Driver scam, hotel scam, or "mistake"? what do you think?

#1 Jan 2nd, 2009, 04:22
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#1
I was just writing a comment about a hotel for another online discussion when it occurred to me that a really annoying event at the very end of my trip might have been more of a scam than I thought at the time. I'll be interested in your opinion, especially if you've heard of something comparable.

My friends and I spent 4 nights -- and paid for 5 so as to keep a room to 9 pm -- at a middle-priced hotel in N Bombay last February and were completely satisfied with everything about the hotel - it was right for our Bombay budget, we liked location, we got help as needed, everything clean and working.

The hotel arranged airport transportation for us for our trip back to NY. When we were about halfway there, the driver received a call from someone at the hotel desk insisting we had not paid some minibar charge. The definite impression given us was that this had to be dealt with or driver, who more or less worked for the hotel, or anyhow was dependent on them, couldn't take us to airport.

We unquestionably had paid for whatever we used, and in fact a guy was in and out of room checking minibar while we were packing to leave. We also weren't about to compromise our travel plans for rs 500 or whatever was demanded.

My friend talked to caller, who refused to just add the charge to our room bill, and the matter was settled by our giving the money to the driver.

I've never thought about it until now but -- having digested India more thoroughly, I wonder if this was a driver-generated scam, and not the hotel's doing at all. So my question is -- has this ever happened to anyone?

At the least someone was into ripping off departing guests, as all our bills were unquestionably paid. At the time I thought it was a dumb move on the part of the hotel, as it would generate no return visits to a place we'd liked until then, and bad publicity for them as a result of their chasing $10 we didn't owe them. Now I think it may not have been hotel at all, the driver had us hostage and could have had a relative hector us.

I wish I'd called hotel on arrival home, but there was a lot to deal with after a month away, so I forgot. Though I don't like to get working people in trouble, if that driver is scamming their guests, they -- hotel -- should know. If they're scamming public, their publicity should reflect it.

So what do you think?
Last edited by NeeliAankhen; Jan 2nd, 2009 at 04:23.. Reason: just checking
#2 Jan 2nd, 2009, 04:36
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  • spike is offline
#2
My guess is a drivers scam.
Whenever I use a minibar I always write down what I used and compare it with the hotels bill.
#3 Jan 2nd, 2009, 04:40
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#3
email the hotel - they will not be pleased
#4 Jan 2nd, 2009, 04:54
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#4
You know I am going to check exact date and write to the hotel. As I said, when I started to write - and think!! -- about it, I realized how unlikely it was that hotel would do this --

--management was civilized

--it's a not-cheap business-y hotel. It is not tiny, either, it'e a real hotel with restaurant, space for local events to be held, etc.

--IF a hotel makes a billing mistake, this isn't the way to handle it!!! amazing I only now have thought of this -- our original reaction definitely based on the "who knows how people do things in another culture" thing, plus 4 weeks of trying to get used to being ripped off often (not always).

But normal thing is to just add the charge onto the bill and mail or email guest. Or mail or email geust and ask for the money. But NOT normal, as I said before, to threaten people on the driver's cell-phone, especially people who've paid for 2 rooms for 4 days, tipped well or extra, etc!!


I'm glad instinct kept me from writing a bad review of them until I get this straight. More appropriate to post warnings of this scam in general - the last-minute extortion move.
#5 Jan 2nd, 2009, 05:08
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#5
First of all, in India, it's more often those extra, phantom charges that appear mysteriously on one's bill that are the bigger concern. So to all - do reserve some extra time before check-out to sit down with a cup of chai and review your hotel bill carefully!

To answer the question - Yes, hotels have missed restaurant, phone, business office, minibar charges on my bill. However they will usually contact my home address, provide proof somehow of the unpaid service and only then debit the credit card used for the booking.

IMO it really depends on the size/class of the hotel that you were staying with in regards to the potential scam factor of it all. A large deluxe hotel would/should not be so frantic to recoup a small charge, so quickly and in such a manner .... however a much smaller hotel that, in addition, has a more symbiotic relationship with taxis/drivers and who would possibly be more apt to garnish the wages of the negligient employee in charge of such an account .... may possibly be more desperate & frantic somehow to get any alleged unpaid payment into their hands ASAP.

At the end of day it is India afterall and more stranger, legitimate requests than that can, do happen. Your initial 'gut feel' on these spur of the moment requests are more often than not spot-on though.
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#6 Jan 2nd, 2009, 05:21
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#6
As far as I'm concerned, once I have checked out, my transaction with the hotel is over. I don't use minibar supplies and if something was missing after I checked out, it would mean their staff had stolen it. If that had happened to me in Delhi, I would have told the driver exactly where he stick his additional charges, and got out of the cab and phoned for another.

However, if you were on your way to the airport and time was tight, I can understand why you went along with it just to save the hassle, and to be honest I might have done the same. Presumably the drivers only pull that scam when they know people don't have time to make alternative arrangements.

This is the sort of thing that leaves so many visitors with a sour taste, so many Indian people make genuine efforts to make sure that visitors have a great trip, it really makes me angry when people like this spoil it. Given the chance, I'd install "stocks for scammers" in every market place!

As it happened nearly a year ago, you're unlikely to get satisfaction from the hotel, but I'd tell them anyway.
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#7 Jan 2nd, 2009, 05:45
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#7
Sounds like a scam. Was the driver the hotel's driver or a taxi driver from outside?

