Surprise! This is not a reason to receive a Hotels.com refund

Jeff Gillman would like a full refund from Hotels.com for his self-booked Mexican hotel reservation. Although our advocates reached out to Hotels.com on his behalf, his Mexican hotel ultimately told Gillman ¡Adiós!

The property Gillman booked turned out to be in an isolated area, without a restaurant close by. He also complained about the condition of his hotel room. Adding insult to injury, claims Gillman, he received a Hotels.com refund of only $200 for a reservation that cost $2,500.

Unfortunately, Gillman omitted some facts from his story — significant, relevant facts that affected our advocates’ ability to help him. His case is a warning that not liking the location of your hotel isn’t a reason to warrant a refund. And fudging the facts of your case will cause our advocates to dismiss it.

One side of the story…

Gillman reserved two rooms at the Hacienda Santa Rosa in Yucatán, Mexico, a Starwood property which bills itself as “a luxury collection hotel.” He paid $1,250 for each room.

When Gillman and his party arrived at the hotel, they were dismayed to discover that it was “in the middle of nowhere, down miles of unpaved roads.” Then, according to Gillman, they were shown to a room which smelled of urine. At this point, says Gillman, he called Hotels.com and informed its agent that he and his companions were leaving.

Hotels.com reached out to the Hacienda Santa Rosa. Its agents could not get the hotel to agree to a refund. But Gillman received a Hotels.com refund of $200 for his experience.

…but no Hotels.com refund

Gillman then reached out to our advocates for assistance in securing a refund of the remaining $2,300 of his hotel fee. (Executive information for Hotels.com, a brand of Expedia, is available on our website.)

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Our advocate Carrie Livingston contacted Hotels.com about Gillman’s case. But Hotels.com’s reply made our advocacy team realize that he doesn’t have a case we can advocate.

They learned the following from our contact at Hotels.com, which is consistent with language on the hotel’s’ website:

The hotel’s cancellation policy, agreed to at time of booking, was marked as non-refundable and stated: “Should you change or cancel this reservation for any reason, your payment will not be refunded.”

Not only were Gillman’s rooms non-refundable, but Hotels.com told our advocacy team a different version of Gillman’s experience:

We contacted the Hacienda Santa Rosa and the hotel stated you informed them you would like to change your travel plans. The hotel staff informed you of the non-refundable nature of the reservation and your party then left the hotel, without ever being shown a room. … [We] requested a one-night penalty per room, instead of enforcing the non-refundable policy. Regrettably, the hotel did not agree to this request. As such, we would be unable to issue a refund in this instance.

An unresolvable impasse

Gillman responded to our advocates:

To recap, we left because we felt isolated in a remote location far from any restaurant (other than the one offered by the hotel, which, based on what we saw of the place, we did not care to frequent) or other facility, and because of the bad smell in the room.

But at this point, our advocates felt that Gillman had not provided us with a complete and accurate account of his experience with the Hacienda Santa Rosa. In addition, Gillman’s reasons for leaving the hotel don’t entitle him to a Hotels.com refund.

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Hotels.com’s terms and conditions specify that “You agree to abide by the terms or conditions of purchase imposed by any supplier with whom you elect to deal, including, but not limited to … compliance with the supplier’s rules and restrictions regarding availability and use of fares, products, or services.” Its goodwill gesture of $200 is, under the circumstances, generous, given that it didn’t owe Gillman anything at all.

The bottom line

Our executive director, Michelle Couch-Friedman, pointed out to Gillman that “[You] can’t override a non-refundable reservation because you didn’t like the location. … Your initial email said that you had booked two rooms, but only shown to one room. I took that to mean the hotel only had one room available to you. I don’t think that was a correct assumption now.”

Michelle also mentioned that “when you self-book a nonrefundable hotel it’s critical to make sure the location is acceptable before confirming.” Gillman might have used Google Maps or a similar tool to check out the hotel’s surroundings before he finalized his reservations. Had he done so, he would have seen that there are no restaurants and few attractions near the hotel.

As Michelle notes, “I think that we are at an impasse. … As we have tried to advocate for you and Hotels.com has as well, I don’t see anything further that can be done.”

Should the Hacienda Santa Rosa issue a refund to Jeff Gillman for the balance of his room fees?

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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