A Days Inn property offers a Roman Catholic priest a tax refund. No, that's not the opening line of a joke -- unless playing phone tag and hearing excuses is funny to you. It isn't to Father William Mary Morgenstern, who is just trying to get his $42 back from the hotel. But is anyone listening to him?
Q: I'm trying to get a refund from the Days Inn in Wagoner, Okla., and I think I'm being ignored.
I'm a Roman Catholic priest, and I was recently in town for a baptism and several masses. When I checked out of the Days Inn, I was charged for the room, which included $42 in taxes. I was told that I could get a refund on the tax if I gave the hotel my tax ID.
Two days after I returned home, I called a dear friend who had made my reservations for me, and asked her to pass along the tax ID to the hotel. She did, but nothing ever happened.
We were offered numerous excuses from Days Inn during the next few weeks, including that the right person was away because she had gotten married. Further phone messages to the hotel by my friend were not returned.
I'm hoping you may shed some light on this particular situation, since I've never had this happen with another hotel chain. To be honest, I'm tempted to let all my parishioners know of this situation so that they might not use the services of Days Inn. -- Father William Mary Morgenstern, Mesa, Colo.
A: If you were promised a tax refund by Days Inn, you should have gotten one. Better yet, the hotel shouldn't have charged you the tax in the first place.
Your type of refund request is often assigned the lowest priority by the travel industry. I routinely get complaints about missing VAT refunds for visitors to Europe. It's not as common in the United States, but it happens from time to time.
Why doesn't anyone care? Probably because it's the government's money. Why should someone help you get your taxes back -- even if you're entitled to a refund? Of course, that's the wrong attitude, especially if you're in the hospitality business.
This was completely preventable. Rather than giving your tax information to a friend, you should have spoken with the hotel clerk yourself. And you shouldn't have checked out of the hotel without the full refund.
Hotels, like other travel companies, are highly efficient at taking your money but generally inept at returning it. Even if the money is rightfully yours, and even if you're doing the Lord's work.
I think a phone call was helpful, but you should have followed up with a brief, polite letter to Days Inn. I would have copied the hotel chain's corporate office on the note, too. That would have put the property on notice that you weren't going to let this one go.
I contacted Days Inn on your behalf, and you received a prompt response with an apology and a promise to credit you $42.
But it didn't end there. Instead of giving you the money, Days Inn took another $42 off your credit card. Oops. Then it returned it, leaving this situation unresolved.
After another exchange of e-mails with the hotel, Days Inn apologized again and mailed you a check for $42.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the host of "What You Get For The Money: Vacations" on the Fine Living Network. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2008 Christopher Elliott Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.
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