Q: I recently reserved a hotel room at the Hawthorn Suites in Charleston, S.C., through Priceline for a family trip with my mother. A few days later, my sister’s children were removed from their home and taken into state custody. I was awarded foster care for all three of them and they have been with me since then.
When we realized that the time frame would mean I would still have the children with me in March (and not during spring break, so they would miss a week of school), I called to cancel the reservation and was told there is no refund, even in extreme situations.
I have spoken to upper management and e-mailed the executive offices, but their response is that the policy states that I am not allowed to change or cancel my reservation and will still be charged the full reservation amount.
My finances have been greatly affected by accepting the foster role. The bill for the week for the hotel room is $772, and I can’t afford it. Can you help me to get Priceline.com to reconsider?
A: As the father of three young children, I know how much work children can be, and you’re a hero for taking care of your sister’s kids.
The unbending refund policies of the hotel companies and Priceline, are designed to protect their revenues. But it is, to another extent, something that can be blamed on other hotel guests who came before you.
Hotels feel as if they need to take a hard line because customers will make up any story to get them to refund a nonrefundable room. So it’s likely that the hotel and Priceline either didn’t believe you or thought your personal circumstance didn’t rise to the level of refunding a nonrefundable reservation.
But I believe you. What’s more, I think if the situation were reversed — if, say, the hotel couldn’t honor its reservation because of a natural disaster — then it would expect you to allow it to cancel your nonrefundable reservation without paying you compensation.
You had already exhausted all of your appeals. The most you could do was politely request another review. I asked Priceline if it could take another look at your reservation. It contacted the hotel, which agreed to make an exception to its refund policy, and it canceled your reservation without any penalty.