NIAGARA FALLS – City police are probing the business practices of a couple of local companies after a Spanish-speaking Ecuadorean tourist was reportedly charged $257 for a one-night stay at a Niagara Falls Boulevard motel Saturday night.
The woman checked into a motel around 8 p.m. Saturday and, despite signs in front of the business proclaiming rooms available for $25.99 per night, was charged $257 on her credit card, police said. She became afraid after seeing some suspicious-looking people hanging around the motel, according to reports, and walked to a nearby business to call police.
Officers tried to help the woman get a refund from the motel, but the manager reportedly refused. When questioned about the advertised rates, which included a weekly rate of $259.99 – the owner reportedly told police that his rates are higher during tourist season, and again refused to issue a refund. The police officer helped the woman find a room in a nearby Best Western hotel, where she was offered a substantial discount because of her ordeal, police said.
The Spanish-speaking clerk at the Best Western helped the woman communicate her story, and said that she would try to help her challenge the credit card charges from the other motel.
The Ecuadorean woman told police she had arrived in the city via train, and was picked up at the railroad station by a taxi driver, whom she asked to take her to a hotel. He dropped her off at the Niagara Rainbow Motel, according to reports.
Police believe the cabbie may have been operating without proper licensing, and have launched an investigation into the operation. Officers said that some businesses in the city appear to take advantage of foreign guests, especially those speaking limited English.