Cairo hotel nightmare — can she get an Orbitz refund?

Where's her Orbitz refund for this nightmare hotel?

After booking a hotel in Cairo that looked like a “dump” and made her feel unsafe, June Nelson wants her money back. But is her Orbitz refund request for this hotel nightmare a lost cause?

It was — until my advocacy team got involved.

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Nelson’s case is filled with lessons for the rest of us, even if we never stay in a hotel and never use Orbitz. That’s because she didn’t follow the three Ps of an effective resolution and because Orbitz decided not to follow its own rules.

Her Cairo hotel nightmare

Normally, I would extensively quote an aggrieved customer in a story. But I can’t for Nelson’s Orbitz refund case.

Here’s her initial request for help.

I am in Cairo and this TOWN VIEW HOTEL is a dump in the worst part of Cairo. Orbitz stated it was fabulous so I booked… the taxi could not find it and when he did he would not leave me there alone as it was not safe. I need this reservation canceled and a full refund… I trusted your opinion on this hotel….PLEASE DO NOT REFER PEOPLE HERE IT IS HORRIBLE.

(While writing in ALL UPPERCASE is perfectly acceptable for your friends and loved ones, it can seriously affect the outcome of your grievance. More on that in a minute.)

Here’s the Town View Hotel’s listing on Orbitz. I would not stay there after reading the reviews.

The first review says it all:

Dirty And Unsafe Hotel

Don’t you ever get to this hotel , it’s dirty, unsafe , drug users are spread everywhere, not appropriate for families, dirty, the elevator is very dangerous, asking money from the guests by all means, reflecting very bad image about Egyptians, too bad ………Arab tourists are advised not to take this hotel at all.

Nelson booked a different hotel in Cairo. She says she also tried to call Orbitz to cancel her first hotel, “but the call will not go through from Cairo to USA.”

That’s an important detail, because her hotel had a specific cancellation policy. It would come back to haunt her — and Orbitz.

Sorry, no refunds for your Cairo hotel nightmare

When Nelson returned home, she asked for a full Orbitz refund. It refused.

“My credit card company — after three denied disputes — informed me I need to deal with the merchant,” she told me. “I have all evidence of my attempts. I have also talked to the hotel, and the manager stated he does not have the money — Orbitz does.”

Nelson also had travel insurance, but staying in a dirty, unsafe hotel isn’t a named peril. So it doesn’t cover her.

Our advocate Dwayne Coward reached out to Orbitz about Nelson’s Cairo hotel nightmare to find out why it had kept her money. Here’s its side of the story:

On December 22, 2017, the customer purchased an 18-night reservation for a “Deluxe Single 1 Twin Bed” room at the three-star Town View Hotel for $529.63 USD, with the stay dates set for check-in on December 26, 2017, and check-out on January 13, 2018.

Hotel information, provided pre-purchase, states the hotel has forty traveler reviews, the most recent on April 11, 2018, and only a 40% recommendation rate. Clicking the Reviews link displays customer feedback with titles in large font, including: “Derelict building,” “Misguided room pictures,” and “Disgusting.”

Case notes for the itinerary indicate the customer called Orbitz on December 23, 2017, expressing concern about her check-in, as she was arriving in Egypt at 2:30 a.m. but check-in was not until 12:30 p.m. An agent contacted the hotel, who advised the customer could check in at any time with no problem.

There was no further documentation on file until January 16, 2018, several days after the check-out date, when the customer called to request a refund. Case notes indicate the customer stated she had not used the reservation because she could not find the property and had to book elsewhere.

Our agents contacted the property to speak with Mohamed Febe, the reservations manager, on behalf of the customer, who explained she had called them multiple times and no one at the property would assist her. Upon reviewing the case, it was discovered that the refund was denied by the hotel because the customer did not contact either the hotel or Orbitz to change or cancel the reservation either before or after the check-in date.

The customer was advised that she should have called Orbitz just as she did on December 23, 2017. The agent recommended the customer try filing a claim through her insurer, however, the customer hung up on the agent.

Because the customer did not properly cancel the reservation or contact either the property or Orbitz at any time during the reservation period, a refund is not provided in the case of missed reservations.

Whoa. Wait a minute.

A look at Nelson’s cancellation policy notes:

Cancellations or changes made after 6:00 pm (Egypt Daylight Time) on Dec 25, 2017, or no-shows are subject to a property fee equal to the first night’s rate plus taxes and fees.

Based on this, Orbitz should have charged Nelson only $19.93 plus taxes/fees for her Cairo hotel nightmare.

When we pointed out this discrepancy to Orbitz, it promptly refunded the balance.

Why didn’t Orbitz do the right thing in the first place?

So why didn’t the online travel agency cough up a refund immediately? Chances are, the customer service agent handling her initial complaint didn’t read the terms carefully. Indeed, when I look at the restrictions now, this is what I find:

Cancellations or changes made after 6:00pm (property’s local time) [the day of arrival] or no-shows are subject to a hotel fee equal to 100% of the total amount paid for the reservation.

Maybe the Orbitz employee simply looked up the current policy and then sent a form denial?

But there’s another possibility. Could the lengthy, ALL UPPERCASE emails in our case file have something to do with her case being shelved by Orbitz? The online agency also mentioned that she hung up on one of their agents. All of that was on her record.

Nelson could have sent a brief, polite email to one of our Orbitz executive contacts and received a quick, successful resolution. I’m certain of it.

So Nelson’s Cairo hotel nightmare with Orbitz has ended. But this doesn’t have to happen to you, my friends. Keep your written requests tight and polite, and hold the company to its own written policy.

Note: An earlier version of this story made several references to Nelson’s writing that were, upon reflection, unnecessary and hurtful. I apologize to Nelson.