Have You Ever Volunteered Your Hotel Room?

The practice of overselling flights is pretty common in the airline industry. This happens when a flight ends up with more ticketed passengers than it can carry, for whatever reason. If the situation hasn’t resolved itself by the time the plane is ready to board, the airline is required to start soliciting passengers who might be willing to take an alternative flight in exchange for compensation.

Sometimes, however, they are unsuccessful at getting enough folks to voluntarily give up their seat and instead have to resort to denying boarding to some passengers involuntarily. As you can expect, this latter case can really start to tick people off. “You mean I bought a ticket for this flight, but you don’t have a seat for me!??! WTF!!!

Hotels can end up in a similar situation, only instead of running out of seats, they run out of rooms. They even have their own industry jargon — instead of getting bumped from a flight, you get walked to another hotel. (Why you can’t just get in your car and drive, I don’t know.)

The difference, at least I always thought, was that hotels don’t actually try to solicit volunteers to give up their rooms but instead just start walking folks when their inventory is depleted. If you check in late, and there’s no room in the inn, well too bad for you.

Unless you have elite status. Then I’d assume your room is preassigned and held for you, particularly if you specified a late arrival. But if you are a regular guest, or heaven forbid made your booking through an online travel agency, I’d assume the rooms are mostly just handed out on a first-come, first served basis.

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Voluntarily Denied Check-In Anyone?

So it was a bit surprising to me this week as I was checking into a Holiday Inn on Cape Cod and the desk agent started asking the guy next to me if he would be interested in giving up his room for the night in exchange for some compensation.

holiday inn cape cod

He explained that the hotel was in an oversold situation and that they were going to need to “walk a guest” later that night.

The guy looked at him sort of funny — as anyone not deep into this game would — and the agent explained that he did indeed have a room for the night, but that they could offer him a room at a nearby hotel, which he assured him would be very nice, as well as enough IHG points for free a night at any Holiday Inn. He went on to say that this happens sometimes due to reservations booked through online travel agencies messing with their inventory. I’m not sure if that was just an excuse….

At any rate, the guy, who was an IHG Gold member, declined the offer and took his room as booked.

The Compensation

The whole thing was a new experience for me, because I have neither been walked from a hotel, nor offered the chance to voluntarily give up my room to prevent another guest from getting walked.

Because I was curious, I asked what the compensation would be. He said it would be up to the General Manager, but probably about 30,000 points. I kind of wanted to point out to him that 30,000 points is not enough to stay at just “any” Holiday Inn. Then again, if you value IHG points at 0.5 cents each, maybe getting paid $150 to stay somewhere else for a night would be OK?

holiday inn

Regardless, he said I probably wouldn’t be eligible because I was staying for multiple nights. I sort of figured I could have offered to do a hotel shuffle after the first night, but given that I am flush in IHG points after riding the damn elevator last winter, I assured him I would just take my room.

So what do you think? Have you ever had an opportunity to voluntarily give up your hotel room? What was the compensation? Do you think 30,000 points was a good offer in this case?

Comments

  1. Recently I was asked to “walk” at 11:30pm to another hotel that was five miles away after a day of flying. I did a quick search online and saw some fairly negative reviews of the suggested hotel.

    I had chosen the hotel I booked because it was next door to the office where I would then have two days of meetings. The walk offer was only for one night of a three night stay.

    I really did not want to switch hotels, so I counter-offered with a better hotel than what was being offered, and explained that they would need to put me up at my suggested hotel for all 3 nights, as I was not going to switch again after 1 night.

    After debating for a few minutes, I was given an upgraded room in the original hotel. The customers checking-in before and after me just accepted being walked to an inferior hotel with no additional compensation.

  2. I gave up my room for a night (took the adjoining room to a junior suite – aka sofa bed) at a reduced rate and in return was given the presidential suite at the Hilton Bayfront in San Diego for the rest of my stay. I think a fair trade regarding compensation.

  3. I’m a sucker for “compensation”. If it was a one or two night stay any my plans were somewhat flexible, I’d likely go for it. But I’d check the TripAdvisor reviews for the alternate hotel first 🙂

  4. Last year, I arrived at a Marriott Springhill Suites in Bothell, WA around 10pm. The hotel had no rooms left. was given $300 cash and a voucher to stay at a Marriott Courtyard in Lynnwood. No big Deal.

  5. No voluntary forfeiture however, I’ve had a few bad experiences with hotels forcing a “walk down” to their hovel property around the corner. Of course, there is no refund or reduction in price and this always happens with a late arrival so you have no immediate recourse. A couple of times it happened through bookings with agencies like Hotels.com and I was given a full refund after the trip. It’s hard to get compensation from violators if you book direct.

