Warning: Express Deals are not refundable

Priceline Express Deals are not refundable

Are Priceline’s Express Deals refundable? Karin Fox thinks they should be after she booked one of the highly restricted rates through the online travel site. And my advocacy team agreed — until we saw her paper trail.

Fox’s case underscores the importance of reading the terms and conditions — how many times can I say this, folks? — before making a purchase. It’s also a case study in accommodating a customer, although it’s unlikely she will see it that way.

Her issue also exposes the limits of our advocacy. If you agree to a restrictive deal and click “I accept” when you’re booking, my advocacy team can’t wave a magic wand and fix it for you.

When this happens, should a Priceline Express Deal be refundable?

When Fox approached our team, she says she was “sick” and “exhausted” after asking Priceline for help with a hotel.

“I’ve spent a million hours spent fighting this issue, I’ve been crying for days, and I might be rambling,” she warned us.

Fox told my team she’d used Priceline’s Express Deals to book a hotel for her and her daughter to Amsterdam.

“It’s the first time we have gone on a real vacation together in about 13 years,” she says. “I am a single mom, she is disabled, and life is hard.

Regular readers are already cringing. She’s playing her hand in the Elliott Deck of Misfortune — a figurative deck of cards that people who want special consideration will use in an effort to get special treatment.

Among them:

Financial hardship (a.k.a. “fixed income”).
Death in the family.
Family tragedy.

Does she still have a valid case for an Express Deals refund?

My team can look past the Deck of Misfortune, so let’s get on with Fox’s story.

Her daughter, she continued, wanted to “see the flowers in Amsterdam!” So she picked a four-star hotel because she required “a certain level of standards and management to get the disability accommodations that we need.”

Instead of choosing a hotel from Priceline’s inventory, she used its Express Deals option, which offers discounts of up to 60 percent. Here are the terms:

Priceline Express Deals are for hotel searches made in the last 24 hours of this email’s send date for check-in in the next 21 days. Priceline Express Deals service are different from published price services. Exact hotel is shown only after purchase. All sales are final.

For Fox, the hotel Priceline chose — the historic Hotel Vondel — didn’t meet her expectations.

“It looked OK on the outside, ” she says. “The dining room was fine, but then I saw the room pics and started reading reviews and my blood ran cold. It’s totally disability unfriendly!”

Not only is it NOT a four-star hotel, but I can’t bring my daughter there based upon the pics and about 100 recommendations I read on multiple sites.

Tiny twisting stairs to some of the rooms inaccessible by elevator, guests complain of paper-thin walls permitting them to hear neighbor TVs not only late at night and early AM, but also hearing sex very clearly, bathroom noises, talking, and more.

I can tolerate almost any noise, but my daughter cannot!! There is more, a lot more…it doesn’t appear to be professionally managed, because the customer service seems nonexistent. They’re pleasant, but they address nothing.

Whoa, sounds like the hotel from hell.

Express deals are not refundable
Express Deals are not refundable 

Can the hotel fix this problem?

Fox initially didn’t ask for a refund. Instead, she circled back to the hotel, requesting that it accommodate her disability.

“I asked for a room accessible by elevator and not the small winding stairs I’d read about,” she says. “I asked for a room in a part of the hotel where we would not hear neighbors’ activities more than we should.”

She says she also asked for larger accommodations in light of her daughter’s condition.

I told [the hotel] that due to my daughter’s disability, we spend a lot more time than typical in the room. She needs to return frequently between outings to decompress. So being in a room not much bigger than the bed would be difficult for her.

She admits she asked for “a few more things,” including an early check-in, but that she received an unacceptable response.

It was pleasant, but they did nothing. A representative told me that they couldn’t promise a room that uses the elevator instead of the stairs, they told me that they couldn’t promise a room in back away from the street where it’s quieter, completely ignoring that my noise request wasn’t about outside of the hotel. They told me that they couldn’t promise everything else I’d asked for, for disability accommodations. I’ve never experienced this from a hotel, a four-star hotel yet!

She added, “I want my money back.”

