She misunderstood the cancellation policy and lost $221. Is that right?

When is a typographical error really not one? Lisa Helmer found out the hard way when she lost her deposit for a hotel room in South Florida.

Helmer made a reservation through Orbitz for a four-night stay at the Premier Hotel in Fort Lauderdale.

“A few weeks later, my travel plans changed and I canceled the reservation,” she explains. “I was surprised to see that I was being charged a cancellation fee of my one-night deposit for $221.”

Her problem started when she made the reservation online. Orbitz’s cancellation policy for the property clearly indicated, “Cancellations or changes made before 3:00 a.m. (Eastern Daylight Time) on Mar. 3, 2018 or no-shows are subject to a property fee equal to the first night’s rate plus taxes and fees.”

Helmer explained,

I have never seen a hotel with such a strict cancellation policy for cancellations this far in advance and I did not note this policy when I made the reservation.

I went back through my reservation email from Orbitz, and it is confusing, as it states. Orbitz says that this is clear, but when I initially read this I thought it was a typo since again, I had never heard of a hotel having such a strict cancellation policy and why include a date if the penalty is the same before and after?

When Helmer called Orbitz to cancel the reservation, a representative of the online travel company suggested she contact the hotel directly with any questions, so she called the Premier Hotel. A hotel representative gave her the bad news that she would lose her deposit, citing the terms stated in the confirmation email, and directed Helmer back to Orbitz. An Orbitz representative offered Helmer credit from the lost deposit toward a future stay as a goodwill gesture, but she wanted to hold out for a refund.

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Helmer then used the company contacts for Orbitz that we list on our website to see if she could get more compensation for the misunderstanding. Orbitz contacted the hotel on her behalf and was able to extract a goodwill gesture of one night’s accommodations in the future — not exactly cash back, but at least the money she spent would not go to waste.

Helmer asked one of our advocates, Michelle Couch-Friedman, if she would try to get Orbitz to refund her money. But because the hotel already had made a goodwill gesture, Friedman declined, stating that she would have great difficulty advocating it based on the evidence provided.

Helmer’s story serves as a reminder to believe what you read when it comes to terms and conditions of any transaction. And if you think it’s too good (or bad) to be true, contact the company directly to be sure before you click the “Purchase” button.

Did Orbitz offer Helmer enough compensation?

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Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined. Read more of Mark's articles here.

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