I reached out to Hilton several times asking questions about their overbooking/overselling “walk” policy and despite my best efforts, they simply wouldn’t answer my very simple questions. Why?
If you are considering booking travel or signing up for a new credit card please click here. Both support LiveAndLetsFly.com.
If you haven’t followed us on Facebook or Instagram, add us today.
A Customer Incident
Without going into significant detail in this post (another will follow with further insights) a customer from my travel agency was notified directly by the property that they were out of rooms for the traveler and that they would need to find another property. However, they didn’t appear to follow the protocol by which the hotel finds them another hotel room (whether in the same brand or not.) Oversells happen all the time, and both my team and my client have experienced this often, the more one travels, the more likely it is to happen, and this client is away from home approximately 39 weeks annually.
The odd response by the hotel prompted a phone call from me to the hotel to understand what was going on and then a clarification email to Hilton to make sure I understood the policy.
What Happens When A Hotel Oversells Its Rooms
Most travelers understand what happens when an airline has an overbooked flight and they deny boarding resulting in bumped passengers. Airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies sell more tickets, rooms, and cars than they have because many travelers miss flights or connections and if they did not oversell, they would end up with unutilized inventory. Revenue managers have done the math and found that it’s cheaper to bump or deny service than the cost of customer service issues for a minority of customers. Consistently empty seats are simply more expensive, especially in business class.
The Department of Transportation has very clear rules about this for air travel. If one volunteers their seat, they can (sometimes) negotiate a generous cash payout or voucher and secure a seat on the next flight departing for their destination. If no volunteers come forward, the bumped passenger is removed from the plane and eligible for compensation up to 4x the price of their ticket. United Airlines had a horrific public relations issue when it could find no such volunteer and had Dr. Dao dragged off a flight. However, they don’t have a policy for cars or hotels.
At most hotel chains, the policy in an oversell situation is to contact the guest when the oversell occurs, re-accommodate them within the chain or at a nearby hotel convenient for the customer at no additional cost to the customer (and usually a refund of the night they paid for in that hotel.) Most oversell situations occur in close proximity to the check-in day, for example, an airport Hilton hotel might find a large number of canceled flights due to weather, the hotel is oversold, and the management tries to accommodate customers at a nearby Homewood Suites (a Hilton Worldwide company.) If that is impossible, they typically will start working with hotels nearest to the one booked in both stature and distance.
The guest, while inconvenienced and disappointed, is not made homeless for the night and is compensated for their trouble. This typically falls on the night audit (sometimes the only staff member on duty) as late check-ins arrive at an oversold hotel. The guest is then “walked” (not literally) to the new hotel with apologies and compensation as necessary.
Hilton Doesn’t Make This Information Readily Available
Hilton doesn’t disclose this information and makes you dig to find it. Hyatt has it on its website. Accor puts it in its terms and conditions, Marriott puts it in plain English, and IHG has a similar policy on full display. Hilton doesn’t really put it out there, and so I wanted to clarify some questions about oversell situations (both to better understand since it’s not readily available, and to understand the issue for my client.) Here are the questions pertinent to this that I posed to Hilton PR earlier this week:
- If a [confirmed reservation] doesn’t offer language that it needs to be “reconfirmed” days prior to arrival, is there any reason to believe it wouldn’t fall under the walking policy for an overbooked/oversold hotel?
- Is the following the oversold policy of Hilton: “The guest must be relocated at other Hilton branded hotel if possible. The hotel must pay the full cost of the first night’s stay including any expenses incurred such as transportation and phone calls to family members and business associates. Hotel must complete an online form and send it to Hilton to ensure that the guest receives the stay/night credit and all the points associated with the stay had the guest not been walked.”
- Do franchised locations have to adhere to these policies or are they exempt? In which cases would an exemption apply
- What would a franchised location do if there a) aren’t any other Hiltons in the area to walk them to, and b) aren’t any hotel rooms available in the same town so there is nowhere to walk the guest to?
- What is the priority for choosing whom to walk when walking a guest? Check-in time, elite status, when the reservation was placed?
- If a hotel is soldout for a number of weeks, additional reservations will be taken in the interim (oversell), however, at a certain point those bookings will no longer be taken – what’s that threshold (5%? 10%)?
