My hotel was infested by bedbugs — can I get a refund?

Sarah Gaines wants a refund for her short-lived hotel stay at the Windsor Hotel on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The reason? She claims the property was infested with bedbugs.

The site through which she booked the hotel,, refuses to refund the $750 she paid, even though she checked out after staying in her room for just a few hours. Appeals to her credit card company have been unsuccessful, and now she wants me to get involved.

Here are a few specifics about Gaines’ case: Shortly after making her reservation through last fall, she looked up the property online. She found multiple complaints about bedbugs at the hotel.

“We immediately called and were assured the problem had been dealt with,” she says. “They even told us if we happened to find any problems upon arrival, they would be happy to move us to a completely different floor, as they were ‘sure to have vacancy’ still.”

That didn’t happen. When they checked in, the hotel was running a full occupancy.

“Both rooms had infestations,” Gaines reports. “We crammed into the one with fewer bugs — some of us on the floor. We left the next morning as soon as we found a new hotel.”

Gaines says she contacted the hotel after she checked out and asked for a refund. It refused, citing its refund policy. Then she contacted, the online agent that sold her the room. It also refused, citing its policy. Finally, she disputed the charge with American Express.

“Today we received our answer from American Express that the charges have been reapplied as neither nor Expedia guarantee ‘the condition of the hotel’,” she says. “Note, we stayed for about six hours in one room, and were charged the full amount for both rooms for both nights, and woke up to a bedbug on my six-year-old’s pillow!”

Related story:   Hey US Airways, do you really want my eyeball to explode on a plane?

Oh my. As the father of a six-year-old, I can tell you that I would be pretty upset if I found a bedbug on my daughter’s pillow in a hotel.

Gaines adds,

I say their ‘no refund’ policy surely cannot apply when the hotel presents a health risk!

And worse, possibly, is that still has The Windsor on their site!! When I looked at it tonight, a pop up menu announces, “This hotel has been booked three times in the last 24 hours”!


It’s not immediately clear why Gaines didn’t investigate the property before making her reservation. Or why she didn’t make more of an effort to switch hotels prior to her stay — or why she didn’t ask for the hotel to help her once it became clear she was staying in an undesirable room. There may be, as commenters on this site would say, some “missing” details.

Once you’ve left the building, getting a refund is really difficult. From a hotel’s perspective, you’ve abandoned a room that they probably won’t be able to resell, so they’re out the $750 you spent. Their policy says: no refund.

But I’m not entirely happy with’s response, either. Saying that the site isn’t responsible for the condition of its rooms is absurd. After all, its tagline promises it will find you the “perfect place” — and a room infested with insects is not the perfect place.

I was going to put this case up for a vote, as I do every Tuesday, but shortly after I finished writing this story, I heard back from Gaines. offered her a full refund. Case dismissed.

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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 Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • TonyA_says has nothing to do with this. The hotel is the one responsible for fixing their problem. Bedbugs are quite common in NYC hotels because dirty guests take bugs with them when they use hotels. The hotel should have found the OP a clean room, or walk them, or refund them. Once has paid the hotel, how can it get the money back? The hotel has to agree to refund first, right?

  • Guest

    It’s a shame a hotel like that would be smudged by that very sensitive detail. That’s why it’s important for hotel owners or managers to keep a meticulous check up with their cleanliness and sanitation.

  • Fred Young

    It’s a difficult question.

    Generally speaking,hotel should supply a clean and comfortable resting room for their clients.But some low ratio things will pop up beyond hotel’s control.If there is always plenty of bugs in that hotel,I think that is not a suitable hotel for rest.Only 1 case in a year,just negotiate with the clients.

  • Nice resolution. I was expecting to at least have stepped in to mediate with the property instead of sweeping her complaint aside. Kudos to them for refunding her directly, even if it didn’t happen initially. However, I “missed” the part where the OP got the hotel manager involved, brought him to her room, showed him the bedbug and stood there while he came up with a solution. Up and leaving the hotel does not sound like she pressed the issue enough there and then.

  • EdB

    As LeeAnneClark mentions, I am most shocked at Amex response of “ nor Expedia guarantee ‘the condition of the hotel’,” While it is true that (and how did Expedia get brought into this?) can’t control the actual condition, it is still their responsibility to sell a product that is, for lack of a better word, safe. You think a grocery store would be able to get away with selling a product, say a bag of flour, full of pests using that explanation? I can see if it was because some amenity wasn’t up to par (there was a pool but it was closed for cleaning/maintenance), but not because of a health risk.

