The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago is suing NFL linebacker Justin Staples and his wife for allegedly failing to pay the balance of a $79,484 wedding bill. According to the news reports, the couple allegedly paid $30,000 and owe the balance. The reports add that, after the reception, the hotel offered to discount another $5,062.13 from the bill. Staples’ agent says that the NFL linebacker paid in full and that the claim is “baseless.”
Hotels often try to appease complaining guests by offering discounts or other perks. Sometimes the complaints are legitimate and sometimes they aren’t, but hotels commonly give the guest the benefit of the doubt. This practice is fine for small matters. However, when big dollars or high-profile guests are at stake, the hotel must tread lightly to protect its interests.
Why tread lightly? Because offering a discount may suggest that the hotel did something wrong. This raises factual questions such as: (1) why did the hotel offer the discount? (2) did the hotel breach the contract? (3) what damages did the guest suffer as a result of the hotel’s wrongful conduct? (4) how much was the discount? Factual questions can be very expensive and time-consuming to litigate, and can result in negative publicity.
How can hotels protect themselves?
Get it in writing! When offering a guest a discount to settle a high dollar (or high-profile) issue, make sure to get the deal terms in writing and on the spot. The hotel may also include a sentence dealing with confidentiality and non-disparagement, to avoid any negative reviews or bad press.
It would be impractical to document in writing every concession made by a hotel to appease complaining guests, and sometimes these situations cannot be avoided. But, hotels should take extra precautions when dealing with high dollar (or high-profile) matters. Hotels should have a simple form handy, to be filled in by hotel staff and signed by the guest as these circumstances arise. An experienced hospitality attorney can assist with preparing a suitable form.
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