The case of the lost room

By Randy Keck

Most seasoned travelers at one time or another have arrived at a hotel with a reservation in hand only to be informed that the type of room they thought they had reserved was not available. In this edition of “Under the Microscope,” I will examine strategies for finding acceptable solutions for such situations and also measures for trying to prevent such occurrences in future travels.


In the situation described above, several things must be determined.

  1. Do you have a confirmed reservation in writing?
  2. Did you book the reservation directly with the hotel or through another source?
  3. If your booking was not prepaid, did you arrive at the hotel prior to the time when confirmed reservations expire?
  4. Why is the reservation desk saying your confirmed reservation room type (CRRT) is not available?
  5. What is the reservation desk offering you as an alternative to your CRRT? The answer to this question is going to provide the information with which you proceed.


If your CRRT is not available, it means the hotel somewhere in its reservation or operations system has made a mistake and needs to offer a successful resolution. Depending on many factors, they may or may not be willing to satisfactorily solve the problem. As the customer, you must determine in your own mind what a fair, equitable resolution is.

Please ponder the following considerations: 1) How many days/nights are you staying at the hotel? 2) Is your room type available and being offered to you beginning the following day through the end of your stay?

A possible solution, depending on circumstances, is upgrading your room type for the length of your stay. Another option is offering you some type of discount or other incentive if your room type has been downgraded or if you are in any way being offered a lesser option than your CRRT. This includes a situation in which you are advised that no twin-bedded rooms are available and they can offer only a single queen- or king-bed room with a rollaway bed for the second person.

If the hotel is completely full and either no room or no acceptable room is available despite your CRRT, the hotel can and should offer to book you in the correct type and standard of room at another equivalent or higher-rated hotel plus pay in full for that room and your transportation cost.

My recommendation is that you make a relatively quick decision whether the front desk person with whom you are dealing on arrival is interested in resolving and/or empowered to resolve the problem. If he or she is not, immediately insist on seeing either the duty manager or the general manager.

Avoid the temptation to just launch into a litany of complaints about the breakdown and instead provide whoever can be the problem solver the opportunity to satisfactorily solve the problem.

Having said that, it is important that you be firm in your resolve if you start running into roadblocks.

The most common situation is that of no one being willing to accept responsibility for the error and problem. An example would be that you booked with a source other than the hotel, with the hotel claiming that the other source gave you incorrect information about your booking. Of course, if the hotel accepts such bookings, then they must be willing to accept the obligations of the written CRRT. If there is a communication problem between those parties, it is not the responsibility of the customer to solve the problem.

Obviously, I cannot cover all situations in a limited forum like this, but it is important to always be prepared to activate your problem-solving skills.


There are a few strategies one can employ to help prevent check-in problems related to room type from occurring.

The first is to arrive at the hotel as early as possible, with a target time of before or right at the advertised check-in time.

The second is to telephone your hotel several hours before your arrival to confirm your arrival and room type.

Finally, consider booking directly with the hotel. Time and time again, I have offered hotels on a direct-contact basis the opportunity to match or better my Internet quotes and have been successful. Sometimes this works, sometimes not, but it certainly can help to prevent problems at check-in. I have also found that most better-quality hotels appreciate the loyalty of customers who book directly. I have even received room upgrades as a result of “direct booking loyalty” on some occasions.

Even when obtaining a confirmed reservation, insure that it is in writing and, most importantly, that it is confirming and guaranteeing your room type specifically and not just confirming and guaranteeing that you will have a room.

If you think this is overkill, be advised that recently, no less than the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel in New York advised a travel industry associate of mine upon checking in with her sister that their direct reservation, confirmed in writing and specifying a twin-bedded room, actually only guaranteed a room, not the room type.

Since the hotel was full, no twin-bedded rooms were available, and this property claimed, to my associate’s utter amazement, that it did not even have a rollaway bed available. There was no happy resolve; the sister slept on the floor, camping style.

In a future column I will deal with the subject of changing from an unsatisfactory hotel room even if it is the type and category of room type you reserved.

Keck's Beyond the Garden Wall

❝ Can something be confirmed, as in ‘you definitely have it,’ yet not be guaranteed, as in ‘you definitely have it’? Even Webster seems unclear about this. Therefore, if as travelers we choose to venture forth into the fray as the trusting beings that we tend to be, we must also resolve to adopt the habit and trait of verifying as our constant companion. ❞
— Randy’s resolve regarding the topic of this column.