Q: I’m reaching out to you as a last resort. I’m a former wrestler and I have made it a priority to attend the college wrestling nationals every year.
Money is always a challenge, so I really shop around for deals. I thought I had found a nice deal with Priceline. I booked a package leaving on what I thought was March 17 from Philadelphia to St. Louis and returning March 22. The cost of the trip, which included a flight and five nights in a hotel, was $862.
On Feb. 18, I received an e-mail from Priceline informing me that my trip was canceled. I realized then that I had mistakenly booked my trip from Feb. 17 to Feb. 22 — a month early.
I called Priceline a number of times, but was told there was nothing anyone could do. I called the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch, and an employee said I had been charged for only one night, but without receiving anything directly from Priceline, there was nothing the hotel could do to refund my money. I realize it was my mistake, and Priceline tells you upfront: no changes or cancellations.
Could you help me get back the money from my four remaining hotel nights?
A: You’re right. Priceline’s terms are clear — no changes and no refunds. But everyone makes mistakes. If your hotel is willing to refund part of your stay, shouldn’t Priceline consider it?
Before I get to the answer, let’s go over a few facts. You have to pay close attention when you’re making a reservation. Priceline displays your dates twice before it even asks for your name and credit card information. To miss that, you would have to be in a pretty big hurry.
The reason Priceline’s rates are so low is that it imposes significant restrictions. Often, hotels and airlines are willing to lower their rates because they know no one will be able to ask for a refund or a credit. Priceline is under no obligation to issue a refund, but it can’t hurt to ask.
I list the names, numbers and e-mails of Priceline’s customer- service managers on my site. It looked as if you’d been back and forth with Priceline a few times.
Priceline could have pocketed every penny of your $862. I asked it to take another look at your case. Priceline contacted the Hyatt Regency and confirmed that the hotel would refund all except the first night of your stay. You should be getting a refund for your hotel. And next time you book online, please pay attention to your dates and review your confirmation.
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.