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Fri, April 19

Elliott: Charged twice for my room — how about a refund?
The Travel Troubleshooter

The courtyard of the Marriott Miami Downtown/Brickell. (Booking.com/Courtesy)

The courtyard of the Marriott Miami Downtown/Brickell. (Booking.com/Courtesy)

When Marriott charges Elizabeth Maglione’s gift card twice for one night at the Courtyard Marriott Miami Downtown/Brickell, she asks for a refund. The hotel wants to issue a credit. Who’s right?

Q: I booked one night at the Courtyard Marriott Miami Downtown/Brickell before a cruise. When I checked in, I told the clerk I was using a Marriott gift card, which he charged for one night.

When I checked out, the hotel charged a second night on the gift card. I called customer service at Marriott to get the charge removed. I also called the front desk manager at the hotel. The best he could offer me was Marriott points or a credit at the Courtyard Marriott Miami Downtown/Brickell.

It’s been almost a month, and this is still not resolved. A statement I received shows the credit, but the gift card balance does not.

Can you help me get a $210 credit to my Marriott gift card or the same amount in another Marriott gift card? Or maybe just a refund? -- Elizabeth Maglione, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

A: Marriott should have charged you for only one night since you stayed for only one night. I think you deserve a full refund — not credit at the Marriott Miami Downtown/Brickell.

Overcharges are common in the hotel business. I’m still trying to resolve one of my own for a hotel in Santa Maria, California. You’d think that being a consumer advocate who specializes in travel would help. But no. I have to wait in the same line as everyone else.

Here’s where I went wrong with my case: I didn’t check my folio immediately when I left the property. If I’d reviewed my final bill, I would have caught the error and fixed it right then and there. Actually, as I review the many double-billing error cases I’ve received over the years, that’s the biggest mistake guests make.

Don’t go for the “instant” checkout, bypassing the front desk. That removes the ability to check your bill for accuracy and to appeal it to a clerk or a manager if necessary.

Sure, you’ll have to carve out a few extra minutes when you leave a hotel, but it’ll be worth it.

You can find executive contacts for Marriott on my consumer-advocacy site. After appealing to the hotel and corporate customer service, you might have shared your problem with these executives in writing. For a problem like this, a phone call is less effective than a brief, polite email.

I contacted Marriott on your behalf. It reviewed your case and agreed that it charged your gift card a second time by mistake. It again offered a credit, which is a common hotel response (after all, it wants to keep your money). A representative said it was having a problem refunding the purchase to your gift card.

I said you wanted a full refund. Marriott sent you a check for $210.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at chris@elliott.org.

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