Marriott Hotel In Louisiana Charging More Than The Maximum Legal Room Rate?

A review of Marriott’s Autograph Collection Watermark Baton Rouge flagged an interesting issue. On a peak demand date – LSU football against Mississippi State, which LSU came from behind to win in the fourth quarter – the hotel was charging higher room rates than the posted maximum on the back of room doors.

I booked 2 nights for $650 per night for an LSU game weekend and was happy to pay this rate until I arrived to the room where I see clearly posted in the room that the maximum the hotel is legally allowed to charge is $500 per night (including special events).

I then brought this to the attention of the front desk staff and was called a liar by staff who were very rude and condescending. The staff member was also unwilling to come to the room to see for himself. The posted sign in the room shows the Watermark Baton Rouge logo and then also mentions New Orleans City Code which is very confusing and makes no sense (the confusion could be intentional).

The staff forcefully said that I have agreed to the term thus there’s nothing they can do even if the $500 maximum charge policy is true. People who are not fully informed about the municipal codes (which is most of us) are being scammed. We will be reporting to the city of Baton Rouge.

Many states have ‘maximum rate laws’ for hotels. Basically, hotels must post the highest rate they’ll ever charge for a room, and cannot exceed that rate.

You’ll often see a notice like this on the back of your hotel room door:

ROOM NO._________

This room will accommodate ________ people during a capacity period. When use of this room is demanded to the exclusion of other guests desiring accommodations, the full charge of $__________ will be made per day for such room. During a period when it is necessary to utilize this room to its full capacity, the following maximum rates apply:

1 guest $ __________ 3 guests $__________

2 guests $__________ 4 guests $__________

Posted ________ day of ____________________, 20___

Usually these signs are just ignored, but they become relevant during special events, like the Superbowl or other mass sellout situations. In Texas hotels have to wait 30 days to charge a higher rate after updating their notices, so if they need to charge a higher rate for the Superbowl they need to plan in advance.

I always assumed the intent was to prevent price gouging during disasters, but as I looked into it a hotel can’t always charge their maximum posted rate during a disaster (doing so might still be considered price gouging, for instance in my home state hotel rates would come under Texas Business & Commercial Code § 17.46(b)(27) during a declared disaster).

I’m familiar with how these rules work in Texas and Virginia, where I’ve lived for the past 26 years. I believe my prior home state of California is similar. However I never presuppose anything about Louisiana law, which is unlike the 49 other states in many respects.

The next time you are paying an especially high rate for a hotel room, due to extreme demand, it might be worth looking for a notice on the back of your hotel room door to see whether your rate is higher than the posted maximum. It feels like a technicality and unreasonable – after all, you agreed to the higher rate when you booked the room! – but some of you will want to pursue a complaint.

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