Hey Hotels.com, what happened to my Internet connection?

By | August 27th, 2010

Question: I recently reserved a room at the Ramada Charleston in Charleston, S.C., through Hotels.com. When I checked in, I was told there was no Internet in the rooms despite what the Hotels.com Web page said.

I explained that I needed Internet access and that the Ramada would not do. I called Hotels.com from the Ramada lobby and the Hotels.com representative, whose English language skills were poor, confirmed with Ramada that there was no Internet and canceled my reservation.

I then went across the street to the Red Roof Inn, confirmed they had Internet in their rooms, and called Hotels.com back to book it instead. This time the phone representative (whose English was even worse) told me my credit card was declined. This was because she couldn’t understand me and input the wrong number.

Finally, I had to book the room with the front desk of the Red Roof Inn using the same credit card that the Hotels.com agent said was declined and the same credit card I used for the initial Ramada reservation. I lost four nights of Welcome Rewards and about 35 minutes on my cell phone.

I think, at the least, my four nights of welcome rewards should be reinstated. But Hotels.com refused, instead offering me $50 worth of “Hotel Bucks.” They promised them within four to six weeks, but it’s been five months, and there’s no sign of them. Anything you can do to help would be appreciated. — Michael Rosenthal, Miami

Answer: Your room should have had an Internet connection, as promised. I can understand how some hotels might think of a wireless high-speed network as an amenity, like a TV or a hair dryer, but if you’re traveling on business, it’s a necessity.

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I reviewed the Hotels.com listing of the Ramada Charleston several weeks after working on this case, and I saw that the hotel still claims to offer “high-speed Internet access” on site.

Evidently not.

Hotels.com is on the hook for selling you a room that fell short of its description. But before getting to that, let’s deal with the foreign call centers. I believe online travel companies have a right to hire the most cost-effective call center personnel they can — wherever they may be. However, you also have a right to speak with a company representative in English. Hotels.com shouldn’t even bother offering a toll-free number if no one can understand the folks staffing it, or if they can’t understand you.

Strictly speaking, the absence of a high-speed Internet connection was a breach of contract by Hotels.com. You booked the hotel because it had an in-room connection. Hotels.com should have offered you an immediate refund, if not found you a comparable room (with Internet, of course) at another hotel.

If you agreed to a $50 coupon at the time you left the hotel, then Hotels.com owes you the “Hotel Bucks” within four to six weeks. Here’s another idea: Why not spring for a wireless Internet card, which will ensure you’re always connected and never at the mercy of a hotel to get work done?

I contacted Hotels.com on your behalf. A representative contacted you and credited the four room nights, plus the promised $50 voucher.

(Photo: the G/Flickr Creative Commons)

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