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Letter to a hotel

In 1971 I attended an SF convention called Lunacon. Judging from my comments in APA:NESFA #13 it may not have been an unqualified success. The failings of bygone con committees are of no great interest. However my problems with the hotel and their billing practices, and my response have some charm.


There doesn't seem to be much point in running still another con report on the infamous Lunacon of '71. The lamentations of the survivors are filling the pages of the leading fanzines, and it does not seem necessary to add to the catalog of horrors. Some things are too grim for words. The following letter to the management of the Commodore Hotel, however, is a personal postscript to the Lunacon.

Realty Hotels
Madison Ave and 43rd St.
New York, NY 10017

Gentlemen:

I am writing to you about a bill your office has sent me. The reference number on the bill is 2774368. The amount of the bill is 52.55 dollars. The bill is for a double room for two days at the Commodore hotel (room 757.)

I must say that this bill is a novel experience for me. I have been using Carte Blanche for a couple of years now and this is the first time that anyone had accepted a credit card from me and then proceeded to also send me a bill. My first reaction on receiving your bill was to simply ignore it. After all, I thought, I have signed off on the credit card, somebody has made a clerical error, and in due time the bill will come in from Carte Blanche. In due time I did receive the bill from CB and, behold, no hotel bill on it.

It now became clear that the Commodore has either lost my statement or some other similar clerical error has occurred. (I ignore, for the moment, the possibility of other, more peculiar interpretations. If, however, it is your policy to only pretend to take credit cards please do let me know. Such eccentricity in American business is only too rare and it is a source of delight to me when I encounter it.)

This immediately creates a small problem for me. Either the credit slip that goes to Carte Blanche has been lost or it has been misplaced. If it has been lost or otherwise permanently destroyed there is no real problem - I can send you a check for the amount of the bill. It is true that I would prefer that the whole transaction go through CB but it is hardly essential. On the other hand it might be misplaced and pop up at any moment. The same clerical procedures that led to its being lost might lead to its being sent off to CB for collection who would in turn send a bill to me. And I, gentlemen, have no interest whatsoever in paying twice for the room.

In fact I am not really interested in paying you and then receiving a bill from Carte Blanche at all. If this were to happen I would either have to indulge in a long correspondence with CB to get them to cancel the bill or with you to get reimbursed. Considering that it takes several months and numberous letters to get past the computers in most billing departments these days the whole prospect is appalling.

May I suggest that the simplest resolution of this problem is that you have your accounting department do a search of your records and find the missing documents that you should have sent to Carte Blanche. By this simple action everything can be resolved. You can send the documents to CB and receive your money. CB can send me the bill and I can pay them. There are no signed documents floating around in the void obligating me to pay money that may be produced at some unexpected time. See how simple it becomes - how much trouble and inconvenience is avoided by a diligent and successful search on your part.

Since this whole situation is novel to me I do not quite know what is the best procedure to follow. (It occurs to me that it may not be so novel to you and that you may have a set procedure to follow.) I expect that the thing to do would be for you to send CB a letter advising them that the credit slip was lost and that they are to disregard it if it shows up by error. I would expect a copy of this letter, and a letter acknowledging that you have no claim on me through Carte Blanche, and that you have searched for the missing credit slip and could not find it. Given all this I can send a letter to CB explaining that this particular bill is not to be honored if it appears, and send a check to you. This procedure seems a little cumbersome, but it does seem to preclude the possibility of correspondence over a double billing - a prospect that I view with acute loathing.

The following information should be of sue to your intrepid searchers: My Carte Blanche number is 946 242 894 8. The hotel is the Commodore Hotel. The room number was 757. The date of payment was April 18, 1971. The reference number of the bill is 2774378,

There are some further contingencies that occur to me. First of all you may have found the CB credit slip and have already sent it to them. Or, perhaps, nobody will read this letter. You might simply ignore this letter and send me another bill. The bill that was sent me might be a random twitch in your computer. Who knows? Therefore if I do not hear from you I will assume that you have found the CB credit slip, that all is well, and that all I need do is wait for the bill from CB. If I get no response other than a rebilling I will return it with a copy of this letter. In fact I will keep returning it until I get a reply from a human being.

I have every hope that you will resolve this little problem with efficiency and dispatch. With evergrowing confidence and renewed faith in the great American Hotel Industry I remain,

Sincerely Yours,
Richard Harter

I don't remember how this imbroglio was resolved. Pity, that. I'm curious.


This page was last updated March 1, 2005.

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Hyde County, South Dakota is the Pin Tail Duck Capital of the world. Visit scenic Highmore, SD in 2005!