getting walked

Getting walked: when hotels give away your room.

Getting walked – it sounds harmless, and generally it is. But if a hotel ‘walks’ you, it can feel anything but. It can feel quite scary.

“Getting walked” is a term that business travelers know well but is often foreign to the casual vacation traveler. What it means is that the room you reserved is no longer there. The hotel has overbooked, everyone has checked in and there are just no more rooms available.

Hotels, like airlines, gamble on bookings. I can argue here that hotels are far more justified, in that people who have booked – and paid for – a plane ticked are far more likely to show up for that flight than those who have booked – and not paid for – a hotel room.

Since this is a fairly common occurrence, hotel reservations that will never be used, the hotels overbook. An empty room means lost revenue for the hotel, so overbooking by a certain percentage means the hotel is more likely to have a full house than not.

Getting walked, thankfully, is a pretty rare thing. Many hotels now require a deposit, and thanks to sites like Expedia, a lot of rooms are paid for up front. But it still happens.

And when it happens to you, well, it isn’t pleasant. You show up at the hotel, probably late in the evening, and the very earnest person at the front desk smiles sadly, there are no more rooms.

So what do you do?

Well first off, the hotel should have made arrangements for you to sleep elsewhere. This is especially true if you have either pre-paid or put down a deposit. That room should be equal or better than the room type you reserved, and the hotel who is ‘walking’ you should cover any difference in room rate. Additionally, they should cover transportation to this new hotel.

There are steps you can take to avoid this situation as well, though sometimes it really is out of your control.

First off, check in as soon as you can. Hotels tend to take guests on a first come, first serve basis so it pays to get there early. If you are arriving late in the evening, call the hotel when you land and let them know you are on the way. If you are staying at a chain, call the actual property rather than the reservations line.

While this won’t guarantee the room, it does help. Some hotels assume that after a certain time (usually midnight) anyone who hasn’t shown up for a reservation is a no-show and will start to give rooms to walk-ins or other hotels that are overbooked. Calling them to tell them you are on the way may save you that room.

Secondly, if you know you are going to be arriving late – and I would do this for any point after about nine p.m. local time – make sure you guarantee your room for late arrival. This may involve an additional fee including paying in advance for the first night. Also make sure that it is noted in your reservation.

Most hotel booking sites have a place for you to make special requests or convey information to the hotel; use this to inform them of expected late arrival time.

Thirdly, if you were not expecting to arrive late, but something occurs to make that happen (flight delays, etc.) call your hotel and inform them of the situation. As with most travel things, more communication is always better.

Finally – if you have done all of these things and you are walked, remember that you are entitled to a room in a property of the same level or higher. Insist on it if you have to, and have that reservations number handy on the off-chance that you run into an uncooperative desk agent.

As I said earlier, getting walked is a rare thing, it has happened to me only once and I have had very few instances of it with clients. Thankfully, the only instance where it was truly awful was mine and not one of those clients.

While hotels are much more aware of how to gracefully handle the situation (thanks in large part to a wonderful PowerPoint presentation from 2001), part of being a savvy traveler is being equipped with the information you need when you need it.

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