  • TonyA_says

    Sounds like the OP prepaid Expedia for the two rooms for two nights.
    Then they only spent one night in one room and left.
    The hotel and Expedia both did not want to refund because it was a non-refundable rate.
    This is the reason why people should think twice to book a room through Expedia’s merchant model. First of all you prepaid and they already have your money. Then they give the hotel a one time use credit card to pay the net rate for your stay.
    What the hotel should have done was only bill one room one night to that Expedia Card and tell Expedia to refund one room for three nights. Obviously they did not care.
    Next time always post pay at checkout. You have a lot more leeway disputing the bill with your credit card company.

  • TonyA_says

    Chris Elliott, are you suggesting that a slogan or tagline FINDING YOU A PERFECT PLACE constitutes an implied contract or warantee the hotel room will be bed bug free?
    By now we know that these are likely meaningless and empty words.

  • TonyA_says

    Expedia owns It is a brand of Expedia.

  • Kathleen Proud Keyte

    I’m afraid I had to vote no as she 1) shoudl haev left immediately after finding the bigs in the room and 2) she didn’t raise the issue of refund/dispute until after check-out

  • Cybrsk8r

    Most ridiculous comment of the day. The hotel set themselves up to be “smudged” as you put it. It not a shame, it’s totally justified.

  • TonyA_says

    Say what? What did this Chinatown hotel do to eradicate their bed bug problem and assist guests with bed bug issues? Nothing. They deserve to be castigated.

  • EdB

    still trying to figure out what sensitive detail is being referred to here. Only thing I am coming up with is yu don’t feel the public has a right to know about potential health issues with a business and pointing out an existing problem is smudging them?

  • Alan Gore

    New York City guards the health of its subjects by forbidding them to drink large sodas, and yet it allows a $750-a-night hotel to have bedbugs? Somebody well connected to Tammany Hall must own that hotel.

  • Guest

    After a comment like this, really makes me wonder about the quality of those villas you have to rent. How many of them are infested?

  • Raven_Altosk

    Wow, I’m really shocked AMEX didn’t side with the cardholder on this one. Kinda makes me sad because bedbugs are one of those things that Raven Don’t Mess With. YUCK.

    Glad this had a happy ending.

  • disqus_A6K3VBf8Zn

    It is often too hard to prepay. This may not work.

  • disqus_A6K3VBf8Zn

    This is a given

  • TonyA_says

    What do your mean hard to prepay. Most hotels sold by Expedia are prepaid. Like this one.

    Note the Expedia Cancellation policy: We will not be able to refund any payment for no-shows or early check-out.

  • SoBeSparky

    Forgetting the legalities of the website not being responsible for the day-to-day condition of the many thousands of hotels being available for booking, Sarah prepaid for something she never researched. How many things do you buy sight unseen on line when you have several review sites right in front of you to give guidance?

    Did you buy your $750 camera without looking at reviews or consulting experts? Or your new LED TV for that matter? Did you peek at the Amazon or Consumer Reports reviews, or perhaps

    Then why does she look after she spends her money? No laws and no policies can protect people from themselves when they are so gullible that they pay in advance, sight unseen, for something without doing some research or “due diligence.” Once more, P.T. Barnum is proved right.

    Am I picking on the victim? I guess so, considering her chutzpah to ask for a refund when she paid for something in advance, probably to save a few bucks, and then discovers she wasted her money. Now whose fault is that? Once more a consumer tries to get a “deal” and ends up on the wrong end of the stick.

    Experienced travelers know you never prepay a hotel stay unless you know the property. Almost every hotel has “dumpster view” rooms and other less desirable characteristics. Just how much leverage does a customer have once the vendor has your cash? Do you think you will get assigned the best room in your reservation class when the hotel knows you have prepaid, compared to a pay-at-checkout customer who wisely inspects rooms before agreeing to it?

    In all consumer transactions, you should retain as much leverage as long as you can to protect your individual interests.

  • TonyA_says
  • Miami510

    Lesson One: Not
    too long ago, I looked on one of the travel sites, whose initials are J) and found a price for the hotel in which
    I wanted to stay. Instead of booking, I
    called the hotel and found their price was $40 more. I asked to speak with the reservations manager. I asked her why they wouldn’t give me the
    room for the same price that the travel site was selling it. Without any hesitation, she agreed. Perhaps there’s a general lesson there.

    lesson: I’d collect (cotton Q-tip and
    medicine vial) the bedbugs and tell the manager (after writing down his name)
    that I was going to file a report with the city department of health. I’d show the manager the vial and suggest
    that I could be dissuaded from doing so if the hotel could see its way to give
    me an immediate refund of the entire room costs. I might also point out that the time,
    paperwork, and aggravation dealing with the city probably wouldn’t be worth it,
    and they could avoid all that unpleasantness by refunding the money.

