Did she just get caught in a vacation rental scam?

Was Kimberly Baker just scammed by VRBO, the popular home rental site?

She thinks so after the site tried to charge her an extra $1,000 for her vacation rental after confirming. VRBO says it made an “honest” error and has apparently offered to eat part of the cost of the correct rate.

So who’s right?

You can scroll to the bottom of the story to vote; but before you do, let’s review the facts in this case.

A vacation rental scam?

Baker recently booked a week in a Garden City, S.C., vacation rental for June 2019 through VRBO.

“The homeowner accepted my reservation and sent me my acceptance letter with the copy of my receipt for the $1,100 deposit,” she says. “I sent the deposit with my Visa credit card.”

Her rate: $2,767.

But wait! There’s more. The homeowner later sent another email. It turns out the rate for June 2019, was $3,767 per week. Oops.

“She has already told me she will have to cancel our reservation and pay a fee,” she says. “I don’t want to upset the homeowner. I just want what I paid for — a beautiful house in a great location.”

Did she know?

We have a pretty strict policy about getting involved in “fat-finger” pricing disputes. We steer clear of them unless the initial price was reasonable to the average consumer. And by that measure, Baker passed the test. My advocacy team went to work.

First, we reviewed the paper trail between the owner and Baker. It revealed that the owner had accepted a reservation without carefully reviewing the dates. That’s a mistake many travelers make. The owner’s reason: Her 95-year-old mother had been hospitalized, and she couldn’t give the reservation her full attention. Interesting excuse.

Related story:   Hey Avis, since when is a passport not a valid ID?

We contacted VRBO on Baker’s behalf.

Is this ridiculous?

After investigating this alleged vacation rental scam case, VRBO confirmed the mistake. It offered Baker two options: either cancel her reservation or keep it and pay a compromise rate of $750 additional. It’s unclear if VRBO will cover the $250 or if it required the homeowner to lower her rate.

“It seems I have no protection from VRBO,” says Baker. She called her efforts to raise her price “extortion” and refused to cough up more cash for the reservation.

Interestingly, there’s nothing about honoring quoted prices in VRBO’s Book With Confidence Guarantee (Expedia owns VRBO).

There’s something about this case that leaves me deeply disappointed. If we can’t trust the rates VRBO quotes customers, then what can we trust?

Did VRBO offer Kimberly Baker enough compensation?

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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 chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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