Saturday, 10 November 2012

Vibe or Vile?

Hotels are interesting places.  I started and finished my stay at the Vibe in Sydney with an argument.  I find the attitudes towards guests vary wildly - some are delighted to have guests, others are contemptuous and seem to do everything possible to ensure you don't come back.  Ever.  The attitudes don't seem to bear any relationship to the number of stars or the price of a room.

On arrival at the hotel, I discovered they wished to "hold" or "pre-authorise" $200 on my credit card and take a copy of my driver's licence.  The $200 would not be available again on my credit card until "at least" 24 hours after checking out.  This last part is blamed on the banks.

I stay in a lot of hotels and understand the need for personal details and some kind of security.  As a matter of principle, I will not allow money to be held on my credit card if it is more than $1.  I'd prefer to leave a cash security deposit which can be refunded instantly.

After some wrangling I managed to negotiate $25 to held on my credit card and $175 to be paid via EFTPOS.  When it was done, the man who was serving me (the duty manager) "accidentally" put the transaction through as a purchase on the credit card.  He then refunded it and put it through again as a pre-authorisation.  The interesting thing about this is that they all come up as a debit on the credit card and therefore $50 had been debited to the credit card.   I had negotiated for $25 out of the credit card because that was the amount of available credit on the card.  The manager's mistake put me over the credit limit.  Thanks very much. It has taken three days for the reversal to come through on the actual card.

On enquiring about breakfast later in the evening I was asked if I'd like to book for the buffet.  I asked if that was necessary and was informed that breakfast without a booking costs $29, but with a booking it costs $20.  Lucky I checked.

I was upgraded to a junior suite and it is great to have extra  other than the bed.  That's an appreciated gesture, but doesn't remove my concerns about the hotel's credit card policy.

The most interesting and bizarre aspect of the conversation I had with the duty manager was his statement that the credit card policy is designed to keep me safe!  When I asked him to explain this he muttered something about being a "CBD hotel" with people coming an doing.  He was very displeased when I used the term "better class of guest".

Checking out was a very complex and fraught experience.  Firstly there were extra breakfasts and dinners and items from the mini bar which I had not incurred.  Then they tried to subtract the $25 credit card charge from the cash deposit I had left!  (They reduced the cash deposit from $175 to $150 on the bill before deducting all the phantom charges.)

It pays to check the bill in detail before you pay.  I've noticed that hotels often ask for payment and then you get a receipt.  After a few bad experiences I now ask to see a printed bill which I check before I pay.  It means they have to print two pieces of paper, but I don't think it's reasonable to ask for payment without providing details.

I think it's quite revealing that the staff at the hotel were put in a position where they were apologising for the hotel's credit card policy and agreeing that it is onerous and unfair.  The cutest part of all is that the bill will automatically be paid with the credit card provided on check in.  That attracts a 1.5% surcharge regardless of the card used.

Once settled I asked for the copy of my driver's licence to be returned to me and left as quickly as I could.


To win one of three in-season double passes to "Bachelorette": leave a comment at the end of this blog telling us where you met your oldest friend.  Entries close Saturday 10 November 2012.  Winners will be drawn randomly, announced on the blog and contacted individually.

Good luck!

* Passes are valid even with a "no free tickets" listing at participating Australian cinemas.

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