  • TonyA_says

    It is a reasonable expectation (even here in NYC) to be rented a hotel room that is free from bed bugs. That said, I cannot blame a person for not doing research about it. The hotel has all the power to do things right. Apparently, they did not.

  • TonyA_says

    You don’t have to go this far for a reputable hotel to address your bed bug issues.

  • TonyA_says

    AMEX must have been infested with too many bed bug complaints :-)

    Look even the Ritz Carlton has one reported

  • emanon256

    I am glad she got a refund, I think she deserves on in this case. No Hotel should offer an infested room.


  • emanon256

    First and last time I used (many years ago before I was a savvy traveler), I booked a hotel room for a conference I was going to be attending. I of course booked the cheapest room at a no name hotel. The hotel went out of business before the conference. I don’t know the details, but it shut down. I called and they said it was non-refundable. After talking to a supervisor and arguing, I finally got a credit minus $100 that I could use towards a new hotel.

  • emanon256

    That shocked me too. I have only disputed on Amex once, but they called me and were every through and very nice.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Not sure what the “general lesson” is… it’s not at all a certainty the hotel would have been any more responsive than was in this case. (Indeed, the hotel lied about the problem being corrected and also failed to move them to a different room as had been promised. That doesn’t sound like they’d have been terribly responsive to a refund request.) And threatening to call the health department might work if you’re the very first person to bring the bedbugs to their attention. But, odds are, you won’t be.

  • TonyA_says

    Boy what a class act they are :-(

    They (Expedia) collect your money ahead of time but they only pay the hotel (the net rate) during or after your stay. So if the hotel closed before your stay and you called Expedia (companies), they should have been able to return your money without a problem. If they cannot deliver their part of the deal, they must return your money.

  • TonyA_says

    LeeAnne, do you think (maybe) if Windsor Hotel was the merchant on record, Amex would have acted differently?
    Since the merchant was (an Expedia company) and all they had to do is facilitate the booking, then the service has been provided.

  • y_p_w

    I wouldn’t do it that way. A hotel shouldn’t need to respond to such threats. They need to respond because its the right thing to do. It could also be considered blackmail in some states.

    Threatening to call a health dept is one thing, but offering to not to do so for what’s really a cash consideration may be illegal.

  • TonyA_says

    #1) where would they go if they left immediately? Unless they are able to secure another hotel in the meantime, they will crime targets in the middle of little italy and chinatown in nyc.
    #2) the OP called the hotel before they came and they were promised if there were bed bugs they would move them to another room. But there was no room available and they all squeezed together in one of the rooms (that also had bed bugs). Since it was obvious the hotel would not do anything to fix the problem, then they left (after booking another hotel). What should the OP do, make a scene at the lobby?
    #3) The OP obviously know his/her card was charged by Expedia (or So they called Expedia to get a refund after the hotel could not fix its own problems. If this was a decent hotel, it should have TOLD THE CUSTOMER IT WOULD WORK WITH EXPEDIA TO REFUND THEIR STAY. There is no point in making the guests hope the bed bug problem would disappear the next day. The rooms should be put out of service and a professional called to get rid of the bugs.

  • TonyA_says

    The NYC Health Dept will probably just laugh off the bedbug hotel rant.

    As far as I know, you need to be a tenant in an apartment (or similar) to complain with the Housing Dept.

    The short term solution for hotel guests is to find an un-infested room in the same hotel or else leave and get a refund.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    “Experienced travelers know you never prepay a hotel stay unless you know the property.”

    In the case of bedbugs, “knowing” the property is extremely difficult. The OP saw the reports of bedbugs and the hotel told her the problem had been corrected. How was the OP to know they weren’t telling the truth? And a previously clean hotel can develop a bedbug problem almost instantly. Even if you’d stayed there the night before you could have been lucky and just had a clean room.

    I’m also not sure how prepaying comes into play in this example. Let’s say the OP hadn’t prepaid… how would anything have changes in this case? It’s almost guaranteed the hotel would have still charged them for the two nights they’d reserved if they’d bolted the second they saw a bedbug. Given the hotel’s lying about the problem, I think the OP probably had an easier road getting to refund them than they would have had with the hotel.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Agreed on why the OP didn’t move in the middle of the night. I’ve done walks in Manhattan that take me through Chinatown and Little Italy, and while I love the ambiance during the day, I’d sure be nervous late at night with a pile of suitcases and no alternate place to take them. Matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve walked past this hotel – that picture you posted to Alan Gore sure seems familiar.

  • TonyA_says

    especially with a six year old (with an iphone?)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Not seeing the iPhone reference. ???

  • TonyA_says

    I just imagined that (made it up).

