Remember thepost I wrote last year about a ripoff scam being run by employees on business travelers at a Hilton hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida?
Well, turns out that the same crew may have struck again. Yesterday I got some reader feedback from an engineer at one of the larger manufacturing equipment companies, who wrote me an email asking about a post I wrote:
"...about a hotel stay at the Hilton Bayfront in St. Petersburg, FL and an extra charge of $952 on his credit card after he left the hotel. I had a very similar experience at the very same hotel just last month. I was charged an extra $946 a week after I had checked out and handed a receipt."
In my original post, I detailed the strange tale of being called a curtain thief by the Hilton staff, and being told that there was "nothing they could do" to reverse the charges, because I had stolen everything out of the hotel room. (The record doesn't include what I called them back.)
After my initial shock, and some web research, I figured out that I was:
"...the unwitting target of a scam attempt by Hilton Bayfront hotel staff, one that is (like other scams of this nature) probably aimed at businesspeople traveling with corporate credit cards, who might send their AMEX bill through the AP system to get pencil-whipped right on through to the check-cutters without a second glance."
I did end up getting the charges reversed by complaining loudly to every Hilton email address I could find, and also doing some networking with my fellow trade journalists -- the ones who work in the hospitality sector -- for more names. If I hadn't switched jobs since then, I'd post them here. As it is, I'm going to go back to the original source and see if he can help me out again, so I can pass them along to my new friend.
Since I wrote this post, I've become aware of blogs like Consumerist that collect horror stories of this kind, as well as strategies for getting resolution, and am definitely thinking that our two stories are good candidates for submission to that consumer advocacy clearinghouse. In the meantime, I'd advise you to watch those hotel bills closely -- you never know what trumped-up charges might be slipped onto your bill, and although in our case the scammers got greedy (I mean, a thousand bucks?), next time around the charges might not be large enough to cause you a second thought.
Oh, and don't stay at the Hilton Bayfront St. Pete...unless you've got a spare grand lying around.