By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
Tribune Media Services
updated 5/26/2009 12:40:15 PM ET 2009-05-26T16:40:15
travel troubleshooter

Q: I hope you can help me persuade Marriott to live up to its commitment. My wife and I are being relocated to the Washington area for her work. I found a room at the Residence Inn at Dulles Airport with a two-bedroom unit for $149 per night.

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Because we would be staying for about three months, I called Marriott's reservations line to see if I could negotiate a better rate. I was told to call the hotel directly, and a representative there offered a rate of $116 per night, which I accepted.

I didn't hear anything from the hotel for almost two weeks, so I called Residence Inn to confirm my reservation. That's when a representative told me the person to whom I spoke wasn't authorized to offer a lower rate. I was told they were not going to honor their commitment to me and the best rate they could offer was $149 a night —take it or leave it.

Now, with less than two weeks until we leave our current home, I'm stuck in the position of having to find housing again. I am terribly disappointed in Marriott, which owns Residence Inn. Do you have any suggestions on how to get them to live up to their commitments? — Michael Tushan, Aliso Viejo, Calif.

A: The Residence Inn should have honored the rate it offered by phone. It should have sent you a confirmation immediately instead of making you wait almost two weeks. And the words "take it or leave it" shouldn't be part of anyone's vocabulary in the hospitality business.

When someone offers you a rate by phone, ask for it in writing. If the Residence Inn didn't follow up with an immediate confirmation — either by email or snail mail — you should have called back as soon as possible. No news is usually bad news.

I don't understand Residence Inn's rationale for letting someone answer the phone that wasn't allowed to offer a lower rate. But if they are going to negotiate with you, they should honor their rate, whether they're "authorized" or not.

I think a brief, polite letter to Marriott might have yielded a better response than the ultimatum you got. You could have started at its Web site. Here's the address:

If that didn't work, I would have appealed your case to an executive. Tim Sheldon, the executive vice president for brand management at Marriott's extended stay properties, would have been my first choice. Email addresses at Marriott are

But with just two weeks before your move, I understand you couldn't wait around for a response. Contacting me under these circumstances was the right thing. I got in touch with Marriott, which called you and offered to split the difference between the published rate and the one you were erroneously offered.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, or e-mail him at

© 2008 Christopher Elliott ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.


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