Why Hotels Check your ID
I know someone who tried to make a hotel reservation over the phone. She goes by the name “Kelcie,” but her birth name is Frances. She hates her birth name. When making the reservation she used the name Kelcie, which is what’s on her credit card and checks, but her driver’s license says Frances.
She was told that when she arrived, she’d need to present a photo ID. She asked if there’d be any problem since her driver’s license said Frances and the reservation said Kelcie. She was told most definitely. “Why should they care if the name on my photo ID doesn’t match the name in the reservation or my credit card? As long as I can pay for the room, right? You’d think I was applying for a government job!”
Why do some hotels require the photo ID or even information about your car, even if you have wads of money ready to pay for your stay?
In some areas, the law requires hotels to do this. But this answer only sets back the question further: Why does the law require this? The law also requires hotels and other lodging facilities to be able to turn over this information to the police when requested. A warrant is not necessary.
If we’re talking a little “ma and pa” motel, it’s actually more understandable that they’d require guests to show a photo ID, especially in a seedy part of town. If the room is trashed, the owner knows whom to go after.
But the large name-brand hotel is a bit different. Requiring a photo ID when someone uses a credit card or check is understandable. But some hotels also require it if the guest has cold cash.
The true answer would have to come from the lawmakers, even though we can think of some hypothetical scenarios in which a person could claim to be someone else and then get that person’s room—but the imposter would have to know ahead of time that the real guest had reserved the room. It’s not likely that the lawmakers have this scenario in mind for their reasons for requiring hotels to require photo IDs.
One plausible explanation is to protect people from fraudulent credit card use. More reasons include weeding out of imposters to make everything a bit safer by reducing nefarious activities such as drug use, meth labs, prostitution, or using the hotel room as a staging area for various crimes.
Hotels will want to do anything to cover their butts just in case a crime occurs. And I suppose the lawmakers have the hotel industry’s back.
If you are concerned about privacy of your personal information, you should be. But recognize that “personal identifying information” or PII is “public” and not private. So giving it to a hotel clerk shouldn’t be considered a “private” transaction. Know the risks.