Hotels feel the impact of evacuees searching for rooms

ByMichael Finney and Renee Koury via KGO logo
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
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Consumers remain vigilant among concerns of rising hotel prices as fire and power outage evacuees look for a place to stay. The Hotel Council of San Francisco discusses how they're preparing to help those in need.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Has there been price gouging during this Kincade Fire emergency? Are businesses taking advantage of evacuees? 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney has what to look out for.

Let's start with the basics: the law. In California, price gouging is when an emergency has been declared and prices rise ten percent or more on needed items and services, like bottled water, gasoline and hotel rooms.

Evacuees are streaming out of fire zones by the thousands, and hotels rooms have been hard to find. We heard complaints about room prices being inflated, but never found any provable incidents. Online, we saw a couple of higher than normal prices, but that was in all likelihood artificial intelligence getting ahead of humans, as often algorithms are now in charge of monitoring demand and setting prices automatically.

RELATED: GOUGING OR GLITCH? Hotel rooms listed for astronomical rates on booking apps

The Hotel Council of San Francisco says some hotels in the city are actually offering discounts for evacuees -- and they're making sure computers don't automatically raise rates due to high demand. Michael Finney spoke with the hotel council's CEO, Kevin Carroll.

"The hotel has to monitor their pricing and make sure they're obeying the laws that are out there... They know the state has a law regarding price gouging after a disaster and during a disaster," Carroll said.

Carroll also noted that a lot of hotel employees are in the same boat. "Our employees live and work all over the Bay Area too, so they've been coming in (to San Francisco). Our hotels are also helping hotel partners that are in the impacted areas, we accommodate guests that are coming into San Francisco as well. So, it's been a busy weekend for everybody," he said.

Hotels across the city are offering discounted room rates and waived fees for those fleeing the fires. The Hotel Council of San Francisco has a list of participating hotels on their website.

"That's something that's been really heartening to see, how many hotels have been able to come up with (discounted) prices," said Carroll.

If you run into price gouging, take video and report it to 7 On Your Side right away. Hang on to your receipts, and we will work to get you a refund.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.