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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 room with a tv and a tableWho

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.

a living room with a couch and chairsWhy

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

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. As Marriott platinum member, was offered a paid upgrade at a Ritz Carlton property for $175/night on top of the $400 rate. The front desk guy said “it was worth it”. I gambled and took it. He moved me to a $2000/night suite with a massive balcony and beachfront view. All in all it was a good deal.

  2. A friend was offered an upgrade at a resort in Mexico. They thought the upgrade cost 300 Pesos extra a night but it turned out to be 300 USD extra a night…and they stayed for a week. He was shocked with the bill at checkout but was able to work something out with the manager and they paid a 100 USD extra per night.

  3. Gilbert – For the first time ever, I am going to disagree with you. Regardless of customer status (I do not expect any receptionist to know my status, so I inform them) I always confirm charges with or without upgrades, since many times I may be using a promotion from Amex fine hotels, the Citi Prestige card, or SPG promotions, or a combination of them. I simply view that as my personal responsibility to know my expenses so there are no surprises at check out time. Have a wonderful New Year!!!

    1. Haha very fair! I am too lax with these sort of things and often only catch them at check out, but I find this instance dubious. I was at a Hyatt recently and the person very clearly offered a $25 a night upgrade so I accepted. A “we can upgrade you” only to find $25 per night later would’ve agitated me. Happy holidays Chris!

  4. I had something similar happen to me at a Hyatt in San Antonio. Like I always do, I asked if there were any Diamond suite (pre World of Hyatt) upgrades available. The front desk agent casually “said sure let me see what I can do” and proceeded to give me a suite. No mention of any cost or anything. It wasnt until weeks later I was pulling my receipt for work expenses that I noticed she had slyly taken one of my suite upgrade certificates in the process. I complained to the VIP manager and the GM of the property, they reconciled the situation by giving me 20000 points.

  5. I guess everyone needs to do two things: (1) Ask if there are any COMPLIMENTARY upgrades. Not just ask if “an upgrade is available”. (2) Make sure what your room charges will be at checkout if there is any concerns.

  6. This is completely wrong on the hotel’s part. A Platinum is entitled to an upgrade to the best available room including standard suites. In fact, by trying to charge for something that he should have gotten for free might even be breach of contract. At a minimum there should not be an additional charge without notice perhaps even in writing.

  7. As society adapts to a world of easy access and instant satisfaction with a side of entitlement, I believe this individual was served a HUGE mouthful of real life pie.
    The person asked for an upgrade, not a free upgrade or complimentary,did not ask any other questions but received exactly what they requested. Time to take ownership of not being a responsible individual and stop blaming hotels or whomever for your mistakes. Platinum or not, does not justify a right if passage, do your due diligence line everyone else there is NO tier or level on being a responsible person.

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