  6. I’ve been walked before. Depending on how the hotel handles it, it can be fantastic or a pain in the ass.

    In my experience, I was walked from a Marriott to a Holiday Inn (and the hotel did it over the phone before I arrived), and got my stay paid for, original credit for points/nights at the Marriott, IHG Points for the stay there, and added (negotiated) points for the trouble. I came out waaay ahead with almost no impact to my plans.

    The only downside is usually a late arrival then having to schlep to another property, which may be different than your expectation. But if you want a good deal, it can be a real winner.

  7. I recently passed the 1,000-nights mark with SPG … and many nights at other properties. I never have been walked.

    If it is for a one-night stay, I would volunteer …. if. If it is not too late and I am not too tired. If I still get points. If a comparable hotel. If good compensation. If a multi-night stay, I would want all nights at the new property.

  8. That’s a new one on me. Interesting. I might almost be tempted to volunteer if it was a one-night thing.

  9. My best experience of being walked was at the Hilton Phuket Arcadia where I, right in the middle of a five nights award booking, was asked to spend one night in a pool villa a bit into the island… a real treat!

  10. I’ve been “walked” to another hotel twice. Once 25 years ago at a Hotel Ibis in La Rochelle France and once 10 years ago at an off-brand spot in Koln, Germany. Neither hotel offered compensation. The Hotel Ibis, it appeared at that time, had a track record of overbooking and booting foreigners. A family friend had a similar experience at a different Ibis property in France a few months later. He was a dual French/American citizen. When they started to go into their schpeil about being oversold, he began arguing in French and they quickly “found a room” for him.

    The German spot was a late night check in. Probably assumed we weren’t coming. Walked us to another place and we left the next day. At that point, what can you do?

  11. Bought a cheap one night stay in Vienna in the Hilton Danube on travel site LMTClub, when we got there we were told there was a reservation mix up and they are so sorry they don’t have a room… but, they would move us to Hilton Vienna in the center. And it was honestly perfect. We got a taxi, upgrade to executive floor, the best view in the hotel… I’ve never been happier about being kicked out of a hotel. 🙂

    Btw, the reason they were overbooked probably had something to do with Armenian football team being there on some international match business.

  12. I had a similar experience earlier this year at the Chicago Sofitel. I had booked a room with two beds (as I was staying with a relative). We arrived at about 10.30pm and were told ‘Congratulations, you have been upgraded to a Junior Suite.’ But the Junior Suite only had one bed and a sofa bed. I stated that I had booked a room with two beds (not a room with one bed) and they said unfortunately there were no rooms with two beds left. There wasn’t much we could do because we weren’t going to go searching for a new hotel late at night. But obviously you don’t pay to stay in quite an expensive five star hotel to sleep on a sofa bed.

    It was particularly disappointing because I had booked the room months in advance. I booked through the Accor website and pre-paid in full. I am also a platinum member of Accor’s loyalty program (highest category). On top of that, the hotel sent me an email a week before our stay asking if I wanted to upgrade to a Junior Suite. At first I thought ‘wow, great.’ But when I realised the room had one bed I ignored the email. I find it bizarre that someone who has booked a room with two beds would be offered a room with one bed (under the pretence that it is an ‘upgrade’). And even stranger that after emailing me and asking if I wanted to upgrade they went ahead and changed the rooms anyway (even though I didn’t reply) . The stay was for 6 nights and it was only after I made a fuss that they moved us to a room with 2 beds for the remaining 5 nights. I provided detailed feedback after my stay and the response from the hotel was pathetic. The reply was semi-templated and ignored the majority of my feedback. They offered an insulting lousy 500 loyalty points (worth 10 euros) and didn’t acknowledge or take responsibility for the over-selling.

    What I find frustrating in these situations is that you have to be so assertive (sometimes even aggressive) just to get a fair outcome. It’s not something I feel comfortable doing (especially when I am on holiday and trying to relax). Then when you try and follow up on an issue after your stay it can take weeks (or months) before you get a resolution (and quite frankly it is not worth the effort). Hotels and airlines are well aware of this and constantly use it to their advantage.

  13. Being upgraded to a suite with one bed happened to me at FRA airport Sheraton a few years ago. I had requested two beds, included in the reservation I needed two beds.

    I had booked two beds because my sister and I were traveling together. As a 50+ yo old man sleeping in bed with a 60+ yo sister was ok, even if a bit awkward. I don’t think I slept much that evening, as I was afraid I would roll over into her and start spooning!

  14. I was walked once by Marriott Residence Inn across the parking lot to the Courtyard by Marriott (at the Disney World Marriott complex). No compensation, but the front desk did tell us we could walk across the parking lot in the morning for the free breakfast at the RI. This “walk” wasn’t late either – mid-afternoon. Difference between Courtyard/Residence Inn isn’t much for a two-night stay, so I didn’t really care.

