Case dismissed: My father died — please refund my rental car

Sometimes, even death isn’t a good enough reason for a refund.

Consider what happened to John Graham when his father died unexpectedly the day before he was scheduled to pick up a rental car he’d booked through Priceline. It’s true that Priceline’s rentals are non-refundable, but travel companies routinely make an exception when someone flashes a death certificate.

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Not this time.

When Graham asked for a refund, Priceline turned him down. And there was no negotiating with it.

Here’s its cookie-cutter response to his request.

We understand that you would like to receive a refund for your rental car reservation in Phoenix.

Prior to submitting your request, you were asked to review and initial a contract. This contract contained the travel information you entered during the request process and outlined the terms of the offer, including the restriction that your reservation would not be canceled.

We really wish we could give you the resolution you’re looking for; however, your reservations are truly non-refundable. For your reference, a copy of your contract page has been sent in a separate e-mail.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

I wasn’t happy with that response, and neither was Graham. He responded,

I understand your policy. However, death is not something one can predetermine. Allowances are
made in most every circumstance for travel,that I have encountered, thus far for this particular reason.

I have used Priceline many times previously and feel this is a valid reason for a full refund.

Please advise me of your final determination, as this will surely impact on my future use of your services. Thank you for your kind understanding during this most difficult time.

Unfortunately, Priceline’s answer didn’t change. So I contacted the company on his behalf. Surely, there must be a misunderstanding.

“The rental car companies will allow for a cancellation and refund in the case of death in the family provided notification is given prior to rental pickup,” a representative told me. “In this case, notification was after the fact. Sorry.”

That’s a tough pill to swallow.

I looped back with Graham to find out what he thought of Priceline’s final answer.

I was unable to deal with my Ddad’s death and those details until a few days past the pick-up date.

I understand their policy, however some instances, such as this, where my dad died early Thursday morning are quite nearly impossible to
address in one’s state of mind at the time.

I know their policy but maybe they should adjust a bit of leeway — the death certificate has a date on it. Maybe allow at least two days?

I’m disappointed with Priceline’s response. I can understand why they’d say “no” from a business perspective — they’d probably be on the hook for the entire amount of the rental. But every rule has exceptions, and surely this is one of those times when they’d want to work with the car rental partner to either offer a full refund or credit for a future rental.

But pocketing Graham’s money? I don’t know, that seems a little harsh to me.

(Photo: Lis Abatty/Flickr)

99 thoughts on “Case dismissed: My father died — please refund my rental car

  1. I’m sorry for his loss..I truly am.. but as someone who has used Priceline for 10 years many times a year the biggest understanding of Priceline is that it is non transferable, non changeable, non refundable, and you are only guaranteed a bed for 2.   Sure, they have made exceptions in the past and it is nice when they do, however one must ask when they are making a reservation if they are ok “losing” this money if something happens with the pro being a significant money saver (on hotels at least).  It may not be customer friendly when awful things happen but it isn’t unfair either.  They have it posted in plain sight before the final page that once a reservation is received it is what it is.   I know most of the people on this board can’t stand Priceline but to each their own.  In 10 years and well over 50 transactions all over the US I have never had more than a minor inconvenience and those were far and few between.   I don’t mind Priceline’s policies because they aren’t trying to hide it.  It is what it is and it isn’t bait and switch.   As long as my issues remain minor and the the savings are significant I will keep using them knowing that once I click the “buy” their is not a back out option.  Priceline isn’t for everyone, but a consumer shouldn’t blame the company when they didn’t choose the right company for them.  He did all he could by asking for a refund and it was nice that Chris attempted to help too but I understand Priceline’s point. 

    1. haha..and now to start counting the opaque site bashing, must have insurance claims, and live travel agents are a must posts. 

      1. Michelle

        I am going to have to respectfully disagree.  If you’ve read my posts in the past, you will know that I am not a travel insurance fan, and definitely not a fan of travel agents for ordinary bookings. 

        I am fine with Priceline and its policies.  I don’t use it because those policies don’t work for me, but if it works for you then go for it.  In general, I only book fully refundable auto and lodging.

        My issue is we are all aware of that maxim every rule has an exception.  The death of a close family member, e.g. parent, sibling, child, spouse, should be a sufficient reason to bend the rules. 

        The Ops situation is such a rare occurence that commen decency should prevail instead of an overly rigid adherence to the letter of the contract.

        1. I agree to a point. I voted no, because I don’t think he should have gotten a refund as the company may be on the hook for the funds. However, I think it would have been a nice gesture to at least give him some future credit with the company as a way to mitigate the non-refund.

