Q: For our wedding, my brother purchased a gift certificate for me and my wife to spend a night in the presidential suite of the Radisson Hotel Duluth-Harborview in Duluth, Minn.
We tried to use the certificate back in 2014, but the presidential suite was under construction for the entire month of August. So after having a baby last summer and not having time to travel, we are trying to use the gift certificate again. On the certificate, there’s a line drawn through the expiration date field, so we weren’t worried that the gift certificate would expire.
I called a few months ago and spoke with the general manager of the hotel. She was not familiar with the gift certificate. I texted her a picture of it, and she recognized the signature on it as a manager who used to work there.
I made the reservation with the general manager, and she gave me a confirmation number.
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But later that day, she texted back, saying that the hotel had another group coming in and asked if I would be willing to switch dates.
I thought this was a very odd request. I’ve never heard of a hotel asking someone to switch his or her reservation dates, but I agreed. The manager replied that she switched the arrival date, and gave me a new confirmation number.
But later she said that she had not been able to “put all the pieces together” for the certificate my brother bought, and requested that he call her to get more details. My brother called her back, and they got things straightened out – or so we thought.
A couple of days before our trip, I called to confirm our reservation in the presidential suite, but was told that we were booked in a standard ”king” room with a lake view. I talked to the general manager again to straighten this out. She was extremely rude and said she would not honor the gift certificate for the presidential suite. She said the price of the room “had gone up.” She also said that she could not honor the gift certificate because the hotel’s management company had changed.
She said that the room she had booked for me was the nicest standard room the hotel had and that it normally goes for $529 a night. She made it seem like she was doing me a favor by giving us this expensive but standard room instead of the presidential suite that my brother had paid for.
Andy Oman, Lino Lakes, Minn.
A: Radisson should have accepted your gift certificate. Under Minnesota law, a certificate like this should not expire. (You can read about the exceptions on the Attorney General’s site at: ag.state.mn.us/consumer/publications/giftcardsgiftcert.asp.)
This story took a strange twist when, by your account, the general manager first agreed to accommodate you in the presidential suite and then, after you agreed to change your dates, refused. While it’s not so unusual for a hotel to shuffle guests between rooms, I agree that your switch was a little odd.
It appears that the certificate you were using was at least two years old. It benefits both you and the business to redeem vouchers like this quickly. Keeping a gift certificate on the books is an accounting nightmare for a hotel, and the longer you hold on to it, the greater the chance that you’ll misplace it. In other words, don’t hoard the certificate; redeem it.
I think you could have appealed this to Radisson at the corporate level. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the customer-service executives on my consumer-advocacy site: elliott.org/company-contacts/carlson-rezidor-hotel-group/. They might have been able to figure out an acceptable solution or compromise.
You should have received what was promised on your certificate: a night in the presidential suite. But when I contacted Radisson on your behalf, it offered another resolution: a night at the Radisson Blu in downtown Minneapolis. I’ve stayed there, and it’s a great hotel. You’ve indicated that you’re happy with that resolution – and if you’re happy, I’m happy.
Email Christopher Elliott at email@example.com.