Smart Money: Dispute with hotel may go to court


DEAR BRUCE >> I stayed at a Los Angeles hotel July 10 to July 13. I booked the room for $84 per night. When I noticed the hotel charged me $140 per night, I told them I would pay only $84 and to present me with a bill for that rate. They refused, and I refused to sign the charge receipt and left the hotel.

Someone at the hotel signed an illegible name to the receipt and sent it to Discover for the $140 rate. The receipt that went to Discover was dated July 6. I reported this as fraud to the police department and to Discover. Discover says I must pay them and take the hotel to small claims court. I say it is illegal, under FTC rules, for Discover to make me pay a fraudulent bill. Would you pay a fraudulent bill?

— Reader

DEAR READER >> I don't understand on what basis the hotel suddenly charged you $140 for a room you had booked at $84 a night. I would have paid only the $84 when the bill was presented and put the rest into dispute.

Your position is clear. If you can demonstrate that you had booked the room with a reservation for $84 a night, then the hotel has no ability to raise it to $140. On the other hand, if you've nothing to prove the reservation (a quote or guarantee), you may have a problem.

In the meantime, I would tell Discover that you intend to pay only the $84 until such time as this is settled.

DEAR BRUCE >> I just exercised my 500 stock option shares with my current employer. I was granted them five years ago and had three to five years to exercise them.

When I exercised the options, they asked if it is my intent to remain with the company for a year. If I were to leave the company during the next 12 months, can they really do anything?

— P.O.

DEAR P.O. >> You can certainly inquire to the company about what would happen should you leave in less than a year, just for information alone. And you should tell the company you have every intention of staying, whether that turns out to be the case or not.

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