        2. Thanks for being tactful in your response..I was really expecting some backlash.  As I was reading the story I was hoping Chris would have influenced them to return the money as a good gesture but I see why they didn’t.  I really think they would have returned it if he had asked before pick up date but I understand that was the last thing on his mind.  I know they have made exceptions before.  I guess because I see awful things happen in times when people don’t expect it several times a month (work in ICU in a hospital in tourist driven Las Vegas) that I understand why companies just can’t take a loss with every tragedy becuase these incidences really do happen a lot.  

          Also caution to my fellow travelers-   I have never bought travel insurance so I am NOT their advocate, but one thing I do want to mention-   If you are on vacation and become critically ill- the majority of medical insurance plans will NOT pay for you to return home.   Air ambulances cost 10-20K and families do have to pay out of pocket if they want the family member transferred back home for continued hospital care or rehab care.  It pains me that I have to tell families this all the time.  Please have a back up plan for the worse.   

          1. Exactly.  People also don’t realize how expense it is to bring a body home either.  Travel insurance has coverage for this, too.

          2. Nope even If you tell them before pickup they won’t refund. I am trying to do this right now

  2. I vote no.

    Priceline already has an exception to their no-exceptions-never-ever-no-refund policy; you just have to cancel before pick-up. Seems completely reasonable. Besides, as a many-time Priceline customer, Graham has already profited indirectly from their no-refund policy and other people in similar situations. 

        1. Well, then I guess when your father dies, the first thing you’ll do is cancel that car rental you have booked the next day. If you truly believe that, then you’re deluding yourself.

      1. That is an silly statement.  They are running a business and the OP went for cheap pricing.  If you can’t afford to lose the money, don’t book NONREFUNDABLE travel.

        1. I agree.   You just have to go with a company that meets your needs.   I would never book a big vacation with Priceline, need some flexibility, or to be guaranteed a certain room type.    I use Priceline no more than a week out and most of the time only 2-3 days out.   Sometimes I use them the day of.   Some people just aren’t comfortable with that so Priceline should not be for them.   I just love the money I save so I am agreeable with the service they offer. Until I can call Marriott or Embassy the day of and get 60% off their current room rate with the promise that I won’t cancel, Priceline is it.  

  3. I expect that Priceline had to pay the rental car company for the rental, even though it was never picked up, just like prepaid hotel rooms, or air tickets where you are a no-show.  Priceline probably won’t refund the money because they’ve already paid it out to the rental agency, not because they are a bunch of heartless meanies.

  4. I think that being a good corporate citizen, Priceline and the car rental company could have come to some kind of agreement to refund part or all of  his money. From a company’s perspective they could not rent out the car he had paid for.

    I realize that in a situation like he encountered it is difficult to remember everything. Having said that, he did rent the car for a reason if that reason was no longer vaild it should have reminded him to cancel.

  5. I would fully agree that he should have received a refund if, and this is a big if, he cancelled the reservation prior to the pick up date. By not doing that, the car he reserved and prepaid had to be held for his pick up. I’m sure that Priceline had to pay for the car.

    To me, the rule behind the exception (has to be cancelled in advance) is reasonable.

    1. I wonder if that’s true.  When I make a car reservation, unlike a hotel or air reservsation, a no show doesn’t generate a cancellation fee.

      1. Actually, I am noticing that more and more car companies are offering “pre-pay” rates. The terms and conditions of the Hertz pre-pay rates are that if you cancel before the pick-up time there is a $50 cancellation fee. If you cancel after the pick-up time, the pre-payment fee is non-refundable.

    2. And wouldn’t Priceline encounter that problem anyway if the reservation was in the name of the deceased?  In which case they could be SOL anyway (e.g. if the deceased does not have an estate left after funeral costs?)  IMO, Priceline ought to either negotiate a death certificate exception with its suppliers or self-insure itself for this extremely rare scenario.

      1. But they WILL bend the rules as long as cancelled BEFORE the pickup,  This client waited several DAYS.  Not any leeway there for the rental compnay OR Priceline to work with! 

        1. So what are they going to do when where there is no cancellation before pickup and no legal means for them to collect payment (as in my example)?

      2. But it isn’t rare.   BELIEVE ME.  Please read my other posts.   Tragedy when least expected is very common and a company shouldn’t have to insure itself like that.   The terms are clearly posted-You save money but there is a risk.  I don’t want Priceline to raise their fees because some people feel they should always get an exception.  

