Updated An eBay staffer says her bank account was wiped out and her rent check bounced – after the New York hotel she stayed in started charging other guests' reservations to her card.
Laura Jane Watkins tweeted about a strange conversation she had with 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday night. "Hello Mrs Watkins," she recalled the hotel representative telling her, "we're unsure why, but currently our website is registering all reservations to you and your card."
She had stayed at the hotel a month earlier and the card was not her credit card but a debit card attached to her checking account. The next day, the hotel got back in touch to say they had figured out that only pre-paid reservations to their Brooklyn hotel were being charged to her card and they would refund her shortly.
But then she woke up on Tuesday morning to find her checking account empty with no sign of the refunds. To make matters worse, the lack of funds caused her rent check to bounce, and the bank started charging extra fees. The charges for hotel rooms kept coming.
At this point, the former Rackspace Startups director began to – to use the correct term – lose her shit.
"I had to call them, then call again, then complain on Twitter, and then someone in a leadership role finally called me back," she complained. Eventually she did get a response – first on Twitter:
Hi Laura – We're very sorry to hear about this. We are going to DM you more info now to contact a 1 Hotels team member to help you further.
Then, according to Watkins, she was contacted by the senior veeps of marketing and IT, who told her that they had had some problems with their online reservation services and had "written a bypass" – a bypass that had, it turns out, "created some anomalies."
Those anomalies apparently included using her card's number (which the hotel shouldn't be storing on its systems in the first place) every time someone tried to pay online for a room at the Brooklyn location.
According to the hotel, the issue is now resolved, but the refunds won't wend their way back through the system for several days.
Needless to say, Watkins is not over the moon about being made broke by a faulty reservation platform. "This has to be illegal? You can't just keep wrongfully charging people thousands of dollars and knowingly because you can't fix a software bug?" she tweet-raged at 1 Hotels.
Nevertheless when we reached out to her to find out more, she told us that they had asked she not speak to the press about it until the end of the day. "I think that's fair," she told The Register.
As for the hotel, its head of PR has chosen the wrong moment to take a day off. A harassed assistant promised to get back to us. So far, nothing. Whether the software problem has impacted just Watkins or there are others that have also been wrongly charged thousands of dollars, we will have to wait and see.
As one wag on Twitter put it: "Sounds like a lawsuit." ®
Updated to add
A spokesperson for the hotel told The Reg today: "1 Hotel Brooklyn, newly launched, experienced technical issues with their systems and all incorrect charges have been reversed and are with the guest's bank. 1 Hotel will of course compensate the guest regarding this matter."