Hotel Blacklists

Hotel blacklists have existed in varying forms from early innkeeping times and a long history of disputes concerning the right to abode includes cases such as Wintermute v Clark (1851) and Kisten v Hildebrand (1848) when the issue was whether the innkeeper had to “supply all the desires of a guest”.

MSNBC’s travel columnist reports on hotels’ latest attempts at warding off troublesome guests who either “trash a room to the tune of thousands of dollars ” or “obnoxious business travelers who treat a property like their private playground”. (USA Today ran a similar report two years earlier on hotels blacklisting customers). The report notes that “Guests with this type of bad behavior may be kicked out of a hotel just for that stay, or they may be banned for a lengthier period of time”. Chronic complainers are banned permanently! The latter include “freebie-lovers who, on every visit, have some sort of problem for which they demand comps. After a while, this type of guest begins to cost a hotel more money than they bring in. The hotel staff must either refuse to give them any more comps, or must refuse to provide them any more service. Often, the latter is easier”.

The article points out that “blacklisted guests have even more to worry about, as hotels are beginning to share their blacklists. Get in trouble at a Hilton in Miami, for example, and you may find it hard to get a reservation at a Holiday Inn in Seattle. That’s because extensive databases of individual hotels’ blacklists are being systematically centralized”.

Unlike the notoriously incorrect TSA “no-fly” list, hotel blacklists tend to be more comprehensive and, more importantly, accurate. Mistakes due to similar names are minimized as the list includes addresses and includes customer preferences including proclivities like watching colorful movies on demand. Most hotels and hotel companies that have blacklists do so with a view to protecting their bottom line particularly from lawsuits that are premised on a false “bathtub slip” or “cash stolen from baggage” claim.

While there is a subjective element to who is blacklisted as the columnist notes “What gets you kicked out of one hotel may be perfectly acceptable behavior at another”, it is not capricious. What is a give away in one hotel may not be so in another. However, in a tightening economy, chances are the freebies are going to come down, perhaps very gradually, no matter which segment of the market the lodging establishment is in.

Published by

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.

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