No Room at the Inn and No Refund, One Family’s Loss at the Hands of Online Booking

When arranging a vacation, you have three options for how to handle the booking.  A woman has been in the news recently because of her choice.  And it really burns me up that she’s been so mistreated.

Travelers can choose to book direct with those suppliers (i.e. cruise, tour operator, resort) which will take direct bookings. Working direct gives access to an option which offers only one point of view. It’s that which serves that supplier’s interests, not the consumer’s.

The second option is to book through a large “OTA.” These are “online travel agencies” which have a booking engine website and a back-up call center of operators to turn to if you need a “live person.”

This option is what harmed a consumer.  A woman used an OTA to book a three-night stay at a resort in Oregon for her family with four months’ notice.  She prepaid the $874 package.  Weeks prior to arrival, the hotel sent an email to the woman to advise that their reservation was canceled because the resort was overbooked.

That’s bad enough, but the story gets worse because there was no advocate for the customer and the online’s “customer service” was apparently lacking in, well, “service” for the customer.

I don’t know which company is currently holding this family’s money. I’m assuming the OTA is.  If they did pay the resort already, I find it hard to believe that the resort isn’t refunding the OTA since it was the resort that canceled the reservation.

I don’t know if the fault of the overbooking is the OTA’s or the resort’s.  Hotels do overbook based on their history of cancellations and “no shows.” But this story is not the norm.

phone, computer

 

So, this traveler assumed what we’d all assume. That she could contact the OTA through which she booked to get her money refunded. The hotel canceled the reservation so they obviously are not keeping her money. But, no, the OTA is refusing to refund her.

 

The traveler reported to have spent over six hours on hold and talking to numerous people on multiple phone calls to the OTA’s Customer Service department. All the OTA has coughed up is $500 in vouchers with their company for future use and three nights at a Holiday Inn Express to replace the previous resort.

In a segment on ABC News, it was pointed out that there are no laws governing the lodging industry to protect consumers in this type of situation.  But it saddens me to think a “law” would even be needed. The OTA is a multi-million-dollar company. Her $874 is a drop in their bucket. If they aren’t paying the resort for a booking that the resort canceled, what’s the reason for not refunding it?  I’ll get back to that in a minute.

The third booking option is to work with a travel agency.  A travel agency’s success is based on relationships. I don’t know of any travel agency which would have opted to keep all the money including the bulk of which that would have gone to a resort.  It makes no sense.

Our Client Agreement clearly states what services a client gets from working with Connie George Travel Associates.  One of the points is:

Going back to the OTA’s reason for not refunding their client’s money?  ABC affiliate KOMO-TV was told the overbooking was caused by “external factors beyond the direct control of Expedia.”  In their “Website Terms of Use” that everyone clicks through, the company includes, “no liability and will make no refund” in the event of a delay, cancellation, overbooking or other issue that is beyond (their) direct control.”

Expedia, shame on you.

Happy Traveling!

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