    I assume that most people have iphones around here except me.
    And if the mom just took off she will be on the cellphone calling up hotels or looking at a GPS map.
    Knowing how popular smash and grab is here, she will most likely have been a victim.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Agree that most people have smartphones of some kind and that they are definitely a “must-have” – and some people don’t use cash to “have” them! Have to keep reminding my husband that devices make one a target – will show him this thread to remind him. But aren’t you (your agency) in Queens?

  • DavidYoung2

    One would presume the room had to be ‘habitable.’ A hotel room with bedbugs isn’t ‘habitable.’ Shame on the hotel, but triple shame on Amex. We expect much, much better from Amex.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I don’t see how it can be viewed as acceptable that just because there was an intermediary, the customer no longer has the right to expect to get what they paid for. sold her the rooms, they were unusable, she deserved her money back. That’s the risk you take if you are going to sell something that you are not providing yourself – you can’t just keep the money if the provider doesn’t provide. By your account, what if she walked into the hotel and they said “tough, we’re not giving you a room”? Would you then say that didn’t have to give her back her money?

    She paid for a product, and didn’t get it (it was unusable). They owed her the money back. Now it’s up to them to go back to the Windsor and demand their money back from Windsor. Not the customer’s problem.

  • TonyA_says

    Yup our office is right beside a NYPD precinct.
    Personally moved the office there sometime in 1995 since before that our people got mugged at night (near Long Island City). Next block is a Jewish center with plenty of kids; and our street is known for being safe to walk even at 3AM. Have done it many times. I would not recommend the same anywhere in Queens.

  • LeeAnneClark

    While I agree that the hotel is the one responsible for fixing the problem at the time, the fact is they DIDN’T. Hence, the OP didn’t get what she paid for.

    I disagree completely that is now out of the picture. As I wrote in my reply to you above, the customer paid for something, and didn’t get it. sold her something that she didn’t get! That seems about as clear-cut as you can get. Not her problem that they have to try to get their money back from Windsor now.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I wouldn’t stay there only because they use this forum basically as a marketing tool. Their comments are nonsensical, it’s just for the purpose of getting their name out, not actual participation in the forum. Christopher should ban them…it’s just spam.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Excellent simile (infested flour). That’s the point I was trying to make. This is not just an issue of quality. This is an issue of basic usability.

  • TonyA_says

    What I am saying is that the Windsor hotel has her money (minus the commission of Expedia). So if any refund is due, because the hotel did not deliver its part, it is the hotel that must return the money. Expedia can also return its commission.

    Same thing happens when we sell an airline ticket that needs to be refunded. The airline returns (refunds) the money to the customer and charges us back (recall) the commission it paid us.

    I am only reciting the proper procedure for doing a refund.

  • TonyA_says

    As you can see AMEX (a very credible organization) does not agree with your position. AMEX must have read the T&Cs of Expedia and determined that Expedia delivered the service (facilitation) it said it will.

    You acknowledge that the Expedia Companies pre-negotiate certain room rates with hotel suppliers to facilitate the booking of reservations on your behalf. You also acknowledge that the Expedia Companies provide you services to facilitate such booking of reservations for a consideration (the “facilitation fee”). The room rate displayed on the Website is a combination of the pre-negotiated room rate for rooms reserved on your behalf by the Expedia Companies and the facilitation fee retained by the Expedia Companies for their services. You authorize the Expedia Companies to book reservations for the total reservation price, which includes the room rate displayed on the Website, plus tax recovery charges, service fees, and where applicable, taxes on the Expedia Companies’ services. You agree that your credit card will be charged by the Expedia Companies for the total reservation price. Upon submitting your reservation request you authorize the Expedia Companies to facilitate hotel reservations on your behalf, including making payment arrangements with hotel suppliers…

    As you said, without being put to shame in Elliott’s column, you don’t think Expedia would have gave the OP any money. That’s the whole point of the story. It was cheaper to pay her off than get negative publicity.

  • y_p_w

    “The City accepts reports of bed bugs in private residences, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) property, hotels, single room occupancy buildings, day care centers, New York City public schools, CUNY colleges, and subways. To report bed bugs in a private house or apartment, you must be a tenant in the building.”

    I couldn’t find a complaint form per se, but apparently the way to lodge a complaint is to call 311. I don’t know if it would work with a cell phone, and finding a pay phone can be an issue these days.

    Even so, I would never, ever threaten to report someone if they didn’t refund my money. Such a threat could get one arrested for blackmail or extortion. I might say that I intend to report a violation or issue, but I wouldn’t flat out say that I might consider not making such a report if I get some sort of consideration. Many hotels have cameras and recording devices. It would be pretty easy to get everything on video.

