The Great Hotel/Motel Phone Rip-off
If you access the internet with a laptop in a hotel room, it's probably happened to you. You go to check out and find several hundred dollars in charges for long distance calls when you knew you were dialing a local number. The desk clerk will be adamant about the charges being legitimate and at most will cut them in half, which is simply dropping the markup the hotel adds to all long distance calls. Still they have charged you for non-existent long distance charges.

This happened to me in Florida a couple years ago. The number I called was local. I did not dial a 1 or an area code. It was not a long distance call by any means. Arguing with the desk clerk got me nowhere. They have orders to make no changes. I contacted the manager with no results, however, as soon as I contacted the Florida attorney general's office, the issue was quickly resolved and my money was returned.

It happens that the exchange I was dialing was new and was not on their "list" of local exchanges. With the mushrooming number of new phones, cell phones, fax machines and beepers, phone companies across the country are adding new numbers, exchanges and area codes on an almost daily basis. Hotels are not making an effort to keep their records current, and besides, it's a windfall of millions of dollars per week across the country when people simply pay the charges without question.

If you are a victim of such a scam, I urge you take a few minutes to contact the manager of the hotel and if necessary the state attorney general's office and your congressmen. This robbery will go on until we do something about it. The congress of the United States has recently taken time to address ATM charges of a dollar or two per transaction - something that pales in comparison to the hundreds of dollars charged to unsuspecting laptop users for non-existent long distance charges. It's time for this issue to get some attention as well.

I believe in freedom and the hotel's "right" to charge whatever they want for any calls, as long as their policies are disclosed. I do not believe they have the right to misrepresent local calls as long distance. That is fraud.

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