Downgraded to an inferior hotel — is this worth only $79?


Ellen Kim reserved three nights at the Hotel San Zulian in Venice, Italy, through Booking.com. But when she checked in, a representative told her the property was overbooked and sent her to the Hotel Panada.

She thinks the new hotel is a downgrade and wants $550 for the hotel change. Booking.com’s offer: just $79.

“The Hotel Panada is an inferior, terrible hotel,” she says.

It’s understandable that Kim is upset — first, at being moved, and second, at the lowball offer. Kim says she took the time to select the hotel she wanted and paid for the reservation through Booking.com, which is a third-party booking agent.

Kim says she carefully selected the Hotel San Zulian, paying $809 for three nights. Instead, she landed at the Panada, where rooms go for $75 to $100 a night.

“My room was on the fifth floor and [the hotel] didn’t have an elevator,” she remembers. “There were 68 very steep stairs to climb. The room was damp and had holes in the wall. It was so dark that I couldn’t read anything. And, the TV wasn’t working.”

She adds, “I would like the difference in price between the two hotels refunded.”

Overbooking in the hotel industry is common. Our website contains a FAQ section about hotels that addresses overbooking. Basically, if the hotel doesn’t have the booked room, it should “walk” you to a comparable hotel. Unfortunately, it’s the customers who have used third-party booking agents that get “walked” first.


Before contacting our advocates for help, Kim could have posted a query to our help forums, which are staffed by travel industry experts, and often read by company executives. Our forum advocates may have had helpful information for her. And, Kim could have escalated her complaint by directly contacting company executives. We list executive contact information for Booking.com on our website.

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Kim requested that we help her recover $550 of the $809 she paid for the Hotel San Zulian. That would have resulted in her paying $259 for a 3 night hotel stay in Venice. That seemed low, so our advocates researched the Hotel San Zulian and the Hotel Panada. It turned out that the hotels were priced and rated similarly on Booking.com.

It appears that the difference in the price of the two hotels was overstated, so our advocates have declined to get involved for now. Not being accurate destroys the credibility of the entire claim, and it taints the entire advocacy process. In order for our advocates to volunteer their time and effort to assist with a dispute, it’s essential that it be an honest one.

Booking.com made a goodwill gesture to Kim when it offered her a $79 refund.

Is a $79 refund enough to compensate Ellen Kim?

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Diane Perera

Diane and her family love to travel, and they do so as much as they can. Having experienced the downside of travel, and having learned so much from Elliott.org, led Diane to become an advocate and to help fight the good fight. Read more of Diane's articles here.

  • John Baker

    I don’t agree with getting walked. Its a bad practice by hotels especially with people on refundable rates but any refund has to be the difference in like prices. I don’t agree when airlines pull the Y fare on a downgrade game. Similarly, you need to compare like prices for rooms (ie same lead time, same view, same refund policy, same type of site)

  • BubbaJoe123

    Comparing $800 to $280 is probably apples to oranges. Choosing a random three nights next June, both the Panada and the San Zulian are about $280 in total. I would bet that the reason that the LW paid $800 for the San Zulian is the same reason she was walked to another hotel – it was a very high demand period in Venice, so the Panada would have been a lot more than $280 if she had booked it for those same nights.

  • Jeff W.

    I think the $79 is certainly a goodwill gesture and it probably should be more. The issue is that the “more” needs to come from the original hotel, not booking.com. booking.com is not really at fault. If the hotel inventory indicated rooms were available, then why would booking not believe that.

    Unfortunately, the time to get more from the hotel would have been when one is walked, not after the stay is complete.

  • Lindabator

    and the rooms are similarly priced and rated – she lied to claim more money

  • I wonder if there is an EU rule that covers this? There sure seems to be for everything else…

  • C Schwartz

    I think it is a very good policy of Elliott.org to decline to assist people who are not honest with them or leave out crucial information. It sounds like the traveler was comparing the rate at the booked hotel at high season prices vs the second hotel at low season prices.