- When does a hotel receive booking details from Hilton.com?
- If a corporate client books an entire hotel would there be [a] reason to not make those re[-accommodations] in advance [of] the check-in day?
My Attempts To Reach Out
In the spirit of trying to get the right information to readers, I contacted Hilton a staggering amount of times for which they ignored nearly all of my questions. Here is the log of those communications:
- Monday February 21st, 2022 11:05 AM Eastern – The above questions were sent.
- Tuesday February 22nd, 2022 4:42 PM Eastern – Called Hilton PR as I’d not heard anything back.
- Wednesday February 23rd, 2022 4:52 PM Eastern – Forwarded original email to Hilton PR as I’d not heard anything back.
- Wednesday February 23rd, 2022 4:53 PM Eastern – Called Hilton PR as I’d not heard anything back.
- Wednesday February 23rd, 2022 8:22 PM Eastern – Hilton PR replied back not addressing the above but stating I had to have permission of the guest for them to speak to that specific issue.
- Wednesday February 23rd, 2022 9:30 PM Eastern – Guest replied-all granting permission to speak to the issue
- Thursday February 24th, 9:10 PM Eastern – Hilton PR responds to the guest’s issues to me only, and says only the following that can be attributed to their oversell walk policy:”Hilton properties work hard to accommodate all our guests at all times. In the rare event we are unable to accommodate a reservation, we make every effort to provide alternate accommodations at one of our nearby properties.“
- Thursday February 24th, 10:18 PM Eastern – I respond back pointing out some errors in the rest of their response but note that they still have not given any response to what their walk policy entails. Not a single point was addressed:”but this doesn’t address ANY of the questions regarding Hilton’s walk policy especially as it pertains to franchised locations” and then I offered to push publication to give them time to answer.
- Friday February 25th, 2022 4:16 PM Eastern – Client calls me to inform me that a rep from Hilton PR contacted the guest to learn more about the situation from their perspective. However, despite stating they would follow up with additional details to the guest, they had nothing more as of publication.
- Sunday February 27th, 10:39 AM Eastern – I still have no further information about the Hilton walk policy, published the article as-is.
I initially reached out to clarify the policy because I couldn’t find it outside of GodSaveThePoints who published a brilliant piece on the matter but almost seven months ago and many things have changed since then. I wanted to know what the policy is/was exactly, and any caveats that needed to be considered. Hilton Public Relations’ job is to communicate with media members (yes, even bloggers) and represent the brand while maintaining the presitge of its reputation in the process. Absconding from that seems like dereliction of duty at best, intentional avoidance at worst.
Hyatt, Accor, IHG, and even Marriott publish the policy openly, but despite four emails, two phone calls, and a good effort searching for statements on the matter from Hilton – it’s clear that Hilton doesn’t want guests to know their policy for oversell situations. Take the only possible mention in their statement, “In the rare event we are unable to accommodate a reservation, we make every effort to provide alternate accommodations at one of our nearby properties” with a grain of salt. It doesn’t state what is due to guests, what Hilton will do in a situation where there are no other Hilton properties, and what priority oversold rooms are selected for honoring the reservation and walking them. I have really enjoyed Hilton properties, but this leaves an awfully sour taste in my mouth from the one area of its business that should be pros at giving basic information about the chain’s policies.
What do you think? Is Hilton intentionally hiding this information? If so, why?
Great article. Maybe you could also story on car rentals with the recent shortage of new cars.
You retarded? there is no shortage
Keep believing that the Earth is flat dude.
As a former front desk agent at a hotel, there isn’t a standard procedure for every hotel, it depends on how the staff at that location handles the situation. Being in the position where you have to tell the. Customer, “sorry we overbooked and you have to stay somewhere else no if ands or buts” is one of the most awkward positions to be in. Most of the time it happens when a third party reservation line isn’t closed when sales books a large block of rooms. Sometimes a guest smokes in their room and we cannot get the smell out, we wouldn’t want to stay in that room ourselves we wouldn’t want you to stay in there either. We would always pay directly to the hotel for the room and tax but of course the guest is required to place a card for their own incidentals. If another room opens up the next day and the original guest was staying longer than one night, we would reinstate their reservation minus the one night we paid for them to stay at another hotel. We would always pay for the guests trip via taxi to the new hotel and back as long as they provide a receipt. It’s very inconvenient on both ends to have this happen but we were more than happy to have the guests come back to our hotel.
