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It’s 2013 and I am preparing for a business trip to Nigeria. Given the last minute decision to head to Lagos, I was scrambling between booking flights, hotels and a Nigerian Visa (8th wonder of the world). While not my first time in the country (or that hotel property), this was my first experience trying to book this hotel property myself – 4 nights at the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos. The hotel tagline? “A million Thrills. One Destination”. The thrills were about to start.
The online booking experience seemed pretty standard, I put down my Amex details for the one night ‘deposit’ that was due at the time of booking.
Shortly after receiving my confirmation email from the hotel, I got a call from Amex informing me that my card had been locked due to unusual activity – attempts at authorization of large amounts in USD. The Amex representative confirmed that my card was being pinged for USD 222,000!! WTF. I quickly called the hotel in Lagos directly and explained the situation. The hotel feigned ignorance and confirmed that they did not accept credit card payments due to exchange rate and would rather send me an invoice. Next up, this email with an attached Pro Forma Invoice…of USD 222,000!!!!!
My brain was hurting between making frantic phone calls and receiving this invoice. Either this was a ‘fat finger syndrome’ or a very poor attempt at scamming me. A few more calls to the central reservation office in South Africa and going over the invoice together with the Manager, I was able to point out the absurdity of the situation. The manager without an ounce of apology said “Yes, the credit card details you offered us failed to authorize that amount. I will send you a new invoice.”
Not wanting to take a chance with any more credit card hassles, I submitted the correct deposit amount of USD 370 through a direct wire transfer.
Cut to the day of check-in, I arrive at the hotel only for them to not find my reservation. More calls to the central reservation office in South Africa, showing copies of my email exchanges and wire payment. An hour later, I walked into my USD 222,000 worthy room in Lagos, Nigeria. Felt like an achievement.
To date, I have no clue, what went down to cause an invoice of USD 222,000 and the attempt to put an authorization for that amount on my card. Needless to say, that was the last time I stayed at the property. Based on my experiences, my go-to hotels in Nigeria are as follows;
Lagos – Raddison Blu Anchorage Hotel (Victoria Island)
Abuja – Hilton Abuja (save yourselves the agony of Sheraton Abuja)
Nigeria, the country has a way to punch you in the gut several times a day and hug you in warm embrace, all at the same time. I hate the ingrained bureaucracy and corruption but love the people that make the country work, all with a big smile. “A Million Thrills. One Destination” indeed.