Help! I’m getting the runaround on a hotel refund

By | February 10th, 2012

Question: I recently booked a two-night stay at the Hotel am Konzerthaus in Vienna, Austria, through the Accor website. I was supposed to prepay $135 per night, but somehow, I made two reservations. My card was charged twice for one stay.

I called Accor’s A-Club hotel loyalty program phone number, since I’m a frequent Accor customer. They said there was nothing they could do, and asked me to call the Accor help line. Accor told me I needed to contact the hotel directly.

A representative in the hotel’s reservation department told me that since the booking was booked through Accor, there was nothing they could do as far as refunding the duplicate booking. I was sent back to Accor, which sent me back to the hotel again. Finally, the Hotel am Konzerthaus told me they would “try” to issue a refund for the duplicate booking.

I received an email reply from Accor customer service this morning saying they investigated and found that the hotel had refunded my money last week. I checked my bank account this morning and saw two duplicate charges for $270 each and a random refund of $81, all dated this morning. I am absolutely at my wits’ end dealing with Accor, the hotel, several unanswered emails, and no ability to actually speak with anyone. Can you help? — Michael Roessle, New York

Answer: Talk about getting a runaround. Accor should have offered a way to report your double booking through its website and given you a prompt refund when you pointed out the problem.

It’s not entirely clear how you ended up with two pre-paid rooms. Maybe you accidentally clicked “buy” twice or refreshed your Web browser, triggering the extra purchase. Accor took the money out of your credit card account almost immediately, and it should have figured out a way to return it quickly, too.

Related story:   There were larvae in my room. Shouldn't refund me?

What makes this even more maddening is that you are a frequent guest. The A-Club should have been empowered to fix this problem on your behalf instead of passing you off to the main help line. But even when it did send you to another department, the reservationists with whom you spoke should have been able to see your status and to fix the problem — even if it meant they would have to place several calls to the hotel.

Incidentally, none of this would have happened if you’d booked through a travel agent. Even if a travel professional had mistakenly bought two rooms, you’d have someone to turn to for getting this error corrected.

I believe part of your problem is European bureaucracy, under which everyone has a carefully defined role to play. The loyalty desk couldn’t help you because they can only help with award redemption. Accor’s help desk must defer to the hotel because it’s a nonrefundable, pre-paid rate — and so forth.

Having spent the first 16 years of my life in Europe, I can certainly understand the hotel’s point of view. But it makes no sense for the customer.

I would have advised you to appeal to an executive, but a review of your correspondence shows you tried that, too. So I contacted Accor on your behalf. You received a call from the hotel, which promised to refunded the balance of your money and deposit 40 euro worth of loyalty points into your A-Club account to make up for the trouble.

(Photo: Krister462/Flickr)

  • TonyA_says

    How would a vending machine know if the buyer went in a second time to buy another room for the same day [for another person like a relative] ? It surely wouldn’t question Michael Roessle if he wanted to get another room, would it?

    Chris, I couldn’t tell from your narration if Michael found out he made duplicate [prepaid] reservations when he checked his credit card statement -OR- after he checked in? If he complained early then ACCOR should have refunded his money immediately.

    My family uses ACCOR, too, mostly in France. Never really had problems with them.

  • Chris

    Are you really suggesting that a travel agency is required for a simple straightforward hotel booking, even a international one.  I realize that you have many travel agent readers, but this is just shameless pandering.

    Travel agents provide many useful services but a simple hotel booking, in the US or Western Europe, rarely requires professional assistance.

    In real life, no one hires a professional to do EVERYTHING.  There are times when a minimally competent layperson with a basic understanding of language is all that’s required.

    You don’t need to call your attorney for everytime you sign paperwork; your accountant everytime you add numbers; your doctor for every scrape and bruise; and your travel agent everytime you book a hotel room.

  • Still trying to figure out who had his money. It wasn’t the actual hotel, it sounds like, but the chain / website? So, like they say in movies: Follow the money…

  • JT

    I entirely agree.

  • Bill Armstrong

    We don’t know at which point the double booking was found.
    Marriott, for example, allows pre-paid advance bookings to be cancelled within 24 hours of booking.   I wonder if Accor does that.

