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What the ____?

Chalk this one up under the category: unexplainable. In a true to life “be careful what you wish for” cautionary tale, a frequent traveler was charged $300 per day, for a “free” hotel upgrade. If that sounds ridiculous to you – you’re not alone. Can they even do that?


A top tier frequent hotel guest checked into the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco. As a lifetime platinum member, they casually asked for an upgrade. Platinum member or not – it’s always fair play to ask for a free upgrade. Simple enough, right?


There are nearly surefire ways to get an upgrade (without paying) when you stay at hotels. The guest asked if any upgrades were available, which is perfectly fair – and to their delight – was granted a wonderful upgrade to a large suite. No charge was mentioned and therefore the guest assumed loyalty had paid off. But best check out, they were astonished to find a $300 per night “upgrade” charge.


Hotels are often very happy to offer complimentary upgrades. Levels of upgrade vary, but when possible; and when guests ask the right questions, and send the right messages – it’s no big deal. Sometimes hotels will make a special cash upgrade offer at check in – but that did not happen here. The guest naturally assumed the upgrade was free, and for now, it’s cost them $600.


The member has since reached out to Starwood, the loyalty program associated with Westin hotels. The initial response from Starwood was shocking, indicating that the member “asked” for an upgrade, and therefore no refund was due. This would set a terrible precedent and end the upgrade conversation for all – so without a doubt, Starwood and this particular Westin will be apologizing to and refunding the customer in short order. Can you even believe it?

Have you ever had a “free” upgrade snafu?

HT: ViewFromTheWing