  6. Priceline’s policy is NO cancellations and NO refunds, so they were not obligated to refund John’s money.  That said, there is the official party line and there’s doing the just and compassionate thing.  Unfortunately when dealing with a large company who cares less about what’s right vs. what’s profitable, this is the unfortunate result.

    This story obviously illustrates the downside of paying up-front for your car rental.  While this is unavoidable with something like airfare, there is no reason to prepay for your car rentals.  You can get a great deal without even forking over your credit card.  That’s why was invented.  Check it out.

  7. Because of vague pronoun reference, I cannot figure out who had the reservation, son or father? 

    If it was the father’s reservation, then ask for a charge back and the estate can refuse to pay. 

    If it was the son’s reservation, then I must agree with Priceline.  Son should have cancelled because of death of father before car pickup was to occur.  Perhaps there were more travel reservations than just for a car.  Who cancelled those?

    1. If it was the father’s reservation then the father could not complete the contact and the contract is null and void.  The father’s estate would have to seek a refund. 

      I would assume the contract would be non transferable also. 
      I myself do not use priceline because things chanage and i want to cancel my reservations, BUT i pay a higher price for that in my rates, or a lower price if there is an excess inventory and I can rebook. 

      1. “If it was the father’s reservation then the father could not complete the contact and the contract is null and void.”

        That’s not how law works.  If the father cannot complete performance the contract remains valid. It becomes void only if performance is excused, otherwise the contract remains in force and is valid. Death generally excuses personal services contracts, but not contracts that can be fulfilled by the estate, e.g. sales contracts.

  8. It’s always worth a try. I’ve booked with airlines, and with Priceline with the full understanding that the fares were nonrefundable. In a couple of instances, I couldn’t make the trip. I also, by the way, usually buy travel insurance. I make it a point of asking, nicely, if I can get a refund, or at least a credit for future travel, not mentioning that I have travel insurance. I do not try to collect double. Sometimes, I’m pleasantly surprised that they make an exception. Sometimes they don’t, and when this happens, I understand their thinking. Maybe I’m foolish for doing the travel insurance company’s work, but I still feel that it’s the right thing to do.

  9. I wonder how many people who voted “yes” would take a hit to their own pockets if their customers knowing purchased something and then wanted exceptions.  I suspect very few.

    1. Sticking up a sign in a store that says: “No cancellations and No refunds” doesn’t cut it. Businesses have legal obligations to provide refunds in legitimate situations.

      I vote ‘yes’ and I’d take the hit. Though they probably wouldn’t have to, the car company would. This isn’t an exception like being asked to work on the weekend. It’s a grieving man who can’t use the product.

      This is simply a company being a cheapskate. I bet if this story went huge, they’d provide the refund based on the bad publicity costing them more.

      1. A business does not have to provide refunds as long as the policy is stated.

        What you don’t know is that the company that you are accusing of being cheap may have a contract with the car company that required them to have this cancellation policy as they have to pay up for that rental car cost at a certain point.  I have been on the wholesale end of travel sales and our policies had to take our vendors policies into account before we stated ours.

        But the most pressing issue here is, if you can’t afford to lose your prepaid reservation, don’t book on the site or take out travel insurance to cover for certain covered reasons.  In this case, most rental companies don’t charge you for not picking up a car on most of their car rentals, so you do have an option.  The OP took a gamble on his reservation and he lost. 

        1. “A business does not have to provide refunds as long as the policy is stated.”

          Untrue.  See my reply Tom RI.

          “The OP took a gamble on his reservation and he lost.”
          True, and normally I would agree with you.  Its that  this situation is so unusual that it merit different a outcome 

          1. He booked on a site that offers lower NONREFUNDABLE pricing.  He went into the contract knowing that.  Because insurance is available to protect against losing money due to death, he could have protected his prepaid rate.  He took a risk and lost.  The policy on the contact was very clear.  Everyone want cheap pricing their way. 

          2. And under normal circumstances I would agree with you.  However, regardless of terminology, there is no such thing as truly non-refundable.  For example, if the other side failed to perform, you would be entitled to a refund, regardless of the terms of the contract.  If the contract required personal performance by the deceased (technically a non-delegable duty) the contract would be void and the estate would be entitled to a full refund.

            My point is that non-refundable is not the 100% unassailable wall that the contract drafters would like us to believe it is.

          3. I second Carver.

            “A business does not have to provide refunds as long as the policy is
            stated.” is not legally true, as Carver has mentioned. There is no such thing
            as being legally nonrefundable.

            “most rental companies don’t charge you for not picking up a car on most
            of their car rentals” is also untrue. All companies have disclaimers so
            they’ve got the ability to say no (if legal). However, it strikes me
            that other companies might make a reasonable decision.

