Reader Question: Hotel Charged $250 Smoking Fee – What To Do?

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A LoyaltyLobby reader approached me regarding a $250 smoking fee that hotel had charged for one of the rooms during their US visit without informing in advance.

Reader Question Smoking Fee

Remember that you can always email me, sent a message via Facebook or use Twitter. I’ll try to cover Reader Questions & Comments here several times a week.

Here’s the email from the reader:

My name REMOVED (Korean) and I am one of loyaltylobby fans and have having an issue with hotel regarding smoking fee.  I stayed at the hotel on Sep 1st 2015 for one night during my trip to USA and came back to Korea on Sep 9th 2015.  And I just found out that the hotel charged me US$250 and this is how I started talk to GM of the hotel.

They charged me for smoking odor and they never contacted me by e-mail, telephone and sent me an invoice for this issue until I contact them and asked them why they charged me.  Also I asked them to send me any evidence showing that my friend smoked in that room however they have not sent me any pictures or any documents and just keep saying that their house keeper smelled strong oder of cigarette smoke and they found cigaretter packets and remants in the trash can.

Please refer to below e-mails that i received and sent to GM of the hotel and advise what should i do.

Here’s the reader’s email to hotel:

I stayed at your hotel (Candlewood suites Medford Oregon USA) on Sep 1st 2014 and used my points for two rooms.  However you charged me US$250 as enclosed JPG format.  I would like to know why you charged me US$250. Below is reservation no for two rooms for your information.

Here’s the hotel’s response:

The extra $250 charge is for a smoking fee. Upon check-in you filled out a registration card, on which you initialed the smoking policy. When my housekeeping staff went in to clean one of your rooms (314) there was an overwhelming smoke odor in the room as well as a pack of cigarettes and remnants of smoked cigarettes. I hope this clears up any confusion.

Here’s the reader’s reply:

Further to below e-mail, I checked with my friend who stayed at room 314 and found out as below,

  1. My friend never smoked in the room 314
  2. He may left empty cigarette package in the room 314 but not sure

You cannot charge me US$250 for smoking with the below reason.

1.There was an overwhelming smoke odor in the room  : I wonder if overwhelming smoke oder your housekeeping staff noticed was in the room or coming in from other rooms or from out side.

2. A pack of cigarettes and remnants of smoked cigarettes : an empty cigarette package and remnants of smoked cigarettes are not evidence of any violation.  It does not mean my friend smoked in the room but just thrown in the garbage can.

Also, do you have any evidence to show me rather than just saying that  you found out above? It is not proper step to proceed this issue as I have not agreed with you and there is no evidence to prove that someone smoked in that room.  Therefore please do not take the amount of money (US$250) from my credit card until everything is cleared.

And the reply from the hotel:

As I stated above, there were cigarette packets and remnants left in this room along with a very strong odor of cigarette smoke. With these issues combined, we were unable to rent that room the following night and therefore you were charged a smoking fee. We stand firm behind our decision and are unable to refund this charge. I am sorry for this unfortunate situation, however, we do have a strict no smoking policy and do not hesitate to take action when it is violated.

Conclusion

This is really difficult situation. The reader can never be really sure whether his friend smoke inside the room or not regardless what the person says.

If the cleaning person smelled a strong cigarette odor and there was cigarette pack and stumps inside the trash can, I really cannot fault the hotel for charging the $250 for deep cleaning/deodorizing the room.

I have sometimes been to hotels that have ashtrays in non-smoking rooms that may give wrong signals to guests what non-smoking means and whether it is enforced. I have also been to non-smoking rooms at hotels that have smoking odor. Then I usually call the front desk to let them know (and also to document the issue just in case).

Although I don’t smoke and prefer completely non-smoking room/suite, I don’t mind getting a room once in a while with tiny odor as long as it is not reeking of smoke.

If the reader is 100% sure that his friend did not smoke, he can always initiate a chargeback with his credit card company. His friend should, however, pay the fee if he smoked inside the room.

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