Jack Taras and his friends thought they would be checking in at the Occidental Grand Hotel on the Dominican Republic's postcard-perfect Eastern shore for spring break. But when Taras, a 19-year-old sophomore from Providence College, arrived at the resort, he was greeted with the hotel industry's latest trick: he was walked down.

"They were sent to a hotel that wasn't as nice," says his father, John Taras. He phoned his son's online travel agency, Cheaptickets.com, and asked about the downgrade, which lasted the full five nights of Jack's stay. It deferred to the hotel, which offered an apology and a vague explanation of a "computer mishap" that resulted in an overbooking.

"Walking" is a practice that's as old as the hotel industry. When a resort is overbooked, it typically sends a guest to a comparable property, covering the cost of transportation, a phone call and accommodations. But somewhere along the way -- probably at the start of the current recession -- the word "comparable" was conveniently dropped, and hotels quietly began sending guests to lesser properties.

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