‘3 to 5 business days’ – Is there something wrong with this hotel refund picture?

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Last Friday night, I was in Barrie. I help son-in-law Caleb Hugh, and daughter Claire coach the Loyalist College Women’s basketball team. We were playing Georgian College, an OCAA East conference rival. I am a walking punchline to the old Texas joke, ‘All hat, but no horse’ – I have supposed high level coaching credentials, but I have no real responsibilities on the Loyalist staff, except to help out where I can (‘eye candy, Bryan?’ …. nah) … and as I see it (with a little paternal pride, too) … Caleb and Claire are terrific coaches, and the Loyalist players are a great group of young people. It is a fun dynamic all round.

But to Friday … bad weather loomed, so I thought it best to stay the night – the Barrie Travelodge (a Wyndham hotel property, also owners of Ramada, Super 8 … thousands of properties world wide) looked suitable for my needs, roomed booked online, usual credit card deposit taken ($150 in this case).

I received a surprise when checking out early the next morning. I looked at my bill, and I asked about the $150 taken from my credit card. The cheerful clerk told me, ‘You will have your deposit back within 3 to 5 business days, the time it takes for processing’. I asked her, ‘Why does ‘processing’ take so long? I have paid my bill, and I did not steal the sheets, trash the room, or smoke illegally … isn’t that what the room deposit secures?’ The beaming reply – ‘Oh, you know – its our policy! Just a few business days!’ …. hmmmm.

I never get mad with anybody who is simply doing their job, and following instructions … but when I got back to the Sault, I wrote to the Wyndham head office …. and credit where credit’s due, Customer Service Representative ‘Misty’ answered my email the next day (I wonder, given her job description, if Misty is a real name ….) .

I did not like the answer much – Misty simply gave me a longer, vague, ‘its policy’, ‘3 to 5 days’, pat on the head, get on your way’ reply than the initial one the Travelodge front desk clerk had delivered.

My follow up to Misty is at heart of my open question to any SaultOnline readers who can help me. Here is what I wrote (extracts):

‘Hi Misty,

‘I thank you for your prompt reply to my query. I have no doubt that you have provided me with the Wyndham company policy regarding room deposits – but I remain 100% unknowing as its actual justification…..’

‘In our age of instant banking – why should I be deprived of my money for ‘3 to 5 business days’, when I have honoured my contractual commitment not to break the Wyndham rules? … and I have paid my room bill….’

‘This policy is – flat out – wrong… I can calculate how much money that Wyndham makes in bank interest on its many, many hundreds of thousands of guests’ deposit money in a single year …. Wow, and not pretty in my analysis…’

‘My $150 deposit taken by Wyndham does NOT show upon the receipt provided to me by the hotel on my departure (as attached) … it is only shown on my personal banking records … why?’

So …. am I right, or wrong? (You can ask the Loyalist College ballplayers, readers – ‘Coach Bryan’ and ‘wrong’ sometimes appear in the same sentence …)

I am keen to hear from anyone in our Community about this. Here is my (very) rough math …..

* Monthly hotel occupancy rates vary across the country, but recent data (Statistica January 2020) suggests an annual average 65% occupancy rate.

* There are 98 Wyndham properties in Canada, assume an average size of 100 rooms – 9800

* 9800 x 365 days x 0.65 (occupancy) = 2,235,050 room stays

* $150 deposit x 2.235 m = $348,757,500 total deposits

If we assume 5 real days (‘3 to 5 business days’) for each deposit, at (conservatively) 2.5% bank interest per year:

5 days / 365 = 1.36% of the year

2.5% x 1.36% x $348,757,500 = $119,437 … the amount that Wyndham earns from its Canadian hotel room deposit policy – if my calculation is close (a key qualification, and I welcome any other views!)

Pure profit …. and it is never disclosed to Wyndham customers …. and this is just the Travelodge properties in a vast, global Wyndham empire.

So you might say, ‘what’s the big deal, Bryan?’ On my 5 day calculation, I lose about 5 cents in potential bank interest, and (if I had needed it) $150 of available credit …

A few years ago, a story circulated that a clever bank employee created a computer program, enabling the employee to automatically deduct 1 cent from thousands of bank accounts every day – and amassing millions before being caught through an audit.

