Why A Sheraton Threatened To Cancel My Reservation

Filed Under: Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest

This situation wasn’t a big deal at all, though I figured it was worth sharing, since I had never experienced it before (and with how many nights I’ve spent in hotels, I sometimes like to think I’ve seen it all).

I spent last night at the Sheraton JFK Airport (now the independently owned Gate Hotel), which I’ve stayed at maybe a dozen times over the years (which I’d like to think makes me a pretty frequent/loyal guest for an airport hotel).

Anyway, I had booked my stay several days in advance, and yesterday afternoon was flying from Los Angeles to New York when I received an email with the headline “Sheraton JFK Airport Reservation Confirmation.” That’s odd, I had already received my confirmation for the stay. I opened the email and it had the following message:

RE: Cancellation of Reservation Number # XXXXX

Dear Ben Schlappig,

This is to confirm the possible cancellation of your reservation. A valid reservation can only be held with a valid credit card. The card that we have on file was declined, as such, we need to hear back from you before 7 pm to ensure that we see you tonight.

Looking forward to hearing back from you.

I’m not sure what was wrong with my credit card (I’ve had a lot of credit card fraud alerts lately — I suppose that happens when you make purchases from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Korea, and the US same day), but I assume there was something. Still, typically a credit card is verified (or something) when a booking is made, so I’m not sure why this was being done just a few hours before my arrival.

This message was sent at 3:35PM, so I had under 3.5 hours to get them a new credit card number.

The only issue is that this is an airport hotel, so they should assume that people staying there might be in the air then, as I was. I would have been very unhappy if I landed and found out my reservation had been canceled.

Fortunately I caught the email, and I responded right away. However, the email was sent from an address that doesn’t accept replies, and there wasn’t even a phone number in the email (not that I could have called anyway). So threatening to cancel someone’s reservation without even giving an easy way to contact them makes things even worse.

So Tiffany was kind enough to call to give them my credit card info, and apparently the person she spoke to (the same person who sent the email) wasn’t especially nice. On top of that, I had shot off an email to my awesome Starwood Ambassador at the same time, and he also reached out to the hotel to make sure everything was okay.

Still, there’s something about the way the hotel handled this that rubs me the wrong way. I get they want to protect their revenue, but sending an email to a guest giving them less than 3.5 hours to respond when they’re likely in the air heading to your hotel seems wrong. Also, the lack of ways they provided to contact them made it almost seem like they wanted me to cancel.

On top of all that, I’m a 100+ night per year SPG Platinum member who has stayed at the hotel many times before. That’s just not how you treat a good customer, in my opinion.

In fairness, the hotel did bring a $5.99 bottle of pinot noir to my room on arrival, which I’ve never before gotten at this hotel. They must have done some Googling and realized how much I enjoy Duc de Paris. 😉

Am I off base? Is this an appropriate way for a hotel to handle a credit card issue hours before arrival?

  1. Absolutely unacceptable. Even if you hadn’t given them the number, they should’ve at least waited for you to show up and give them a new card number then, don’t see why they didn’t do this.

  2. Many hotels will do this if they are overbooked, they will check the authorization for the card used to secure the reservation, and if any don’t go through, they will notify about a potential cancellation. I agree that an airport hotel shouldn’t do this, and especially to a high status member

  3. Agreed, there is no excuse to inject completely unnecessary headaches into the experience of a platinum customer with 100 nights a year, that is ridiculous. If anything, they should have been fine with comping the damn night. Unless you have been flagged as some kind of abuser of the system, where maybe you have a history of booking rooms with expired credit cards and never showing up, all in some effort to maliciously damage them, they should have just waited until check in time and asked you for a new card.

  4. You aren’t off base. That is a completely unacceptable way to treat any customer (let alone one with high SPG status).

  5. If they were overbooked, they may choose you as the best to cancel. Your status give you perks, which mean another cost for them. They can also sell your booking at a higher rate, plus getting paid for all those free perks you get. The fact that you are a regular doesn’t mean anything. They are airport hotel. There will always be people who needs them. In their eyes, they never need to maintain loyalty of customers, especially those with high status.

