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Reservation for room should have been made online

  • Published Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010, at 12:03 a.m.

I was sent two e-mail confirmations, which I assumed were duplicates since they both were for one room for two nights. My granddaughters were given two keys when they arrived. They showed the desk clerk the confirmation, but were told the reservation was for two rooms and that they were prepaid.

It turned out that each room had only one bed, so the girls did use both rooms. I received my Visa bill the next day and saw that I was billed for two rooms — two different charges for $302 each.

I called the Holiday Inn and was told that it was Hotels.com's problem. The reservation that was made was for two rooms, and they had nothing to do with the billing. Hotels.com denies that they made an error, and that because the girls used both rooms, they would not refund the money.

I feel they made the mistake in reserving two rooms, and I should not be made to pay for the extra room, even though it was used. Is this the way they make money?— Nula Fales, Elk Grove, Calif.

A: Certainly not. If you only ordered one room, then Hotels.com should have only given you one. Any business that tries to sell you more than you wanted, wouldn't last very long online, or anywhere.

But your story raises a few red flags. Why did you phone an online travel agency to make a reservation? Hotels.com, like any other online agency, works best when you make your booking online. When you make a phone reservation, the chance of a miscommunication increases. Fortunately, Hotels.com sent you two confirmations. You assumed one of them was a duplicate, but it wasn't.

Had you used the Hotels.com site, you would have been able to fix this problem before your granddaughters checked in.

Your options for getting a refund are limited, at best. Turning to the hotel will do you no good. It just received a booking through Hotels.com and gave you two rooms, as requested. The breakdown apparently occurred between you and Hotels.com. (And it was a major breakdown, because you had ordered one room with two beds, and instead, you were given two rooms with one bed each.)

Hotels.com has the option of reviewing the call, but getting to that point is difficult. You have to write to the company, asking for a review, and you will probably need to appeal the inevitable first rejection. Remember, Hotels.com will be on the hook for one of the rooms if it turns out this is its error. It doesn't want to be confronted with evidence that one of its representatives screwed up.

I asked Hotels.com about your case. It reviewed your request and found that there was a "miscommunication" during the booking process. Hotels.com said it wasn't informed of a problem until after the stay, by which time it was too late for a refund.

Still, Hotels.com agreed to reverse the charges for one of your granddaughters' rooms.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at celliott@ngs.org.

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