How the Aloft Playa Del Carmen scams guests

A Reddit user named Curtis shares how the Aloft Playa Del Carmen seems to be running what can only be described as a scam with currency conversion to increase revenue. Even worse, we’re not just talking about a spread of a couple of percent here. What’s going on?

  • When you book the hotel through Marriott channels, it’s always priced in USD; and that’s not just if you’re based in the United States, but that’s how the pricing is displayed globally

  • In addition to showing the price in USD, the website will also quote an MXN total “as reference,” with the fair exchange rate listed

  • On property, hotel associates claim that they can’t process payments in USD, and that the rate must be paid in MXN

  • When charging you in MXN, the hotel currently uses an absurd rate that represents a 15% markup over the official exchange rate

  • Curtis booked two reservations, showing prices of $132.37 and $406.78, and he ended up being charged $153.38 and $470.72, a difference of $84.95

Curtis claims that the hotel has been unresponsive to this complaint, so this hasn’t been addressed in any way. He forwarded me the correspondence, his folio, etc., and everything checks out. I’m reaching out to a Marriott contact to seek clarification on whether this is within Marriott’s policies (hopefully it’s not), and what can be done to avoid this in the future.

This is false advertising, plain and simple

The hotel industry is often referred to as the hospitality industry. Marriott markets itself as offering “wonderful hospitality, always.” I don’t know about you, but for me, literally getting scammed doesn’t really contribute to feeling welcome.

Now, to give this property some leeway, hotels trying to make an extra few bucks on currency conversion is nothing new. Sometimes we see hotels just automatically charge guests in their card currency rather than the local currency, and that’s bad enough. However, in those situations we’re typically talking about a spread of 2-3%.

A 15% spread on currency conversion has to be one of the most egregious currency scams I’ve ever seen.

In addition to this being unethical, I can’t help but feel like this must violate some laws regarding false advertising? You’re forced to book the hotel in USD with an example exchange rate for reference. Then you’re forced to pay in a different currency on property, with an exploitative exchange rate applied.

I wonder for how long this hotel has been getting away with this. A 15% spread on currency is no pocket change, and this might just be greater than the hotel’s profit margin otherwise.

While we’re on the topic of currency conversion, remember to always pay in local currency when possible, using a card with no foreign transaction fees. Furthermore, always exchange cash at ATMs (ideally with a card that has no fees), rather than going to a currency exchange business (with high markups).

Bottom line

We see hotels try to profit off currency conversion way more often than we should. Sometimes you’ll see hotels try to encourage you to pay in your card’s currency so that there’s a spread of a couple of percent.

However, the Aloft Playa Del Carmen really crosses the line. The hotel lets you reserve in USD, but then forces you to pay in MXN on property. That’s fair enough, except the hotel uses a highway robbery exchange rate, so you end up paying about 15% more than the official exchange rate. That’s ridiculous.

Ben Schlappig