The Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort has been ordered to pay a company more than $200,000 in damages and fees as a result of a corporate event that went seriously awry.
In a decision handed down earlier this spring, a New Jersey appellate court found that the Atlantic City hotel violated the state's Consumer Fraud Act when it guaranteed 60 rooms for a corporate holiday party in December 2001 but failed to provide almost half of the rooms.
The Trump Taj Mahal argued that its guarantee only extended to the 60 reservations, and not the actual rooms, but the court called the resort's reasoning “Orwellian” and sided with the company.
Automobile finance company Onyx Acceptance Corp. (now part of Capital One), had prepaid the resort more than $29,000 for a banquet and the 60 hotel rooms. According to the court decision, the Trump Taj Mahal “significantly” overbooked its hotel for the night and found itself short of the 60 rooms needed for Onyx.
When Onyx employees and guests arrived, many were told the hotel was sold out. When the Onyx executive who had booked the event complained, the response was, “Sorry, there's nothing we can do.” When the Onyx executive further explained the company had prepaid almost $30,000, the front desk clerk, according to the appellate court decision, “responded by saying, ‘Ma'am, we have people who spend $30,000 a hand.’”
It was only after a few hours of argument that the resort offered to provide Onyx's guests with hotel rooms in the vicinity. The company banquet ultimately failed as an event, claimed Onyx, because of the delay in getting the company's guests their rooms.
In the end, the hotel booked six guests at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, 20 at the Days Inn in Atlantic City, and one at La Sammana hotel in Brigantine. “Onyx was not satisfied,” the court said. “The alternative accommodations were not what Onyx wanted or what it had paid for, and they were not even offered until after Onyx had argued with the hotel staff for several hours.”
The court held that the hotel had guaranteed the 60 rooms on numerous occasions during the planning process, and also that it had failed to inform Onyx that it had a policy of overbooking and that it routinely sends customers with guaranteed reservations to other hotels.
While the court's decision may make hotels take a look at its policies on walking guests, meeting industry lawyer James M. Goldberg, principal, Goldberg & Associates, Washington, D.C., is not expecting to see big changes. “This shouldn't have any significant impact on hoteliers or meeting planners, since the court's decision was based on New Jersey law.”