Q: I booked a room at the Hotel Korkem in Astana, Kazakhstan, through Hotels.com. When I tried to check in at the hotel, an employee told me they had no reservation from Hotels.com. The hotel was full, and they did not give me a room.

My booking was guaranteed and paid for at Hotels.com. So, I told the hotel manager I would need it in writing that they do not have my reservation or room. He did so and gave me a paper in Russian stamped with the hotel’s stamp. I found another hotel that night.

After my visit to Astana, I wrote to Hotels.com, asking for a full refund of my prepaid hotel, along with the taxi fare to get to my new hotel. I sent Hotels.com a photo of the stamped hotel note.

Hotels.com says it can’t confirm the booking problem with the Hotel Korkem. It will not refund the hotel rate. I think this is theft. Hotels.com took my money and gave me nothing. What can I do?

 

A: The Hotel Korkem should have honored your Hotels.com reservation. If it couldn’t, then either the hotel or Hotels.com should have offered you a prompt and full refund.

I think you were really smart to get a signed and stamped note from the hotel when it sent you packing. If you hadn’t done that, you might have no case. Why? Because it appears both Hotels.com and the Hotel Korkem had a different version of events. They thought you were a no-show, apparently.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to confirm billing with the hotel,” a Hotels.com representative wrote to you. “For that reason, we will not be able to issue a refund at this time. I apologize for the inconvenience.”

I’m not sure what “confirm billing with the hotel” means in this context, but Hotels.com was crystal clear about one thing: It’s keeping your money.

In this type of situation, you want to calmly escalate the problem to a manager. I list the contacts for all the Hotels.com executives on my consumer advocacy site, elliott.org. I noticed that, instead, you became agitated and demanded your money back — an understandable response. But the low-level employees you’re dealing with have no power to change the outcome. You have to take it to the next level.

I’m a little perplexed by cases like yours. If Hotels.com guarantees a room and takes your money, it should also give you a room. If there’s one thing I might have changed, it would have been calling Hotels.com immediately after being turned away. The company could have found a room at a different hotel for the same price.

I contacted Hotels.com on your behalf, and it promptly issued a refund for your prepaid night at the hotel.

 

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.