Thanks for sharing, it's something to be aware of next time I travel.
#8 Jan 2nd, 2009, 07:09
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#8
Yes, I posted it to get opinions, and to share/warn - I will undertake to see what the hotel can tell me, and I am not at all focused on getting the money back.

At the time, I just took it to be "real," that the caller really believed we owed the hotel, and that this hotel would go about getting the money in this way - like some of you, I thought it probable that a desk clerk was panicky about having to pay the charge himself.

So that was my "gut" about it -- actually, even if I'd thought the driver was behind it, we were helpless to do anything about it, as we were on our way to catch this international flight in the middle of the night with a kid with us, with 4 people's luggage for a month piled on top of the taxi, so we weren't about to storm off on principle.

In the future, at a smallish urban hotel, I'd get nicely aggressive before leaving about wanting to make sure everything was paid up, and tell the desk I'd had a bad experience in the past that made me want to be careful, or I'd promised my husband yada yada yada [non-existent husband but not important].
#9 Jan 2nd, 2009, 07:50
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#9
Quote:
Originally Posted by NeeliAankhen View Post we were helpless to do anything about it, as we were on our way to catch this international flight in the middle of the night with a kid with us, with 4 people's luggage for a month piled on top of the taxi, so we weren't about to storm off on principle. .
The proverbial sitting ducks! Lucky you didn't give the hotel a bad review.. definitely sounds like a driver scam to me.. one to add to the list of other scams! If you'd thought quickly you might have asked the person at the other end of the phone to describe you or something..

K
#10 Jan 2nd, 2009, 08:06
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#10
Yes, good idea - but actually in the situation, even if I thought it was a driver scam, I'd probably have gone along with it in the first place, and then reported it to the hotel as soon as I got home.

Because our first priorities were safety and getting to the airport, I wouldn't have risked a confrontation with the driver.

Different story in the daytime, in a safe place, with no luggage, and no kids, and no flight to catch!!
#11 Jan 2nd, 2009, 09:09
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#11
Quote:
and in fact a guy was in and out of room checking minibar while we were packing to leave.
Did you have anything from the mini bar ?
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#12 Jan 2nd, 2009, 09:23
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#12
I think a driver scam too - I'm like Haylo, never use the minibar. If I want a cold drink I order it via room service or buy it out on the street.



Mod Note: I'm moving this thread to Scams and Annoyances - it's a good warning to others, even if it is 12 months later!
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#13 Jan 2nd, 2009, 09:57
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#13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aishah View Post I think a driver scam too - I'm like Haylo, never use the minibar. If I want a cold drink I order it via room service or buy it out on the street.
Although minibar preference is not the point at issue here - the service is very convenient for a quick, cold Evian, Heineken or snack at the end of a tiring day without dealing with another door bell ringing or going out onto the street in which you just came from. Often a street or room service ordered 'cold drink' is not really that cold - where a minibar fridge keeps things nicely chilled 24/7 and awaits patiently and hassle free any requests at any time.

The fact that NeeliAankhen did/has not dispute the minibar portion of the story - tells me that she may well have used the service at least once during her stay. The food & beverage personnel sometimes are the last to make their rounds at hotels and, if anything, these charges are the most apt to be omitted from the final bill. Sometimes people inadvertently grab a cold drink out of a habit before heading for the airport - I know I have.

If you think about it, it's not an easy scam for the taxi driver to pull off, confidently, without being privy to account information, a wing & a prayer. Most frugal travellers would be aware of minibar useages(if any), minibar products used along with their approximate charges .... and thus with a few quick pointed questions could easily cut through any kind of Bull$hit that was present.
#14 Jan 2nd, 2009, 10:14
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#14
Scam. Probably driver along with a hotel employee

Relatively few drivers are employees of hotels, even five star ones. Cab services etc are often contracted out- though not always.
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#15 Jan 2nd, 2009, 12:32
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#15
I am now inclining to think it was the hotel, which was what I thought in the first place. I talked to my friend I travelled with -- as the room in question was under her family's name, she was the person who talked to the clerk.

We didn't forget anything we used from the minibar, we told them everything, and in addition we let an employee into the room at least twice to check the minibar.

She thinks, however, that the hotel nonetheless did not transfer the minibar charges onto our bill in time, so that when we settled it those charges were not included. None of us was inclined to scrutinize it, as it was basically in the territory we expected to pay and we were so busy with details of winding up our trip.

She also confirmed what I remembered, that the person who called was very riled up and tried to get the driver to turn around and take us back to the hotel (when we were almost to the airport) -- this was the worst part of it, because I didn't know now much control they could exert over him; refused to put it on credit card, refused to do normal thing and mail or email us a bill to pay when we got back, etc. My friend actually owns and runs restaurants, so she's no pushover, and it still took her some time to deal with it.

Hotel in question is a high-rise style hotel with about 50 rooms and some suites, meeting facilities (sometimes used for Bollywood product launches), room service - I don't know if restaurant is open all day or just for breakfast, I think there's room service all day. To give an idea of size of operation.

So - here is the fault of the hotel, which I will complain about -- calling us like this, being demanding and rude, trying to bully driver into not taking us to the airport -- behaving as if it were worth 500 rupees to them to destroy their goodwill with us and damage their word of mouth.

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