A hotel at JFK airport pays $65K over claims it bilked customers

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Back in late January, 2016 New York City was hit with the second largest blizzard since 1869, a storm that dumped 30.5 inches of snow in the area and caused the closing of roads, the shutdown of mass transit and the suspension of air travel into and out of the city. Travelers were stranded.  People were desperate.

So what do you do if you own a hotel in the area?

It seems Granite JFK LLC and Crossroad Hospitality Company, both owners of a Marriott Courtyard near JFK airport, allegedly raised prices by 45-75 percent over its average room rates to the hundreds of weary travelers in need of a bed. One guest claimed to have paid $499 for a room that normally goes for $154.  I don’t even want to know what they charged for a burger in the hotel restaurant!

According to a report in Newsday, the state law forbids excessive price hikes for essential goods and services — such as shelter, transportation, food, water and gasoline – during natural disasters or other events that disrupt the marketplace.

After complaints, New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began a probe and that ended this week in a settlement where the owners must now pay back $48,000 in restitution to its overcharged customers and another $17,500 in civil penalties to the state over allegations they overcharged guests.

“The Courtyard by Marriott took advantage of hundreds of stranded people who were simply seeking the safety of shelter during and after this massive blizzard,” Schneiderman said in the Newsday report. According to the Newsday report the settlement agreement said the hotel accepted the restitution and fine without admitting to the state’s allegations.

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