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    USA Today: Refund request checks hotel guest into circle of confusion

    Buried in the middle of a USA Today column about a traveler trying to get a refund for being double-billed for one hotel room are a couple pieces of information affecting privacy:

    Not surprisingly, this iteration of the tale provoked a howl of protest from Chan, who said there was never any talk at check-in about her Hotels.com reservation not being found. Fortunately, she had kept the receipt from the second room charge. Although the folio does list her name, it shows a different confirmation number, and someone else’s Wyndham Rewards number. Did this prove that her card had been charged for someone else’s room, as Chan said the front desk clerk had told her? I sent the folio to Wyndham to find out.

    And then Chan received a telephone call from the manager of the Howard Johnson property, with a new twist to the saga. “He apologized and explained the time we checked in it was the front desk receptionist’s first week working there, and the system got hacked when she tried to pull out our information from the system,” says Chan. He also told her that she should have told the front desk that she had a reservation to avoid being checked in as a walk-in, she said.

    So was Chan’s billing snafu the result of her double booking through two different websites, forgetting whose name she booked under, neglecting to tell the front desk that she had a reservation at all, being billed for someone else’s room, or the nefarious hacking of the hotel’s reservation system at the moment she checked in? That’s a mystery that will remain unsolved.

    It seems the hotel system either allowed 1) a manual technological mixup where one person’s credit card was attached to and charged for another person’s hotel bill or 2) a hacker to break in and futz with the system so that one person’s credit card was attached to and charged for another person’s hotel bill. Either answer doesn’t bode well for traveler privacy. It’s a good reminder to be aware and always check your bills before you leave the hotel.

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