Friday, October 24, 2014 · 3:01 a.m.
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A "horrible computer error" resulted in the Sheraton Read House overbooking more than 100 rooms during the weekend of the Ironman race this September.

Jen Prpich, general manager of the Read House, said: 

The Read House has made the difficult decision to honor the reservations made as instructed by the Ironman organization through the online booking tool Passkey; therefore, they were not able to honor the reservations of those who made a reservation through the hotel directly or at Starwood.com booking the Ironman rate. This option should not have been available for them to book.

Passkey is a business that helps consumers book online group reservations. But many people didn't use Passkey to book reservations. Instead, some—such as Chris Cosby from Augusta, Georgia—went directly to the hotel's website to book reservations.

Cosby said he booked through the Read House's website in August 2013 and got a good deal of about $99 a night. 

But this week, he got an email saying that his reservation couldn't be honored and that officials at the Read House were going to help him find another hotel. They did that, but the hotel of comparable price is in Hixson. 

Cosby had booked two rooms to accommodate his two young children, wife and mother-in-law.

Being downtown would afford them the opportunity to easily see some of the race if they wanted, go to downtown attractions, and go back and forth to the hotel, he said. 

He said he booked early and that he thinks officials should have known about this problem months ago. Now, any hotel downtown is at least double the price of when he originally booked, he said.

He went ahead and booked other downtown rooms for about $249 a night.

Judith Garrard is in a similar situation and said she wanted to tell her story so that the full picture is shown. 

She said she made her reservation in September 2013 by phone directly with the hotel. She said she provided credit card information and received an email confirmation. 

Then, this week, she found out via a closed Ironman-related Facebook page that others were hearing that their reservations were being canceled or moved. 

When she started seeing that information, she said she hadn't gotten any communication from officials at the Read House about the situation. So she called the corporate office. 

"They informed me that due to the fact that the hotel staff had failed to enter a room block ... all reservations not booked through a third-party booker were summarily canceled," Garrard said via email. "No one was ever told that we had to book through a third party."

She also said: 

They assured me that the general manager would be calling to apologize and explain [the] situation. No mention was made of helping me secure another room in the downtown or any other area. When I contacted the Chattanooga Sports Committee for assistance, I received a dismissive email. I have no place to stay for that weekend, and I am not a happy person.

My issue is the fact that no [one] has contacted me … If it were not for the forum I am involved in, I would not have known about this situation and would have appeared on Sept. 26 expecting to check into the Sheraton.

Bob Doak, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that Passkey is often used for large events and when big groups might want to block off many rooms.

He said the mistake is one that leaders of the hotel are addressing. 

And Prpich said that the top priority has been to make sure that each person who booked a room still has a room for the event. Wednesday afternoon, she said that step had been completed. 

"It is up to the group that comes to town on how they want their participants/attendees to make reservations," Prpich said. There was a "system glitch," but because Ironman leaders chose Passkey, hotel officials decided to honor the method Ironman leaders communicated to participants. 

She also said Wednesday that she thought officials had addressed all of the complaints but that they would be working with individuals to find the best solution in this "difficult situation." 

Some people involved suggested that the Read House pay the difference for the cost of staying downtown at a hotel booked now, compared to the cost of booking nine months ago. 

And one person said he got help from an official at the CVB and that Read House officials did agree to pay the difference. 

Anne Smith said that she had a good experience with the Residence Inn downtown during the mix-up.

"[I] cannot say enough good about them," she said via Facebook message. "They called me yesterday and confirmed my reservation. [They were] very professional."

Lacie Stone, spokeswoman for Mayor Andy Berke, said that the event is a chance to showcase everything Chattanooga has to offer and that a tweet made Berke aware of the situation.

"He instructed a staff member to work with the CVB to find a solution to this issue," she said. "The CVB found downtown hotel rooms and is now working with the Sheraton to ensure athletes and their families that want to stay downtown have the opportunity to do so."

The Ironman competition is one of more than 30 events in the global Ironman Series. It will be in Chattanooga Sept. 28 and annually through September 2018, according to archives

The five-year contract could have a $40 million economic impact. 

The competition is a triathlon and consists of a 2.4-mile swim in the Tennessee River, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.

Updated @ 4:22 p.m. on 5/22/14 to add more information as it became available.

Lacie Stone, spokeswoman for Mayor Andy Berke said that the event is a chance to showcase everything Chattanooga has to offer and that a tweet made Berke aware of the situation.

"He instructed a staff member to work with the CVB to find a solution to this issue," she said. "The CVB found downtown hotel rooms and is now working with the Sheraton to ensure athletes and their families that want to stay downtown have the opportunity to do so."

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