Worked at Hilton for 6 years and it is up to the GM to set the oversell for the hotel. We typically did an oversell of 10% every weekend. We pay for the night typically at a Hilton property but not always. One particularly bad night we were oversold by more than 20 rooms and had to walk guests to a Super 8 50 miles away because every hotel in our area was sold out. After that the front office made a secret pact to book dummy rooms to prevent that from happening ever again.
Even if the guest said, “that’s just too far away” they would have at least done their job in finding accommodation of some sort, somewhere.
[redacted by admin]. Go get ‘‘em big dog.
Hiltons honors program use to be really nice but has become a joke. We have stayed at Hilton almost exclusively for 12 years and enjoyed the pre check in and being able to pick our room. The last couple of years even pre covid we have booked a specific room only to be told when we arrive that it is not available. Various explanations from someone did not check out, plumbing issues, door lock issue, house keeping not getting it clean. This was all the same Embassy Suites over 5 or 6 visits. We changed properties in the same town and were pleased until the last 2 visits there and could not even access pre check in. When I called the hotel to ask for our favorite room it was already booked so I explained our physical limitations and asked for a room close to the lobby. When we checked in they had put us so far down the hall and around the corner my husband could not even walk to the lobby. I asked the desk about changing and was told to next time call ahead and ask for the room I want. I was under the impression that I had done just that. Last visit we changed properties (still Hilton) and was treated better but this property has much smaller rooms so it is only good for short visits. At the Embassy Suites we had stayed at since it opened we were actually bumped from a room we had pre picked we had to wait in the lobby for over an hour and even though it was during the Managers happy hour they wouldn’t serve us as we had no room assignment and the manager never covered us so much as a water even though he was in the lobby the entire time
Hilton is indeed trying my patience but the Marriotts in this particular town only have queen beds and we prefer king.
There is a policy written. It is typically the hotel’s job to keep track of their inventory. Sometimes there’s an error in the accuracy of the hotel. The policy is that a walked guest must be placed first in a hotel of equal value. Many hotels don’t know or do not follow the walk policy
My client would have gladly accepted that, and in fact, we were able to achieve this on our own. They simply abdicated their duties and responsibilities and what’s with the cloak and dagger from Hilton? Just publish the policy like everybody else.
If I were on the receiving end of that many questions in a single email, I wouldn’t respond either.
Your first 3 questions were the most important in figuring out what’s happening, and I would have stopped there and handled the others in followup.
@Robert – Answering the first three would have been three more than they could muster in a week with plenty of prodding. They probably could have answered all of them by just sending me the whole policy – it’s written somewhere, just send it to me and I will do the rest. But imagine that it was that department’s job to respond to requests like this and they just didn’t do it… that’s what we have here.
Regardless of why they are hiding it, as one who frequently books with Hilton, I am now re-thinking my options to avoid being placed in an uncertain situation with my family (two small kids). Additionally, their not so good treatment of the so-called diamond member status has been a joke in my experience and the brand has been losing its appeal to me of late. Stay 30 nights so that you can get two water bottles at check-in, a value of 2 dollars, a profound joke.
Hilton is a lot more likely to provide answers and, if appropriate, compensation to a guest bilaterally than to a travel agent who writes a blog if the guest was actually walked – i.e. They showed up for a confirmed reservation and could not be accommodated,they should have been handled as indicated.
However, if before the guest arrived someone from the property let them know they have no room, most properties will not consider the guest ‘walked’ and would do nothing.
As with most things, Hilton will usually defer to hotels on this.
One detail: The official policy is to walk guests to other Hilton properties, hotel staff will almost always walk them to another property in the same management or ownership group – whether that’s a Hilton or not. Remember : 65% of companies that own and/or management Hilton brands do the same for Marriott brands.
@Chris Stein – As mentioned in the post, they contacted the guest first, offered nothing and stated the guest didn’t have a reservation. Then, and only then, did we get involved. Also, the guest was accommodated at another property outside of the immediate area inside of ten minutes, the GM could have done it if they wanted to, but chose not to do so.