  6. Considering that you had stayed there before, if they had any doubts about the validity of your booking, they should have emailed you a nice letter to confirm your arrival that evening. Very poor form by them, which suggests they had an ulterior motive.

  7. Hotel was probably panicking about being overbooked. The card on file should be a valid one in any event. I’m now more often seeing a $1 pre approval on my card in the day of arrival at Hilton hotels.

  8. Very poor treatment of a guest, any guest, but especially a guest with Starwood status. This kind of thing happens all the time with hotels — a credit card gets declined, typically fraud related. All it takes is a call from the guest to the CC company, then a note to the hotel to let them know to run the card again.

    To have sent you an email without providing various means of responding is unprofessional.

    I would bring this up with Starwood corporate — not because you want anything out of it but because the hotel needs this feedback.

  9. I would’ve just sent that shitty wine back to the front desk. I’d rather drink red bull mixed with wasabi than that crap.

  10. Ben, why didnt you had a quick chat with the GM to discuss the issue? I persume that they dont find this behaviour “wanted” as it may cost them guests or negative attention.

  11. I book hotels fairly far in advance, and frequently have to have cards replaced due to fraudulent activity. Heck I might have some outstanding reservations right now on cards that are no longer valid. This probably applies to many of their customers. They need a better system than this.

  12. I’m curious as to how busy the hotel was. This sounds like they were overbooked and were looking for reservations they could cancel “legitimately”.

    To me, this is an appaling way to treat ANY customer, let alone one with your status. I would think that as an airport hotel, they would assume or consider when THAT close to a reservation a customer would be airborne and not necessarily have the means to contact the hotel (not everyone connects to wifi on an airplane automatically). If you hadnt checked your email in-flight, you would not have seen this until you landed. For folks that travel often, this is an inconvenience and a pain to sort out. For folks that might only travel a handful of times a year, this could be nightmare-ish.

  13. A good example of the anything goes mentality of many hotels, meaning they will completely ignore their own terms of booking when it suits them. If you travel a lot then you will inevitably run into problem hotels that do things like charge you IN FULL hours or even months before your arrival although the reservation isn’t prepaid and requires no deposit.

  14. seems like they should start with customers without an SPG number and work their way up and not even bother people with numerous paid stays….

  15. I agree with David Ourisman that the hotel needs this feedback, and if the person handling the hotel email is the same person, then Corporate should take a look and ensure that the hotel upholds SPG’s standards.

    Absolutely unacceptable.

  16. IMO sending an email like that 3.5 hours before arrival at an airport hotel is tantamount to walking a customer if they don’t have a room for you when you arrive to clear it up. I’d have insisted on Plat walk compensation … it’s not your problem if they want to authorize your card several hours before arrival instead of at booking — as you say there’s any number of very valid reasons outside your control why an authorization could’ve been declined.

    Personally, I would’ve waited and hoped to be walked, but if you only have a few hours before flying or something like that I can understand why sleep/rest may be more important than some walk comp.

  17. I’m surprised at all the other comments. You reserved a hotel room and failed to secure it with a valid method of payment. If you hadn’t seen the message and your room wasn’t sold, I’m sure they would have happily checked you in. They shouldn’t turn away a paying customer to hold an unsecured reservation.

    That said they definitely should include the phone number in their email AND call you, leaving a message if necessary. No need to be so lazy about getting in touch.

  18. You need a valid credit card to guarantee a hotel reservation. If the hotel is sold out or overbooked they will authorize your credit card on the day of arrival and if it declines your reservation will be canceled. They will try to contact you first. What if the person never shows up and they can’t charge them ?

  19. The hotel was off-base — 3.5 hrs before cancellation on a top-tier member is crazy. But so is everyone’s wine snobbery. I seriously doubt after aerating the wine you could tell the difference between a $6 bottle and a $50 bottle.