      2. And when do we learn to take responsibility for our lack of actions (notifying Priceline several DAYS after the rental date), and for our choices (nonrefundable!)?  Exceptions are NOT the rule, but everyone feels entitled to whatever they want nowadays.  If he had cancelled on the day of pick up, they would have worked with him.  But there IS no one to work with after the fact!  Its like having baseball tickets to the World Series, and not going, and expecting a refund 3 days later.  DUH!

      3. You have to think that this guy didn’t show up and didn’t request the cancellation prior the pick up date. In addition, he booked non refundable car rental. Yes, he couldn’t use the product but at least he had to let them know right before pick up date. Not after few days later. If the situation was the opposite, for example, his reserved car was given to someone else then he suddenly showed up, do you think he would accept that situation? He will file complain and ask for compensation.

        1. KevKev, I agree with you that it would be better to cancel in advance.

          However, this might not always be possible. Eg. If I was to get hit by a car and go into a coma for three days. I imagine everyone would agree if this was the case.

          I know he wasn’t in a coma, however, I would imagine he wasn’t in the best frame of mind.

          KevKev: airlines regularly overbook flights, and sell tickets that don’t exist.

          Linda: The problem with ticket events analogy is that if you read the fine print, it states that if the even is cancelled for any reason whatsoever by the organisers, then they wont refund your money.

          And remember: the company might not have actually lost money. It’s possible that nobody would have hired the car, and it could have sat in the parking yard for a week. In this case, it’s a lack of being able to make money, even though he cancelled.

    2. Funny you should mention that, because I was just thinking about my own situation while reading through these comments.  I have a MUCH smaller business and if someone were to cancel out on me, it might (depending on the gig) actually affect my ability to pay my own personal bills–yet if somebody DIED, I would be willing to eat the cost to me.  Doing otherwise might be legal, but it’s sick. 

      1. I totally agree Clare.  I couldn’t, with a clear conscience, keep a person’s money under these circumstances.  If his father had passed away a week earlier, and he neglected to cancel his reservations, then expect a refund, I might feel differently.  I’ve lost both parents and a sister, and I can tell you that on those days, I was not thinking of any plans I had previously made, or anything else other than the loss of my family member!

  10. Ordinarily, I side with the company in “non-refundable” situations, but in the case of a parent’s death, I think they should offer at least a couple of days leeway.

    1. Couple of days?  My my father died I did a lot more then cancel just cancel a car reservation.  Purchased a casket, a cemetary plot, picked out clothes, flowers, times, called people, etc etc  and I was away at college so I had to call all my professors and tell them (oh this was before comptuers and the internet)  It was a telephone call.  I wonder if he was Jewish and had to be buried the next day before sunset, would that make a difference? NO. 

  11. Yes it is harsh, but I’m not ready to throw Priceline under the bus.

    It is well known that Priceline (and Hotwire) have non-refundable, non-changeable rates. The problem is that travelers book them with the mentality that if something extreme happens, I’ll plead my case, and they will back down to maintain good will. Historically, refunds will be made in extreme cases (ie death in the family), but this “unofficial” rule has been abused (ie potential for bad weather, death of a cat, etc.) and companies are less open to giving a good will adjustment.

    I NEVER book opaque sites for car rentals. In my situation, the risk is not worth the savings. It might be right for some travelers, just not me.

  12. I think my first thought whenever I read one of these is the paying in advance for anything.  While it might save money, things happen that stall one’s trip.  Flights are cancelled and late all the time.  Why would I want to pay for a car rental to start at 3:00 and then have me show up hours later or the next day?

    Priceline should be doing the right thing by giving him his money back.  A death is always sudden, even if the person was ill.  Has the OP tried to fight it on his credit/debit card?

    1. Fight what?  That he booked a NONREFUNDABLE car, FAILED to cancel by the date of travel, and is NOW having buyer’s remorse?  Again, if he had cancelled that day, they would have worked with him.  But a no-show on a nonrefundable?  The credit card company wouldn’t have a legal leg to stand on.  (The contract he agreed to isn’t toilet paper!) 

      1. Well…while I don’t disagree with the folks who take the position that “a deal is a deal” and the OP should just eat it…this was a particularly cold-hearted comment. “Buyer’s remorse”? The dude DIED! How can you equate buyer’s remorse with someone’s father dying?

        Wow. The comments on this blog have really taken a bizarre turn.

        1. Because he picked a price that had restrictions and now he wants those restrictions removed.  Maybe next time he will think twice before making a NONREFUNDABLE purchase. He could have booked a nonrefundable car price.  Buyer’s remorse is an appropriate term.

