Why won’t Groupon accept my cancellation?

Just before Richard Garber’s Groupon for a two-night stay at the Scottsdale Marriott expires, he falls ill. He can’t contact Groupon in time to cancel. Is he still entitled to a refund?

Question: I recently purchased a Groupon for two nights at the Springhill Suites – Scottsdale North in Scottsdale, Ariz. It had to be canceled by June 10 at 3 p.m. At 10 a.m., I began to feel ill.

I tried to call Groupon to cancel, but the three numbers I had were no longer valid. I called the hotel next, but a representative said they did not have the money or the reservation so they could not cancel it. But, if it had been available they would certainly have canceled it.

The hotel gave me the same three numbers — the ones that didn’t work. At that point, I was sick enough to call 911 with a possible heart attack. When my wife finally reached Groupon, they said they would try to help. Groupon said it subsequently contacted the hotel and the hotel refused to accept the cancellation.

I’d like Marriott to accept the cancellation and return my money or give me a credit for the $144. Can you help? — Richard Garber, Tucson, Ariz.

Answer: Groupon should have refunded your money. You did your best to contact the company, calling it before the cancellation deadline. But the numbers didn’t work and then Marriott made you — and then your wife — run around in circles in a vain attempt to get your money back.

It helps to know how Groupon works. The offers you see on Groupon are deeply discounted and generally meant for businesses that have a lot of inventory that would go unsold. For a hotel, it’s better to sell a room at a 50 percent discount or more and get you in the door, where you might splurge for dinner or a spa treatment. But $72 a night at the Marriott (roughly half of which is going to Groupon) the hotel really isn’t making money.

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No wonder it assigned your case such a low priority. You were a Groupon guest!

You spent far too long arguing with lower-level employees who weren’t being paid enough to care. You should have appealed your case to an executive at Groupon or Marriott, or both. I list the names, numbers and email addresses for both companies on my consumer advocacy site. (Here’s Groupon and here’s Marriott). A brief, polite email, perhaps including a doctor’s note, should have done the trick.

I contacted Groupon on your behalf. It refunded your $144.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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