  20. In Europe they routinely run credit cards a day prior to arrival on rooms with no prepayment or deposits and if they are rejected they send an email. Once, I had a card number on file which was canceled a month earlier due to fraud and a new number assigned. I didn’t think to contact the hotel and they sent an email warning but I was inflight and didn’t receive it. When I arrived in Paris my room had been cancelled. They found another hotel for me and it was great – I always stay at the new place now. I understand why they do it but at the time I was pretty upset because I had been staying there for years. Now, I always review my bookings in the event of a card cancellation to make sure I haven’t forgotten to change the card number with the hotel. Agree they were wrong to do this with a top tier member.

  21. @Andy 11235,
    I bet people probably can’t even tell the difference between an aerated wine and a non-aerated wine if it is done in a blind way. Aeration is just another part of wine snobbery.

  22. If a SPG platinum member is being treated this way, I wonder what will they do to non and regular SPG members

  23. I once received similar email from an AC hotel in Madrid when I was in no way, form or fashion to contact them and give them a different card number and it was like 3 days in advance of arrival. Since it is not the first night from arrival I simply chose to ignore it.

    Then the next day I saw a pending charge of the room rate went thru my card – apparently the clerk who put in the charge the first time must have made some typo so the charge was declined. What was really irking was, the room was booked with full flexible rate with cancellation up to the day of arrival – yet the hotel went ahead to charge the room 2 days before arrival! I found this out when we were at the Marriott (it billed itself being airport hotel but rather a big convention hotel somewhat close to airport and I believe Lucky once stayed there and did not like the noisy public areas). At first I thought it was from the Marriott and went to the FD to ask them – turned out it wasn’t them but the AC in Madrid proper on our 2nd nights in Madrid.
    At check in I mentioned this to the clerk who did not seem to be surprised at all. No explanation / apology ever offered.
    So essentially it was a fully flexible rate with free cancellation on day of arrival turned into a Prepaid stay – if so, I could have booked the prepaid and saved myself a few bucks. Very Thumbs Down on this type of practice which upon some research I found out this was very common by AC in Spain (and their other European locations). Had I not been on the Megabonus promo I would not book this AC at all – there were 2 ACs close to each other so very easy to switch hotel to earn the stay credit. The AC Atocha was much more professional.

  24. “Ah, Canyon Road. Staple of the IAH KLM Crown lounge for the plebs that only have a PP membership.”

    I am one of those PP plebs!

    But even so, I can still appreciate a good wine – which is why I usually stick to beer or spirits in the PP lounges.

  25. @Ben, did you select any arrival time on your reservation? what could happen if you had a late like 11pm arrival and you were coming from EU (LHR-JFK)?.

    When I had a late arrival at Sheraton Dubai Creek I used their whatsapp service which was pretty nice and effective.

  26. Had this happen with a hotwire purchase in Minneapolis / St Paul. Got to my hotel at 2am and they said they no longer had a room for me. On the upside, i got to walk 0.5 mile to another hotel where they reserved a spill over room just in case. Paid $200 for 5 hours of sleep but guess that is was what you do when there’s a hockey tournament in MN.

  27. I had a similar experience with the Teatro Hotel in Porto (Portugal), a Design Hotel by SPG. The response deadline was slightly more reasonable (about 12 hours) – although for people traveling it can still be a challenge. They also provided an email address and a phone number. So I managed to provide another credit card number with all the relevant details.

    But this was not the end of the story. A few hours later – at that stage I was on my way to the airport – they sent a form which I’d have to print out, fill in and sign, scan and send back … I called, but no way to resolve …

    So the only option was to cancel my reservation online and rebook with another credit card!

  28. im guessing they were oversold and targeting you specifically for being platinum and having the highest walk cost

  29. Rather than blogging about it and taking passive shots from the safety of your keyboard, why not just escalate and tell us how it was resolved so we could take tips from your experience?

  30. This situation happened to me once at an Econo Lodge in North Dakota. Hockey tournament weekend with no alternative accommodation available. Not shocking for a low end place but I’d expect better of a Sheraton that I’ve stayed at multiple times.

  31. I had a similar thing happen with an IHG property last year. I had gotten a new credit card and forgot to update my reservation. They tried contacting me through email/phone, but I was in the air. Unpleasant surprise when I got to the hotel and not only found my reservation to be cancelled but the hotel also being completely sold out.

