I really should be writing today about the excellent idea from United to bundle various ancillary items into an opaque package and offer them as an upsell, but instead I’m going to have a personal rant about the hotel I stayed at in Beijing earlier this week. Everything was good at the Crowne Plaza Sun Palace right up until the point I was checking out. So this complaint is more directed at whoever set up the card accceptance system (probably linked to their reservation system) and failed to properly train the staff in its use. Nothing undoes the good work of hotel staff more than a customer feeling like he has been cheated on his bill.

The crux of the problem comes down to dynamic currency conversion. I’ve talked about DCC before when discussing the payments process for airline websites, and when going over some AVIS financial results, and I’ve always been a big supporter of DCC as a revenue generator for airlines with large domestic networks who sell direct to visitors living in countries with a different currrency. It really is a nice source of ancillary revenue, even if sometimes the implementation is not as straightforward as one might hope – one airline once told me 5% of passengers on the website used DCC for their purchase. But the airline passenger is always given a choice to choose to pay in the airline’s currency, or the currency of his own credit card. This is where the Crowne Plaza Sun Palace lost me.

The credit card slip, just above the area requiring a signature, contained the text “I declare that I have been offered a choice of payment currencies and my choice is final. I understand that the currency conversion is not provided by VISA.”

The card terminal picked up that my card issuer bills me in Euros, so the amount I was signing for was denominated in this currency – it looks like they’ve added a margin of around 4-5% onto the exchange rate. I asked instead that the charge be processed in local currency, especially given that I clearly was being told that I had a choice. A Mr E. Y. Kim whose title was guest relations manager was very friendly, but neither he nor the lady behind the counter had any idea how to fix it and give me te choice I was supposedly being offered! In fact, he tried to explain to me that it was VISA doing the conversion until I showed him what was printed on the payment slip to the contrary. I remember when AVIS in France launched DCC and whenever I rented a car in Nice they wanted to charge me in Australian dollars, and the staff rarely knew how to change it. I used to have to tell them to override the country code in the address field as this was what drove the default currency in their system – unfortunately at Crowne Plaza I had no idea how to tell the staff to override the default in their system, so their lack of training meant my complaints were going nowhere. As I had a plane to catch I had no choice but to just sign it and leave; next time I’m in that part of the world I’ll definintely be looking for alternate accommodation – hopefully a hotel that trains their staff better before letting them loose on the paying guests.

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