I canceled my reservation so why did the hotel still charge me?

When Narayan Ghimire was forced to cancel his hotel reservation on the morning of his planned stay, he did not expect any further charges from the hotel. So when the hotel charged his credit card three times the amount of the original reservation, he believed he was a victim of fraud.

But was he?

This case has many lessons, but the most important one is to be clear about the cancellation policy when you book a hotel — especially if you confirm a promotional rate that may have a variety of terms and penalties.

Ghimire booked his one-night stay at Les Résidences du Parc Royal in Montreal through Hotels.com.

“I became the victim of fraud,” he explained. “I was charged after cancellation. Due to a medical emergency I canceled and we called Hotels.com and informed them. I also called the hotel and a person picked up the phone and told me ‘ok.'”

It wasn’t “ok” — as he would soon find out.

Two days later his card was charged in the amount of $584. The original reservation was confirmed at a rate of $189, before taxes.

He then began a campaign against Hotels.com that was, to put it mildly, misguided. He sent letters to various executives in a capitalized font with accusations that were a bit on the extreme side.

“As there are so many organized crime incidents coming forward, it looks like it is deliberately carried out — systematic cheating practice to make money from visitors intended to visit Canada from across the globe,” he surmised. “Please stop this type of fraud and refund my money immediately with compensation. This behavior is damaging to the credibility of Canada across the globe very seriously.”

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Ok, it could be something like that — or ….

I thought there could be a less diabolical reason for the charge. So I asked to see his cancellation policy.

I studied it carefully and I discovered some facts that would suggest that this charge was not the result of a global crime syndicate at work — and instead may just be a consumer overlooking the terms of cancellation.

First, Ghimire’s reservation stated that he had reserved a special promotion only valid for Canadian residents. This promotion entitled him to a 62 percent discount off the regular rate. And the penalty for a “no-show” was 100 percent.

When I did the math, it appeared that the hotel charged Ghimire the full rate plus tax and did not apply the promotion. So, I thought something in the fine print of the promotion might allow the hotel to charge the full rate if a traveler is a no-show.

Ghimire did not have a copy of the promotion. So I attempted to reach the hotel for clarification.

Unfortunately, this lodging is not a hotel in the traditional sense. In fact, Hotels.com’s website says that there is no front desk and you must arrange check-in 24 hours prior to arrival. The hotel does not have a website, which further complicated matters.

So I turned my attention to Hotels.com to see if they could shed some light on Ghimire’s problem. A representative of Hotels.com was finally able to reach someone at this hotel, and she was told that this charge was mistaken and that Ghimire could have a refund of the overcharge.

There was just one catch, Ghimire was told that he needed to call the hotel and arrange the refund directly. He again tried to call the hotel. This time, the woman who answered told him that she only spoke French and then hung up on him.

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In the end, I recommended that Ghimire pursue a chargeback against this hotel. The owners will be forced to produce the terms of the promotion and give an explanation as to how they determined the charge to his credit card. If they fail to cooperate with the chargeback investigation, Ghimire will likely win.

For its part, Hotels.com offered Ghimire an $80 travel certificate as a peace offering for this negative experience. They point out, however, that Ghimire was considered a “no-show” for this reservation. There is no record of his attempts to cancel on the morning of his stay; therefore, he is responsible to pay for the one night.

When you reserve a hotel online, make sure to read all the terms and the cancellation policy. This can help avoid these types of frustrating situations should your plans change.

Ghimire is still suspicious that this may be part of a larger crime scheme aimed at taking advantage of weary travelers, but he says that he will be more careful in the future when choosing a hotel.

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, consumer advocate, writer and photographer who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. She is Advocacy & Editorial Director at Elliott.org.

  • James

    Based on Friday’s ransomware incident, one might argue the whole Internet is a crime syndicate. ;-)

  • deemery

    “This time, the woman who answered told him that she only spoke French and then hung up on him.”

    That right there is prima-facie evidence of bad faith on the part of the hotel! It’s my understanding (having lived in Canada for 2 1/2 years) you have the legal right to service in either official language.

  • Bill___A

    That’s only with respect to the government and certain federally regulated companies. I don’t believe the “hotel” has any obligation to speak English. In any case, there are many reputable hotels in Montreal and it is unfortunate he picked this one. And unfortunate that he didn’t read the cancellation policy. And unfortunate that he thinks he is exempt from it. If it is a medical emergency, his travel insurance should help. A charge back might work. Ghimire will undoubtedly find that many hotels have policies like this, it is not restricted to Canada by any means.

  • michael anthony

    It’s also unfortunate that Hotels.com didn’t do more for him, when the hotel has policies that most hotels don’t. Montreal is a wonderful city, but yes, you do run into that “No English” hang up on the phone from time to time. That’s where Hotels.com could do more.

    And of course, they have no record of his cancellation. Get the record of your outgoing calks on that date and if u did make that cancel call, then their number should show up. That should go a long way to believing the OP

  • I don’t understand how they can charge you more if you don’t stay than if you do. You would think that at the most, the cancellation fee would be the price of reservation made. Charging more does seem…well, almost criminal.

  • Byron Cooper

    The OP used hotels.com. This is one of the 16 “brands: operated by Expedia. Many of the complaints on this website involve Expedia or it’s aliases. There is no upside to using Expedia, Orbitz, Truvago, hotels.com and the other aliases.

  • The rental car cases, the airline cases, the hotel cases, and this one specifically, really have one solution, the need for a legislated “bill of rights”.

