But no one told me the pool was closed!

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By Christopher Elliott

Renee Fasanella’s son is booked at a water park for spring break. Problem is, none of the pools are open. Why didn’t anyone mention that, and can he get his money back?

Question

I thought I would try to see if you could resolve a problem we had with Hotels.com. My husband searched for hotels in the Wisconsin Dells with indoor water parks. My son, who is in college, was bringing home his other ROTC cadets to see Chicago and go to the Dells during their spring break.

Discovering the Polynesian Water Park Resort, my husband dialed what he believed to be their number. He didn’t know he had been redirected to Hotels.com and booked the room.

When my son arrived in the Dells, they checked in and went to the desk to get information about the water park. This was midweek and it seems the water park is only open on the weekends during the off-season. They went to the pool area and it was closed.

My son and his friends checked out and went to another hotel with an open water park. I called the hotel to see if they would refund their money, and I offered to pay a cleaning fee since they changed in the room.

The Polynesian refused and said if we had booked directly with them, we would have known the park was closed. The problem was, until my husband paid for the hotel on the phone and got email confirmation, he did not know he was on a third-party site. I called Hotels.com and it agreed to pull up the recording of our call, and if indeed they did not tell us the park was closed, they would refund our money. But they haven’t. I’ve called Hotels.com six times and am about to give up. Can you help? — Renee Fasanella, Arlington Heights, Ill.

Answer

When an amenity like a hotel pool or exercise room is closed, that’s usually not a reason to check out of a hotel and ask for a refund. But for the Polynesian, I’m willing to make an exception. The water park is a central part of this property. Take the waterslides and pools away, and it’s not the same experience. Not by a long shot.

Complicating matters is the fact that you were connected to Hotels.com when your husband phoned what he thought was the Polynesian. The representative he spoke with should have clearly identified himself or herself as being with Hotels.com when he called. (Related: I’m still waiting for a refund from Hotels.com.)

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I think your husband could have done some additional due diligence. Did he ask the representative if the pool was open midweek, or did he assume it would be? A look at the Polynesian’s website would have shown that some of its water facilities are only open during the summer, while others are only open on weekends. The information was only a few clicks away. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

None of that changes the fact that if he’d called the hotel, they might have said something about the pool closures, and particularly if he’d mentioned the reservation was for a few ROTC cadets on spring break. I think Hotels.com should have pulled up its call transcripts. They should have listened to the transaction when you contacted them, as promised. Instead, it apparently did nothing.

My advocacy team and I contacted Hotels.com on your behalf, and got more or less the same response. A month later, I asked again, and this time it responded, refunding the $167 your son spent on his accommodations.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Rio de Janeiro.

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