Michigan A.G. puts three Mackinaw City hotels on notice

LANSING – Three Mackinaw City hotels  have been put on notice by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel following an investigation into business practices related to customer reservations.

A press release issued from the AG’s office today said consumer complaints about the Beach House Hotel, Crown Choice Inn & Suites, and Hamilton Inn Select Beachfront sparked the investigation.

“The complaints allege instances where consumers book rooms at hotels that, while advertised as available and the reservations ultimately confirmed, were in fact closed without notice to the consumer. Upon arrival to the closed hotel, the consumer is directed to the Hamilton Inn and given a ‘substitute’ room with non-comparable amenities. The complaints also allege consumers who decline to stay at the Hamilton Inn are denied refunds citing a 72-hour cancellation policy. The refunds are denied even though the consumer was not made aware of the original hotel’s closure at any time prior to the consumer arriving in Mackinaw City,” the NIA states.

If the hotels don’t comply with the AG’s request to cease and desist the “unlawful” business practices they could face a formal investigation, lawsuit, or both.

The letter also details the evidence gathered during the investigation:

  • On Nov. 4, 2021, one of the Department’s special agents made a reservation at the Crown Choice Inn for Nov. 10 through a website identified as the “Official Mackinaw City Chamber of Tourism” available at www.mackinaw-city.com.
  • The reservation was for a “2 Bed Queen Lakeview Balcony Room” and included “access to 17 indoor pools” and “indoor waterpark admission wristbands.”
  • Although the agent made the reservation on Nov. 4, he did not receive email confirmation until Nov. 9, the day before his stay and outside of the 72-hour cancellation window. In other words, the reservation wasn’t confirmed until it was too late to cancel the reservation without penalty according to the cancellation policy.
  • On Nov. 10, the agent arrived to check in at the Crown Choice Inn. The agent observed the “vacancy” sign was illuminated, but it was otherwise apparent the hotel was closed as the agent observed an empty parking lot and a dark interior of the building. The agent also found the hotel entrance locked with a sign on the door directing people to check in at the Hamilton Inn.
  • At the Hamilton Inn, the agent advised staff he was there to check in at the Crown Choice Inn. After being asked to wait for staff to finish the daily audit, the agent returned approximately fifteen minutes later and was advised that the Crown Choice Inn’s waterpark was closed for cleaning and his reservation was moved to the Hamilton Inn. When the agent indicated he wanted to use the waterpark, staff advised that it was closed for cleaning, there were no other waterparks in the area, and it was past the point where the reservation could be canceled to receive a refund.

“Tourism is part of the life-blood for the economy in northern Michigan,” Nessel said.  “Whether it’s our residents enjoying a long weekend, or visitors coming to experience our majestic sand dunes, beaches, lakes or ski slopes, it is important that all consumers are treated fairly so they look forward to sharing joyful stories with future visitors.  My Office will not tolerate actions that threaten our reputation in the tourism industry or harm consumers.”

The hotels have until Feb. 18 to respond and take appropriate steps to address the Department’s findings.