I am not suggesting that Wyndham are breaking any criminal laws, not at all – but they are certainly taking full advantage of that wonderful, bland, easy to say, easy to repeat explanation – ‘its just our policy’…. and as Wyndham knows, along with every other hotel chain employing the same practice, and every business enterprise that gets credit card pre-authorizations, and then takes a few days to reconcile them with the actual purchase …. no one takes legal action to recover a measly 5 cents.

If anyone has any thoughts at all about these refund policies, please email me at [email protected]

 

11 COMMENTS

  1. I have stayed at at least 10 Wyndham hotels including Travelodge, Quality and Super 8 from Sudbury to Southern Ontario and my deposits are refunded immediately upon checkout. I have the clerk check the room and return my deposit both cash and credit card. I suggest cash as there shouldn’t be anything to “process”. I find it rather sickening these major companies have no problem taking payment on reservation or check in yet when it comes time to honour their agreement, take 5 days (likely business days). Some people are traveling on an extremely tight budget for a variety of reasons. It’s not good customer service and I wouldn’t have it personally.

  2. With a deposit given using a credit card, there is a pre-authorization put on the cc for the amount of the deposit. As to the length of time for the hold on the funds to be released, that is dependent on what is stated in your card holder agreement with the cc issuer.

  3. Another follow up point …. I asked my friend and local hotel industry expert Kevin Wyer (Sault Marriott Waterfront GM) – how does this work? Kevin did not comment on the Wyndham policy (the Marriott chain has their own room hold / deposit and related policies) … but Kevin suggested that it was the credit card companies (or perhaps their intermediaries, I thought?) that actually determine how this Wyndham ‘3 to 5 business days’ policy operates.

    Given that (1) my room rental was between Bryan and Wyndham Travelodge, and (2) Wyndham specifically confirmed that this policy is ‘theirs’ -not anyone else’s – a reasonable consumer would conclude that Wyndham calls the shots … but we shall ‘follow the money’, and see where it goes.

    And if anyone in the financial / credit card sector can tell me that I missed something, and this $150 hold (now 5 days deep) … actually benefits me? I shall love to hear it.

  4. The $150 deposit was taken by the Front Desk when I checked into the hotel. I believe that this is a common hotel practice. However, unlike many other places where I have stayed, this deposit was not applied to my bill when I checked out; the bill was paid through a second credit card payment / transaction.

    The deposit was treated as a separate credit card transaction. This takes me back to the main point – I am obligated to pay my room bill before I leave, so why should the Hotel keep a room deposit for any longer period, when the deposit has served its purpose (making sure the room is intact, etc.)? I am not sure that all of the comments made thus far (for which I am grateful, BTW) address this point, and I am interested in what others think. Thank you! Bryan

  5. I have worked in the hospitality industry for many years. A credit card is taken upon check in and a pre-autorization as Greg Lefave mentioned is done and a “hold” on the funds to ensure the funds for room/tax and any potential charges/damages to the room are available.
    Upon check out and actual charges are put on the credit card from the held funds and the remainder released. I don’t know about Wyndem’s response, but at the properties I have worked at the funds are released back to the credit card company.
    However with all that being said… it is released in the system, then the batch has to be closed out (usually on night audit) then it takes a day or so from then for it to process through the credit card system and show back on your card.

    No money is ever earned by the company for interest, it actually costs companies pretty large money to have the ability to accept debit & credit cards as there is a monthly fee just to have the ability and then for each transaction done there is a % that is charged by credit card companies and let me tell you it adds up…so trust me the hotel is not making any money by holding funds on your card.

  6. I’ve run into this as well. This is my reasoning . I may be wrong , the deposit is a hold on the credit card or did they charge you flat out $150 ? It takes 3-5 days for the computers that track the Visa , MasterCard, Interact to all communicate with each other. They don’t do it instantaneously, at the end of the day the hotels terminal talks to their providers terminal , the next day the terminal providers equipment send data to Mars , then the next day Mars communicates with banking computers. I’ve had holds still appear as holds for 3 days. And refunds take 5 days

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