It really isn’t a big deal. I didn’t lose any money over the incident and the hotel acted fully within its rights. Yet by a simple action (or inaction) what had been a very pleasant stay ended with us saying that we would stay elsewhere when we next return to the same place. Here’s what happened.
We’d stayed four nights and were checking out before a morning drive to the airport, some three hours away. I handed over my credit card to pay for the incidentals, which came to around $50. The lady on reception was not the staff member who had greeted us before and appeared to be an emergency stand-in; she betrayed a complete lack of confidence as she spied my credit card and reluctantly dug out the terminal with a look of trepidation.
A moment later and she sighed in frustration, saying “I’ve done it again!”. She showed me the slip and sure enough, she’d entered the date, 12.13.12 into the wrong box and pinged that amount ($1213.12) out to the bank. After scrambling through various instructions she managed to organise a refund payment and eventually took out the correct amount. I know I should have paid with cash.
$1213.12 duly appeared on my credit card statement later that day. The refund took five days to arrive. In that time the pound rose against the dollar and by the time the money was returned to my account it was worth £3 less than when my card had been charged.
I’d lost £3 ($5) down to the stand-in receptionist’s mistake. It’s hardly a big deal, but as I had already told the hotel that I would let them know when I received the refund I wrote to them and mentioned the small cost to me as a result of this incident.
Now it’s at this point that the hotel had two options (maybe it had many more, but two seemed obvious to me).
One: they could view it from their side. They are not responsible for exchange rate fluctuations and having immediately refunded the amount mistakenly debited they need do no more.
Two: they could view it from my side. What would make me, a paying guest, delighted with my overall experience at the hotel and willing to share my views on Tripadvisor and elsewhere? A simple acknowledgement that I had been inconvenienced as a result of their mistake and an offer to return the money would have left me full of praise for their approach to customer service.
They chose the first option. In doing so they did nothing wrong (that’s why I haven’t named them here). They took out a certain amount and refunded it immediately. The issue with exchange rates was out of their hands as they told me in the email reply.
Yet for such a small amount they missed a golden opportunity to delight an already happy guest. $5 is neither here nor there but if they had returned this they would have shown that they were not thinking primarily about their own processes and liabilities, but rather about the overall experience of their guests. By telling me instead that they couldn’t do anything about exchange rates they left us with the impression that they were only willing to see the issue from their side.
What do you think? $5 is a small amount but was the hotel right to say they could do no more? Did they ignore the bigger picture in not refunding the money? How much are our overall perceptions of hotels influenced by the way they deal with minor issues like these? I’d love to hear your thoughts.