STAND YOUR GROUND: Hotels' "You Book It, You Own It" Policy - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andy Wise

STAND YOUR GROUND: Hotels' "You Book It, You Own It" Policy

Call it a new twist on that line in 'Hotel California.'

You can check out any time you like, but your credit card can never leave.

That's a good way to describe a new cancellation policy that many hotel chains are adopting: no cancellation policy at all.

Travel agents trusted by the Action News 5 Investigators call it the "You Book It, You Own It" reservation policy.

"No cancellations.  No refunds.  No changes," says Vicki Rush of A&I Travel in East Memphis.  "And it is applicable the moment you click the button, so it is an instant kind of thing."

Rush says it's the kind of thing that is frustrating corporate travelers and vacationers alike, especially those stuck in circumstances beyond their control like sudden business changes and family emergencies.

Your reservation is fully non-refundable, no matter what.  If you do have to cancel for any reason, Rush says you must pay the full room rate -- plus taxes.

She says Holiday Inn is one of the largest chains implementing the "You Book It, You Own It" policy.

The Action News 5 Investigators booked three trips to Atlanta with stays at a downtown Holiday Inn and a downtown Best Western:

  * A Saturday night stay in the first weekend of May

  * A 6-night stay during Thanksgiving

  * A 6-night stay during Christmas

The downtown Best Western offered a full refund on every stay - even the holidays - as long as we cancelled one to three days before check-in.

The downtown Holiday Inn told us -- in every scenario -- "You Book It, You Own It."  No refunds.  No cancellations.  No exceptions.

A spokesperson for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Holiday Inn's parent company, told the Action News 5 Investigators that Holiday Inn will offer more flexible cancellation policies to customers who are willing to pay more expensive room rates.

"Holiday Inn offers a variety of rates, including fully refundable, partially refundable and non-refundable," says Brad Minor of IHG's offices in Atlanta.  "The non-refundable rates are the least expensive, so some travelers with definite plans like to book those rates for the savings."

Rush says to beat the "You Book It, You Own It" policy, get price quotes from the hotel on its web site first and check its cancellation policy online.  If you see "fully non-refundable," bypass the web site and get on the phone with the hotel's general manager.  Haggle for a better price to make up for the restrictive reservation policy.

"Call the hotel. Call your travel agent. Ask them what the "less restrictive price" is, and then make your choices that way," she says.

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