    Once again, we get the “you wouldn’t have had this problem if you had used a travel agent”.

    Travel agents charge fees, do make mistakes, and take a lot of time to dialogue with.  The amount of time, frustration, and money I’ve saved from not using travel agents far exceeds the cost of any mistakes I’ve made in bookings.

    Furthermore, I am able to consitently get lower rates than quoted by travel agents.  Comparing trips on the same dates, with the same flights even (I have colleagues that use travel agents) I see differences of 20% often.

  • Asiansm Dan

    It seems it’s a quite regular problem with Hotels in Vienna, Austria. I had the same problem with Vienna Hilton, some years ago. I made only 1 reservation on HILTON website. Everything went well, I showed  up there and stayed at Hilton Vienna at the dates reserved, paid the account. Surprisingly, 1 month later I received a debit note from the Hotel tell me that I was a NO-SHOW and they charge me an extra night on the same first date of my stay. Fortunately, I had all the documentation (reservations, Hotel Bill) and disputed the charge with American Express who credited my account on the spot.
    I have a friend who had the same problem. I suspect Hotels pull that trick to have cash from the bank and credited when the charges are disputed by the travelers. And I am sure some travelers don’t check attentively their bills and the charges went through.

  • $16635417

    Should someone use a do it yourself will kit, or consult an attorney? Depends on the person I guess. An attorney will certainly tell you that you need one and most people probably do.

    I also don’t see the relevance of the poll question. Are Accors refund policies fair to customers who book online? If you book a non-refundable rate and then cancel and are denied a refund…that’s fair to me. If I book a non-refundable rate at a hotel via a travel agent, and can’t get a refund…that’s fair as well. If I call the hotel and book a non-refundable rate…etc.

    This case is more about who do I go to when things go wrong. Yes, anyone can book online and, when you are your own travel agent, be prepared to solve a problem when things go wrong as well…just as your travel agent would. 

    In this case, if the facts indicate that the second room was booked in error, Accor should process the refund. Doesn’t sound like he got much more runaround than a travel agent would, he just had to do it himself…and then got Chris involved when he gave up.

  • IGoEverywhere

    I would re-state the obvious. Don’t try to be a travel agent if you don’t know what you are doing! Those that generally use Accor, are looking for cheapie cheapie and you will get burned every time.

  • ClareClare

    “Incidentally, none of this would have happened if you’d booked through a travel agent. Even if a travel professional had mistakenly bought two rooms, you’d have someone to turn to for getting this error corrected.”

    Uh, not so fast, Chris.  I once booked an international flight through a TA and after getting the tix, discovered that THE TA HIMSELF had inputted my CC info twice, causing me to get billed twice by the airline for only one $1000+ ticket.  (Long story; but I was able to determine that indeed the TA did this, not the airline.)  Repeated calls to the TA did absolutely nothing; they kept telling me that the correction “should show up soon” on my CC, and it never did.  Thank God the CC company was more competent, because it was they, not the TA, who fixed it.

    My point is, an incompetent TA like mine could have done the same dang thing as this OP did, and it would have been one just more hand in the stew…

  • Joe Farrell

    Your FIRST mistake?  Using a debit card.  Why would you let ANYONE, a ‘trusted’ company or not – have access to your bank account? 

    There is ZERO reason for anyone to actually use a debit card.  The account protections are lower, and whose money gets taken when there is fraud?  Yours – or the banks?   When there is fraud or unauthorized activity, like here, YOU have to prove the activity is unauthorized to get your money back, whereas with a credit card, all you do is simply not pay the disputed amount.  If you can think of a GOOD reason to put your money at risk – tell us. 

    When a company is not customer friendly and has these bureaucratic rules – you should not do business with them any longer – and next time – pay attention – the mistake here was yours – either you pressed the submit button twice or simply had the scroll down bar for two rooms – instead of, perhaps, two people . . .

  • Miami510

    Dear Accor,

    I was just reading Christopher Elliott’s travel website  and read how you treated Tony A.  I wouldn’t consider doing business with you after reading what shabby treatment you give some customers.