  15. Marriott Rewards has fixed guidelines if a member is ever walked that vary by hotel brand. Most full service locations are required to fork over $200 cash + 90,000 points if you are walked.

  16. I’ve never seen the volunteer routine anywhere outside of an airport. Besides, when you book a hotel room, your credit card guarantees the reservation, doesn’t it?

  17. “Besides, when you book a hotel room, your credit card guarantees the reservation, doesn’t it?”

    No!

    When the rooms all are occupied, what are they to do? To me, that never made sense. But a manager told me that sometimes, during certain times of the year, up to 3-4% of the room guests do not depart on the scheduled days … and even to evict formally, takes a few days. The only alternative is to walk incoming guests.

  18. I was walked from Hilton Seattle to the nearby WAC and given a suite, for one of my two-night booking. It was an inconvenience having to switch hotels, but for the one night it was a solid upgrade.

    Hilton did not charge me for that one night so that was a gesture well received. But it was a comped business trip so I said that this actually meant me losing out on lots of points with no financial upside. I told them how many points I expected through staying and paying with the Amex Hilton card. The hotel promised to reimburse me but dropped the ball. Then I called Hilton and they rounded up those points for me.

  19. “But it was a comped business trip ….”

    That torques me. A lot of time a business will comp something that does not benefit me. “We will give you free parking.” Or, not when walked but on other occasions, “We will comp your stay for one night.” But you know what — this is a business trip and I would be reimbursed parking via my TEC. Those overtures do not benefit me.

  20. I have only ever been walked once a couple of years ago, and it was at the BWI Westin. I as an SPG Platinum showed up late (approx 11:45pm) due to a delayed flight. They walked me to the Sheraton across the parking lot, which was a huge downgrade. I was also charged the regular rate at the Westin, and given a room at the less nice Sheraton across the parking lot.

    It took me involving SPG’s Twitter team, but eventually was given a full refund as well as 12,500 Starpoints for being a Platinum being walked.

  21. Ritz-Carlton Georgetown this summer oversold and called the corporate travel agent on the Friday evening before my Monday stay to ask if I would (or really told me I would be) moved to their location in Crystal City and comp my stay since a “White House delegation wouldn’t leave”… great for my client, not much for me. I called and negotiated 60K points, a car service, etc. during the stay and when the whole thing seemed to be more aggravation than it was worth, they offered me my room back at the original property, upgraded to a plush suite plus 30K points. Still not sure it was worth any of the above given the level of aggravation involved. There’s a reason why I stay at the Park Hyatt instead…

  22. I had one incident of this in Stavanger, Norway, where I was booked in the Radisson Blu Royal for a two night stay. When I arrived, I was handed a NOK 200 bill, to get a taxi to the neighbor hood property Radisson Blu Atlantic, where I eventually received a decent room up-grade + a meal voucher of NOK 500 – approx USD 80.
    All in all – I didn’t mind – but still strange.

  23. After reading this post, I may have been “walked over” without any compensation except for the fact I went from staying at Westin Florence to the St. Regis Florence across the square. They told me it was an upgrade at the time. I wonder if I made a stink at the time if they would have compensated in addition to staying at the St. Regis. We were ecstatic about the upgrade and it was only a 2 night stay, but an awesome room nonetheless. I’m only a SPG Gold via credit card and not stays.

  24. When I was a front desk manager I would have my agents offer it if I was confident that we would have to walk a guest. It’s much nicer to have a guest voluntarily go then to just ship them off. The reason why elite guests are not walked is because of the penalty that the hotel must face. A plantinum SPG guest must be compensated, at the time that I worked for Starwood, with actual cash from the drawer. I think they have changed it now to a point value but the financial consequence was too much to even think about doing it. Unfortunately the revenue managers for the hotels never have to walk the guest, so they oversell the hotel and let the desk agents deal with the stress. I have had nights where we have been oversold by 20+ rooms, and the most thrilling part of the night is when you are walking one guest while checking another one in right next to him. “I’m sorry sir, we just don’t have a room for you.”

    Also for those who say “I booked it months ago,” that never ends up being a factor, we are weighing the pros and cons and going with what we think is the least risk to the hotel.

  25. This happens when hotels are contracted to certain corporations. I was in Oklahoma City at the Hilton Skirvin and regular folks were being walked to another hotel. The problem was the NBA and the media were contracted to stay there with guarantees, but with the playoff system, they are never sure whether those corporations will be there the next night or not. We got upgraded, so we weren’t affected, but it sure seemed like the lobby was full of people that were.

