Q: I booked five nights at the Majestic Colonial Punta Cana in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, through Hotels.com in June 2015. I had major shoulder surgery around Christmas and was told by my doctor that I couldn’t fly.
The hotel’s cancellation policy stated that cancellations needed to be made at least one week before arrival. I logged into my Hotels.com account more than two weeks before my scheduled arrival, but it said that my itinerary does not exist. If it had “existed,” then I could have canceled.
I called Hotels.com to resolve this over the phone. I was put on hold for more than an hour. When I got through, a representative couldn’t find my itinerary in the system, either. Eventually Hotels.com did find it, and I was assured there would be no problem in getting my refund.
But the refund never came. I followed up with Hotels.com for months, and even though someone promised me a resolution, my $1,400 refund never came. It’s been 16 months, and I’ve given up. Hotels.com should not be allowed to run its business like this, trampling over its customers. Is this a lost cause?
A: It’s not a lost cause — far from it. Hotels.com has your money, and you should get it back now.
Why has the company held onto $1,400 of your hard-earned dollars? It looks like a computer glitch of some kind, where your reservation simply disappeared, along with your money. That’s no excuse, of course. But it’s the best explanation I can think of.
A company like Hotels.com should have made your problem its own problem. That’s what travel agents do for their clients. When you’re dealing with millions of bookings, it’s kind of hard to add a personal touch — or to impose any kind of institutional compassion. I guess what I’m saying is: Hotels.com treated you like an object, not a person.
I think you might have fared better by starting a paper trail, which is to say, sending an e-mail to Hotels.com and then escalating this up the chain of command. Hotels.com doesn’t seem to handle calls well, and even if it did, there’s no record of the promise it made to you.
A quick look at Majestic’s cancellation policy shows that you were entitled to a refund. You just hadn’t asked the right person yet; instead, you were dealing with call-center employees who couldn’t or wouldn’t help. I list the names, numbers and e-mail addresses of the Hotels.com executive contacts on my consumer-advocacy website: elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia. (Hotels.com is owned by Expedia.)
I contacted the company, and it promptly issued a $1,400 refund. Better late than never!
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.