          1. Sorry, but I cannot see how you can equate facing a sudden death in one’s immediate family with “buyer’s remorse.” That’s just cold.

            Look, as I said above, I don’t disagree with the idea that he should accept the consequences of having made a non-refundable purchase. My only point was that calling his situation “buyer’s remorse” is just going too far.

            It’s not remorse. It’s GRIEF. He’s dealing with grief from the DEATH OF A FAMILY MEMBER. One would hope that the people behind the faceless corporations would show a bit of humanity in this situation, but I recognize that legally they don’t have to. A deal is a deal. So, he’s out the money.

            But to say that what he’s feeling is buyer’s remorse is just cold-hearted. That’s all.

          2. Very easy to see it as that is exactly what he has now.  He went for a low price and now has to eat it.  If you can’t risk it, don’t book it.

          3. My problem with your analysis is that it is quite likely that the OP was prepared to  accept the risk of booking a non-refundable rate, thinking to himself, “What is the likelihood that I’ll want to cancel.”  Of all the possible outcomes, I’m sure that the death of his father was not one of the possibilities that he considered.

            Now, if his father was ill and at death’s door, perhaps a nonrefundable purchase might make little sense.

  13. Graham made the choice to rent from a cheap outfit rather than a more reputable and costly one. He, like all of us, should be prepared to suffer the consequences of our choices.

  14. I have stopped booking on Priceline specifically for this reason! There is no place in the market for a company like Priceline & the only way to stop this insanity is for them to be put out of business because of no bookings placed with them.

    1. Actually there is a place in the market for companies like Priceline which is why they are still around. The place is for travelers who are willing to assume a good amount of risk for a much lower cost. It’s a true “high risk/high reward” situation. For people who are risk adverse, it’s not a good option. But it’s nice to have different options for different types of people.

      I often use Priceline/Hotwire when my trip is already low risk: going to visit family for Christmas. I know I’m going, on those dates, regardless, unless something major and unforeseen comes up. Which is extremely rare.

      I don’t use Priceline/Hotwire when the trip is already high risk: Personal travel coupled with business travel; travel out of the country for any segment of the trip; etc.

      1. i guess Gerry thinks everyone should be and think like him.    I am a fan of having many options when it comes to my personal business.   The demand is there and I wish I had invested in Priceline 10 years ago when I first started using them. 

    2. Gerry,

      That’s just plain silly.  While I personally won’t go near priceline, the fact remains that priceline serves a certain portion of the traveling public who are usually quite happy with priceline with its pros and cons.

      1. From all the articles on Chris’ site about Priceline, I think I have to say people aren’t happy with the cons.  Nobody complains when things go the way they want them to go.

    3. “There is no place in the market for a company like Priceline”?

      They’ve been in business for more than a decade, so I am guessing there a a whole lot of people that would disagree with you.  It’s not as if there is a dearth of alternatives when you want to book travel.

  15. No refund ever for any reason, no matter how clearly it’s stated prior to purchase, sort of draws a line “in the concrete” to coin a phrase, and could back the company into a corner in unusual situations. 

    I don’t use any of the opaque sites since I prefer to maintain more control over my travel arrangements, so I have a question for those who do use them.  Does Priceline offer a corresponding no exceptions guarantee that they will deliver the purchased service no matter what?  I don’t mean just a refund – I mean the car I rented, or the hotel room I reserved, or whatever.  Doesn’t happen too often, but I have arrived only to find that car rentals were overbooked or the hotel oversold, so I’m out of luck.  Seems to me that if someone tells me no refunds no matter what, then the other side of that is they should deliver no matter what. Do they?

    1. You’re right: I have personally had Priceline opaque hotel reservations that could not be honored (because of overbooking).  If you know your rights and are persistent, they will make sure you get a room elsewhere and refund the first night.  It still may not feel like enough after the length of time you spend on the phone with them….

  16. Another bash Priceline day! Yippee!

    I will continue to use Priceline when I can save a substantial amount and am willing to adhere to the well known “pay now, no refund” rule.

    On trips where I can’t, I’ll continue to book the more conventional method. I’ve even held a hotel well in advance that gives me up until 6pm day of arrival to cancel. The afternoon of the trip, I cancelled that and went to priceline and gotten the same hotel for much less.

    In this case, while I would like to side with the OP…I would respect PL on any decision they make.

  17. I don’t understand: did John rent the car or did dad?  I thought it was dad after the first full paragraph, but the rest of the post makes me think it was John. If it was John, this is bad form, if it was dad, this is outrageous.