    Under this “bill of rights”, to permit any contract to be enforced, the upfront must include a few key elements: 1) total cost including taxes fees, 2) cancellation terms, 3) the resolution single point of contact for that rate/promotion (to get away from code sharing blamestorming), 4) if unbundled like an airline ticket these days, a checklist template to create the “total cost”, and 5) the ability to cancel said reservation the same way it was created (by phone if by phone, by internet if by internet) to discourage – in combination with the single point of contact mandate – the back-end runaround.

    I keep hearing this rote response “read the contract”. Let’s be realistic: retail transactions are not the same as multi-million dollar deals or collective bargaining agreements. It would take 5 days to read, have legal review, and execute any basic retail agreement — which vary by competitor. In short, it should be this simple: the basic (enforceable) elements of the contract (maybe more than the 5 I posted above) are the only ones that can be used in dispute resolution.

    This doesn’t prohibit having additional contracts behind that. But maybe a sixth element lists out the major technical items – like when one compares technical capabilities of cell phones.

    Sure, I live in Colorado. But, I am not an A64 user (Amendment 64 or “420”). So, I am not high posting this.

    But I could see something like a 6th element being that checklist that shows jurisdiction, and elements of contracting, so that one can compare the best terms without having a fleet of attorneys.

    As for everyone that says, “read the contract”…remember, every month you DON’T have your payment in on the first – even if they give you the 5th as a leeway date – you are in default on your mortgage. If you rent it out, the same thing (often). The point being: I am getting tired of all this smarmy condescension about contracts when they are written deliberately long and convoluted. There are 1.3m attorneys in the USA, or 1/3%. Are we supposed to bring an attorney on all our trips? THAT is the logic the condescending parties on these boards implicitly demand.

  • Tim Mengelkoch

    This OP is a kook!

  • Tim Mengelkoch

    I agree but who buys travel insurance for a one night stay?

  • Lindabator

    actually, as MOST hotels have a 24 hour cancel, calling the morning of arrival wouldn’t get you a refund, either – and cancelling a nonrefundable booking is a moot point. And a cancellation does not mean a refund.

  • Kairho

    The “hotel” did admit that was in error, per the above, and said they could refund.

  • Lindabator

    they did say that was a mistake and refunded – he just wants the original refunded as well

  • Lindabator

    and cancellations STILL do incur penalties – he called the morning of, and most hotels still DO require 24 hours prior, and 3rd party bookings often offer nonrefundable rates (same as hotels). Passenger rights do NOT apply when you want the nonrefundable rate and then want a refund, etc

  • Carchar

    I think that reserving directly through the specific hotel is cheaper in the long run, when you are allowed to cancel. Even if you have to cancel a day in advance, they will only charge for the first night’s stay. Also, if the rate goes down after you you’ve booked, you can book at the new rate, then cancel the old reservation.

  • But I am speaking to a larger issue, thus the preamble: “The rental car cases, the airline cases, the hotel cases, and this one
    specifically, really have one solution, the need for a legislated ‘bill
    of rights’.”

    I do wish you would read the comments as meticulously as you claim to read the various B2C contracts which you agree to.

  • Lindabator

    again – what would a bill of rights give you when you are in the wrong? It does not apply in this case, and in many others on here. and using the excuse that you did not read/understand what you read is NO excuse under the law – only takes a moment to make a decision – good OR bad

  • I am saying bigger picture. If all of that were disclosed on the landing page, rather than pages deep in disclaimers, a supermajority of claims would never see an Elliott column.

  • Lindabator

    most are – still doesn’t mean they are ever read!

  • AAGK

    Unfair. If he booked through hotels.com then who knows what rate Hotels arranged but it should reimburse him minus the cost of one night or whatever the cancellation policy was- at the promotion he agreed to. Usually it’s one night. I would have no issue contacting the card issuer here. If this hotel wants to accept a major credit card, its needs to abide by the terms of its merchant agmt. It’s not the consumer’s problem if the place is difficult to reach. 1 attempt may be sufficient if it indicates further calling and emailing would be futile.

  • AAGK

    It’s irrelevant. Actually it makes his case better with the card issuer which seems his only recourse here anyway. Incompetence does not automatically establish bad faith. I would just want an appropriate resolution regardless.

  • AAGK

    There’s no travel insurance here. He is probably responsible for paying the night at the rate he booked, so long as he used Hotels.com normally and did not do something weird. He is wrong to expect not to pay anything, and no comment on the conspiracy theory.

  • Michael__K

    Actually, this hotel, according to hotels.com, supposedly does offer a partial refund for cancellations before 6pm on the day of arrival.

  • AAGK

    “Ok” never means refund in any language.

  • Michael__K

    Did you read the cancellation policy?
    If it’s anything like the cancellation policy that appears on hotels.com for this hotel today, then it’s unfortunate that the hotel didn’t read or honor their own policy because there’s supposed to be at least a 30% refund for cancellations before 6pm on the day of arrival.

  • AAGK

    It seems like his cancellation didn’t work properly. I agree that so long as he called, it should count but this does not sound like a friendly hotel.

  • AAGK

    The Bill of Rights would lead to twice as many cases. The policies are pretty uniform anyway. I usually assume once I pay, I’m on the hook for at least a night. Additional regulations wouldn’t change this scenario. To the extent that the hotel has violated its own rules, the card issuer should fix it.

  • Annie M

    And also backs his use of a charge back since they want you to attempt to resolve the issue before commencing.

  • Lee

    Obviously this is a small accommodation (no website, no reception desk, etc) and sometimes the smaller the place, the more strict the cancelation policy is as it is difficult for small lodgings to absorb the cost of “no shows” without imposing cancelation fees that can often be greater than in larger hotels, etc.

    I always marvel how some people never assume they themselves may have misunderstood, misread or missed something before proclaiming something is a rip off, fraud – or the extreme assumption by this OP.

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