Booking.com’s failure to cancel my reservation cost me $278


When Joan Cooper reads negative reviews of her hotel, she asks Booking.com to cancel her reservation, but it doesn’t — and the hotel treats her as a no-show guest. Can our advocates help Cooper recover her hotel fee?

Question: Last February I made a reservation through Booking.com for the Wayfarer Inn in Carmel, Calif., for a stay in April. But after I saw some bad reviews of the hotel, I emailed Booking.com to cancel my reservation.

Booking.com sent me an email confirming the cancellation, but it notified me that the Wayfarer Inn was assessing me a $30 cancellation fee. I asked Booking.com to waive this fee, as I was a first-time user of its site. Booking.com’s agent replied that it was up to the Wayfarer Inn to decide whether it would waive the fee, and that Booking.com would forward my request to the hotel and get back to me.

I didn’t hear from Booking.com after that until April, after the date of my originally scheduled stay at the Wayfarer Inn, when I received automatic emails asking me to rate the hotel. I immediately contacted Booking.com and advised its agents that I had never stayed at the Wayfarer Inn, forwarding them my confirmation email from Booking.com. Then the Wayfarer Inn charged my credit card $278.

Booking.com responded that it was my responsibility to cancel my reservation according to its rules and that the Wayfarer Inn was within its rights to charge my account, disregarding that I had canceled my reservation in accordance with its rules.

Even though Booking.com had sent me the email confirming that I was canceling my reservation, it had never processed the cancellation with the Wayfarer Inn. I think Booking.com wrongly decided that I had not canceled based on my request for a waiver of the Wayfarer Inn’s $30 cancellation fee.

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Can you get Booking.com to admit responsibility for this error and to refund me the $278? — Joan Cooper, Petaluma, Calif.

Answer: I can understand your frustration at canceling a reservation and receiving a confirmation of the cancellation, only to later be charged for the reservation and told that it was your responsibility. That created an unnecessary mess.


But this mess might have been avoided if you had checked the hotel’s reviews before, not after, booking your reservation. Although the reviews weren’t visible on Booking.com’s website until after you completed the reservation process, you might have checked them out on travel sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Sometimes it isn’t possible to cancel hotel reservations after booking them through online travel websites like Booking.com. Luckily, you still had your email confirming your cancellation, which established that you should have received a refund.

Booking.com’s terms and conditions provide with regard to cancellations that

[if] you wish to review, adjust or cancel your reservation, please revert to the confirmation email and follow the instructions therein. Please note that you may be charged for your cancellation in accordance with the accommodation provider’s cancellation, (pre)payment and no-show policy or not be entitled to any repayment of any (pre)paid amount. We recommend that you read the cancellation, (pre)payment and no-show policy of the accommodation provider carefully prior to making your reservation and remember to make further payments on time as may be required for the relevant reservation.

Since you followed these instructions and the Wayfarer Inn’s website makes no mention of a cancellation fee, your contesting the $30 charge is understandable. Unfortunately, your aggressive tone in your communications with Booking.com’s personnel, which included a threat of a television exposé, didn’t help your case.

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You might have used our executive contacts for Booking.com to escalate your complaint to higher-ranking executives of the company (a brand of the Priceline Group). Instead, you contacted our advocates for assistance in getting a $278 refund.

We reached out to Booking.com on your behalf. Booking.com agreed to issue a refund to your credit card.


Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org.

  • Dan

    Booking.com was totally in the wrong here but if someone threatens me with a television exposé, I would have ignored them too. When will people learn that fixing mundane clerical errors don’t require unbelievable threats of lawsuits, social media smear campaigns, or a television exposé? Just contact the company, explain your problem, provide documentation, and be polite (yet firm) in requesting a resolution. How can that be such a difficult concept to grasp?

  • Alan Gore

    Yet another reason to avoid OTAs, but did quibbling over the $30 really cause his reservation not to be canceled?

  • greg watson

    …as a I previously mentioned on this site………….I booked a hotel in London UK through booking.com……..the location was not exactly as advertised………………so 2 hours later I contacted booking.com………..to request a change of hotels ( so that hey would not suffer the loss of my business). It was a non-refundable reservation but because of the inaccurate info………I thought it would not be a big hurdle to overcome. The hotel would have over 7 months to fill that room. The hotel & booking.com refused to help me……….. Lesson learned…..do a more comprehensive search before & book directly with the business I am dealing with. No more 3rd party bookings for me

  • Michael__K

    By the third or more back and forth, I wouldn’t call it a mundane clerical error any more.
    I agree with the advice that extraneous posturing which might distract from the clear facts supporting the request is usually not helpful. But I also don’t see how one could condone the idea of a company intentionally ignoring a completely legitimate request because of offense taken over a threat of a “television exposé” from an exasperated customer who is following up on a request which was already wrongly denied. [Note, I’m not suggesting that the company did in fact intentionally ignore the request for that reason.]

  • cscasi

    Good for you. I am not sure why Red Roof gave you such a hassle, especially since you called the hotel to let it know you would be late, but that you were coming. Had you not showed up, it would still have collected the amount due by charging it to your card. That is pretty poor of the hotel. Who cares if you arrive late. You have paid for the room as of 6 PM.

  • The Original Joe S

    OTA! 555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555*

    “5” is pronounced “ha” in Thailand.

  • The Original Joe S

    And how many times have you read on this site the problems with OTAs?……… It would seem inadvisable to use OTAs…………… People are not choosing wisely when they try to save a few bucks by using a 3rd party…………………

  • The Original Joe S

    Because the world is full of dirtbags, that’s why.

  • Blamona

    Buyers remorse is no excuse inasking for $30 cancel refund. Where’s her accountability in this?

  • Sandra

    I have used Booking.com for years with never a negative experience. But…you need to know what you are clicking on as some hotels have free cancellation, some do not. The prices are usually lower for those that cannot be cancelled; watch and read; it’s the mantra of doing business online.

  • greg watson

    this was quite a while ago……………….so I find your comment to be very obvious……..Sherlock

  • kanehi

    When booking online sites read the conditions very carefully before clicking on the payment. Sometimes it will say “resort fees” not included which doesn’t state how much it would be and per day basis. Also in the fine print some will state it’s your responsibility to cancel the reservation and may or might not generate a cancellation fee after so many days into the reservation and charge partial or full room rates if a no show. I always book a hotel direct from their web sites and the magic word of “room guaranteed” clause. If you were charged for the full day they you shouldn’t be dinged for showing up late. I usually call ahead that I’ll be late checking in.

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