When it comes to traveling, we often think in terms of leaving our troubles — financial or otherwise — behind. However, this isn’t always the case. Having worked in the hotel business for a number of years, I saw many things. And some of what I saw left people suffering financially due to things that while at first seemingly beyond their ability to control, but could have been prevented with a little knowledge.
Security deposits and debit cards
If my years spent in hotels taught me nothing else, it’s to be extremely careful when using debit cards during a stay. I can tell you that almost daily during my time spent in hotel finance, I dealt with some issue relating to the use of debit cards to hold a room reservation or to have charges routed to during a stay and that ended up resulting in the card holder incurring overdraft fees on the bank account to which the card was linked.
Hotels often will hold an amount in addition to what the actual charges are for the room, taxes, etc. in order to ensure that if the guest bills food, movies, and other miscellaneous items to the room, does damage to the room, or decides to extend their stay, that there is enough money available to cover these charges.
With a credit card, this is typically fine, and if a credit limit is reached, there is no more authorization on the card. With a debit card though, the bank will often authorize the additional funds — holding them even if they are never used — which can drop a bank account to a negative balance, resulting in overdraft fees even though the funds are being held by the bank itself and are never actually used.
It’s a ridiculous situation in a way, but one that arose constantly, and it sometimes cost both guests and the hotels alike (rarely the banks) hundreds of dollars since the banks would often charge an overdraft fee per additional transaction after the account balance dipped into the negative if the guest was unaware they were overdrawn.
Hearing from guests ending up with a $35 overdraft fee because they bought a $1 candy bar with their debit card after they checked out wasn’t fun. Explaining that it could take 3-5 business days for the hold on the guest’s bank account to be released, and then having to plead with the bank to do so, was even less enjoyable.
I’ve seen entire hotel rooms gutted — carpet torn out, mattress sets thrown into dumpsters, furniture discarded — after reports of bed bugs. I won’t go into too much detail on these critters other than to say that they are nasty little bloodsuckers (literally), extremely difficult (and costly) to get rid of, and can spread rapidly through hotel, apartment, office, and condo buildings.
On our most recent vacation, some people rented a condo in the same building with bed bugs. Needless to say, their vacation was ruined. Therefore, one of the first things we do when arriving to a hotel or vacation destination is check areas around the mattresses, bed skirts, and box springs of all the beds, behind dressers and night stands, and around headboards. These are the favorite hangouts of bedbugs which can be found by the redish-brown excrement spots they leave on bedding and around the areas they infest. If you see them, don’t stick around. They can get into luggage and clothing, and they particularly like dark spaces. Notify management, the rental company or the owner that they have a problem so that you aren’t blamed for bringing these little creatures along and charged for their removal.
Theft and loss
As a manager in the hotel business, I experienced many celebrities and sports professionals passing through our properties. One incident I remember in particular involved a young NBA rookie superstar being in town for a basketball tournament. He was playing ball with his home country’s team at the time just before entering the NBA. The team chose to leave the doors to their rooms open since they had booked an entire hall of the hotel. Of course, this star ended up having his NBA rookie jersey stolen during his stay. And guess who got to deal with the ensuing mess?
I had to explain to the star’s agent that there was little we could do when it came to researching the matter and conducting a lock read on the door because the team members had propped open many of their doors. Anyone – including teammates – could have taken the jersey.
It was a valuable lesson regarding the simple personal security measures that should be taken while staying in a hotel. Precautions such as not leaving money or valuables out or unattended in a room while not there, not propping doors open, not passing room keys around or having too many copies made, not announcing room numbers or names, or posting such information on social media can help keep travels safer and less costly.
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The author is not a licensed financial or travel professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.