Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Tricks Are For Circus Circus

Steffanie Rivers
Steffanie Rivers

*As a W-2 employee in the travel industry I know some customers can have unreasonable expectations. When I travel and I become ‘the customer’ I give hospitality workers the benefit of the doubt. When I have a bad experience I tend to keep it to myself unless it could help others avoid the same issue. That brings me to my recent bad experience a weekend ago in Las Vegas. I was there to meet with program executives in town for the taping of the Soul Train Awards.

Hotel fees had tripled because of all the people in Vegas for that event. I – being the cheap diva – was on the hunt for a discounted rate! Enter Circus Circus, one of the oldest hotels near the Vegas strip. I shudder to think how many people have stayed in the room and slept on the mattress I was about to sleep on, but that’s beside the point: I was getting a great deal.

Through a third party booking website Circus Circus offered a two-night stay for just $103. Other hotels with at least a three-star rating, including the place I normally stay, wanted at least twice that amount. So I prepaid online and headed to Circus Circus. That’s where things went downhill.

When I arrived at the hotel to check in I was told by the receptionist my prepaid booking was for a room at the Travel Lodge Motel next to Circus Circus, even though my receipt stated otherwise. The receptionist said for another $95 – a total of more than $198, including taxes, I actually could stay at Circus Circus. In essence, I had been baited by a low price booking fee then switched to a one-star motel.

No offense to Travel Lodges and the people who frequent there, but that wasn’t what I paid for nor where I wanted to stay. As for ponying up extra money to get what I already had paid for online; that wasn’t happening! So I asked the receptionist for a refund. That’s when she told me I had to contact the third-party online booking agency for my refund. I always take a screenshot of my online booking. So I used that information to call GetARoom.com to explain what happened and requested a refund. The lady at GetARoom – we’ll call her Kisha – put me on hold and called the Circus to confirm my story. Kisha spoke to the front desk manager, Tony P. (who refused to give his last name). He denied the whole incident occurred. So Kisha said there was nothing she could do, all the managers had left for the day and only Tony P and the Circus had the authority to authorize the refund. Each company claimed the other was responsible for refunding my $103 and some change.

Kisha said she would have a manager to follow up with me the next business day. So I turned my attention to Tony P at the Circus. When I got him on the telephone he practically called me a liar to my ears and again refused to refund my money. So I took it to social media and included the Federal Trade Commission in my tweet: Something about how they needed to investigate false advertising tricks at the Circus. That’s what the FTC does, correct?!

Within an hour GetARoom tweeted back. I included them in the tweet too. I was on a roll. Long story short (is it too late?) they credited my account for the room charge. Thanks for that, GetARoom.

As for those clowns at the Circus, thanks for nothing. Cat fishing unsuspecting travelers into paying more money for an overused mattress probably is how they compete with all the other hotels that offer better accommodations.

If just fifty people a day pay an extra $100 in a bait and switch, that’s an extra $5,000 a day or $150,000 a month in revenue to a hotel’s bottom line. Having the choice of staying at a one-start motel or paying just another $100 to stay where you intended to lodge in the first place, most people probably feel pressured to pay the money. Not I, said the cat! And I hope you won’t either. If it happens to you, do like I did. Follow through with your refund request and keep it moving to a more reputable establishment.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. Email her at [email protected] with comments, questions or speaking inquiries.

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