As a current Hilton manager, the walk “policy” I’ve always been trained on was Honors members have priority, group reservations, then pre-paid reservations (mainly due to the hassle of relocating those.) Then the remaining guests that essentially have a “basic” reservation for one night would be the guests to be chosen to be walked. The hotel should pay for the room, phone calls and transportation. If there is a number on the reservation, we give them a heads-up so they can travel to the other hotel first and fax a letter to the new hotel stating that their reservation is being paid for by said hotel. The only set Hilton policy I know of for walking guests is that if a Diamond member is walked, they get $200 cash for the inconvenience, paid immediately by the hotel before they are sent to the comparable hotel. I have personally never seen or filled out an online form for a guest to receive any benefits if they happened to be a Hilton Honors member.
That’s a very interesting data point, I wonder why there’s no comment here…
@Kyle I think there’s a typo with “presitge” in your text
I just had three prepaid rooms canceled on me. We booked 9 months in advance. Now that we’re 3 months out, prices in the area have gone up. I’m suspecting we got too good a deal when travel this summer was somewhat unknown, and now they found someone who would pay more.
I have worked for Hilton brands, many of them for now over 10 years. I no longer work in operations and no longer work for a owned and managed property. I have to say, Hiltons walk-policy is extremely vague and varies from hotel to hotel unfortunately. Diamond members are the members we try not to walk as we have to provide more in compensation, all others its really up to the hotel.
To be honest with you, the reason it may be hard to find/its not posted anywhere is because there really isn’t one. Every hotel I have worked at followed a different policy and made their own modifications. I opened a large full service luxury hotel in downtown Washington DC and we had to create our own walk policy, Hilton gave us guidance but nothing was set. I too, get a little frustrated. Overall guest satisfaction is not doing so well right now.
“@Chris Stein – As mentioned in the post, they contacted the guest first, offered nothing and stated the guest didn’t have a reservation. Then, and only then, did we get involved. Also, the guest was accommodated at another property outside of the immediate area inside of ten minutes, the GM could have done it if they wanted to, but chose not to do so.”
So to me it sounds like, the hotel did not see a reservation for this person. If the hotel doesn’t have. Reservation for the guest, then it isn’t a walk.
It’s only a walk if the hotel can’t accommodate a confirmed reservation. Something doesn’t add up here.
Which is why I confirmed it was accurate (we booked it for the guest), had it confirmed from Hilton corporate that it was valid, and included it here for my readers to review. Corporate said there was an IT error, but that doesn’t align with the rest of what the property stated.
I have questions.
Was this a same day booking?
You mentioned it was booked via a travel agency, was it booked in that gds (Sabre or what have you)
There very well could have been an error where a reservation is made that “should not have been made” meaning legitimately at the time of booking the hotel was sold out-not over sold but at capacity.
The Hilton systems on properties do at times go “down” for maintaining or updates and during this time frame reservations have been made that don’t come into the properties system even though the reserve generates a configuration number. It’s a glitch that is not vastly common but not unheard of.
I’m glad that your client was accommodated at some other property…but don’t think that the person (more than likely just one person at the desk on a sold out night) had the time or didn’t try to find a place to walk that guest. It’s one person making that uncomfortable call on top of dealing with the madness of trying to figure out how many other walks they will have to do.
@Mika – All these questions and more are answered in this post which followed the one you read and commented on: https://liveandletsfly.com/hampton-inn-mattoon-general-manager-during-overbooking/
These policies of overselling are outdated in a world where information sharing among various platforms and services is seamless.
I appreciate that occasional double reservations are still possible if processed at the exact same time but this is an exception and rarely will happen.
Any oversell is inexcuseable and smacks of greed.
If a room is sold and paid for, then payment is guaranteed even if the room remains empty.
Terms that allow for cancellation a short period prior to the stay is down to the hotel to manage as a risk; overselling should not be the solution.
Offering fully cancellable room rates for only a fraction above those of non cancellable or with 14 / 28 day cancellation policies is done only to entice us to make a reservation safe in the knowledge that in current times, there is little risk should you not be able to stay.
In the long run, this does not do the hotel chains any favors, a disgruntled customer will readily complain online and to contacts and with the ease of review submitting on a huge variety of platforms, it’s easy for repuatational damage to occur very quickly which can cost large sums of money and time to repair.
