Travel Troubleshooter: Bad air in hotel room and refund process

Q: Would you help me with a dilemma, please? I recently booked a trip to Seattle through Expedia. My accommodations were at the Marriott’s Renaissance Seattle Hotel. On my first night, when I turned on the heat, I felt as if I was getting bitten all over. In fact, I had red welts on my face and back.

The next morning, I told an assistant manager that I no longer could stay there. Apparently, he knew of the heating unit’s problem — it was full of pollen that affected hyperallergic people. He was very apologetic and helpful, and he said he would cancel my full reservation. He explained that Expedia deferred to the hotel in these types of decisions.

However, when I received my credit card bill, the charge of $989 for my four-day stay was listed on it. The hotel claims that it sent a full refund to Expedia, but Expedia hasn’t refunded my account. Could you assist me in removing all charges from my bill?

A: Yes and no. You’re entitled to a partial refund if the hotel told you that it would give you one.

You waited until the morning after to take this up with a manager. The best time to address a consumer grievance is at the moment it happens — when you can show a hotel employee the red welts that are keeping you awake. The Renaissance might have been able to offer you a different room, or perhaps even a room at another Marriott hotel in the area, in order to make your stay more comfortable.

If the hotel refunded Expedia directly instead of sending the money back to your card, there would have been a little lag time. But how much? It all depends; however, it’s not that unusual to wait two to three billing cycles for the money to appear.

But as a practical matter, Expedia should send you the money as soon as it gets it. If it doesn’t, you could contact the hotel (which you did) and the online travel agency. A written request probably would work best.

I contacted Expedia on your behalf, and it refunded your room rate, minus $247 for the first night you spent at the Renaissance. When the assistant manager told you he would cancel your “full” reservation, he meant the entire remaining reservation. Had you notified the hotel of your health issues sooner, and checked out before the morning, I might have been able to push for a refund of the entire amount, particularly if a hotel representative had offered all of your money back. But the partial refund is enough to close this case.

 

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 celliott@ngs.org

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