Fat Finger Fares

Today’s edition of WSJ’s Middle Seat column by Scott McCartney (usually on aviation) addresses the “fat finger” problem that afflicts both airlines and hotels.

The Residence Inn near New York’s Bryant Park recently offered a $24.90 (instead of $249.00) rate. Marriot says its “mistake of posting a $24.90 rate in reservation systems, including its own Web site, for the Residence Inn at Times Square was an obvious error, so the company corrected it.” The columnist however notes that “once mistakes do happen, the track record of hotels is mixed. Last year, an Amerisuites hotel in Charlotte, N.C., offered rooms at a penny per night. A computer mistake allowed customers to book the hotel’s internal “complimentary rate.” Amerisuites, a unit of Hyatt Corp., honored the rate, including the free breakfast.”.

Mr. McCartney appears to imply that Amerisuites (Hyatt) is more virtuous than Marriott. But most travelers who jump on the fat finger offerings are the swift-fingered types who prowl internet sites such as www.farealert.net and www.flyertalk.com – sites devoted to alerting bargain hunters. While there is clearly nothing wrong with looking for a bargain, travelers looking to capitalize on human errors brought on by any number of factors from insomnia to dyslexia are surely aware that when it is too good to be true it is not …… Hotels, like airlines, have reservation policies (in small print) that permit them to raise fares when offered in error or otherwise.

Most travelers know that such room rates are not realistic and do not expect hotels to post them any more than hidden charges in the form of fees and surcharges kept out of room rates. Customers whining about being burned by companies not “honoring” fat finger fares ought to know better.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.