We had the same experience at Hilton’s Homewood Suites at Flaming Crossing in FL. After spending 14 hours driving on I-75, we arrived for our reservation, made on Hilton’s own website, on a Friday evening in February 2022 and we’re told they had no room for us. They made no effort to assist us. We were stuck sitting in their parking lot frantically trying to find another room using our cell phones. My young child was practically hysterical about having to get back in the car at 9 P.M.. The hotel literally did nothing. They didn’t even bother to send a manager to talk to us, just let their clerk deliver the news. It was a shocking and awful experience. We won’t soon forget it!
Deplorable. The need a “customer bill of rights”, PUBLISHED, not in the hands of a PR hack.
One major difference, when comparing hotels to airlines. Airlines require full payment in advance. In most cases, hotels do not. Many hotels still have policies that allow cancellations with no penalty right up to checkin time.
Valid point; car rentals are the same.
I’ve given up on Hilton. I’ve never faced this situation, but it resonates with everything that program does lately. From 2017-2019, I legitimately had 100 nights a year with them. What a waste, and I’m glad I’ve moved on to Hyatt and Marriott.
Does DCS read this blog? I’d like to hear his take on this.
Since Hilton requires a one night deposit, I don’t see the reason for them to oversell. If I no show you keep my deposit.
Out of curiosity, how did the hotel know to contact the guest first if the guest had not made a reservation?
Did I miss something?
There is a difference between a walk and a relocation. If a guest shows up and due to unforseen circumstances needs to be walked, the hotel should find and cover the first night.
If it’s a relocation and communicated ahead of time then the hotel can help find alternate accommodation but all fees would be paid by the guest. Say there was flooding on one of the floors and rooms would be out of order for several weeks putting the hotel in an oversold situation. Future guests would be notified but hotels normally do not pay for relocation.
As a former diamond level Hilton guest, I had a bias towards the chain; even brought into their timeshare. However, I stayed in at a Hilton Garden Inn in NYC and didn’t get points for the stay. They begrudgingly gave complaining that the reservation was made through a travel site other than Hilton.com. left such an unsavory experience that I started staying with Marriott and have stayed over 600 nights with Marriott (Titanium elite) and am happy that I did it. Hilton seemed like they were doing a favor, Marriott seems to care.
Their are plenty of choices out there.
I work Night Audit on the weekends at a hotel near an airport. I dread being oversold and having to explain to a guest that the room they expected to have isn’t available.
The policy at my hotel is to call nearby hotels early and secure the rooms that we may need.
Thankfully, there are usually no show guests so it works out but the anxiety remains high all night.
The HILTON personally is all about MONEY VERSE MARRIOTT ABOUT CUSTOMER SERVICE!!
I once showed up at a Hilton property I had booked through the app, and told there were no rooms available. (I was Gold at the time)
I was not walked, but simply told that my reservation would be cancelled for a refund and that it was up to me to find somewhere else to stay.
I pushed back, and they agreed to bump someone else instead.
I was fired from a Hilton chain for trying to prevent overbooking, which no one told me it was part of the policy to allow. I worked night audit so we weren’t terribly busy during my shift anyway, but it helped reduce the amount of people I needed to turn away on busy nights so I could focus on guests already in house. I’m not sure why they think this is a good idea to allow overbooking, but I’ve only seen negative reactions from guests and more longtime customers swearing off the chain entirely.
As a hotel worker for 22 years i have been in the “walk” situation many times. At my current Hilton that i work at i am completely shocked at their hotel over booking policy, For a current example, i am not allowed to put rooms out of ordere. This means you can BOOK that room. Now if i don’t have another of the same time, you’ll have to take a different room type. So if its a 2 queens and you have 4 -6 guests in the room, you have to take a King or simply don’t checkin. According to my General Manager “we, under no circumstance do we pay for their room. They can pay the other hotel they are walked to,” Personally i think its disgraceful and unprofessional to have to tell a customer that. I, myself has been trying to find Hiltons walk policy so i can confront my GM with it and say “i can no longer follow the hotel policy be that i work for hilton and it goes against their policy.” So when i get fired i can take it to unemployment inssurance company.