It’s almost August so that means many of you are working to finalize your research and submit your abstracts. At AGU, we’re preparing to welcome almost 25,000 of you to Washington, DC in December. Our preparations include making sure that we have a place for you to stay while you attend the meeting. Recently we’ve seen comments on social media about how and why AGU makes these arrangements. We also have seen fraudulent companies (we call them housing pirates) trying to mimic AGU to encourage you to make your hotel reservations with them. We wanted to share our process with you, as well as a few tips for keeping your housing dollars and your personal information safe in this process.
In planning for such a large group, AGU is able to use our collective buying power to secure discounted rates at hotels with specific blocks of rooms. We research every hotel and if you’re making a reservation through our housing site, you have a team of people you can rely on should you experience problems with your stay. We sign contracts with each hotel to ensure that our attendees will be adequately accommodated. We offer our attendees access to this room block through the AGU registration and housing site, which opens in August. Additionally, we hold rooms back in our block for special audiences, like students.
We have been informed that attendees are often contacted by fax, e-mail or most often by phone with offers for cut rate housing. We recently discovered a fraudulent housing website that purchased Google ad placement. The intent of all of these tactics is to convince you that the offer is made on our behalf, or that the soliciting company is associated with AGU. This is not true. The exclusive service provider for AGU Fall Meeting housing is SPARGO. We do not contact you by fax or by phone for any housing matter unless there is a problem with an existing reservation that you have made, and the AGU Fall Meeting website is the reliable source for registration information and links.
What Housing Pirates or Poachers Do
Housing or room piracy is a practice carried out by third-party companies that act as travel agencies, wholesalers or destination management companies to solicit registrants for room reservations. They manually scour publicly available sources of data, like abstracts on the AGU website, to identify those that may attend the event.
The pirate might inform registrants that the hotel room block is “sold out,” and that if you do not book with them immediately, you may not get a room. Additional deceptive tactics include distributing forms or promotional materials that appear to be issued by AGU.
- Housing pirates make it more difficult for us to meet our room block commitments and expose us to the potential of penalties and increased room rates for our events.
- Housing pirates often don’t deliver on promises to customers. When customers arrive, reservations are non-existent, or the hotels are not conveniently located. Sometimes the rooms have been cancelled and hefty cancellation fees have been placed on the customer’s credit card.
- Pirates often represent themselves as being affiliated with us by illegally using our logo or creating a version of an AGU logo.
What You Can Do
Don’t be misled! If you are contacted by anyone asking if you need a room for the Fall Meeting please get as much information as you can and pass it on to AGU at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make your housing reservations via the AGU housing site (linked from the Fall Meeting website). Never give your credit card or personal information to someone on the phone offering to make your reservation for you.
The AGU Fall Meeting website for registration and housing will be available in mid-August and you’ll see email announcements of this if you have submitted an abstract.
If you have questions, please contact Lauren Parr, Vice President of Meetings at email@example.com. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Washington, DC this December.