Q: I tried to book a hotel in Amsterdam, but ended up with two rooms because of a Booking.com error.
When I was booking the first room, I got an error message that the room wasn’t available and the booking didn’t go through. Although Booking.com offered another room, the alternative didn’t accommodate all of us.
I did not receive a confirmation e-mail on this room, so I searched again, picked another hotel and completed the checkout.
I then received two e-mails from Booking.com stating I had reservations for both hotels. I immediately called Booking.com and talked to a representative. He agreed to contact the first hotel to cancel the reservation. But he never did. I e-mailed the hotel and they never heard from Booking.com about this issue.
It is not right or fair that I have to pay for this hotel due to a Booking.com error. Can you help?
A: You shouldn’t have two nonrefundable reservations — and if you do, Booking.com should quickly refund one of them.
You were right to contact Booking.com by phone immediately. This is one of the rare times when you do want to call instead of e-mailing. But you also want to immediately follow up by e-mail to the online travel agency and hotel, to create a paper trail and confirm when your refund will arrive. In your case, the refund wasn’t forthcoming.
When the refund didn’t come, and it seemed clear that Booking.com would make you pay for its error, you tried to appeal to an executive. I list the contacts for Booking.com’s executives on elliott.org. Unfortunately, the executives just kicked your case back to customer service, which offered the wrong resolution. The online agency offered you a refund equal to 10% of the cancellation fee at the first hotel, “as a goodwill gesture.”
In a situation like this, you were absolutely right to reach out to a third party for help. (That would be me.) You were stuck in a frustrating cycle — where no matter what you did, the company wouldn’t listen. Sometimes it just takes an outsider and a fresh set of eyes.
I contacted Booking.com on your behalf. You also found a screenshot of the error message. Great work on the record keeping, by the way. I sent the information to Booking.com.
Booking.com reviewed its records. Even though the site showed an error message, Booking.com made your first reservation. The confirmation arrived five minutes later. By then, you had already made the second reservation, according to the company.
“It’s clear there was confusion and that Mr. Day intended to make a successful booking,” a representative told me. “We’ve spoken with Mr. Day and explained the situation, offering a full refund, which has been accepted.”
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.