  32. I’ve stayed at that hotel before. The parking there sucks. The elevator might be the slowest one on earth. The bathroom doors are weird too.

  33. It is hard to keep up with the travel/airline/hotel treachery. Either they confirm the credit card when they get the reservation OR it becomes their problem without the manipulation.
    I seldom use my cellphone since at home I have a special phone for the hard-of-hearing. I make that 100% clear every opportunity I have. And still the reservations robots or whomever presume that I will receive or reply to a message left at the home number or on a cellphone which does not usually work in other countries until I have bought different batteries.
    I try my best to be polite and respectful of other people’s humanity, but when I am completely discounted as a customer, I get pissed, e.g. I struggled up 30 steps with a large suitcase while I watched 4 people watch me. They stood behind the front desk of a Hilton in Milan gawping until I got to the desk and then two rushed to help. Fergiddit. In your instance I would have walked to the front desk and asked for the manager. He definitely needs to be assisted with learning how to do his job.

  34. Has happened to me at a Holiday Inn Express. Was a corporate booking; I used the corporate card at the time of reservation, but it got a fraud alert and had to be replaced. Didn’t even think (nor did the corporate agents) to update the card on the reservation. Landed at DTW to a message from the hotel saying they’d given away my room. Gotta love how they can cancel on you with a hour’s notice but now they want you to cancel 48 hours in advance without charge. I suppose it’s in the terms that a valid credit card is required for holding the room, but it’s a pretty crappy way to treat a customer with a history of showing up.

    BTW: that room as a lot of plaid

  35. I received a similar email threatening to cancel once at a Madrid Best Western related to my credit card. I was on a cruise and could not respond finding it after arriving. At the desk I was given a bad attitude for not responding. I actually used the same credit card, they had misspelled my name when trying to charge the card. Sadly in my case they did not cancel my reservation. The hotel was a disaster and under construction.

  36. I had same thing happen at W Barcelona. Last week. And actually cancel my reservation with in 12 hours of the email they sent. I feel the SPG service is going down. (Platinum member)

  37. There are too many replies to read through.

    Was there a mistake with the credit card? At least they tried to contact you.

    I support you 100% but wrong as it might be, they did contact you. The excuse they should assume you’re in the air is faulted.

    Sounds like someone new in the hotel side and not trained to look at client history.

  38. Please tell me you complained to the front desk. I wouldve let them hear some of it $&&#*@!

    So unacceptable.

  39. Lots of trolls here today, thinking that canceling a reservation of a SPG elite a few hours before arrival is the fault of the customer. Checking the cc two days before arrival, and then calling the customer to ask for another cc number? That would be reasonable. But doing it a few hours before arrival, and only sending an email without including a means to respond, makes it pretty clear they were hoping you either wouldn’t even see that email in time, or if you did you wouldn’t be able to contact them in time.

    Personally, I wouldn’t have seen an email sent on short notice. And I don’t have a Starwood Ambassador, much less a Tiffany, to help me out.

  40. I guess it’s SPG changed some booking policies lately. Just be careful to see when is the deadline to pay before you make the reservation. Some rates are ok to cancel on the day of arrival, some 48 hours before. My experience most of the SPG hotel won’t charge my card until one day or the day before I arrive. Since they couldn’t charge your card few hours before you arrive. So they usually email you and let you know to update the credit card. It’s just inappropriate that they cancel your reservation as you are SPG ambassador.

  41. As a +100 night loyal customer, they should have called you or even had your Ambassador contact you to address the situation. Even simpler, just ask for valid credit card when you arrived.

  42. I gave up on the Sheraton brand many years ago. Stories like this confirm my decade-old impressions of that brand.

  43. Sounds like you messed up and are trying to blame someone else. This all started because you didn’t provide a valid credit card to “guarantee” your room, no? Quit crying; admit that you started the fire and they just added to the flames. The only difference is that, unlike you, the hotel is professional and won’t go online to blast you for being a poor customer. Enjoy your travels!

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