  18. aw c’mon, don’t you know the most important notification when death occurs is not the next of kin but to the travel companies they may have reservations with?  Everyone knows that . . . .

    frickin’ idiots =

    1. If the money was SO important to him, he would have taken the time to handle it.  He chose not to, and didn’t do so for several days – and THEN he expects an exception?  Just eat it at that point!

      1. Or maybe it was his father who was so important to him, that he didn’t think to cancel the reservation on the day he died!  I don’t know this guy’s financial situation, but maybe it is really just the point that Priceline would take such a hard stand against refunding to someone who lost his father on the day before he was suppose to pick up the car, and who actually had the nerve to put grief and his families needs before the need to cancel a car reservation!

        1. That all sounds good in principal but when you buy something knowing it is NONREFUNDABLE you have to accept your purchase regardless of the circumstances of you not completing the contract.  If you bought tickets to a baseball game to to a play you are not getting your money back either.  Those are always nonrefundable.

          I am not cold hearted, as I have helped many in similar positions and would never recommend a nonrefundable rental car prepaid reservation.  The savings are not worth it if something comes up.  Look at how many come to Chris for similar type of refund requests that are booked on these type of websites.  Companies are offering discounts, for a price and if you make the purchase, take responsibility for your actions when you have to cancel regardless of the reason.   

  19. I used priceline once, and ended up with a flight 6 hours earlier than I wanted, for 200 more than I wanted.  Never again.  Even now, when they tell me hotels in the neighborhood I’m looking for, they are so wrong, and if I had booked through them I’d have been staying in a hotel in the middle of the ghetto.  Priceline is just not a group I trust.

    1. My one experience with priceline was to book a flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas to meet some friends.  An hour, maybe 90 min direct flight.  On the return flight, Priceline put me on a 6am flight, routed me through Utah, cancelled the flight, put me on another flight (at least that one was direct), and didn’t notify me of the three hour time change.

      Not for me but hey, it works for many others.

    2. How did you get a flight “$200 more than you wanted”?  I thought the whole point of priceline was that you named your price ahead of time.

      1. From reading the post it appears they do not know how to use Priceline.   You have to know what to bid, and then to know when to walk away.  Not all services Priceline offers are money savers for the risk.  

  20. This one’s pretty simple to me: The hundred dollars (or so) they’re getting for this rental aren’t worth the poor publicity and customer anguish they’re causing. There’s a death certificate for pete sake. 

  21. It was “a few days past the pick-up date.” That was his fault. Had he called before the appointed time then there should not have been a penalty. Even calling sometime that day I could see a refund, but days later. Come on, get real people.

  22. There’s an easy way to settle this.  Sue in Small Claims court.  Now I know the whiners will come out and say, “Everybody sues too much.”  But small claims can also be a great, cheap, inexpensive way of settling something when two sides can’t agree.  It’s not that acrimonious.  The OP thinks one thing, Priceline thinks another, let a 3rd party settle it.  Simply state that, due to the death of his dad, he was so grief stricken that he was unable to perform the contract.  Inability to perform a contract can be a reason to void a contract.  Leave it up to a neutral 3rd party.

    1. I’m not at all opposed to lawsuits.  But in this case, he’d surely lose. He didn’t follow the rules of the agreement, so he’s not legally owed anything. Open and shut. Both he and Chris acknowledge that, which is why they were hoping for an act of kindness on Priceline’s part. But legally he’s stuck.

    2. And once again – HEAVEN FORBID we take resposnibility for our actions/decisions!  Make THEM pay because we are “entitled” to it.  Sad state of affairs.

    3. ” Inability to perform a contract can be a reason to void a contract.”

      Not by the non-performing party, unless your non-performance is legally excused.  Sometimes death is an excuse.  Depends on the type of contract

    4. In what world are you living in?  “Inability to perform a contract can be a reason to void a contract.  Leave it up to a neutral 3rd party. ”

      I can just see Judge Judy yelling at the OP for wasting the courts time and saying “You cancelled days AFTER the reservation YOU IDIOT!!

  23. I  vote No.  Death may be the most tragic of all circumstances and we certainly hope businesses have a heart.  However, customers must understand the contract that they are signing up for.  There could be a sudden accident of a loved one, you could get fired from a job a day prior or find your wife cheating on you the day before your big trip.  “Life Happens” every day and as soon as you understand life’s “terms and conditions, you’ll know what box to check on Priceline’s.

