I need to take “before” photos of my hotel room? Seriously?

Today we’re introducing yet another feature called “What were they thinking?” It’s about the things travelers do on the road that they wish they hadn’t.

Robert Coverick didn’t expect to find an extra 1,600 euro charge to his credit card after a brief stay at a posh European hotel earlier this year.

“I have never experienced this before and I am unsure how to handle it,” he says.

According to W Hotels he was being charged for damage to his room — damage he claims was already there.

“But I can’t prove it was there when we checked in,” explains Coverick.

We get a lot of emails from travelers asking for help with damage claims, although usually involve car rental companies.

So this had me thinking: Should we start treating our hotel rooms like car rentals, noting damages before we accept the key card? Who’s responsible for proving the damage was or wasn’t a customer’s fault?

Why didn’t Coverick bring the damage to the W’s attention once he checked in? Will he really be held liable for the damages just because he can’t prove it wasn’t him?

What was he thinking?

The damage was a stain in the carpet, which was obvious as soon as Coverick entered the room with his companion. And like most people, they assumed that the hotel staff had noted it upon cleaning the room so he made no mention of it.

What a nice guy.

He spent a few nights then checked out without incident until much later when he received his credit card bill and noted the additional charge.

“Unlike car rental companies that will inspect the car with you and diagram to pinpoint previous damage, the hotels provide no such method to protect the guest in this situation,” says Coverick.

So, who is responsible for fixing the stain? And to what lengths do we as customers have to go to prove the state of the property when we checked in or checked out? Should he pay for it simply because he was the last one in the room before it was fixed?

A better idea

How many of us have checked into a hotel room where there was a nick or two in the furniture or a cracked tile in the bathroom? We tend to chalk it up to wear and tear and barely register it as part of our trip.

Maybe that’s not the best idea.

It’s pretty clear that Coverick should have notified the staff when he saw that there was a sizable stain on the rug in his room. He might have also taken pictures with his cell phone and emailed them to the manager. He certainly didn’t expect to be held liable for the damage.

But really, was it all his responsibility?

Shouldn’t the hotel housekeeping staff have noted that the stain was there on each of the days they came in for cleaning services? Should they have taken pictures and noted the damages themselves, approaching the customer directly before he checked out?

Unfortunately, there’s very little Coverick can do to dispute the additional 1,600 euros he was charged. Perhaps it is the responsibility of the customer to provide proof. It might not be a bad idea to take pictures of any damage you find in your hotel room and ask the staff to make a note.

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