Held-Up at the Hilton Stockholm Slussen: All That Was Missing Was the Mask and Gun!

Spoiling what was otherwise a tremendous trip to Stockholm this past week was the incompetence, apathy and general absence of customer consideration on the part of the staff at the Hilton Stockholm Slussen.  In particular, their gratuitous use of my credit card in terms of incidental charges, trying to levy a smoking fee of $228 for an obfuscated policy and their automated mini-bar system which charges the guest for any item that they pick-up without actually consuming.

In terms of my credit card, and even though my room had been paid for by the event organizer, the hotel requested an imprint of my card upon check-in to cover any incidental charges during my stay.  This of course is a normal practice whereby the hotel will run the credit card and receive approval for a set amount – say $300.  This amount is set-aside meaning that you no longer have access to the funds.

Upon check-out a tally of the bill is then done and if the guest has not depleted the funds that had been run by the hotel at check-in, the excess is instantly released and credited back to your credit card account. If the incidental charges exceed the original $300 that was run upon check-in, then the guest is presented with a bill for the balance.

Once again, this is a standard practice.

However, and much to my surprise and chagrin, the Hilton in Sweden ran my card once upon check-in on October 6th at 12:38 PM for $109.16.  They then ran the card a second time on the 6th for a sum of $128.90, in essence tying up available credit on the card in the amount of $238.06.  It is unusual for a card to be run a second time on the same day, especially as previously stipulated the actual room charge was being billed directly to the conference organizer.  However, the amount was not excessive so no problem . . . if this is where it had ended.

However, on October 7th at 11:30 PM, my card was run (re charged) for a third time in the amount of $524.36, tying up in total $762.42 to cover just incidental charges.  Tip 1 from this experience, whenever you hand over your credit card to a hotel to have an amount run upon check-in always confirm the amount that is being charged, as well as the fact that you are only authorizing a single transaction versus multiple transactions against your card.

Now here is the really aggravating part.  Upon check-out and bearing in mind that the hotel unbeknown to me had already tied-up $762.42 on my card, I was presented with a final bill of $338.  At that point, the normal process is for the hotel to immediately release the unused portion of what they have already charged, which in this case should have been $424.42.  Instead, the hotel charged my card for the fourth time $338, on top of the $762.42 they had already run.  In essence, they charged me $1,100.42 for incidental expenses over a four day stay.

Suffice to say I was not pleased when I discovered this upon my return to Canada.  This of course leads to tip number 2, do not leave the hotel until they provide you with a detailed invoice which clearly outlines what charges have been applied to your credit card, your actual expenses and, the end total “net” bill .  At that point, if a credit is owed to you, then have the front desk release that credit immediately in your presence.  Unfortunately, nowhere on the hotel statement I was given, was an indication that they had previously charged any amount to my credit card.

Given the situation, I called the hotel directly and expressed concern with what had occurred.  Here is where the situation took a somewhat surreal and frustrating turn.

To start, and citing past “problems” with previous guests whose cards had ultimately been declined and in the process stiffed the hotel its rightful purse, the person with whom I was talking indicated that the Swedish Hilton makes it a policy to charge a guest’s card on a daily basis.

I was then assured that the funds would be released within 7 to 14 days, and that I should not be concerned with the charges.  Hmmmm . . . somebody holds in excess of $1,000 for a bill which totaled only $338 for a period of 7 to 14 days.  I wonder if the hotel would have been open to allowing me to stay as a guest with the promise that I would pay them within 7 to 14 days after I checked out?

Needless to say the 7 to 14 days was unacceptable and as such, I provided the hotel with the phone number for my credit card company to contact and have the funds released right away.  The hotel representative indicated that this would be done and that I would receive a call confirming as much the next day.

Unfortunately, the next day came and went without my receiving the promised call.  When I placed a follow-up call to the hotel, I was greeted with the comment that the accounting department was closed and that they would get around to it.  Wrong answer!

I then placed a call to the Hilton head office in the US.  The Hilton US representative was also surprised by the Swedish Hilton’s policies and immediately called the hotel and conferenced me in.  The end result, The Hilton in Sweden would call the person in charge of accounting at home that evening and have them call my credit card company to release the funds immediately.  I will keep you posted.

I am still somewhat dumbfounded by what I can only view as being a bizarre policy.  In fact, in all the years I have traveled and have had the opportunity to stay at some of the finest hotels and resorts in the world, this is the first time I have ever encountered a situation where a hotel has told me about problems with past guests and as a result considered it to be justification for them to indiscriminately charge my credit card excessive amounts.

I can assure you that based on this experience, the Hilton chain is now low on my list of possible hotels in which the likelihood of my being a future guest falls somewhere between when pigs fly and a cold day in you know where.

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