  • If you’re smart and careful, you will have no problems with a debit card on trustworthy sites, as you have to agree to a specific amount to be withdrawn, and companies cannot charge more to a debit card without explicit consent (unlike credit card charges).
    Debit card fraud is also much less likely than credit card fraud. Banks also won’t necessarily side with you on credit card disputes either, so having a credit card isn’t ‘stupid insurance’ or anything either.

  • MarkKelling

    I agree with your position on debit cards completely.

    But, where does it state the OP used a debit card?  He states he checked his bank statement, but not specifically his checking account statement so I don’t see where this equates to using a debit card.

  • bodega3

    Two comments.  One, I think Chris is saying that a TA would be your advocate and work on this for you.  Two, just because you can book your hotel yourself, doesn’t mean you are getting all you can from your resevation.  I am currently working on an extensive FIT European trip requiring 24 days of hotels. The prices I am getting through my vendors is blowing the socks off any website you will book through. I know because I am comparing everywhere. What you don’t know and your trust in the internet Carver is costing you!

  • bodega3

    Did the OP have one or two reservations numbers on the screen?  Did the OP print out his resevation? Did Accor sent over an email when the reservation(s) was made?  Did the OP go to his Accor account to make sure it was listed for credit and not see two reservations? 

  • dsliesse

    I didn’t vote because I don’t see where the policies come into play.  The procedures, obviously, could stand some improvement, but policies and procedures are different animals.

  • TonyA_says

    Hello, I’m Tony A. We never had problems with Accor. Never!
    They are very good if you need a simple hotel (Mercure chain) near a train station in France.
    They own Sofitel, excellent if you want to pay some serious bucks.
    Or, you can go cheap with Formule1, Etap, Ibis, etc.
    I’m Tony A. and I approve this message.

  • $16635417

    These are the types of things a good travel agent would do for you, but if you do it yourself…there’s always Chris!

  • Nigel Appleby

    I agree. We recently went on a New Zealand & Auastalia cruise and spent 2 nights in Auckland before and 30 nights in Sydney after and out travel agent was able to get us a lower price in 2 4 star hotels at prices well below what I could find. He also got a really good price on the cruise and the flights.  We will use him again

  • Nigel Appleby

    Oops -typos New Zealand and Australia and 3 nights in Sydney.

  • Lindabator

    Then you get to deal with the fallout – like he did!

  • Lindabator

    Touche!  :)

  • Lindabator

    But if you use a travel agent, you can also take them to court – try that with an online site, and no restitution may be forthcoming.  (You really did have an incompetant TA, by the way – gives us all a bad name)!

  • SooZeeQ

    If you are booking on-line with a reputable company, what are you to do?

    They should stand behind their product and the route you take to get issues resolved should be a much shorter one than always appear in these articles.

    A travel agent can screw up a vacation, too.

    When they do, are the difficulties and the runarounds and the refunds faster?

  • bodega3

    The same thing you would to with any other company you do business with. 

    BTW, it isn’t their product.  They are the middle person.

  • MarkKelling

    The 30 nights sounded a lot more fun.

  • gritchie

    Poor Chris. Take a look at his “The Insider: How should I buy my next cruise” piece. He presented a well reasoned discussion on when and why to use a travel agent, an online agent, or direct booking, and got beat up by poster “Travelagentman”. Now, you sail into him for pandering to travel agents. He can’t win!  

  • Joe Farrell

    unless one of their employees steals your information . . .or leaves it in the trash . .. or Lord knows a 1000 different ways that information can get trashed – 

    If the merchant cannot show your signature on a form – and that signature needs to match the one on the notarized fraud form which you send them to dispute the charge – then the merchant loses.

    You have all these merchants now who want you to show ID when you charge something – and they try to tell you its for ‘your’ protection. . . . its not your protection – it is their protection. You are protected by law . . . they are not.

