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Travel Troubleshooter: Promised Hotel Card refund never showed up

  • Article by: CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT
  • November 2, 2013 - 2:00 PM

Q: We recently stayed at a Best Western hotel in Seaside, Ore. We made the reservation through Priceline and took advantage of a promotion run by the Hotel Card. The card promises we will receive $50 back as a refund from our stay. It’s been four months since our stay, and we still haven’t received a refund.

Numerous attempts at e-mails and phone calls to the number on the website have been to no avail. Calls to the number listed on their website have not been returned, and you can never get a live person. Can you help?

A: If the Hotel Card offers a $50 refund, then you should have received one shortly after your stay. But a review of the card’s terms online suggests that’s not exactly how it works.

The Hotel Card, which was a Priceline partner at the time of your stay, is a discount card that allows you to “save” $50 off the price of a hotel. Once you enter your Hotel Card number in the designated place during the booking process, $50 will be subtracted from the lowest price. That $50, it promises, will show up as an “instant” credit.

I’m not a big fan of discount programs like this, precisely because so much can go wrong. Running a promotion through any coupon or card automatically reduces the redemption rates, which means that customers like you end up holding worthless scrip.

Now, to be clear, I’m not calling the Hotel Card worthless, but you have to jump through a few hoops to collect the discount, and that hassle means some customers will fail to take advantage of their cards.

The Hotel Card should have credited you right away, as it promised. But if it didn’t, you still had two other avenues of appeal: Priceline and Best Western. Failing that, you could have disputed part of your credit card bill, which would have been a lengthy process that may or may not have worked. A brief, polite e-mail to a Priceline executive might have convinced the company to pressure Hotel Card to review your case.

I contacted Priceline on your behalf. It got in touch with the Hotel Card (unlike you and me, it has a working number for the card) and someone from the card contacted you in person and offered either a credit or a check.

You asked for — and received — a check.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org.

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