Did Holiday Inn lie to me about its refund policy?

It’s bad enough Carole Carson can’t attend her granddaughter’s wedding — but Holiday Inn’s holding on to her money only adds to her pain.

Question:I would like a refund from Holiday Inn. I used their online reservation service on March 14 for reservations for June 15 to 18 to attend my granddaughter’s wedding. Approximately two days later, my plans changed, and I had to cancel the first day of the reservation. At that time, an agent promised us a refund of $137.

In April my American Express credit card was charged the full amount of $431. The refund of $137 has never been applied to my card.

To further complicate matters, a physician-verified illness forced me to cancel the entire trip. On June 8, I contacted Holiday Inn and relayed that I needed to cancel the entire reservation.

I was told, however, that since the reservation was booked online, no refund for any of the amount would be returned to me. Their policy is that since I was given a reduced room rate, I was not entitled to a refund or to let another party use the room.

I discovered a number of complaints relating to this practice online.

I live on our retirement benefits, so this amount of more than four hundred dollars, is meaningful to me. Besides the disappointment of not being able to attend my granddaughter’s wedding, I am disappointed in the unwillingness of Holiday Inn to refund my deposit.

Can you help me get a refund from Holiday Inn? Carole Carson, Carson City, Calif.

Answer: It is interesting that after your original cancellation of the first day of your reservation, you were promised a refund, but when you needed to cancel the entire reservation, you were informed no refund was possible.

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You did attempt to self-advocate in this matter by sending a refund request to the CEO of Holiday Inn, which was answered, though not satisfactorily:

After reviewing your reservation we found it had originally been confirmed for a Book Early and Save rate. Certain restrictions apply to this deeply discounted rate, and a deposit for the entire stay is charged to your credit card between the time of booking and your date of arrival. Canceling your reservation will result to the forfeiture of your entire deposit.

Acknowledgement of the restrictions is required in order to obtain your confirmation number. This provides you with the option of agreeing or declining the terms, and gives you a choice to book a different rate type with a different cancellation policy.

Although not readily available — it appears to be only viewable in a pop-up window — the Book Early and Save rate does have the following disclaimer in their “View Rate Details”: CANCELLATION POLICY: Canceling your reservation or failing to arrive will result in forfeiture of your deposit. Taxes may apply.

This is in direct contrast of Holiday Inn’s general cancellation policy, available through the Virtual Assistant:

Canceling your reservation before 6:00 pm [local hotel time] the day before your reservation will result in no charge. Canceling your reservation after 6:00 pm [local hotel time] on the day before your reservation, or failing to show, will result in a charge equal to the first night’s stay per room to your credit card. Taxes may apply. Failing to call or show before check-out time after the first night of a reservation will result in cancellation of the remainder of your reservation. Points + Cash bookings are charged immediately, and cancellations are refunded in points only.

There are a number of complaints online about Holiday Inn, including quite a list from Consumer Affairs. A number of them address this hidden nonrefundable issue as well.

The term “deeply discounted” seems an exaggeration since my tour through their booking system only offered me a $12 price difference.

Holiday Inn does provide notification that the Book Early and Save rate is nonrefundable, but it is not readily accessible and appears to be the one exception to their general cancellation policy. Their website encourages people to search for a room using the option Best Available, which will list the Book Early and Save listing first.

Perhaps it would be a better policy for Holiday Inn to place their cancellation policies out in the open, as well as to modify their Book Early and Save policy to be in line with their more general policy instead of engendering the ill will that this exception seems to be creating. Certainly keeping the one-time deposit is not worth the cost of losing potential customers and the negative reviews they are generating.

We list contacts for Holiday Inn on our site. Our advocates contacted the company on your behalf, and we received confirmation from you that it has offered you a full refund.

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