    I would not be happy with being walked to a different hotel, but I see the point of this post is to alert people to be honest when asking someone to volunteer their time to advocate a case.

  • Annie M

    It’s hard to say yes or no without seeing pricing and hotel amenities side by side.

    Stop using these third party sites! They are the first customers walked when a hotel is oversold. The hotel will keep the clients that have paid the most for their rooms and walk the ones that bring in the lowest revenue.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I did a quick comparison of the two hotels…the rates for Hotel Panada was slightly higher than Hotel San Zulian by $ 2 for the dates that I selected…the Hotel Panada has an average review of three stars on TripAdvisor and Hotel San Zulian has an average review of 3.5 stars.

    In regards to the hotel not having an elevator…that is not uncommon in Europe where buildings could be 100 to 200 years old or even older and it is hard (and expensive) to retrofit modern things like AC, elevators, etc. in these hotels.

  • Skeptic

    It sounds like the Panada room she got was available for a reason — it was one of, if not the, least desirable rooms on the property. Whether or not the standard room rates at the two hotels are equivalent, it’s not OK to take over $800 in advance but provide the kind of room that was likely available at a far lower rate for a walk-up. In this kind of situation, I would probably decline the room (after walking up to inspect it sans suitcase), demand my $809 back immediately, and make my own deal with the Panada or another hotel.

  • Joe Blasi

    $79 + $200 change fee!

  • Bill___A

    I don’t know the answer. I would be pretty upset if it were me. I also would not have used a third party booking site…

  • Michael__K

    Was the new hotel the Antico Panada? According to booking.com, that hotel has an elevator:
    https://www.booking.com/hotel/it/anticopanada_venezia.html
    Are the advocates sure they are looking at the same hotel where the OP stayed? And if so, was the elevator in service at that time? Is it possible that the elevator was out of service for a period of time and that the prices were lower then?
    If the OP is just being shamelessly dishonest then I agree they don’t deserve anything.

  • Michael__K

    If you are looking at the Antico Panada (the only Venice hotel with “Panada” in it’s name which I can currently find on their site), that hotel *does* have an elevator according to booking.com.
    So something is missing here…. Either that’s not the same hotel or the listing is wrong or the elevator was not working when the OP was there or the whole story was made up.

  • C Schwartz

    Many smaller European hotels have “annexes”, or another set of rooms in a nearby building.

    From tripadvisor under questions about the property:

    “The hotel itself may have a lift (I didn’t see) however when we checked in we were not shown to a room in the actual hotel but one in the third floor of a building on the next street. This building had no lift. If you need one check that your room is in the main hotel. Hope this helps.”

    It sounds as if there is an elevator in the main building but the traveler was in the annex. There are other reviews on tripadvisor that mention this set up.

  • Michael__K

    If that’s the case then the OP probably deserves an apology and the advocates’ help.
    The rooms offered on booking.com must not be in the annex based on the information and amenities disclosed there.

  • C Schwartz

    What happens is that one books a room at the hotel and then find outs if it is annex or not. In one small place in London the annex was newer and had better electrical system so annex got a mini fridge, the main old Georgian townhouse did not.

    I stayed in a different London hotel this month that had an elevator — which did not stop on my floor (1st, not ground) — as it was several townhouses that had been joined together, and the floors did not line up. The access was by stairs only.

  • Michael__K

    I see that there’s a small number of reviews from guests who stayed in an attic room in the annex, and these guests tend to be very unhappy. Sounds like those rooms ought to be in a separate and seriously discounted category but apparently they are not.

  • DChamp56

    IF…. IF you get walked, it should ONLY be to a hotel of better quality, not lesser.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I agree with you that it is a good policy to decline to assist people who are not honest with them or leave out crucial information. Unless there is something glaring upfront, there will be fewer stories because a lot of the OPs do leave out information in their claims. As a long time reader of this blog, I have read several articles where the OP was forthcoming with ALL of the facts.

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