November 12, 2013
Elise Chon's reservation is off by a month — an error made by a travel agent. Does she still have to pay for the hotel stay she missed?
Q: I made a reservation for two rooms at Cedar Breaks Lodge in Brian Head, Utah, for our family vacation during Christmas break. I made the booking by phone through Hotels.com.
I received a confirmation email, but I didn't check the dates. I failed to notice the reservation was for November, not December.
Today I received an email from Hotels.com asking about my "recent" stay at Cedar Breaks. Suspecting an error has been made, I checked my emails and realized I did not catch the mistake. I called Hotels.com and requested the recording of our phone conversation, and they declined and did not help me.
I also called Cedar Breaks Lodge, and since my reservation was made on Hotels.com website, they said they could not refund me either. I am going to lose $980 for a hotel room I couldn't use.
Can you please give me advice on how to get a full or partial refund? I am willing to pay for one night, but getting charged for four nights for two rooms is excessive. — Elise Chon, Fullerton, Calif.
A: You're right, that's pretty excessive for a "no show." Normally, you only have to pay for a night. Hotels.com should have reviewed the recordings of your reservation, and when it refused, you were right to contact me.
A miscommunication like this is easy to avoid. If you're booking by phone, ask the representative to repeat the dates of your stay (they are trained to do that). Then check the dates on your confirmation, and if they don't match your itinerary, contact the online agency immediately.
Crossed wires can happen easily when you're dealing with an offshore call center, so my recommendation is to use the computer to make your booking. After all, a site like Hotels.com is optimized for Internet bookings, and I'm sure if it could avoid having a call center, it would.
Getting a form letter rejecting your request isn't the end of the line. You can appeal to Hotels.com through its website or directly to the property and failing that, you can dispute the charges on your credit card. Fortunately, none of that would be necessary.
I contacted Hotels.com on your behalf. It investigated your case and found it made "an error on our side." Hotels.com changed your reservation, so you'll be able to stay at Cedar Breaks for Christmas, after all.
(Christopher Elliott is the author of "How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money and Hassle)" (National Geographic). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Christopher Elliott receives a great deal of reader mail, which he answers as quickly as possible, but because of a backlog of cases, your story may not be published for several months.)