We would love to help, but what’s the problem?

Wendy Mettger made two hotel reservations for her upcoming trip to Sicily and ended up canceling both. She contacted us for help obtaining confirmation of these cancellation transactions. But when we searched through her meticulous paper trail, we found that she already had a firm cancellation for the reservation that she was concerned about.

So where was the problem?

Mettger’s case is proof that there is such a thing as being too cautious and perhaps missing out on the enjoyment and anticipation that comes with planning a great vacation. It also highlights what our advocates will — and will not do for you.

When Mettger contacted us, she was concerned that some time in the future she would be blindsided by an unwanted charge for a canceled hotel that she had booked through Getaroom. She describes her initial booking, “I booked at what I thought was the hotel’s official site. The next day, when I was checking my online bank account, I found that the total amount of our stay has been debited from our account. It’s at this point that I realize that I did not book directly with the hotel, but with a group called Getaroom.com. They set up the website page so that it looks like you are booking directly with the hotel’s website.”

Not wanting to keep her reservation with an unknown company that she felt had misled her, she canceled that reservation. Her debit card was refunded and she received a definitive cancellation notice from Getaroom.

Here, we should note that it is always unwise to use a debit card to reserve a hotel. This form of payment does not provide any of the protection and benefits of a traditional credit card. But that’s a story for another day.

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Confident that this cancellation was taken care of, she approached the hotel directly via email and requested a new reservation for the same dates. She asked the hotel if they had received her cancellation from Getaroom. They told her that they had not. When reviewing her paper trail it appears that because Mettger made the reservation and canceled within a day or so, the original reservation from Getaroom may never have been transmitted to the hotel.

Some time after this, Mettger decided that she wanted to stay at an entirely different hotel during her vacation to Sicily. She canceled the reservation that she had made herself and asked again if they had received the cancellation from Getaroom. Once more, they told her that they had no information from Getaroom.

At this point, I believe there may have been a language barrier between Mettger and the hotel. She continued to be focused on the reservation with Getaroom — the one that had the clear written cancellation confirmation. Again, she contacted Getaroom to express her concern and they reiterated that her reservation was fully canceled.

Inexplicably, Mettger remained unconvinced and asked our advocates, “Are you willing to call the hotel and act as my advocate, explaining the problem? I was planning to call myself, but I feel like no matter how clear I am explaining the situation, there is some fundamental miscommunication that continues to put roadblocks in the way of resolving this issue.”

These types of requests always put our advocates in a difficult position. We do all of our mediating via writing, and you should, too. This type of communication provides you a written record of all that has transpired and will be invaluable in helping to resolve any problems that may arise later.

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Getting a verbal acknowledgment of Mettger’s cancellation would be far less useful than the printed version of her cancellation currently in her possession.

We explained to her that the cancellation that she already had was all the proof that she needed — if she ever needed it.

The second issue with Mettger’s request is that we don’t advocate anticipated problems. In her case, there was no problem to mediate. Her reservation was canceled, she received a refund, and we had a copy of her cancellation confirmation.

Our advocates are here to assist when a company has not followed a clear policy; when a consumer has been wronged.

Things that you can and should do on your own, such as confirming your hotel cancellations, do not require the assistance of a consumer advocate. Perhaps they require the assistance of a good travel agent. That’s not who we are.

When you decide to book your own vacation you will, from time to time, hit bumps in the road along the way. In Mettger’s case a short email to the hotel should have been sufficient for her to confirm that all of her reservations were canceled. We are not sure why the written confirmation did not assuage Mettger’s concerns, but we seem to have been unable to convince her as well.

Our advocates are ready and willing to help when you have been wronged — but this didn’t happen in Mettger’s case. We hope that she was able clarify her cancellations to her level of comfort and we wish her a pleasant journey.

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, SEO-lady, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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