How to Beat the New 48 Hour Cancellation Policies


Keep Saying No to the New 48 Hour Cancellation Policies


By Robert McGarvey


File this story under how to win.

We all know that Marriott and now Hilton are seeking to impose a 48 hour cancellation requirement. Fail to cancel earlier and you will be subject to a penalty of one night’s rate, say the big chains.

I have been vocal in opposing these policies, as has Joe Brancatelli, and most other business travel experts.

Marriott and Hilton are trying to tell us these cancellation policies are for our benefit, that they will help ensure that rooms are there when we need them.

As Brancatelli howled in a recent column: “Hilton is lying. Marriott is lying.”

Now Intercontinental Hotels has entered the fray with a new 24-hour cancellation policy.  Obviously that’s half as bad as the 48 hour rule – but, really now, who has made reservations at a Holiday Inn? I’ve stayed at many but not with a rez.

So that’s easy enough to ignore.

The reality is this: if we stand against these policies we will prevail.

Read this from Business Travel News: “It remains to be seen how the new cancellation policies will impact corporates. Even with the 24-hour policies that launched in 2014, buyers have been able to secure same-day cancellation contract terms and dissolve relationships with properties that wouldn’t accept same-day cancels.”

What that is suggesting is that the large corporate and government buyers will insist on striking the 48 hour clause and the hotel chains – no surprise – will cave.

The BTN story continued: “Goldspring Consulting partner Mark Williams said even with the size of Marriott and Hilton, he expects that the high fragmentation in the hotel space will keep the 48-hour cancellation policy from becoming a broad industry practice.”

Absolutely right.

Hotels in cities popular with business travelers would do well to build a flexible cancellation policy into their marketing plans.

Will that hurt them? BTN reports that 4.9% of corporate travelers cancel within 48 hours and that just isn’t that big of a deal.

Know you won’t sleep on a hard plastic airport seat if you choose to boycott Marriott and Hilton. It simply is very rare that even popular big cities – Manhattan, San Francisco – sell out.  New York has the nation’s highest occupancy rate and that is 85%.  Nationwide, occupancy is 65% – and that means on any given night one hotel room in three is vacant.

And most rooms still are at hotels without punitive cancellation policies.

Add in available Airbnb and Homeaway accommodations and the math is on our side.

Add in HotelTonight – which has always had rooms available whenever I’ve checked – and there is every reason for confidence.

I understand the hotelier envy that the big airlines have us whipped when it comes to cancellation fees – but on most routes I may have just two or three options.

Hoteliers just don’t have that degree of power.

In central Phoenix, I have probably 20 nearby hotels and about 75% are not in the Marriott or Hilton constellations.

I don’t recall staying at either on trips to New York.  I can live well without Marriott or Hilton. Or Intercontinental.

You like them? Fair enough. So be Machiavellian, book into a Hilton or Marriott for your next business trip and, at the 49 hour mark, if you have any doubt you will in fact go on the trip, cancel the rez. Without penalty.

Come up with two or three alternative places to bunk – just to keep your blood pressure down.  A glance at HotelTonight should provide that info.

But my guess is that on the day of travel, if you are still going, call that Marriott or Hilton and odds are very high they will have a room for you.

The math is on our side.

That’s what the hoteliers just aren’t getting.  The math – those high vacancy rates – says that if we change our booking habits and accept a tiny bit of uncertainty we can tell the big chains to shove it.

We can even have our cake and eat it too, by making same day reservations at the chains.  And if you do that, always ask for a discount.  If you don’t book it, that room likely will stay empty. Remind them of that reality.

The math definitely is on our side.


Why Are We Still Waiting for Biometric Authorization to Fly?


By Robert McGarvey

The other day I realized I can sign into checking accounts at two different credit unions with a fingerprint.  I can also buy just about anything with Apple Pay on an iPhone and a fingerprint.

So why can’t I get on a plane and fly to anyplace based upon a biometric measure?

If you are enrolled in TSA Pre, the government already has your fingerprints on file.  That data is there.

Clear, meantime, has rolled out entry – via a fingerprint or eye print – at a number of airports.  That’s a private service that the company says will get you through security in five minutes – and I like the idea of not fumbling for a driver’s license. So I may enroll.

But I may not just because I am cranky that the government and airlines are both dragging feet about deploying biometrics which, to my eyes, are potentially a lot more secure than photo IDs such as driver’s licenses and passports.

So why aren’t biometrics in greater use in US airports?

That’s hard to answer.  

There are tiny signs of progress. Right now, JetBlue is experimenting with facial scans for boarding.

Homeland Security is saying it wants to use facial scans of all passengers who hold visas on international flights.  

But there is no big push to speed up widespread biometrics adoption at airports, definitely not for domestic flights.

Is it because the technology isn’t there yet?

Nope. Financial services prove that biometrics are reliable. Big banks wouldn’t use them if they weren’t. Many, many organizations – including government agencies – also use biometrics for entry into certain buildings.  

Security – of our bank accounts and many companies and government agencies – rests on biometrics already.

The CIA – ironically perhaps – has been grumbling that increased use of biometrics , especially in foreign airports, may lead to blowing the covers of its spies.

This is technology that works – except when it’s not deployed.