  24. I voted “No,” Priceline should not have given a refund.  Here’s why and Graham did exactly the right thing by writing to this site:

    A deal is a deal.  Often things, both goods and services, are sold at a discount and the seller states that the sale is final, ie. no refund.  What it doesn’t say is, “no refund, unless there is a compelling, sad, unfortunate, unexpected, reason.”  No refund means no refund.

    The seller, in this case Priceline, has to live with the consequences of their lack of compassion.  Thousands of people are reading this story, and from the vote, the overwhelming majority thing Priceline did the wrong thing.  Many (and I include myself in this group) are less likely to use Priceline for any future travel services.  For very little money, Priceline could have turned this public relations problem into a positive thing for their company.  They might have sent a letter to Elliott and offered condolences and a credit to Mr. Graham.  All the readers would have had a positive feeling and Princeline would have more business.

  25. As much as it pains me to do so, I have to side with Priceline this time (assuming it was the OP’s reservation — this is admittedly a vague point, but that’s the way I read Priceline’s response, and I doubt he’d have known the details if it were his father’s reservation).

    If Mr. Graham’s father had died just a few hours before the trip, or while Mr. Graham was en route to Phoenix, then I’d say he had a point.   Although just the day before sounds like a short time, it really is plenty of time.  Certainly, canceling plans IS one of the first things that would pop into my mind.  If there is more than one other relative to notify, then perhaps one of the others should take on that task, anyway — it’s usually not the best idea for someone in as much grief as Mr. Graham to be making all those calls, anyway.

    I’m really not as heartless as this sounds, and my sympathies go out to Mr. Graham and the rest of his family.  It’s just one of those cases of the written word not being the best for expressing emotion.

  26. I’m struck by how many people just accept that the “rule” about having to cancel before pickup quoted by the Priceline representative is accurate.  I found no such rule on Priceline’s site or any car rental site.  For car rentals, Priceline lists a bunch of terms and conditions, including the non-refundable non-changeable condition, but at the end says:

    “We may, on an exception basis and at the request of the customer, waive the restrictions identified above after the rental has been reserved.  We may, in our discretion, impose additional obligations and/or fees in connection with any such waiver.”

    So I don’t see any hard-and-fast Priceline “rule” that cancellations for a death or any other reason *must* be before pickup.  Priceline has discretion to do what it wants.  Here it decided not to refund.  Now of course the confirmation the OP received may have listed the so-called “we may refund in our discretion *if* you cancel before pickup” rule, but unless that’s the case, I think it’s a bit cold to say the OP knew that no exceptions could be made a couple days after the fact.

    Also note that the Priceline rep supposedly told Chris that “the *rental car companies* will allow for cancellation and refund” if notification is given prior to pickup.  I don’t believe for one second that the “rental car companies” in the global sense of the word have any such uniform policy, unless it’s a policy that all companies have that applies only to their contracts with Priceline, in which case Priceline should absolutely disclose it.  As others have noted, depending on the company, the cancellation policies vary.  Avis allows changes to a prepaid reservation apparently without penalty right up to the time of and including pickup, though a cancellation policy isn’t online.  Hertz has a $25/$50/full amount sliding cancellation penalty for its “prepaid” reservations.  According to Alamo’s site, the penalty for being a no-show on a prepaid reservation is only $10.

    I voted yes.  Was Priceline within its discretion to keep the OP’s money according to its contract? Sure.  But were they honest about why they were keeping it?  Doesn’t seem so.  Instead they just fed OP and Chris both the scripted response.

    1. I was surprised, too. Read the very long T&Cs in Priceline and here is what I saw:

      Name Your Own Price® Rental
      Car Service
      Additional Restrictions. In addition,
      the following restrictions will apply to rental car Requests made using
      our Name Your Own Price® service:

      If finds a rental
      car company willing to accept your Request, will immediately
      charge your method of payment the total cost of the rental transaction
      including applicable Taxes and Service Fees (see above); rental car reservations
      are non-changeable, non-endorsable, non-transferable and non-refundable;

      Package RestrictionsRental Car: Discounted
      rental car reservations associated with a Priceline Vacation Package
      are non-cancelable, non-transferable and non-changeable and no refunds
      are allowed.

      Maybe the OP did not use Priceline’s plain vanilla rental car service. If he opted to save up to 40% in the Name Your Price auction, then he may have waived his rights to “sympathy and empathy”. Cruel but cheap?

  27. I ran into this same thing when my mother Fiedler. I had made a rental through hotwire. I was initially planning on traveling there because she was I’ll…just unexpected it will kill her as quick as it did. I had to change my rental time. I redid it through hotwire and then sent them the death notice and they gave me a refund. Also at this time with me having to move my flight…the airline allowed me to change without attaching a fee.

