State News

Here's how bumped guests can get refunds in Mackinaw City hotels' shell game

July 05, 2022, 9:35 AM by  Alan Stamm

There's relief for misled travelers at the end of chronic hotel-switch shenanigans in Mackinaw City.

(Photo: DepositPhotos)

Guests whose reservations were abruptly bumped to costlier or less desirable lodging from 2017 through last Feb. 9 qualify for full refunds and, in some cases, $100 extra compensation for bait-and-switch surprises by operators working together.

Repayments and penalties will total up to $65,000, the state attorney general's office says. 

A judge last week approved a 22-page agreement with the operators of seven operators and tourism groups around Mackinaw City that "conduct business as several hotels throughout Mackinaw City."

Actually, "several" understates it greatly. The consent agreement covers 27 motels, inns, cabin sites and hotels listed below. They're owned by members of Joe Lieghio's family or investors in his city-spanning network.

The Crown Choice Inn & Suites on South Huron Avenue (Photo from business)

The state had threatened to file charges of deceptive practices -- aka scams -- against the Beach House Hotel, Crown Choice Inn & Suites and Hamilton Inn Select Beachfront for allegedly taking reservations even though they were closed. "Attempts by consumers to secure refunds in those instances were unsuccessful," they agency says.

"Consumers will have 90 days to submit claims for reimbursement and are eligible for 100% reimbursement by the entities if they can document a fully paid reservation at one of the hotels that was closed for the season, with the consumer being transferred to a different hotel, since Jan. 1, 2017," the attorney general's office posts.

Consumers ... may let us know they wish to be considered for a distribution under this agreement by filing a consumer complaint online.  Be sure to state the name of the hotel at which the reservation was made.

Our Consumer Protection Team will then follow up by sending a claim form that can be returned with copies of any supporting documents, such as receipts and emails. ...

Consumers who filed complaints with the Department or Better Business Bureau about being directed to a different hotel when arriving from Jan. 1, 2017, through the issuance of the [Notice of Intended Action] in February are eligible for an additional $100 reimbursement.

The announcement from Dana Nessel's office adds that the seven owners and referral sites they set up "will be responsible for up to $25,000 in refunds.

In addition to consumer payments, the entities will pay $5,000 to the State of Michigan and $35,000 to the Michigan Strategic Fund.

Investigators found that "the hotels were advertised through a tourism website [Mackinaw City Chamber of Tourism] that was owned and operated by persons also having ownership interests" in the entities running the properties themselves."

Under the deal negotiated to avoid possible enforcement action, they agree to "no longer take reservations for rooms in hotels that are closed for the season.

And when a room reservation cannot be fulfilled at other times, assurances are given consumers will have ability to cancel and obtain a refund.

The tourism entity is required to remove the "official seal" from the Chamber of Tourism website and also include conspicuous disclaimers on each website stating: "This site and all the hotels on this site have common ownership by a 5th generation local family that has owned, developed, and personally managed Mackinaw City hotels since 1955."

When she threatened legal action five months ago, Nessel said: "It is important that all consumers are treated fairly. ... My office will not tolerate actions that threaten our reputation in the tourism industry or harm consumers."

27 businesses that must comply:

The June 28 court-approved agreement is binding on these lodging operators. (Source: Michigan Attorney General's Office)


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