  • mbods

    Yes, negative publicity is a great thing! Businesses can certainly treat their customers horribly and get away with it BUT how many of us, who faithfully read this column, will ever stay at The Windsor while in NY? Not me and I won’t be booking hotel through Expedia or either.

  • TonyA_says

    I agree with shame on the hotel. But why TRIPLE shame on AMEX?
    What did AMEX do wrong? Can you clarify what is AMEX’s responsibility here?

  • This is an ugly one, I’m glad she got a full refund. Would the best move have been to force the hotel to walk her to another property and apply her money to the new rooms? Do they rely on the fact that most people won’t waste 6 hours trying to solve a problem when they can just book and move themselves in an hour? I learn alot from you, Chris,and want to know what to do if this ever happens to me!

  • EdB

    Could it possible be argued that the T&C is the facilitation of a habitable room and because it was infested, it was not habitable? Habitable being implied in that no normal reasonable person would ask to have them facilitate for a room that shouldn’t be occupied.

  • TonyA_says

    In essence she already argued that point with AMEX and lost the argument. I believe AMEX said that Expedia did not warrant the CONDITIONS OF THE ROOM. I tend to agree with AMEX on this specific point. Here’s what people need to know.

    When you use Expedia’s hotel online booking service, you must read the fine print and understand exactly what they are committing to do for you. Making assumptions and guessing is a dangerous game.

    Note to people – use a third party service with extreme caution.
    I believe AMEX would have taken her position had she contracted directly with the hotel itself. The terms and conditions would have been different had she done so,

  • emanon256

    That’s what got me back in the day when I used Expedia (I mentioned the story before on here). This was long before I started traveling for work, but sadly after I booked teh 4 star Days Inn. I stayed in a hotel maybe 3 or 5 times a year back then.

    I booked a pre-paid hotel on Expedia near LGA for one night as I had a 5am flight. I got there late, maybe 9 or 10 pm. The hotel was out of rooms. I gave them my confirmation and they said they can’t help, they are out of rooms, and that I would have to talk to Expedia. I called Expedia and they said its between me and the hotel. I tried the hotel again and nothing, they said they canceled my reservation and refunded Expedia. I tried and the Expedia rep tried finding other hotels, no one had any rooms. After awhile the hotel told me I need to leave their lobby as I am not a guest.

    Long story short, Expedia refused to give me a refund and said it was between me and the Hotel, and the Hotel refused to give me a refund and said it was between me and Expedia Expedia.

    My job at that time gave me free pre-paid legal counsel, so I used them and they spoke to Expedia and then told me about the whole “facilitation fee.” Expedia stated that 100% of what I paid them was the “facilitation fee” and they paid for the reservation themselves on my behalf and since they did make the reservation, they performed their duty and I am not due a refund. The lawyer said their contract was air tight and I could not get my money back. I have not used Expedia since.

  • TonyA_says

    Wow, horrible lesson to learn. I hope everyone here reads your story. This is EXACTLY what I am referring to when I warn folks to read the Expedia contract you are about to get into.

  • mszabo

    Well even in that case isn’t Expedia still on the hook for that “facilitation fee”. In this case Expedia didn’t do its job and didn’t book the traveler a habitable room. Certainly that is completely the fault of the hotel and not Expedia, but that just means Expedia has some action to take against the hotel.

    The Traveler has no idea (and doesn’t need to know) the breakdown between the actual room rate and expedia’s facilitation fee. I’d even say this is probably considered trade secret information. Unless Expedia wants to let the cat out of the bag, and tell the traveler how much money to request back from the hotel, I’d think getting the entire refund via is the best solution.

  • Miami510

    Probably an apocryphal story, but something that you will probably always remember.
    A woman finds bedbugs and many bites on her body after an evening renting a hotel room. She writes a well-crafted letter explaining the problem and the uncomfortable results.

    A week later she receives a letter from the chairman of the board of the
    hotel corporation:

    Dear Madam,

    It is with the utmost embarrassment that I read your letter, and in behalf of Board of Directors and our management, I offer you our sincere apologies. This has never, ever happened at any of our 200 hotels before, and I assure you of our earnest efforts to see that this is a singular occurrence. In
    recompense I’m enclosing a coupon for a free stay at any one of the hotels in
    our chain.



    In error, his secretary also included the guest’s original letter, and scribbled in pencil on the bottom of her letter were the instructions:

    Send her the bedbug letter.

  • TonyA_says

    If you read what AMEX said, they (expedia) are not.

    Look, I do not want to defend Expedia.

    That is a very uncomfortable position for me to be in.


    What do you expect?