Maybe Express Deals are refundable after all

Despite the card tricks, my advocacy team and I had a lot of sympathy for Fox. Yes, she should have used the regular Priceline hotel booking option so she could have chosen the right hotel, but yes, a hotel on Priceline should make reasonable accommodations to someone with a verified disability. I had no reason to doubt that Fox’s daughter had a disability.

Also, Priceline makes certain guarantees about accommodating guests with disabilities.

Disability Needs
If you have disability needs (for example only, you need a wheelchair accessible room or require the use of service animal) you must call the hotel after your booking is made and verify that your needs can be met. Priceline.com cannot accommodate disability needs in advance of your booking. If your disability needs cannot be accommodated by the hotel, please call Priceline customer service.

What the paper trail revealed

I reviewed the entire paper trail, which consisted of emails between Fox and Priceline, Fox and the hotel, Fox and our advocates, and internal emails between our advocacy team. It painted a far different picture of this case.

First, Fox’s daughter’s disability is autism. It’s unclear how that affects her mobility, so it’s understandable that people reading her request might have questioned her need to be away from the stairs and near an elevator or to have a larger room.

The trail also shows that far from being unresponsive, the hotel offered a solution:

A representative wrote to Fox, offering the following fix:

The room you have booked, an executive room, does not offer a couch. The rooms that do offer couches are the junior suites, but there is an additional charge of 60EURO extra per night (and these rooms are facing the street).

The hotel is usually fully booked and our check-out time is 12 o’clock. Therefore an early check-in is a bit difficult, but maybe we are lucky and our guests are checkout early in the morning. I have added the requests to your reservation and as I said, I will do my best for you!

Also, a look at the hotel’s reviews reveals that it’s fairly well-liked, considering that it’s in an older, historic building. This isn’t some roach motel dumping distressed inventory online.

Be nice to our advocates

One more thing. I was pretty surprised to see the following exchange:

Michelle (Couch-Friedman): I’m sorry to hear about this… unfortunately, Express Deals are not refundable. These deals are meant to be used by travelers who have a bit of flexibility with what they are willing to accept. The terms of the Express Deals are very restrictive. It sounds like in your situation, with your daughter, you should not be using that feature since you have quite specific requirements based on your daughter’s condition. That being said, if you send me the paper trail between you and Priceline and you and the hotel, I will review it and see if there is anything that can be done on our side.

Fox: Michelle, disability accommodations are the LAW. Federal law. We have used these express deals multiple times, as well as booked hotels on our own, and NEVER had issues, ever. This isn’t a four-star hotel, which we paid for, and it’s not professionally managed.

Every hotel permits people to make requests for certain rooms. Every hotel we’ve ever stayed in makes accommodations for those with disabilities.

I suspect that disability isn’t an area of knowledge for you- is there someone there who might be better tuned in to laws and standards for disability? The requirements aren’t so specific — they’re pretty standardized in the hotel world. If you’re not aware of them, you won’t be able to advocate properly on our behalf.

Michelle: I’m a licensed clinical social worker, so yes I am familiar with regulations concerning disability accommodations in the United States. Your reservation is not in the United States and I will suggest again that a hidden accommodation reservations system is not what anyone should use if they have specific requirements or needs for their hotel reservation. Priceline’s Express Deals feature isn’t designed for that type of reservation.

OK, time out.

When you ask for (free) help from the Elliott Advocacy team, this isn’t the most productive attitude. We are both fighting for the same thing — a fair resolution. And accusing Michelle, who has advocated thousands of hotel cases, of being ignorant, is not a great strategy. In fact, Michelle recently took on another somewhat similar Express Deal consumer-mishap and it ended with a goodwill gesture from Priceline:

Express Deals are not refundable for you

After a thorough review of Fox’s case, my team agreed that she should take the 60 euro upgrade offer and enjoy her vacation in Amsterdam. And next time, maybe to use a less opaque booking service.

This problem is also a case study for how to not fix a problem with a company. Keep your requests short and simple. Stick to the facts. And don’t play any cards from the Elliott Deck of Misfortune — no matter how bad a hand you’ve been dealt.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend