Best Western Severs Affiliation With Hotel After Price Gouging During Harvey

The Best Western Plus – Tropic Inn in Robstown is no longer a part of Best Western after management of the hotel property allegedly committed multiple cases of price gouging on its customers while Hurricane Harvey — which was downgraded to a tropical storm — dumped as much as 50 inches of rain in some areas of southeastern Texas and forcing residents to seek temporary alternative accommodations.

Best Western Severs Affiliation With Hotel After Price Gouging During Harvey

“The Texas Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into possible price gouging at the hotel after KXAN delivered an invoice to AG Ken Paxton following an interview Sunday afternoon”, according to this article written by Jody Barr of KXAN-TV News in Austin. “Within three hours, the Civil Litigation Unit had confirmed 40 cases of price gouging at the hotel. The hotel agreed to refund charges above its $149 normal average room rate to 40 total customers.”

The room rates nearly doubled to those customers — and they were also charged $31.90 in state and local taxes, whose collection was already suspended on lodging in the areas affected by the storm for customers who were either directly impacted or were participating in relief operations.

A video of the undercover investigative report conducted by KXAN-TV News reveals a disturbing interaction with an agent at the front desk of the hotel property in question:

Courtney McCurry — who is the public relations manager for Best Western — wrote in this statement to KXAN-TV News:

“Best Western was founded on the principles of honesty, integrity, compassion, and service. We are deeply offended and saddened by the actions taken by this hotel. As a result, we are immediately severing any affiliation with the hotel. This hotel’s actions are contrary to the values of Best Western. We do not tolerate this type of egregious and unethical behavior.”

Best Western Robstown Tropic Inn

Source: Best Western.

Attempting to access what used to be the official Internet web site of the hotel property in Robstown, which is a small town located approximately 20 miles west of Corpus Christi…

Best Western Robstown Tropic Inn no longer exists

Source: Best Western.

…results in that the hotel property had already been removed and is no longer affiliated with Best Western.

Price Gouging in Texas is Illegal

In its current ongoing investigation of this price gouging case, the office of the attorney general in Texas delivered a subpoena with a demand for records to the hotel property on Monday morning, August 28, 2017; and it may consider filing a lawsuit against the business for violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. A decision pertaining to penalties being levied against the hotel property as disciplinary action for its price gouging practices has not yet been decided at this time.

The following text is taken verbatim from the office of the attorney general in Texas:

Price gouging is illegal, and the Office of the Attorney General has authority to prosecute any business that engages in price gouging after a disaster has been declared by the governor. The attorney general has issued stern warnings about price gouging to businesses in times of disaster, but you should still be on your guard.

§17.46(b) of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act provides that it is a false, misleading or deceptive act or practice to take advantage of a disaster declared by the Governor under Chapter 418, Government Code, by:

  1. Selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine or another necessity at an exorbitant or excessive price; or
  2. Demanding an exorbitant or excessive price in connection with the sale or lease of fuel, food, medicine or another necessity.

Sustained high gasoline prices have prompted price gouging complaints. A number of factors contribute to the current high cost of gasoline. The cost of crude oil is the primary one. The price at the pump also includes how much it costs to deliver the oil the refineries, the refining cost, distribution cost, taxes, and the retail station’s operating cost. When storms like Hurricane Katrina and Rita damage the Gulf Coast’s refining capacity, prices can rise even higher.

In most cases the current price at the pump is not due to price gouging. However we are prepared to act quickly if gas prices in a Governor declared disaster area spike beyond what the normal market forces set.

If you feel that you are being unfairly charged for goods or services such as drinking water, food, batteries, generators gasoline or towing, raise the issue of price gouging with the provider. Speak to them respectfully but be frank. If you are unable to resolve the matter, file a complaint with our office.

Penalties for violating the price gouging act include a levy of as much as $20,000.00 for each offense; and up to a maximum of $250,000.00 if the victim is 65 years of age or older.

Summary

“Be treated like family the moment you step into this Robstown, TX hotel.” That statement was actually at the official Internet web site of the hotel property before it was removed. Perhaps greedily gouging family members is a practice of management at that hotel property?

I am impressed at the quick action taken by Best Western to do the right thing. Although I am a firm believer in market forces dictating the laws of supply and demand, taking blatant advantage of those who are in need is unethical and immoral, in my opinion.

In the meantime, you can access this list of resources from the office of the attorney general in Texas for help, assistance or complaints pertaining to Hurricane Harvey…

…and here is how you can help — and perhaps earn some miles in the process:

Source: Best Western.


 

Please note that I receive compensation for affiliate links posted at The Gate effective as of Sunday, January 1, 2017. You are not required to use these affiliate links; but if you do use them, your support of The Gate is greatly appreciated.

5 thoughts on “Best Western Severs Affiliation With Hotel After Price Gouging During Harvey”

  1. Matt B says:

    I’m all for consumer protection against price gouging, but I’d question whether double the normal rate during a storm of this magnitude should be considered “exorbitant or excessive”. Would be interesting to see how variable the rates of that hotel fluctuate – e.g. if there was a major concert or other event in town, what would the average rate be in that case? I realize the town is very small so they may not get such events, but in principle I think it can be misleading to judge price gouging vs an average.

    It would be great if the hotel were to charge the reporters and TV crews $500/night, but $150 to families actually fleeing the storm. There has to be some mechanism to balance supply and demand – it is a shame that an influx of reports regurgitating the same information on TV for profit motivations are taking away inventory of rooms from legitimate families in need. Perhaps that should be the story.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      If the television station was the only entity being charged almost double the rate, Matt B, I would completely agree with you — but then again, I do not know the specifics of the other customers who were overcharged: were they also media; visitors on business; or people who actually needed help because they were forced out of their homes due to flooding?

      Another good point which you raise is when is increasing a room rate justified — and what is the line over which it becomes price gouging? Would charging double for a hotel room during the Super Bowl be considered price gouging — or simply a reaction to market demand? If not double, what about triple? Quadruple?!?

      The difference is that this particular case is that the price gouging occurred amidst a crisis. Taking advantage of people in need — and not necessarily business travelers or media — at the time of a crisis is unethical and immoral.

  2. Beckie says:

    Like any other chain hotel this is independently owned. This franchise uses and pays for the corporate name Best Western. This owner of said property should lose his branding which is the ability to use the Best Western name on his property / Hotel. This is like saying someone at a Mississippi McDonald’s was racist it is not indicative of McDonald’s as a whole/Corporation. I personally feel that corporate should take away their branding. Because it brings down a great chain that strives for comfort and equality. Someone should look at the manager very deeply of that Best Buy that was selling a case of bottled water the typically sells for $5 for $50 that manager at that Best Buy made the decision to do this he is not the owner he’s management the corporation did not send out an internal memo to that specific location and say “gauge them on water” nor did Best Western. the owner of that Best Western in question and that Best Buy in question acted on their own and should be forced to pay the consequences.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Wow, J. Thank you for sharing that — er — less than pleasant experience.

      Did you escalate it to the corporate headquarters of Best Western — or, at least, to customer service?

      Please keep me updated…

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