    The room rate, net rate, fees is not that important. What is important is HOW THE GUEST CAN GET A REFUND OF WHAT SHE PAID (ALL OF IT) FOR THE NIGHTS SHE DID NOT STAY. Those who have her money should return it. The hotel has most (maybe 75-80%) of her money. probably has about 20-25% of her money.

    To ding for 100% of her money is just as unfair if they don’t have her money. Why does anyone think Expedia can recover that from the hotel? It is also not Expedia’s fault the hotel has bedbugs. The end does not justify the means.

    ADDED: I dug up the standard property contract of Expedia. Aha, they have a clawback clause. You can read my response to the OP below. Expedia could have remedied the situation for the OP easily. They failed.

  • girlygirl

    One read of the Expedia contract was enough for me not to do business with them. Too much gray area and ping-ponging between Expedia-hotel-and any third party involved. Full price seems like a bargain to me after I read about some of the hoops these customers have to jump through.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That procedure makes sense if the relationship between the hotel and Expedia is clean. But the hotels are saying that Expedia has the money and that you need to go the Expedia to get the refund. Then Expedia says you need to get a refund from the hotel. That’s not clean and the customer shoudn’t have to figure our who have the money.
    That’s why the law has joint liability. It works for such murky cases.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I have to disagree
    1. We can only speculate AMEX reasoning. I’ve deal with huge reputable corporations that summarily deny claims and only review them on appeal.
    2. Regardless of the terms and conditions, there are consumer protection law which prevents merchants from selling defective or fraudulent goods and retaining the customer’s money.

  • TonyA_says

    If the guest has not stayed yet (check in yet) then Expedia has all the money. But if the guest has already left and the hotel billed Expedia (i.e. one time use credit card), then the hotel already has (her) money.

    So now there is a big problem. How does the customer get the money from BOTH the hotel and Expedia?

  • TonyA_says

    Carver, please read Expedia’s T&Cs on hotel bookings and tell me what service they say they will do for the customer.
    It is shocking (at least to me), why anyone would use them.

    ADDED: They way I see it, Expedia seems to say that the customer is responsible for picking the hotel and deserves what they picked.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    You were due a full refund. Period.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That doesn’t sound like blackmail or extortion, although state laws vary. Now if you asked for additional “hush” money, that would be a different matter.

  • TonyA_says

    It would be great is Expedia commits itself to take responsibility for refunds due to customer dissatisfaction(s). But they don’t. In fact many parts of their T&Cs makes sure that they don’t have to.
    If only consumers read first what this company is committing to do (or not do), then perhaps they will run away from this company.

  • TonyA_says

    If there is anything missing here it is that EXPEDIA must include a statement in its T&Cs on how it will process REFUNDS for customers who are dissatisfied with their hotel stays and depart earlier.

    Their existing contract seems to suggest they have no such responsibility. And, the action of AMEX may simply embolden Expedia not to change its position.

  • TonyA_says

    If a travel agent (human) sold this hotel to you, they will get at most a 10% commission and they are expected to help you get a refund.

    If you buy this room from an OTA, they will make about 30% gross margin and you are left on your own figuring out how to get a refund.

    Grossly unfair.

  • Sarah Gaines

    Obviously we got the (one) employee on staff involved. This is a mom and pop business, I guess. The employee’s english was limited. He was very apologetic, but had zero to offer in terms of solutions. We were given extra sheets and pillows to sleep on the floor in the less-infested room. He told us we would have to contact the manager with our concerns.

    After a long weather delay on our flight out, (then a $50 cab ride from the hotel) we arrived with our 2 year old, 6 year old and their 75 year old grandmother at about 2 am. We didn’t “up and leave”. We got all the help this person could offer when he gave us the extra pillow. We spent two hours online and on the phone trying to find an alternate solution.

  • Sarah Gaines

    *a six year old, a two year old, a 75 year old, 10 bags, computer, and yes, an iPhone. (at 2 am and no alternate hotel to go to.)

  • Sarah Gaines

    Do I get a yes vote (not that I need it since reversed itself, but I guess I want to be understood!) since we 1.) left as-immediately-as-possible and 2.) raised the issue of the refund/dispute immediately but the very polite, but powerless employee referred us to the manager’s number? (and we were never able to get a response from the manager at all.)

  • Jane

    People who pay a fee for an AMEX card, like I used to, SHOULD hold them to a higher level of responsibility. I pay them (plus I know they charge higher fees that other cards) and in return I expect them to do more for me. The hotel had bedbugs and would not (or could not) give them a bug-free room. They shouldn’t have to pay for this horrible experience. Amex should be on their side and not on the side of those providing the poor experience.