  • Joe Farrell

    well, he said: “I checked my bank account this morning and saw two duplicate charges for
    $270 each and a random refund of $81, all dated this morning”

    I can only use the words he used – he said bank account – that means bank account – not credit card account . . .  I try not to make assumptions  

  • Joe Farrell

     unfortunately Linda, the problem is with most T/A’s – not the exceptions – 90% of the time they simply do not listen sufficiently well to understand . . .

    I told a T/A once to purchase me a round the world Business Class ticket for 4 stops on Delta – it was $3500 – business class roundtrip to where I was going was $3500 – using the RTW ticket I could stop by in Beijing for a few new suits, hit the beach in Sydney for 3 days and then make it back to LAX  . . .

    All for the same price – what did she do?  She bought me a round trip RESTRICTED business class ticket because it was $200 less and then tried to tell me that she was giving me a deal becasue I could get frequent flier miles . . .

    After I wasted thirty min of my time teliing her what I had ALREADY told her in words of one syllable,  she had to eat most of the ticket which made her very unhappy  = and this a was a highly recommended certified travel agent.  

    I have NEVER found a good one who could do something for me that I could not for myself . . .

  • bodega3

    I am sorry you had a problem but you didn’t say in your story that you wanted a fully changeable ticket, you just mentioned a price and the destinations.  Also, you must have presented a credit card, which shouldn’t have been used until you okayed the itinerary and rules of the fare. If I am to base a judgement on what you posted, sounds like you made some mistakes, too.

  • Joe Farrell

    Here is what I said . . .

    I need to travel from Los Angeles to Rome.   I would like you to purchase an around the world business class ticket with stops in Beijing and Sydney . . .  Delta has the deal right now I think/  But I need to be Rome in a 10 days. 

    I need to be in Rome for 4 days, then the followng weekend in Beijing, 3 nights in Sydney and then back to LAX. 

    She asked if she could book the hotels and I said no, I’ll take care of that and let me know if there is an issue with the ticket. 

    She ‘tought’ I only needed to be in Rome – and when the fare was $252 less thought the rest of the trip was merely to use up the RTW ticket . . .  assumption is the mother of a f’ups . . .

    Does that satisfy your need to make the customer wrong?

  • Elmo Clarity

    In regards to asking for the ID, I know MasterCard and I believe Visa also, state in their merchant’s agreement that they *CANNOT* require ID to complete the transaction.  They can ask for it, but you can refuse to show it.

  • Elmo Clarity

    Banks issue credit cards too.  I used to have a VISA card through my bank and the credit statement showed up online with all my other bank account info.

  • TonyA_says

    Carver, I don’t think Chris was suggesting that (to use a travel agent for a straightforward hotel booking) at all.

    In this specific case, the OP was already an A|Club member. His profile is stored by Accor and it would have been very easy to book rooms.

    What strikes me is that neither he or Chris brought up the  possibility that Accor sent 2 confirmations (each with a different reference number). The problem might have been caught earlier and if so, resolved earlier.

    There is a good reason to be a member of a hotel club. You get freebies and upgrades as well as special offers. Also check in and booking is a lot faster. If you like staying  in hotels belonging to one of these large groups, and you are a registered member, then you probably don’t need a travel agent to book your hotel. But, I still suggest you check if there are any LOCAL [market] offerings for that same hotel. Sometimes you can save a lot of money by taking those local offers.

    Travel agents do shine when you have a complicated itinerary. They can put together things that you cannot do by yourself using online vendors. Also, when you are going to a place for the first time and the travel agent has good experience of that place, they can really save you time and money.

  • TonyA_says

    Correction —
    What year was this? Delta LAX-LAX RW Business Class is now $8880 base fare.

    The low season Business Class Excursion (BX) base fare  on “S” booking class for LAX-ROM R/T is only $2700. (All year is $4900.)

    Note both RW and the BX fare are on S booking class. Maybe that’s why the TA did not understand you.

  • TonyA_says

    And how did this turn out to be a trash a travel agent 
    thread when the OP did not use a travel agent?

  • SooZeeQ

    I am not trashing, I would think it would be common sense that anyone can and do make mistakes.

  • TonyA_says

    Sorry, I was trying to make a NEW post but for some reason it replied to the last post which was yours.