  28. wrong
    debate here. Priceline gets paid to say no, even when we all know allowances
    are made. Identify the rental company and press them for the refund. Do not let
    the underlying rental company hide behind Priceline. Make the rental company
    take the public scrutiny

  29. I feel sorry for him but I can’t blame priceline. I think the biggest mistake is to inform the rental car and priceline few days after pick up date. No matter what, he should report before that date. It sounds irresponsible that he didn’t show up and then asked for refund. He has to think about the rental car; how about if that company gave the car to someone else then he showed up and no car was available for him. For sure, he will file complain and ask for compensation.

  30. I know that when someone dies the first thing I think of is canceling that persons travel plans! I was being sarcastic incase anyone missed that.

    That’s simply terrible and in poor taste on the part of Priceline and yet another reason to stay away from them!

    I do wonder though who paid, and how for the rental car.  if it was on the father’s credit card and hadn’t been paid yet it might just go away with his fathers death.

  31. I reluctantly agree that Priceline is fully within their rights to deny the refund, even though many people would argue that common decency calls for an exception in this case. However, the part of this that really makes my blood boil is this: “We really wish we could give you the resolution you’re looking for”. No you don’t, Priceline, or you would do it! I hate, hate, hate it when companies hide behind spineless, insincere apologies like this. Nothing is preventing Priceline from giving him a refund except their own decision. That’s fine, but the least they could do is have the guts to say “we’re sticking to our policy and we stand behind it” instead of pretending that they want to help, but are somehow prohibited from doing so.

    I hate this even more than when a company makes some change that is indisputably worse for the customer (raising prices, cutting hours, etc) and prefaces the explanation with “to better serve you.” It’s bad enough that you’re making a change that negatively impacts me–don’t insult my intelligence, too.

  32. A fool and his money are soon parted. This seems to be the case. Pre-paying a car  ( much like the article and are cheap airlines cheap?) seems to me to be the biggest waste of $$$ in the travel industry. Now if it is and air, hotel, car package; a whole different story because you would have purchased INSURANCE! I have rarly seen a difference between a car rental with no deposit at all and a pre-paid car rental. I have even advised the customers to use the confirmed rate at other counters to get a better rate. That works well, they paid a service fee for my knowledge, they get ideas. I bet that on-line gave no idea.

  33. As a business owner, I would rather have that person back as a customer than risk losing him for life. At least offer him a rain check! Give him a credit or a partial credit! Instead, Priceline chose to be the rigid. Now 81% of 91 people on this website disagree with their inflexibility and will likely never use them in the future. That is just plain STUPID!!!

  34. It’s appalling that a corporate giant should expect that the first thing you do after an unexpected death is put off funeral arrangements and grieving with your family so that you can call Priceline to save them a couple of hundred bucks.  Do you seriously think that that car couldn’t have been rented to somebody else?

    And if I read one mor of those canned “I’m sorry for your inconvenience” statement I will pitch my laptop over a cliff.  They are in no way sorry.  Not one bit.

  35. OK,  o refund but how about credit toward a future rental?  But, then, this is why I NEVER use these types of web sites.  You are at their mercy and to save a few $$$ isn’t worth the hassle. 

    My sympathies on the death of his father.   

  36. Now, there is a story when I bought a non-refundable one way ticket for my friend to Europe on Air India via Expedia on Sunday and next morning his mother passed away so he couldn’t go there. I contacted Expedia to ask them if they can still refund it, their response was No ‘coz it is Non-Refundable ticket, then I contacted Air India’s office in India – they don’t have customer service here and on they assured me that in case of death they’ll refund a 100%, I hang up, called 2nd time and again was assured about their policy in case of death in a family by different person, then I contacted Expedia and asked them to contact Air India and confirm that they WILL REFUND in case of family member death, Expedia called them up and confirmed it. I had to wait for 1 month before Death Certificate is issued and mailed to me – that’s how long it takes in NYC and submitted the refund claim in Expedia as we agreed (they knew that it takes 1 once and had a case number opened for me), it took another month to get an answer from Air India’s claim department here in Newark, NJ that they denied my claim to my surprise despite their main office in India, I asked for their phone number and called to Newark office, nice lady explained to me that NON-REFUNDABLE means NON-REFUNDABLE, I agreed but then told her my what their office in India told me, she said that they were wrong 3 times (me contacting them twice and Expedia = so total 3 times), the only thing that could be waived is some fees associated with purchase of the ticket. So, the story is over – ticket was not refunded and I lost money on doing good deed.

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