representative has contacted the guest to inquire about the situation from their perspective. However, although they said they would give further details to the guest, they had nothing further at the time of publication.
- Sunday, Feb. 27, 10:39 a.m. EST – Still have no further information on Hilton’s walking policy, the article published as is.
I first reached out to clarify the policy because I couldn’t find it outside of GodSaveThePoints who posted a brilliant article on the subject, but it was almost seven months ago and a lot has changed since then. I wanted to know what exactly is/was the policy and caveats that should be heeded. Hilton Public Relations’ job is to communicate with members of the media (yes, even bloggers) and represent the brand while maintaining its reputational prestige in the process. Running away looks like dereliction of duty at best, intentional avoidance at worst.
Hyatt, Accor, IHG and even Marriott openly publish the policy, but despite four emails, two phone calls and a good effort to seek statements about it from Hilton – it’s clear that Hilton doesn’t want guests to know their policy for oversold situations. Take the only possible mention in their statement, “In the rare event that we are unable to accept a booking, we endeavor to offer alternative accommodation at one of our nearby properties.with a grain of salt. It does not indicate what is due to guests, what Hilton will do in a situation where there are no other Hilton properties, and which oversold priority rooms are selected to honor the reservation and walking them around. I’ve really enjoyed Hilton properties, but it leaves a terribly sour taste in my mouth for the one area of his business that should be a pro at giving basic information about the chain’s policies.
What do you think? Is Hilton intentionally hiding this information? If yes, why?