First, I feel obligated to make this statement in the strongest possible language. I love Columbia, Missouri. I love the Mizzou fans. Based on my one-game sample size, they are the best damn fans in the SEC (well, aside from Georgia fans, of course). And Columbia, Missouri, is one of the most accomodating, friendliest cities ever to host an SEC game.
I was in Columbia from Friday through Sunday, and I was never once spoken to in a hostile manner. I was welcomed about nine million times (approximate count), and I had several dozen friendly conversations with perfect strangers wearing gold and black who were just excited as hell to have us there. And then there was this, worn by literally the first Mizzou fan I saw on game day after arriving on campus:
This is a complete and fair indication of the welcome extended to Georgia fans by every Mizzou fan I encountered. (Click to embiggen)
Because I know that 99.9% of the Missouri fans and the greater city of Columbia went out of their way to put their "best foot forward" to the SEC and its fans, I have no trouble reporting the following behavior of the Tiger Hotel in Columbia as being shameful, disgraceful, and giving a completely undeserved black eye to the denizens of Tiger Country.
Longtime Dawg Sports regular commenter Hood's Ole Dan first told us about the beginning of this story about 2 weeks ago, and he requested that I refrain from sharing the whole story until after the game. Click through for the details.
Here is a description of what happened in Hood's Ole Dan's own words (italics added by me for emphasis):
On January 10, 2012, I booked 2 hotel rooms for 2 nights at the Tiger Hotel in Columbia, Missouri, via the hotel’s website, thetigerhotel.com. The date of the stay was for September 7th and 8th, the weekend of the Georgia/Mizzou football game. I immediately received a confirmation email from email@example.com confirming the total cost of my reservation, $663.64, with a statement "A deposit is not required."
On March 7, 2012, I received a follow up email from firstname.lastname@example.org. The following is the full text of that email: "We at the Tiger Hotel would like to thank you for your upcoming reservation with us! This notice is a reminder to let you know we are now a full service hotel, and at this time we will be charging the credit card you have on file for your reservation. In accordance with house policy, all stays on weekends of the Mizzou home football games require a full deposit at the time of reservation; however, we did not charge your credit card at that time because our processor was not in place. Thank you for your understanding, and we look forward to seeing you this fall!"
The statement in the email, "a full deposit" indicated to me that I was being charged the total amount due for my room, excluding any potential incidentals during my stay. On March 8, 2012, my American Express card was charged $663.64, which matched the total amount in the initial email from January.
On August 25, 2012, I received a phone call from Michael at the Tiger Hotel. He stated that there had been an error in booking my room, and that they could no longer accommodate me at the original rate. I told him that I booked the room directly with the hotel via their own website. He stated that a third party booking system handles those transactions, and that they had accidentally charged me a standard rate, rather than the "football rate". I told Michael that this situation is a problem between a principal (Tiger Hotel) and agent (booking company), and that it was inappropriate for the hotel to ask me to make up for the booking agent’s mistake. He threatened to cancel my reservation if I did not agree to the increased rate, which would have doubled the total cost of my stay. I told him that I wanted to speak to a manager, and he said that no one would be available until Monday. I told him "do not charge me, and do not cancel my reservation until I speak to a manager."
On August 27, 2012, I spoke to Jim Pidcoe, who introduced himself as the manager of the hotel. He refuted Michael’s story from the previous Saturday, stating that the hotel had simply overbooked a certain room type, and that they would not be able to accommodate me at my original price. He said that he could "upgrade" me to a better room however, for an additional charge. I told him that I booked the rooms 8 months in advance of my stay and that if they had additional rooms that were uncommitted, then he should upgrade them to their highest priority guests free of charge, and then accommodate the remaining guests as scheduled. I told him that this solution would be analogous to an airline bumping coach passengers to first class when there are empty seats, and that the upgrade comes at no cost to the customer. He said that the only options would be to charge me for the upgraded room, cancel my reservation, or he could help to accommodate me in another nearby hotel. The hotel he mentioned was significantly farther from the downtown area we wished to stay near. I stated that none of his options were good enough given the fact that we were now less than 2 weeks from my stay, and that I booked the room 8 months in advance on purpose, and chose this hotel based on its location. I then stated that I wished to speak to a General Manager or ownership.
The following day, August 28, 2012, I spoke to Lara Wiechula, General Manager of the Tiger Hotel. She stated that the original version of the story I was told was the true situation. The booking agent used for their website had mischarged me for my room, and that they could not allow me to stay at that rate. I explained that it was absurd for them to ask me to make up for a mistake that someone else made regarding the price of my room. She told me that they had "minimum rates" that they were mandated to charge by hotel ownership, and that if I wanted to keep my room I would have to pay additional monies. I asked what a reservation was, if it was not considered a binding contract between a customer and a seller, which would obligate them to provide the agreed upon service for the amount agreed to at contract inception, and she did not refute that we had made a contract back in January.
I told her that with less than 2 weeks before my stay, and given that it was a football weekend, and that there were zero comparable hotels in terms of location, that I wanted my room. On August 28th, a charge for $674.08 was made to my American Express.
I checked into the hotel on September 7th, and stayed in the hotel as expected. While staying in the hotel, the elevators were not working properly, and I was forced to use the stairwell to walk from the 9th floor to the lobby. During the walk down, I noticed that starting on floor 5, the doors to the floors had warning signs stating "no access". On floor 4, the door to the floor was propped open, and I looked through the door. Floors 2, 3, 4, and 5 were all unfinished (half of the hotel), and for the most part what I would describe as "empty shells", with no rooms built. I took pictures through the door, and can provide those as needed.
On September 9th, before I checked out of the hotel, I looked at the current and pending charges on my American Express card. There were 5 pending charges from the Tiger Hotel: $100, $100, $100, $234.43, and $334.43, none of which were listed on the final invoice I received from the front desk upon checkout. As we did not use any incidentals during our stay, I do not believe that there is any reason why a third payment for $868.86 should have been charged to me.
The total amount of charges by the Tiger Hotel on my card is $2,206.58, which is $1,542.94 in excess of my original agreed upon price from 8 months before my reservation.
So, TL;DR: After holding reservations for 7 months, they contacted him 2 weeks before the game to let him know he had to pay almost twice the promised rate or they would cancel his reservation. Then they changed their story twice before charging him 250% more than he had already paid in March. And to cap it off, he had to use the stairs to get from the 9th floor to the lobby because the elevators weren't even working correctly.
As others have advised him, Hood's Ole Dan has already contacted the Missouri Attorney General's office and has disputed the charges on his credit card.
I think even the Mizzou fan base might join me in saying to the Tiger Hotel (with apologies to the Tigers for appropriating their chant): M-I-Z, Shame On You.