Convention Hotel "list"- Free rooms for JW/WT "dignitaries"?

by Darth Fader The Sequel 26 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • Darth Fader The Sequel
    Darth Fader The Sequel

    In all my years of being a JW, one of the more annoying aspects to me was each year sitting through the service meeting review part about what was expected (see: demanded) behavior and policies that the rest of us rank and file were ordered to comply with to attend a district convention. The minutia in this part and the over-reaching set of rules were enough to drive me into a lather of rage at the audacity of these people thinking they could and should control every single aspect of my attendance to this "free" and voluntary convention. From what clothing I can wear on my trip to and from the convention city, to what clothing I can wear before and after each day of the convention, to what I should be doing after each day instead of eating dinner and enjoying some good times with good friends, to insisting on wearing a ridiculous name badge, to what I should eat for lunch and where I should eat lunch and what is the appropriate container to keep my lunch in, to .................. the list is ENDLESS!!!!!!!! But I digress. The reserving of hotel rooms on the "approved list" was by far the biggest and most heavily repeated order to comply with. Reasons given were that if we, the rank and file, did not cooperate with only using the approved hotels we would undermine the WT's ability to negotiate room rates in the future. There may some truth to that. However, I have attended many work related industry trade shows and conventions though out my life and NEVER has there been any demand by the convention organizers that all attendees only use their approved hotels. There was usually a hotel or a few hotels provided that had negotiated rates if a person was so inclined to use them. But otherwise, personal freedom was allowed (shocking, I know).

    All of that leads me to my sincere question which I hope someone here has an answer to from inside knowledge or first hand experience. A person I know attended a convention a few years back and something had happened with their hotel reservations (I do not recall what the issue was) and they ended up not having the room they had reserved. So, during the Friday session they approached the rooming dept and asked them for help getting another hotel that night and for the weekend, as they had been directed to do by WT. Sure enough, a room was available for them and it was mentioned at that time by the person in the rooming department that it was a room that was originally reserved for WT official personnel but was not needed after all. The brother in need of the room asked how he was supposed to pay for the room. He was told it was already paid for but that he would need to contribute directly to the rooming dept the amount per night he was going to pay for the room he had reserved on his own but was not able to stay in. He had no issue with that so he quickly calculated the amount per night he had planned on paying and handed the dept that amount. The person in the rooming dept counted the money and then said something to the effect of: "Uh, brother.......... you will need to donate more than that. You did not account for sales tax, hotel taxes."

    So, here is the point of my question. This person who needed the room was under the impression that when the WT negotiates with hotels, part of that negotiation is to get a whole bunch of free rooms donated in the package deal so that all the Bethel folks, CO's, DO's, and other "dignitaries" can have their rooms for free while the rank and file carry the load as usual. If that wasn't bad enough, it was made perfectly clear to this person needing the room that not only were they charging him for the room they got for free but they also expected the additional amount of what he *would have* paid in local taxes even though they did not pay any taxes on a donated room.

    Does anyone here in this forum have knowledge of how the WT's hotel shenanigans work? Was this a one-off experience or is this WT policy nationwide/worldwide?

  • sir82

    It's not exactly "shenanigans".

    Anyone can negotiate a deal with hotels. If you can guarantee X number of rooms to be filled, you'll get a discount on each room and free rooms.

    Similar deals exist with airlines, cruise lines, tour companies, etc. It happens all the time, JW or no JW.

    The sneaky part, as you have hinted at, is that the WTS never comes out and tells the rank & file what they are doing. It is marketed as "following thecratic order" or some such balderdash.

  • DesirousOfChange

    Does anyone here in this forum have knowledge of how the WT's hotel shenanigans work?

    I think you've got it figured out. If they can promise x number of rooms booked, they'll get x number of rooms free.

    If the hotel won't "work with them" on this arrangement, then the WTS can pretty much guarantee that the hotel will have NO JW room bookings.


  • Darth Fader The Sequel
    Darth Fader The Sequel

    Hi sir82, thank you. I used the word "shenanigans" only because it is the WT doing this, not some private travel entity or whoever in which these types of inside deals are expected. The fact that, as you and DoC have said, the WT keeps all of this hush hush is what really bothers me. The cloak and dagger side of the WT is plain despicable to me even in relatively mundane and unimportant things like hotel rooms. It presumes that either the rank and file are too dumb or too skeptical to be made aware of what they are doing. THAT is a problem!!!!

  • bafh

    It is likely that it is a mix of free rooms and prepaid rooms. So, in asking for the "donation" they were simply getting their money back including the taxes that were paid. Doesn't seem that out of line to me.

  • neverendingjourney

    They could in theory use their leverage to negotiate better rates. You see people do this in weddings all the time. You tell them you're in town for the so-and-so wedding and you get a discounted rate.

    The WT doesn't do this. They use their influence over their members to get them to accept rates that are often above market in exchange for free rooms and possibly other perks for the higher ups.

    It's disingenuous since they're not transparent about what they do. I had no idea why the WT forced us to use their hotels the entire time I was "in." I just assumed they were shitty negotiators and couldn't get better rates.

    It may be a perfectly legitimate business strategy, but the contempt and condescencion with which they treat their members really irks me. It's as if members are not worthy or sophisticated enough to be able to know what their true goal is. Why the secrecy ? Grown people don't like to be treated like children.

  • sir82

    I keep seeing pots claiming that the WTS-negotiated hotel rates are higher than market rates, but in my epxerience, the WTS rates are always pretty good. You could probably match it with Hotwire or some such, but it's certainly never (again in my experience) been higher than what you can get online.

    In what locations are WTS-negotiated rates higher? Just curious, a general geographic area would be fine.

  • Darth Fader The Sequel
    Darth Fader The Sequel

    The rates for rooms are typically pretty good. I have no issue with that. Usually the business-type hotels are ghost towns on the weekends so that is not a hard negotiation. The hotels like that love to be filled up on a normally dead weekend. The backdoor free rooms bother me because it is never explained and out in the open. Lame.

  • neverendingjourney


    I'm from Texas. There were always hotels that offered better rates just by calling. This was the pre-internet era. All the witnesses knew about it. The more "spiritually-weak" among us would book hotels closer to the convention at a lower rate. It would irk the good-standing folk to no end.

    Mind you, I'm not saying the rates were exponentially higher, but they were market at best. A little due diligence could save you 10 to 20 bucks a night at a comparable place. When you make Witness money, that's not an insignificant sum.

    As a comparison, I stayed at a hotel in New Mexico not too long ago for a wedding. The wedding rate was about 50 dollars less than the rate you'd get by calling or booking online. It was a small event and the reception was being held in the hotel. Not an apples-to-apples comparison, but my point is that they could likely use their leverage to get better rates generally instead of free rooms.

  • Magnum

    I've seen the process. It has bothered me for a long time. If the org can guarantee a hotel that so many rooms will be booked, it (the org) will get a certain number of complimentary (free) rooms. I suppose it uses some of those rooms for JW bigshots, but I don't know; I can't verify that. I can verify, though, that the org rents out some of those rooms to convention attendees who need them (didn't make reservations, etc.). I have personally seen the checks.

    So the org makes money on the hotel deals. That part they don't relate in the km articles. In the km, it's all about following instructions so the org will be able to negotiate good rates for all our "dear brothers and sisters". Yes, the org is so concerned about all of us out here. The GB and other higher-ups lose sleep over their concern for our welfare, how they can save us money, etc.

    It's kind of similar to the disaster relief program. The org makes huge money on that, but we don't hear that part. All we hear about is how wonderful the org is for helping those in need and how quickly it responds.

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