  • TonyA_says

    Hi and thanks for coming here to talk about your problem. I’m sorry to hear this awful thing happen to you, your young kids and your old mom.
    I’m sure you tried to get to help you out of this situation. Can you please tell us why the refused to refund your money or maybe get something else for you. Did they propose any solution? Thanks.

  • Sarah Gaines

    What we didn’t know at the time is that has a division to help place you in an alternate location if there’s ever a problem like this. That would have been great to know at the time.

    We really didn’t anticipate any resistance on getting a refund. It seemed so obvious to us based on the circumstances. When it became clear that we would never reach the manager we called

    When we first contacted them they were supportive and asked for 24 to 48 hours to get in touch with The Windsor. They never followed up. When we contacted them again, we spoke to a different (much less interested) agent who agreed that we should go through Amex.

    The fact that American Express sided with was the biggest shock of the whole thing to me. “The merchant has informed us that… Expedia does not guarantee any hotel or amenity or the condition of the hotel. They only guarantee the hotel reservation.”

    It wasn’t until I ranted a little on Twitter that someone from re-opened the investigation. One lesson, perhaps, is that the outcome of your complaint may rely on the agent you are working with.

  • TonyA_says

    I still have my AMEX card and have no problems with it.
    Please allow me to explain why I think AMEX could not do anything more.
    The merchant to the charge was Expedia (
    Expedia is not the hotel itself. You are simply paying Expedia a facilitation fee to book the hotel THAT YOU PICKED YOURSELF. That said for as long as Expedia is able to make the booking, they have accomplished their responsibility.
    The hotel stay is therefore the hotel’s responsibility.
    That, in essence, is the gist of your contract with Expedia.
    So even if your hotel stay was awful, it is not Expedia’s fault.
    AMEX knows that, so that is why they could not force a chargeback on Expedia. Expedia did what it said it would do – book your hotel stay (as is with no warranties).

    While this might absurd to you (and me), it is the contract and AMEX has no choice but to follow it. The solution is to stop using Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and not to chastise AMEX.

  • TonyA_says

    Thank you for explaining the point I have been trying to say here to others – that your contract with Expedia only requires Expedia to make a reservation (facilitate a booking) and does not guarantee anything else. I know it sounds ridiculous, but unfortunately that is exactly what their Terms and Conditions say.

    What Expedia is doing is most probably legal (since they obviously have the best legal minds money can buy), but is, in my opinion so DISINGENUOUS.

    Here is the reason why (note I am not a lawyer).

    Expedia’s standard contract with hotel properties has this clause:
    Property shall not charge any amount for a Room if a Traveler arrives at the Property but departs as a result of the Traveler’s dissatisfaction with the Property …
    If the Company refunds a Traveler because of a Property’s actions, then the Property must reimburse Company for such refund within 30 days after Company requests reimbursement.

    They do not explain this to their customers. They do not even tell customers about it. For if the customers know that Expedia has the right to claw back payments to hotel properties and that guests have a right to walkout and Expedia does not need to pay the properties if that happens; then IT MIGHT CAUSE A MINI REVOLUTION.

    Bear in mind the contracts of Expedia with its customer and that with its Hotel properties are two separate and distinct contracts. So they can say they have nothing to do with each other (from a legal standpoint). I am simply pointing out how disgusting it is to ask YOU the customer to challenge (dispute) your charge with the credit card company (AMEX), knowing fully well their (as a merchant) contract with you is bulletproof and you will lose, and while they knew their contracts with the hotel properties have provisions that could have PROTECTED YOU.

    I hope Carver (who is an attorney) would comment on my post.

  • TonyA_says

    Hey I guessed the iphone part correctly :-)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Darn, but you’re good!

  • TonyA_says

    LeeAnne, I just dug up a standard property contract of Expedia.
    OMG, right in the contract is a clause that could have protected the OP. Shame on Expedia.

  • Extramail

    I’d be curious as to how many rooms were infested with bed bugs and how many, if any, other guests found their room uninhabitable. And, even more than that, why is the hotel still offered as an option? Disclaimer: I have never used an opaque site to book travel and I’m glad of that every single time I read Chris’ newsletter.

  • mszabo

    Well as you noticed they have a clawback clause. In this case it seems pretty clear that getting anything from the hotel isn’t fair to the hotel. If the hotel grants the refund then there is the potential that Expedia could will clawback a second refund later. This is what I somewhat suspected when I made my post. It really is in Expedia’s best interest to not publish the net rate otherwise their customer base may well get somewhat pissed off when it learns that Expedia earned $400 to book that 3 night stay. If you recall this happened just a few months ago (clearly the customer was in the wrong then but still is pretty bad for buisness). Having that clawback clause allows Expedia the opportunity to keep this information a secret.

