Guests of swanky New York City hotel say they were falsely charged $500 smoking fee

Kristin Thorne Image
Monday, May 13, 2024
Hotel guests say they were falsely charged $500 smoking fee
Kristin Thorne has the investigation into the smoking fees.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Guests of a swanky hotel in SoHo contacted our 7 On Your Side Investigates team after they said they were wrongfully charged a $500 smoking fee. Eyewitness News found similar complaints online.

"I'm trying to do whatever I can to get my money back," Allison Divine, of Houston, said.

Divine said she and her boyfriend stayed at NoMo hotel in SoHo in February and were charged $500 for smoking in their room, even though they don't smoke or vape.

Divine said when she called the hotel to complain, they sent her a smoke detection report showing that smoke was detected in her room at 12:50 a.m. and lasted for about 30 minutes.

"I said, 'Well, your report is incorrect. We didn't smoke, we didn't vape. We don't smoke or vape,'" Divine recounted to Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne.

Divine said the hotel refused to refund her money.

Seth Laganiere, of Maine, said the same thing happened to him. He stayed at the hotel in September and several days after he checked out, he noticed a charge on his credit card for $500.

"I'm furious," he said. "I feel completely taken advantage of."

Laganiere called the hotel and they also sent him a report showing smoke had been detected in his room at 10 a.m.

Laganiere said he didn't smoke.

"It's just crazy," he said.

Eyewitness News spoke with another guest who did not want to be identified but said it also happened to him. He sent us his bill for a $500 smoking fee and his report.

The Long Island man said he is a triathlete and doesn't smoke or vape. He said the hotel finally gave him his money back after he got his credit card company involved.

Eyewitness News booked our own room at NoMo to see if we would be charged.

We found the smoking detection device behind the television. We were not charged a smoking fee.

But, we reviewed the reviews on the hotel's TripAdvisor and Expedia pages and found at least 20 other similar complaints, some as recent as May 5.

A few days before that, another TripAdvisor user wrote, "We don't smoke or vape, never have. They have refused to refund our money."

The General Manager, Iwona Luksza, responded on the site, "Thank you for providing your review. We aim to deliver a seamless experience, and we regret there was a concern about your final bill. Our team thoroughly investigates all guest concerns to ensure our non-smoking policy is upheld. Your feedback regarding this matter is appreciated, and we wish you safe travels ahead."

A guest on Expedia wrote, " They charge a 'smoking fee' that's $500. They claimed we smoked the 1st 10 mins of checking in for 1 hour?! I DO NOT SMOKE AT PERIOD!"

A user identified as Zaida - Director of Front Office - responded, "We always appreciate guest feedback. Your feedback is a testament to our efforts. We welcome you back soon."

Another Expedia guest wrote, "I recently stayed here for my birthday and it was a lovely stay. However, when I returned home I found that they charged me a smoking fee. Neither my daughter nor I smoke. The hotel has refused to remove this charge."

A user identified as the General Manager responded, "We apologize for any confusion regarding the smoking fee. Our team believes in full transparency, and we would never intentionally falsely charge a guest. If you have a moment, please reach out to us offline to further discuss."

"If they're receiving all of these complaints about the same thing, there's something wrong," Divine said.

Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne spent weeks trying to get someone in management at NoMo on the phone to discuss guests' allegations that they were falsely charged for smoking in their rooms. Management never returned our calls.

We also reached out to the owner of the hotel, the Sapir Corporation, but they did not get back to us.

So, Eyewitness News returned to the hotel to try to get answers. We found the manager in the lobby.

"We have nothing to say at this moment," she said. "We dealt with these guests individually, so there's nothing at this moment that I would be sharing with you."

Two days after we called the hotel about this story, Laganiere got his money back.

Divine still has not been refunded.

ALSO READ | Flight attendants arrested for allegedly smuggling money through JFK Airport

Four flight attendents were arrested after being accused of smuggling drug money from the Dominican Republic.

DO YOU NEED A STORY INVESTIGATED? Dan Krauth, Kristin Thorne, and the 7 On Your Side Investigates team at Eyewitness News want to hear from you! Call our confidential tip line 1-877-TIP-NEWS (847-6397) or fill out the form BELOW.