Did Hotels.com bamboozle this traveler?

Tina Landess Petrich thinks Hotels.com “bamboozled” her. She contacted our advocacy team after she booked a two-night stay in Venice at a special nonrefundable rate. But “seconds” after she pressed confirm, she noticed hefty additional fees included in the total.

Has she been the victim of a scam?

She contacted Hotels.com in September, after the trip, and claimed the website had falsely advertised the hotel rate she and her family were charged. A customer-service representative for Hotels.com replied that the average room rate is $299 per night before taxes and fees.

In addition, the representative noted the base rate “is only for two persons, which means that the two kids on your booking had extra person fees which amounted to $269.”

“The itemized costs are stated on the booking page before you finalized the reservation on the website,” she added. “Also, it is properly disclosed on the website that ‘extra-person charges may apply and vary depending on property policy.’”

Nevertheless, Petrich told our advocate in an email that she and her family felt like they had been “bamboozled” by Hotels.com, adding that the rate charged was a “blatant departure from truth in advertising standards.” Petrich sought $400 in reimbursement for the additional fees.

Hotels.com said they were bound by the terms and conditions of Petrich’s booking and would not be able to process the requested refund. The company said it contacted the hotel on Petrich’s behalf prior to the trip and requested the stay be canceled, but the hotel declined to do so.

We’re sorry we were unable to take Petrich’s case.

Related story:   "Neither Hotels.com nor Days Inn are willing to do anything but take our money"

However, her misfortune could have been easily avoided if she had read about all the associated fees that were clearly displayed prior to the final confirmation page. This case should serve as a warning for travelers to make sure they review all the details of a reservation before clicking confirm.

As we often remind travelers when booking reservations for hotels and airlines, it always pays to read the fine print.

Nevertheless, we agree that this kind of pricing display can be confusing, if not deceptive, and should not be allowed. But sadly, it is.

Was Tina Landess Petrich bamboozled by Hotels.com?

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Michael Hinkelman

Michael Hinkelman is an award-winning journalist with more than 35 years experience. He has worked for daily newspapers in Atlanta and Philadelphia, most recently as a small-business columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, before retiring in 2016. In 1993, Hinkelman won a prestigious Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism for an investigation into the finances of the Atlanta Public Schools. In 2016, he was a lecturer in media relations at the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government. Read more of Michael's stories here.

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