  26. I had a 1 night stay requesting 2 double beds at IAH at a Hyatt Place. I was called upon arrival at IAH by manager, told Only king bed available, so I was picked up at IAH by HP shuttle and driven to Hyatt, was offered points refund, I requested an additional 10K plus free breakfast for my troubles. I only wish this happened more often.

  27. I have been walked a few times, but not recently. There was always a standard compensation: the oversold hotel paid for your stay at the other (usually not as good) place and gave you any points you would have earned. This may have been a standard for being an “approved hotel” for my company (it was always on business travel), because the company was the real beneficiary.

  28. Once I was checking in at the US Grant in San Diego (I think it’s a Westin now) and the person in front of me was going apeshit that they overbooked and were offering either (a) moving them across the street for one night to some nice hotel or (b) a small “staff room” that I think is used for day rates and the like. Twin bed, shower, that’s it. To get checked in more quickly and to diffuse the situation I stepped up and said they could have my room. I chose the staff room. It was fine, like 80 square feet but it was almost midnight, who cares. SO the next day they ask if they can move my stuff during the day to my new room. I get back and it’s a huge, 3-bedroom suite, probably 2000 square feet, with a massive private deck. I was there for 8 days! If you look at the Grant you can see the patio, it must be like 3000 square feet. I was by myself so it was ridiculous, but nice of them to take care of me.

  29. One time I had to book a night at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno for business. When I went to check in, I was told I had actually booked a room for the previous night so there was no reservation for me for that night and the hotel was sold out. They didn’t offer any alternative hotels I could try and just left me high and dry to figure it out. I didn’t bother checking my confirmation b/c it honestly sounded like a stupid mistake I’d make and they were sold out anyway so I didn’t think it’d make a difference. I had to take a cab to any hotel that might have availability and ended up at a not-so-nice Marriott. The next day when I got home I checked my confirmation, and I had, in fact, made my reservation for the correct night. They ended up compensating me with a free night at the Grand Sierra for anytime in the following 2 years but I had no reason to go to Reno so I never ended up using it.

  30. Ohh the comments about the wrong bed type rooms remind me of our family’s trip to Hawaii. Due to a medical condition we specified to all hotels that we explicitly need rooms with two beds. Wonder how many Hotels of the five got it right? Two, with one of them being an apartment hotel where we booked a 3 bedroom anyway and one being a non brand Hotel in Honolulu. All the Sheratons and the Aulani got it wrong. We offered to be walked to another hotel but that was always declined. At least we got upgraded on every single one of the hotels that got it wrong. the best one was in the Aulani where we got a really nice 3 bedroom villa instead of the two rooms. Especially since these were only available to DWC members at the time.

  31. I once booked a room in a converted villa in Brugges. Told them I would arrive late. Upon arriving I find out they gave my room away. Walked me to a attic pension with no compensation and no recourse but to complain on Trip Advisor. Lesson learned!
    Since then I value what the big box franchises do for me. IHG and Radisson have really pulled through due to my loyalty.

  32. This happens to us ALL. THE. TIME… at work, usually in Chicago more than other places. The hotel offers to “walk” us to another hotel, by which they mean take a 45 minute shuttle ride to the very North end of town, which we have to repeat to return to work in the morning. Unfortunately since my company buys the rooms in blocks and we didn’t individually pay, we have little recourse. Last time it happened to me I stood my ground for a nearby hotel and after nearly an hour I got a room at the original hotel. Unfortunately the usual result is employees who are too tired to care that take the inferior room offered, and end up somewhere they can’t even get dinner nearby. 🙁

  33. I’d definitely require compensation (unless it was a much nicer hotel and/or an upgrade) – in fact, a lot of my miles/points earning strategy seems to be in getting compensation. If I have luggage and the walk is more than .5 miles, though, they better drive me or pay for a cab, because I have no desire to actually be physically walked with my stuff. But I am willing to put up with a small amount of inconvenience for some extra points.

  34. I remember booking a non-existent room at Park Hyatt Milan on a travel agency website. They upgraded me to a large suite.. Unfortunately I got no points but the price difference was $1000 so I didn’t care.

  35. I’ve had this happen years ago at the Sheraton in Shenzhen. My colleague and I arrived fairly late in the evening and there was another gentleman checking in then as well.

    They were basically left with one room at that point, and the other guy was pissed as he had just flown in from the US. We decided to let him have the room and see what they’d do to compensate us.

    We were staying a couple of nights, so they “walked” us to the Kempinski (in reality we were driven) for the first night and then they brought us back to the Sheraton where we were both upgraded to very large suites for the remainder of our stay.

    It was an inconvenience yes, but I thought they did a great job handling it. The upgrade was nice, though I don’t remember receiving any Starwood points for it.

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