Recently, the hotel industry has been wrestling with a growing trend. A guest whom the hotel suspects violated smoking policies by smoking in his room or inside the hotel itself has his credit card charged for the smoking violation fee after leaving the hotel. The guest either promptly or eventually disputes this charge, denying the alleged violation, which often garners agreement from the credit card company and results in a chargeback to the hotel. These four best practices will help hotels win disputes over smoking policy violations with credit card companies and avoid chargebacks:
1. Post a clearly-visible sign in each guest room that advises readers of the smoking policy and associated fine, including the method(s) by which the hotel will collect the fine.
2. Maintain a log of custody for each guest room that notes the precise times that your housekeeping staff interacted with the room.
3. Before collecting a smoking policy violation fee, ensure you have acquired reliable evidence of a policy violation. This can include witnesses (preferably several), used cigarettes in guest room waste receptacles, and/or tobacco residue in the room (accompanied by a cleaning record that dates the residue).
4. Require all guests to sign a document (or include text on existing registration/check-in documents your guests sign) that specifically prohibits (a) smoking in any guest room or anywhere inside the hotel and (b) disposing of used cigarettes in guest room waste receptacles. We recommend using the following text in this document:
This hotel is a completely non-smoking facility. By my initials below, I confirm that I fully understand and agree that if hotel staff find any evidence that I or someone visiting me at the hotel was smoking or utilizing a “smokeless” cigarette device anywhere in the building, including the sleeping room, I will be subject to a $250 higher nightly room rate, which I agree to have charged to my credit card that was used to secure the reservation or pay the higher room rate in cash at the time of checkout.