Q: In March, my family and I had a reservation at 1818 Meridian House in Miami through Booking.com. When we arrived at the hotel, a manager told us that we had no reservation. It then took 30 minutes to establish that the hotel had contacted Booking.com the previous day to cancel our reservation because of an air-conditioning problem.
Booking.com sent me an email when we were already in midair, simply informing me of my“modified” booking.
The manager of the property was extremely unhelpful and even verbally aggressive, repeatedly telling us that our problem was none of his business, that he had no accountability for the fact that our reservation was not honored and that Booking.com should be contacted to find us an alternative accommodation.
We contacted Booking.com, but given that it was spring break, it was impossible to find accommodations in the area and at the price range we wanted.
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Since I was traveling with a 1-year-old and a sick spouse, without any means of communication (we were borrowing the phone of a hotel employee to communicate with Booking.com since the staff refused to help), I decided to go door to door in the South Beach area to find a hotel with an available room. We finally found a place nearby, which cost us twice the amount of what we had budgeted.
To add insult to injury, 1818 Meridian House refused to find a parcel that was sent to us via FedEx, with a confirmed delivery signed for by the hotel staff, which contained $200 worth of children’s clothes. They were presents for our daughter. The hotel refused to deal with it, saying that we were never customers and that they do not receive parcels for people who are not guests.
I’d like Booking.com to reimburse us for the extra costs and persuade the hotel to return our package. I would be most grateful if you could help us. – Asako Saegusa, Tokyo
A: When your initial reservation was canceled by 1818 Meridian House, your online travel agent should have helped you find alternate reservations at a comparable rate.
Timing is everything. If the hotel was oversold, then it would have been on 1818 Meridian House to“walk” you to a competitor and pay for your first night’s accommodation, as is the industry practice. But based on your account and the correspondence, it looks as if the hotel notified Booking.com shortly before your arrival. That means it’s on Booking.com to help you.
One of the challenges you had while you were in Miami was communicating with the hotel and Booking.com. Before you left Japan, you might have looked into buying a SIM card or getting an international plan, so you could have made calls instead of having to go door to door to find accommodations.
I don’t know if the hotel’s logic holds up when it comes to your package. True, you were not a guest when the package arrived, but you had a confirmed reservation and were expecting to check in. As such, the hotel needed to make every effort to find and return your package.
In the end, this looked like an unfortunate series of events – a busy spring break weekend, a report of a broken air conditioner, a misplaced package. No one plans for this to happen, but sometimes it does.
When the lower-level contacts at Booking.com failed to help you, you might have reached out to one of the executives in charge of customer service. I list their contact information on my consumer-advocacy site: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/booking-com/.
I contacted Booking.com. A representative reached out to the 1818 Meridian House on your behalf, and a hotel manager there confirmed that they had received your package but lost it. The hotel offered to reimburse you for the full value of the lost package, and Booking.com will reimburse you for your additional hotel expenses.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of“How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at email@example.com