IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - A former Idaho Falls woman is searching for a place to stay during the total solar eclipse after she said the hotel she booked three years ago has left her in the dark.
"I guess I'm not surprised,” Arlene Jenkins said.
Jenkins, who now lives outside Washington D.C., said she booked her hotel room at Le Ritz Hotel and Suites on Lindsay Boulevard in Idaho Falls in October 2013. In a copy of a reservation confirmation Jenkins provided KIFI/KIDK, she was guaranteed a nightly rate of $140.
“We checked on it every time we were back,” Jenkins said. “I know what the rooms are (now) going for.
Jenkins said that changed weeks before the eclipse when the hotel owner called her husband. Jenkins said the hotel owner increased the nightly rate $60 before calling the family back two weeks before the eclipse.
"He started questioning us and telling us that our rate was way too low for this event and he wanted to raise our rates,” Jenkins said. “"My husband said, well you have already raised our rates once and we have a contract with you.”
The issue of whether the hotel's actions are legal comes down to whether the Jenkins had a contract with the hotel. Rexburg consumer protection attorney Ryan Ballard agrees with the Jenkins that the reservation constitutes a contract.
“For the hotel to come back and say they want to change the price is I think pretty clearly a breach of contract,” Ballard said.
According to Ballard, a contract is made up of three things: an offer, which Ballard said was the hotel listing the room at the original $140 a night; acceptance, which according to Ballard was made when the Jenkins agreed to make the reservation; and consideration which Ballard said was met when the Jenkins gave the hotel their credit card to hold the room.
"They gave them a credit card,” Ballard said. “If the consumer canceled two hours before they were supposed to show up, the hotel would gladly charge that credit card."
Currently, according to hotels.com, the Le Ritz Hotel and Suites is only one of two hotels in Idaho Falls with rooms listed as available. The rate, according to the website, is listed at $700 a night.
"We are not wealthy,” Jenkins said. “We cannot pay a$1,000 or $2,000 a night for a room."
Le Ritz hotels is listed online as operated by River Run Hospitality, LLC, whose owner is listed as Shawn Galer. Jenkins said the person who called her both times was a man named Shawn. When KIFI/KIDK reporter Chris Oswalt went to the hotel for comment and asked for Shawn, a clerk said he was in a meeting and after further pressing told Oswalt that Shawn “had no comment.”
The state Attorney General said Wednesday the office could not comment specifically on the Jenkins case, but they are seeing an increase in complaints about the high cost of hotel rooms.
“There is no law against a high price,” Scott Graff, a spokesperson with the AG's office, said. Graff said situations like Jenkins are limited. Ballard said he believes there is a slight increase in similar cases. He also acknowledged that there is a possibility Le Ritz may not be in violation if the Jenkins would have agreed to a cancellation policy during booking.
"We have called them,” Jenkins said. “They had every opportunity to do this to us earlier but they waited until the last minute and I'm sure they think that we will give in to them so they can get a lot more money out of it."
The Jenkins said they will be in Idaho Falls for the eclipse, but staying at Le Ritz remains a question. Jenkins said she and her husband have a message for local businesses.
“Don't be greedy,” Jenkins said after telling KIFI/KIDK that they are prepared to fight the hotel all the way to court if needed.
"There is not a way for the hotel to escape having to fulfill their end of the contract simply by saying they would like to profit otherwise,” Jenkins said.