  • TonyA_says

    If a travel agent books this hotel (in let’s say April) the non-refundable GDS rate is $143.14.
    If a tourist went to and booked the same, it would cost $143.62.
    Since travel agents have a built-in commission, they don’t need to charge extra fees.
    So the OP could have gotten TA service and paid the same price. No headaches?

  •  Debit card transactions are all done ‘online’ in real time – meaning everything gets paid for as soon as you enter your pin. No information is saved other than a transaction number. The physical card needs to be preset.
    (If the card is swiped and requires a signature, as most cards can be, it is treated as a credit card transaction).

  • jennj99738

     Out of curiosity, how much would you, as the TA, charge the customer to make this $270 reservation? 

  • jennj99738

    are you saying that account numbers cannot be hacked? At all, ever? If the debit card info is stolen and used like a credit card, meaning without a pin, your real money is stolen, not a charge on a credit card.

  • bodega3

    I see an issue. You asked for a ticket from LAX to Rome.  Then you mention an around the world ticket for Beijing and Sydney.  This could easly read for two separate trips. I am not defending the agent but I am pointing out that there are two sides and I see a possible confusion based on what you just presented. I would have hoped the agent would have gone over each date of travel where this could have been caught. Nothing should have been purchased without you viewing the itinerary first. I am not sure why you would have given your credit card info out before reviewing everything.

  • scapel

    I don’t know who Accor is, but I know I don’t want to do any business with them. I like to talk to a hotel personally and give my cc over the phone. It may be more expensive, but you don’t have the middle man (or woman). Online bookings of anything can be difficult to undo. File a credit card dispute.

  • TouchyFeely

    “It’s not entirely clear how you ended up with two pre-paid rooms”

    Stupid Tax.

  • TouchyFeely

    A TA will never give you a batter price than you can get booking directly. 

  • TonyA_says

    Hotel Billing has lots of problems. The other year, the hotel we stayed at in Rome billed other people’s (from Germany) rooms to our credit card.

    IMO since most return flights to the USA from Europe are early in the morning (meaning very early check out), the people assigned to the front desk that early are usually less experienced.  I wish we could settle our bill the night before but that’s not usually possible. It’s a people problem.

  • TonyA_says

    NEVER? Really? Sorry but you apparently never heard of BULK FAREs, Consortium Pricing, etc. Start researching …

  • TonyA_says

    You probably heard of their hotels like Sofitel, Novotel, etc. 
    The key to staying away from trouble is NOT to pick a pre-paid, non-refundable room rate. The difference is so small (like ~10 bucks a night); why bother?

  • TonyA_says

    I would have liked it better if the poll was:
    Do you think PRE-PAID, NON-REFUNDABLE hotel rates are fraught with problems?

    IMO this is the root cause of many hotel billing disputes.

  • TonyA_says

    Bodega, Skyteam HAD a RW special … 

    Problem is Joe’s itin is a tad above the maximum 24K miles.

    LAXROM  6347    ROMBJS  5057    BJSSYD  5571    SYDLAX  7495TOTAL   24470

    His itinerary will not qualify to get the extra 10-30% discount on RW fares.

    Also there is a 14 day ADV Purchase requirement, and he needed to be in Rome in 10 days.

    Apparently Joe didn’t check that or told us that in his post.

    So who really failed?

  •  If a debit card is used in a credit card transaction (most but not all can be – it needs to have a mastercard or visa debit logo on it), it is treated as a credit transaction.

    As for hacking (which has nothing to do with debit/credit), you’d have to look elsewhere to protect yourself from that.

  • jennj99738

    I understand it’s treated as a credit transaction but the cash comes out of your checking account, not charge against your credit card where you have a month to pay or  two months to dispute.  

    I don’t know what your second sentence means. Account information is stolen all the time.  I’ve had my credit card information stolen after using it online.  I know that for certain.  At least I didn’t lose my cash until the bank decided my dispute.  

  • Carverfarrow

    But of course you would say that. I hardly expect you say that you get worse prices. You have no idea what resources I have at my disposal.

  • Carverfarrow

    I agree with you. I think your position is logical.

