By Christopher Elliott Question: I prepaid for a room at the Ace Hotel New York through a site called Jetsetter.com recently. I had stayed at Ace Hotel in Palm Springs a year ago with a group, and had been thoroughly impressed with my stay. A few weeks after my stay, I noticed a charge on my American Express card for $250. I inquired with American Express regarding the charge and after a couple of weeks Amex informed me that, Ace charged me a smoking fee.
There's just one problem: I don't smoke.
In fact, I suffer from allergies and can't even be around people who smoke. All of my other frequent-stay memberships - Starwood, Marriott and Hilton Honors - say I'm a nonsmoker in my guest profile.
Is this just another way for hotels to make money? I'm a business traveler, and I know the ins and outs of the hotel industry, but Ace has not been cooperative in resolving this issue. Any help you can provide to shed some light on this ridiculous charging practice would be much appreciated. - Bernardino Suva, Los Angeles
Answer: Ace shouldn't have charged a smoking fee unless you smoked in your room. If you're a nonsmoker and are allergic to cigarette smoke, it's unlikely you're responsible for fumigating your quarters.
Who did it? It could have been a housekeeper. I once returned from breakfast on the day I was supposed to check out of a small inn on Washington state's San Juan Islands, to find my luggage stacked outside the door. Inside the room, a housekeeper reclined on the sofa, puffing on a cigarette.
"Ya missed your checkout time," she snarled, taking another drag and turning her head away.
I could have been hit with a smoking fee, but wasn't.
It could have been a previous guest, too. Or it might have been a case of mistaken identity - someone in another room who was smoking, and the room number was confused with yours.