Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May
Back to Basics
BY MARTHA JO DENDINGER,
How to prevent getting slapped with unfair charges on your
Beware Hotel Billing Errors
Many in the meetings industry agree that three things are
certain in life: death, taxes and hotel billing errors. We asked
planners and hoteliers to identify the 10 most common problems -
and offer solutions.
- Master Account Abuse
Problem: Speakers, VIPs or even attendees make
unauthorized charges to the master account - for anything from
extra A/V to a platter of caviar.
Solution: Specify in advance who is authorized to make or
approve charges. If anything without proper signatures appears on
the bill, refuse to pay it.
- Altered in Transit
Problem: Remember the "telephone" game? Same concept here:
As charges travel from department to department before the final
folio is compiled, the bill tends to lose or gain numbers.
Solution: Make one hotel contact responsible for keeping
tabs on your bill, from beginning to end.
- Mystery Charges
Problem: Bizarre line items appear on your bill - like the
$1,000 ice sculpture that belonged to a concurrent event in the
Solution: It's likely that someone in accounting was a
digit off in coding the charge to the proper party. Scrutinize
bills line by line. If a charge looks unfamiliar, ask to see a copy
of the signed invoice.
- Uninvited Guests
Problem: The master account includes the names of
strangers - along with their room charges.
Solution: Have the front desk confirm attendance against
the rooming list at check-in (or later to avoid delays).
Cross-check against the final bill.
Problem: Attendees are instructed to bypass the front desk
and pick up their room keys, then stop down later to leave a charge
card imprint. Invariably, some fail to do so, and their room
charges are billed to the master account.
Solution: Assign someone the task of "reminding"
offenders. (A voice mail message from the CEO might work.) Ask the
hotel for a list of names.
- Lost guarantees
Problem: You estimate 100 for a dinner. Four days out, you
guarantee 90. Exactly 90 show up, but you're billed for the
original estimate of 100.
Solution: Put all food-and-beverage guarantees in writing,
and be sure they get to the right person on time. Check banquet
bills on site, and have copies of guarantees on hand to point out
- Tax on Gratuities
Problem: You expect to pay tax on food and beverage, but
sometimes the gratuity is taxed, too.
Solution: In some states, mandatory "service charges" are
included in the amount taxed. Laws vary, but planners may be able
to avoid paying tax on tips if all of the following apply:
Contracts clearly state that the charge is voluntary; the charge is
stated separately on the invoice as a gratuity or tip; and the
entire gratuity is distributed to the employees, with no part
accruing to the hotel or facility.
- Bulk Billing
Problem: Most major hotels in the United States itemize
every charge. Not so overseas.
Solution: Spell out in advance what you expect to see on
the bill. If you want taxes, alcohol or other items separated from
the totals, say so. And, ask to see a sample bill from another
event; if it's not in the detail or format you prefer, discuss
- The Disappearing Planner
Problem: What's faster than the speed of light? A homesick
meeting planner dashing out of the hotel after the closing
Solution: If you can't (or won't) review the bill on site,
take the "pay as you go" approach: Keep tabs on charges throughout
the event. Sign each banquet bill before leaving a meal function.
And review the master account daily with your hotel contact.
Problem: You were too busy to check the bill before
checking out. Two weeks later it arrives on your desk. You open it
and clutch your chest - the meeting blew the budget. It seems those
miscellaneous on-site charges you thought would be minimal were
Solution: Use a worksheet to anticipate the grand total.
List everything you expect to see on the master account, and ask
your hotel contact before the meeting to point out mistakes or
omissions. Very few billing mysteries should remain.
Martha Jo Dendinger, CMP, is an independent meeting planner
Back to Current Issue indexM&C
| Events Calendar
| Incentive News
| Meetings Market
| CVB Links
| Reader Survey
| Hot Dates
| Contact M&C