Boil it down and there are two issues holding up adoption at US airports. For one there are grumbles about privacy lost – but personally if I had any privacy I lost it over the past 15 years.  Believing in privacy is as sensible as believing in the tooth fairy.

Reason two is that a kind of stinginess still prevails in airport security. The federal government does not want to pay for stepped up airport biometrics and neither, so far, do the airlines.

That might paint a pessimistic picture. But I am increasingly optimistic.

My hunch is that biometrics will come to airports sooner than many think, because they work and also because we the passengers will begin to demand them. Biometrics work and, in our everyday lives, we see that.  We trust them, we use them.

And the technology just seems to keep getting better.

Which should airports deploy?

I talked with the president of a large biometrics company and asked him a simple question: which biometric did he see gaining supremacy in the US?

Right now, in banking, there are many competing biometrics: fingerprints, face scans (selfies), voice prints, iris scans, retinal scans are all scrapping for attention.

Which will reign supreme?

He told me that was no longer the question. He claimed that more institutions are now offering multiple biometrics so individuals can choose the one that best suits them in the moment.  A case in point is the big bank USAA which now lets its customers choose among fingerprint, voice, or face.

The reality is that – probably – many of us will use all three, just at different times.  You might like a selfie, except when you are driving, for instance, in which moments voice might be the way to go.

At airports, to, it easy to see several biometrics put into place – maybe selfies without our active participation, possibly voice and/or fingerprint with our participation.

If the result is a surer identification of me – and I believe it would be – I am all in.

What about the people who are upset about privacy lost?  I hear that complaint but, honestly, since 9/11 there has been a steady erosion in our privacy. I do not applaud that but I acknowledge it and I am not going to pretend we have something we no longer do.

And remember the goal here is both more secure and faster movement at airports.

Biometrics will get us there.


A Nation of Cheapskates


By Robert McGarvey


A new poll makes clear that we have become a nation of cheapskates when it comes to hotel housekeepers. The poll, via, delivers the bad news.  31% of us never tip hotel housekeepers.


And that one in three of us is comfortable enough with the choice to reveal it to a pollster.

Just 27% of us always tip hotel housekeepers.

That leaves 42% who can go either way.

Pity the poor housekeeper.

In much of the country housekeepers earn minimum wage.  And that isn’t a living wage.  The federal minimum is $7.25 per hour. That’s $290 per week.  About $1200 per month.


In some, heavily unionized places – Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York – housekeepers earn upwards of $16 per hour.  Maybe over $20.  

For their wages, hotel housekeepers typically clean 12 to 14 rooms per day. There’s some variation depending upon the size of the room, the service level of the hotel, and whether housekeepers work in teams.

But at the end of the day, a housekeeper does a lot of work for little money.

I have always left a tip. I cannot recall ever not leaving a tip.  If I ever did it was pure forgetfulness.

Years ago, in Boston, I drove a taxi. I developed a healthy respect for tips and people who leave them.   Of course I always tip taxi drivers.

That said, I am all in with Danny Meyer and his campaign to rid fine dining of tips.  Many – including both diners and restaurant workers – say boo to Meyer.  But, personally, I’d rather the servers were better paid and that I didn’t have to tip, unless I want to, a practice that already prevails in much of Europe.  Of course I always leave a tip in Europe – old habits die hard – but generally single digits.

So why am I all in on tipping housekeepers? Because they are poorly paid – I know that – and also because, in my experience, the person most important to my satisfaction with a hotel stay is the housekeeper.  

When my bed is properly made, towels refreshed and the bathroom cleaned, coffee service refilled, trash emptied from the wastebasket, I’m happy.   I’m ready for another day.

And just about always all that stuff happens.  

Women incidentally are better tippers than men, regarding housekeepers, according to the poll.  47% of women always/mostly tip hotel housekeepers, compared to 33% of men.

Another curiosity when it comes to tipping in restaurants,men,  Republicans, northeasterners and credit/debit card users  to a media 20%.  Women, Democrats, southerners, and csh users tip 15%.

There’s no comparable breakdown for hotel housekeepers.

But if you are in the don’t usually tip them category, give it another thought.  They slog through our messes and, sadly, many are also subjected to sexual abuses by guests and for this they earn minimum wage.

How much to tip?  Some guests tell me they tip $5/day, more when they make special requests.  

TripAdvisor, in its tipping tips, suggests $2 to $5 per night.  That makes sense to me.

Should you tip more if your stay is a big room at a swank hotel, rather than snug quarters at a Motel 6? That’s a point of argument.  Some claim the housekeeper at the posh hotel is typically better paid and will clean fewer rooms. Others say precisely because they clean fewer rooms, they need more generous tips. Both sides have their points.  Make your own choice.

Should you tip daily?  Many urge this.  That way, the tip goes to the person who cleans the room that day.  The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) – which suggests tipping $1 to $5 daly – – recommends leaving the money in a clearly marked envelope daily.

That’s good advice.  If there’s $2 in change on an end table, how’s the housekeeper to know it’s a tip?  Make it explicit.

Just do it.

You want a clean room, we all do, and, sure, I’ll agree that housekeepers should be better paid and in that event the need to tip will vanish.

But until that happens, I say tip.