  • Carverfarrow

    I agree. Buying a restricted ticket to save 200 on 3500 is ridiculous.

  • TonyA_says

    Carver, the numbers seem out of whack.

    Delta Round Trip BUSINESS CLASS UNRESTRICTED (BU) [on C booking code] LAX-ROM is $9363 before tax.

    BUSINESS CLS AROUND THE WORLD (BRW) [on S booking code] is $8880 before tax. MPM 29K mi. 

    You guys are not comparing apples to apples. $3500 is too cheap for non-restricted business class fares.

  • Carverfarrow

    We don’t know how long ago this trip was so we cannot comment on joes numbers

  • You can still dispute it in the same way, since the money doesn’t come out of the account immediately (at least with my bank). As for hacking, just use reputable websites and you’ll be fine with a credit or debit card just the same.

  • bodega3

    Really?  How do you know that?  I will give you a tip.  Online bookings, even on the carriers website is not live inventory.  Nor are they required to give you all options.  What a TA has on their GDS for air is required to show all options. I just booked a two night stay through a vendor that doesn’t work with the public. The hotel’s website rate and in the GDS are the same, at $250 a night plus tax and no breakfast. I am getting that same room for a total of $259 that that includes the room for two nights, all taxes and breakfast is included. I also got a client a biz class ticket for $1,000 less than the carrier’s website provided and I booked the reservation in my GDS. Yep, booking directly is a great deal for those who wish to pay more.

  • bodega3

    Nor you know what we have at our disposal.  But right now, my vendors are beating everything I am finding online and in the GDS.  It is a good year!

  • Joe Farrell

    But they don’t TAKE MONEY OUT OF YOUR ACCOUNT . . . geesh

  • Joe Farrell

    Wrong.  Check the law. 

  • Joe Farrell

    Wrong – your money comes out of your account immediately.

  • Joe Farrell

    Try that some time . . .  if you try it in California they will refuse to sell to you  

  • Joe Farrell

    This was 7 years ago . . . 

  • Joe Farrell

    As I said it was 7 years ago and there was a special going on – the miles worked and the stops worked and the time worked – You are all looking up what the fare costs on Feb 2012 – 

  • Carverfarrow

    I routinely advise potential clients to try it themselves because many simple legal maters do not require my legal expertise.

  • Lindabator

    ??? WTF?  I have given my clients consistently lower prices thru my consortia and consolidators – you obviously don’t know SQUAT hon.

  • Lindabator

    And ANY vendor I use will guarantee lower rates – Carverfarrow, you don’t know WHAT you are talking about!

  • Lindabator

    I don’t charge a fee except for issuing airline tickets, or for a personalized FIT tour (in-depth trip with multiple stops, flights, transfers, hotels, tours).

  • Lindabator

    Too bad you don’t try my services out – I worked for an airlines many moons ago, and also worked for a Virtuoso agancy, until I found an agency closer to home (and no freeways!).  I have many repeat and referral clients – and YES it because I LISTEN to them, and ask many questions.  in fact, I have no problem “firing” a client who doesn’t have enough time to talk about their options, but expects me to help arrange the perfect trip.

  • Adam Gill

    Lola is a Brand New Hotel in heart of Manhattan Times Square Hotel specially for fashion and design district.

  • I hardly apprehend you say that you get worse prices. You accept no abstraction what assets I accept at my disposal.

  • judyserienagy

    I double-booked a hotel once using Expedia, so I agree with Chris  It took a 5-minute phone call the next day to cancel one of them w/o fuss or penalty.  If hotels can’t connect you with a person (a trained person who speaks English) then you should always book through a travel agent. 

  • AFN

    It seems that this is a common problem at When using Accor online booking, the system used my credit card to book additional rooms!!!! I called Accor help desk to refund me the money and here you go,,, they kept redirecting me from customer relations to the reservation department; to the hotel with everyone blaming the other. The customer relation department informed me clearly that this is a results of a system problem (she even called it the tech), and the hotel should not charge me for the money. But the hotel doesn’t want to refund the money as the booking is non-refundable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    For me, I have had it with these European companies that don’t respect thier customers.

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