It was bad enough that Francisco Castanos had such a miserable stay at the Hotel del Parque in Guadalajara, Mexico, that he had to flee in search of another hotel. But his online travel agent, Hotels.com, made things worse by not honoring its own deal with the hotel for a partial refund.
After Hotels.com made an agreement with the Hotel del Parque to partially reimburse Castanos for the cost of his stay, its agent coldly informed Castanos that he had made and paid for a reservation at the hotel, and “that was it.” There would be no refund to Castanos — in any amount.
Our advocates read a lot of horror stories and often think they’ve seen it all. Then along comes a situation like Castanos’, which causes us to ask: When a hotel is so far below the standards advertised by an online travel agent, does that agent have any responsibility whatsoever to take whatever steps are necessary to make that customer whole?
Castanos had booked and prepaid for a reservation at the Hotel del Parque for nine nights. When he checked in at the hotel, he was told that no rooms were available. Castanos then informed the desk clerk that he had previously booked and prepaid for a room. The desk clerk then offered Castanos a room that was being fumigated, asking whether Castanos minded the fumes. When Castanos responded that this was not acceptable, he was offered an “interim room” that would be changed to another room as soon as one became available.
But the “interim room” was in such poor condition that Castanos gave up on the Hotel del Parque. Here’s what he found:
- A lamp with a broken light bulb
- A bathroom sink that backed up
- A recently replaced tile in the bathroom floor that rose about an inch higher than the rest of the floor
- A door that needed repainting around a replaced latch
- An uncovered TV cable wall connection
- A window that was not secure in the frame and banged open
- A ceiling fan on a single, too-fast speed
Although most of these problems weren’t serious, the backed-up sink and the malfunctioning window made the room unusable, especially because the weather in Guadalajara was “hot and humid.”
Because it was late at night, Castanos spent that night in that room, but decided to leave the Hotel del Parque the next day. The next morning he asked the desk clerk what the procedure was for securing a refund of his hotel payment. The desk clerk told Castanos that as he had booked the room through Hotels.com, he would have to ask Hotels.com for a refund. He asked the desk clerk to check him out and to give him documentation indicating that he was leaving the hotel that day, but the clerk refused.
Castanos was unable to call Hotels.com’s 1-800 number, so he contacted his wife, Allison Castanos, who contacted Hotels.com on his behalf. She called him back six hours later, stating that Hotels.com contacted the Hotel del Parque and made an arrangement with the hotel to refund Castanos for six nights of the reservation.
But the desk clerk never received a call from Hotels.com. He could not locate the manager who might have received the call. After two hours on the phone with his wife and the desk clerk, Castanos decided to leave the hotel and sort out the situation later. The desk clerk told him to give him the remote control for the TV in his room. When Castanos told him that it was still in the room, the desk clerk ordered him to return to the room and retrieve it. Castanos told him no.
Castanos later learned that Hotels.com had reneged on the deal with the Hotel del Parque and refused to issue him any reimbursement for his stay. Although Castanos might have used the executive contacts for Expedia, the parent company of Hotels.com, to escalate his complaint, he contacted us for assistance in getting the promised refund.
As with many other online travel companies, Hotels.com’s terms and conditions disclaim any liability arising out of problems between its customers and the hotels it sells on its site, noting that the properties on its site are “independent contractors and not agents or employees of the Hotels.com companies, or the Hotels.com affiliates.”
But that’s no excuse for reneging on a deal it made with a customer whom it booked into a hotel that didn’t have a room available for him when he arrived on the reserved date, put him in an unusable room with a broken sink and window, and whose clerk made an inappropriate demand when he decided to leave.
Our advocates reached out to Hotels.com on Castanos’ behalf, and received the following response:
We have contacted Mr. Castanos and advised him that we have refunded a portion of his stay. When we researched the hotel further, we noticed the guest reviews were poor for this property. Our recommendation for travelers who are unsure about the quality of hotels is to check the guest reviews, and especially verified guest reviews, like those on Hotels.com.
Hotels.com has a lot to learn about customer service, including not blaming customers for not checking the reviews – which include a rating of 4.5 stars for the Hotel del Parque on its own site.
In the meantime, we’re wondering what criteria inspired the 4.5 star rating for the Hotel del Parque on Hotel.com’s site – and waiting to find out if Castanos has received the refund.