  • TonyA_says

    According to the property contract, the hotel should not bill Expedia AT ALL (or used the one time use credit card if Expedia sent them one) EVEN FOR ONE NIGHT. (My original post suggested they should bill one room one night.)
    Had the hotel promised NOT TO BILL Expedia, then Expedia could have refunded the OP easier or much sooner.
    The clawback is there just to make sure the hotel does not bill Expedia later.

    Because of the way the merchant hotel system payment works, REFUNDING a customer can get very dirty.
    That is probably the reason why the agent of Expedia tried to pull a fast one on the OP.
    Maybe he wanted to protect their relationship with the hotel (keeping the revenue) more than protecting the OP.

  • y_p_w

    If one is simply pissed and wants to report someone to the authorities, that’s one thing. If the threat of reporting (and offering to withhold the reporting) is directly linked to a refund, that could very well be considered extortion under NY state law:


    § 155.05 Larceny; defined.

    2. Larceny includes a wrongful taking, obtaining or withholding of another’s property, with the intent prescribed in subdivision one of
    this section, committed in any of the following ways:

    (e) By extortion.
    A person obtains property by extortion when he compels or induces another person to deliver such property to himself or to a third person by means of instilling in him a fear that, if the property is not so delivered, the actor or another will:

    (ix) Perform any other act which would not in itself materially benefit the actor but which is calculated to harm another person materially with respect to his health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships.”

    This was the law that was used to convict the guy who blackmailed David Letterman. The requirement is that some property be delivered in exchange to withhold the threatened action, and my reading of the law is that “delivering property” is very broadly defined.

  • JenniferFinger

    Good thing refunded her in full. Shame on Amex. What the hell are they thinking that first they assured her that they took care of the problem, they very clearly didn’t, and then they give this “neither X nor Y guarantee the condition of the hotel” ? Who do they think would want to stay at a hotel full of bedbugs?

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    I looked and look and looked at online reviews before picking a Manhattan hotel. Just because of these absurd policies.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    People who are flying into New York from Missouri don’t generally bring bedbugs with them. If your logic was true, then they should have bedbug infestations in EVERY major city. Why does the word Bedbug and NEW YORK CITY seem synonymous?

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    As a general rule, I never issue a threat. I just do it. More often than not it’s a bluff anyway.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    If you dig into that web site further, you’ll find the alternative number to 311, which is (212) NEW-YORK

  • LeeAnneClark

    Glad to see that you found that, and recognize that Expedia has a responsibility to provide what they sold…even if they are not the provider. They took the money from the client, they can’t just keep her money if she doesn’t get what she bought. Good to know their contract reflects that in some way.

  • TonyA_says

    I am afraid that pointing out an inconsistency between their contracts with customers and hotels only carries moral and ethical weight. Legally the customer still has very little leeway, allowing this company to thumb its nose at even the most basic customer service issues. And since the customet PREPAYS, it will be an uphill battle all the way. Time and time again, this company always seems to make it to Elliott’s shame list. Unless a government agency or a judge forces them to ammend their hypocrital we are a mere facilitator customer contract, then IMO nothing will change.

  • KaraJones

    Oh, you’re blaming New York for bed bugs? Does it happen in some hotels? Of course it does – in nice ones, too. And it started due to international travelers who brought them in. But they didn’t only bring them here to NY! Ya’ll come back now, Texan. LOL!

  • $25394585

    Knowing that Amex didn’t stand behind the customer, I wouldn’t apply for a credit card from them.

  • $25394585

    As far as booking thru Expedia …never would I trust them again. They are thru as far as i’m concerned.

  • $25394585

    I disagree. Amex could also issue a credit for a good customer. Amex would allow the charge to stand but issue a credit on the customers bill.

  • $25394585

    I think it’s because of all the liberals in the city….lol

  • Olivia Heartelly

    Well, if they are responsible enough and really mean good business (which a give and take relationship) then they should issue a refund no questions ask and they should fix the problem after…

  • Casper

    Here in lies the problem with these 3rd party reservation centers, i.e., Expedia, travelocity, etc…They have a strict no refund policy but in most instances they will usually relocate guests at no extra costs. I have been working in the industry for over 10 years and always reccommend that you book directly through the hotel. Usually you have more pull on guest related issues if you book directly with the property instead of 3rd party reservation centers because guess what, their in business for themselves not for you the guest. My tip: Next time book directly with the property and always make sure to check online reviews before booking anything!

  • People

    Hate to say, but you kind of brought this on yourself. You stated you checked the hotel before arrival and it mentioned it had problems before. You should have steered clear right from the beginning.

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