Holiday Inn may have a terrific product, but it’s not worth $10,000
per night. That’s how much some bewildered guests were charged when
they checked in Oct. 24-27.
Approximately 26,000 Visa and MasterCard cardholders were
affected by the snafu, according to Francie Schulwolf, vice
president of corporate communications for Six Continents Hotels.
That number comprises approximately 1% of the guests who made
charges that were processed Oct. 28. All of the properties affected
were in the United States at Crowne Plazas, Holiday Inns and
Holiday Inn Expresses.
Some cardholders were affected almost immediately: When they
tried to use their Visas or MasterCards, they found themselves over
their limits. Debit cardholders had a similarly nasty surprise.
Those were in the minority.
“Reversals were put into place, and it didn’t hit the credit
cards of the majority of people long enough for it really to affect
them,” Schulwolf said.
Agents themselves should be unaffected by the snafu, Schulwolf
said. That means you shouldn’t count on that $100 room you booked
resulting in a $1,000 commission.
“The reversals happened so quickly that it didn’t get into the
commission process,” she said.
Operator Standing By
Six Continents set up a 24-hour hot line to resolve problems
created by the error. Travel agents should advise their clients to
call 800-621-0555 and ask for Operator 28.
Schulwolf said the fault lies with First Horizon Merchant
Services, a third-party credit-card processor; First Horizon
accepted the blame.
“We submitted all the charges correctly,” Schulwolf said.
“Somehow [during processing] the decimal point was dropped,
therefore people were charged 100 times what they should have
Those who were affected called Six Continents immediately,
trying to figure out what was going on. The reason all reversals
didn’t instantly click in was communication, Schulwolf said. First
Horizon had to contact Visa and MasterCard; and the credit card
companies had to notify the issuing banks, “hundreds” of them,
according to Schulwolf. “Some guests were calling before the
issuing bank even realized what was going on,” she said.
Guests paying with American Express, Diners Club or Discover
were unaffected. While the fault may not lie with Six Continents,
the hotelier realized it had to move fast to hold onto riled
“Our first concern is to take care of the guests,” Schulwolf
said. “Even though we submitted the charges correctly ... at the
end of the day it was our guests who were affected.”
Six Continents is giving affected Priority Club members 50,000
“You can cash points in for up to a two-night stay at a Crowne
Plaza, or you can get rewards or miles,” Schulwolf said. “It’s
Less frequent guests who aren’t Priority Club members get
certificates for two free nights at Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn or
Holiday Inn Express.