Q: My wife and I booked a vacation rental through TripAdvisor. We paid a $1,254 deposit on a unit in a condo development on Marco Island, Fla.
Four months later, we received an e-mail from TripAdvisor saying that the owner had canceled our booking. “Cancellations simply shouldn’t happen,” the company added. “To make it up to you, you will receive a full refund, and we’ll help you find a new rental fast.”
The owner told us he had double-booked the unit because of an “error” with the calendar. I e-mailed TripAdvisor expressing my disappointment. All the other units that we would have liked were gone.
TripAdvisor sent us two listings. One is in Naples, Fla., and is not acceptable. The other is too far from water and also not acceptable to us.
I feel that TripAdvisor should vet its properties to ensure that owners know how to manage rentals. There is no excuse for waiting four months before canceling our reservation.
I would like to be compensated fairly by TripAdvisor for allowing its website to be used by negligent property owners. I suggest a $1,000 credit toward any future booking on TripAdvisor’s site. It is unfair that the company gets away clean on this.
A: I’m sorry about your vacation rental. You booked that unit in Marco Island more than a year in advance, only to have the rug pulled out from under you. I think TripAdvisor could have done more to help you.
But did it have to? Actually, no. Here’s what TripAdvisor’s vacation-rental site, FlipKey, has to say about a booking that has been canceled: “Need to find another holiday rental? Contact our Reservations team who can help you find an alternative place to stay.” I guess that means the owner — and TripAdvisor — is off the hook.
What does FlipKey mean by “help you find an alternative place to stay”? Will it just assist you with finding a different vacation rental? Will it find a comparable place at the same price? How hard will it try? What if the rate is higher — will it offer you a credit?
“Homeowner-initiated cancellations on our sites are extremely rare,” a TripAdvisor spokeswoman told me. “And we take them very seriously.” In your case, the homeowner “failed to resolve an issue syncing his calendar availability on the site, and ultimately canceled your booking,” according to the spokeswoman.
I asked TripAdvisor to take another look at your case. “We want every traveler to have excellent experiences with us, and we were very concerned to hear of Marvin’s situation,” a spokeswoman told me. “The travelers received a full refund for their booking, our customer care team worked with Marvin to review alternative accommodation options, and we offered an additional monetary gesture of goodwill.”
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or e-mail him at email@example.com.