Sunday, August 20, 2006


It used to be that when Don Hull of Costa Mesa, Calif., made a hotel reservation and was asked for his credit-card number, it was to reserve a room and guarantee payment if he didn't show up and hadn't canceled ahead of time. In recent years, however, more and more hotels have charged his credit card for the hotel room in advance of his stay.

"I think it is essentially dishonest," Hull writes, "because the hotel then has the money to work with and not the customer, even though no cost has yet been imposed on the hotel."

In his view the practice is unethical. What do you think? Is it ethical for a hotel to take your credit-card reservation for a future date and then collect the money from your credit-card company in advance of your stay?

Send your thoughts to or post them here by clicking on "comments" below. Please include your name, your hometown and the name of the newspaper in which you read this column. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of "The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business" (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," New York Times Syndicate, 609 Greenwich St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10014-3610.


Anonymous said...

Re article in The Charlotte Observer 8/20/06

I agree wholeheartedly that hotels should not charge a credit card to hold a
reservation until check-in or the cancellation policy date has been met.
The same should apply to restaurants, car rentals and any other service.

Stevie Book
Charlotte, NC

Anonymous said...

Yes, in my opinion, it is unethical for the hotel to do that because you have not yet availed yourself of their services AT ALL.
Is it breaking the law, though?
Will be interesting to see other people's opinions about this.
David W. Douey
from Windsor, Ontario, Canada
(first heard about this problem online)
Reading the Windsor Star.

Anonymous said...

I agree, why should they have my money for their use, chances are I will use the reservations,however, don"t charge my acct until then.

Anonymous said...

I find that when we make a reservation at the hotels in Laughlin NV, we almost always have paid the bill at least a week before we are due to arrive at the hotel.
They always require the credit card to verify, claiming that they cannot be paid without verification, even though I tell them I have already paid the bill. I find it very irritating & do not feel it should be legal.
Chris & Fred Wark
Tustin CA

Anonymous said...

Mr. Seglin splits hairs on a weekly basis, trying to discern what triviality crosses the imaginary line of ethical impropriety and what does not.
Meanwhile Seglin works for a demonstrably unethical, anti-American New York Times.

His Publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., is Number 2 on Bernard Goldberg's list of people who are destroying America. Sulzberger told his father years ago that given the choice between a North Vietnamese troop dying and an American soldier dying, Sulzberger wanted the American dead. After all, "it's their country."

Today, the Times exposes American secrets to al Qaeda, and spins the news so far to the left that it is truly sickening. Denying what is so patently obvious is yet another tactic of dishonest liberals who run the New York Times.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with Don Hull of Costa Mesa. It is unethical for hotels to charge your credit card prior to your arrival date. The credit card should only be used to guarantee the room until you arrive in person or in the event you "no show" and then they should only be allowed to charge for the first night if you booked more than one. Usually hotels have a 24 or 48 hour cancellation policy. As long as you cancel within their terms, there should be no charge to your credit card. If your card is charged, and then you need to cancel within the terms, then unnecessary steps are required to credit the charges. KISS - Keep it simple stupid. I worked for the government, I know how time consuming unnecessary steps can be. Not to mention costly. Soon credit institutions will add transaction charges!

Cathy Olson
Foothill Ranch,
Orange County Register

Anonymous said...

Hmmm this is interesting. I have already made one comment on this issue, but now after reading some of the posts on the blog, I have another. Chris and Fred Wark of Tustin, CA say they are almost always charged a week before they arrive at a hotel in Laughlin. I have stayed at a few of the hotels numerous times over the last 15 years and have never ever been charged before my arrival. In fact, the only time I can ever recall being charged before our arrival for any hotel or other was a recent activity in Arizona. It was a river rafting trip and their policy was a 30 day cancellation notice, understandably. So I am curious, is this a "relatively new" practice by hotels? I had never heard of it until I read Mr. Seglin's column on 8/20/06 in the Orange County Register

Anonymous said...

When an establishment charges a consumer's credit card in advance of his or her hotel stay, the consumer is in a lesser place after merely reserving a room at the facility. It seems that the establishment has promised to provide a possible future benefit and converted the consumer's "property" -- that is, credit availability -- to use for the establishment's purposes without providing a consumer the agreed-upon tangible benefit. Where's the consideration, product, benefit or service to the consumer? Organized, plan-ahead travelers who make reservations in advance of their actual stay seem to be penalized for their courtesy!

But enough of that....Let me go give the nearest tire dealer $500 to use for his own purposes -- until I happen to need new tires!

Belinda Sanders
Orange County

Anonymous said...

To those who object to hotels charging credit cards in advance: A hotel has a product to sell - rooms. When you reserve a room for a specific date, that room has been sold to you. It is taken out of circulation and held exclusively for you. Why should a hotel not be paid for that? Do you also object to paying in advance for airline tickets? Theater tickets? Paying in advance for a cruise reservation? For none of these instances do you receive the benefit until you show up. So why should a hotel be any different?

And to Belinda Sanders who asks faceciously if she should pay the tire dealer in advance: If you are asking the dealer to set aside a set of tires for you, to be held until you need them and not to be sold to anyone else, then yes you should pay in advance. If, however, you wish to take your chance that the tires will be available whenever you show up (or the hotel room will be available whenever you show) then do not bother making arrangements ahead of time.