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Ritz-Carlton apologizes to guests for 15% CIAA service charge

Patrice Wright’s receipt for four drinks and sweet potato fries from the lobby lounge of the Ritz-Carlton in uptown Charlotte during CIAA week features a $10.20 CIAA service charge.
Patrice Wright’s receipt for four drinks and sweet potato fries from the lobby lounge of the Ritz-Carlton in uptown Charlotte during CIAA week features a $10.20 CIAA service charge. WBTV

The Ritz-Carlton in uptown Charlotte issued an apology Friday to anyone offended by the 15 percent service charge the hotel billed patrons in its lounge during the CIAA basketball tournament Feb. 24-28.

“We would like to apologize to any guests we may have offended by the addition of a service charge we implemented at a recent event in our lobby lounge,” the apology said.

The apology, a copy of which was obtained by the Observer, said “the service charge was not intended to single out any particular group or organization, and we deeply regret any misunderstanding this may have caused.

“It is important for all guests to feel welcomed at our hotel and for them to receive the highest level of service, respect and hospitality we strive for every day.”

The apology doesn’t explain why the hotel put a “CIAA service charge” on customer receipts, as shown on a receipt obtained by WBTV, the Observer’s news partner.

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association is the oldest African-American athletic conference in the nation.

Heidi Nowak, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing who issued the apology, did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the Observer on Saturday.

The issue came to light when a Ritz-Carlton patron complained to WBTV about the charge.

Patron Patrice Wright told WBTV that she and her husband have frequented the Ritz-Carlton lounge several times “and never had any surcharge that was associated with any organization that was in town.

“Is there an ACC championship surcharge?” Wright asked. “Is there a Speed Street surcharge? Is there a Belk Bowl surcharge?”

The hotel said in an email to the station that “due to the size of the CIAA event, we instituted a modest 15 percent service charge for our lobby beverage servers, on whom the event places significant demands throughout the weekend.”

WBTV reported that the hotel didn’t respond when asked whether it added similar service charges during other large events.

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