Just when I thought it was safe to go back into the water, the hotel industry has come up with yet another scam to pick your pocket. Just back from a couple of days at the Holiday Inn, downtown Vancouver, and apart from the fact that it included an outrageous series of unpleasant surprises, the most outrageous of all was the discovery of the variable room rate.

Here’s how this works: You make your reservation and get the rate that you think will be the rate for your entire stay. Mine was $179.00/night. No mention is made of anything else by the reservations department (likely located in Azerbaijan). I booked for two nights. The day of my departure (this morning), the hotel slipped my bill under the door to my room. Still groggy from waking up, I glanced at it and noticed, to my astonishment, that the second night was billed at $195.00! Surely a mistake, I thought.

Checking out at the front desk, I asked the young man about this “mistake”. “Oh, no”, he said, “That’s no mistake…we have a variable room rate policy”. “A what!”, I exclaimed. “I’ll have the manger explain it to you”, he continued, bringing over the front desk supervisor. The supervisor proceeded to explain to me that when I had signed in I had initialed a paragraph on the check-in form that stated that I accepted that the room rate was subject to a day-by-day change depending upon the demand for rooms on that date.

He showed me the form and I am ashamed to admit that, among all the paragraphs I had been asked to initial (e.g., that I would pay a penalty for smoking in the room, that I agreed to pay for parking if I had a car, etc., etc.), was the above-mentioned paragraph. I told him that I had simply initialed in the various spots indicated by the clerk, and if he had a clause saying that I must run through the lobby at 8 AM stark naked, I probably would have initialed it too, since I didn’t expect such an insane clause. So, I accept the fault for not paying attention to what I was asked to initial, although a 6 hour flight at the end of a busy work day might well make the average person a little less attentive than usual.

I told the supervisor that this policy was not only outrageous, but predatory and deceptive since the front-desk staff make no actual mention of the policy when you are checking in. If you miss the clause, you’re screwed.

I refused to pay the up-charge and the supervisor rescinded it.

Another fantastic example of Steve’s Third Axiom: “You can’t protect yourself part-time from people commuted to taking advantage of you full-time”.

From now on, I will read every single paragraph on a check-in form very carefully. You might want to also.