Why did the Hotel Pennsylvania call me a no-show?

Photo of author

By Christopher Elliott

When Liam Goodman tries to check in to the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City, the clerks tell him that no rooms are available. So he goes to another property. Can Priceline keep his money?


I’m a professional photographer and I was working in New York City recently. I had a double shift and was scheduled to work again in New York the next morning. Because I live a bit outside the city, I decided to book a hotel for the night. I did so through Priceline at a cost of $170. I went to check in at the Hotel Pennsylvania after I finished my second shift, at around 1:30 a.m.

When I arrived at the hotel I found a line of people waiting to check in, despite the late hour. As we waited, a hotel person came from behind the desk and informed us that there were no rooms available. They were still being cleaned and would not be ready for another three hours. He said if we had booked a room through an agency like Priceline, then we should call them and have them find us another room.

I called Priceline twice and talked to their robotic voice thing, but was not able to get through to a real person, despite their website saying customer service is available 24/7. I tried using the message chat function through their website but again was not able to message with a real person.

It was almost 2 a.m. at this point and I needed to get some sleep before going to work at 9:30 a.m. the next day. I was able to book a room through Hotel Tonight but it cost me $365.

Here’s my problem: Priceline won’t refund the $170 I prepaid for the Hotel Pennsylvania because they say I never checked in. The hotel reported me as a “no show.” I talked to three different customer service people – they all said the same thing. I’ve also emailed their “Executive Services” email and received the same response. Can you help me get a refund from Priceline? — Liam Goodman, Beacon, NY


The Hotel Pennsylvania should have found a room for you. In the hotel industry, there’s an industry standard rule that says if a hotel can’t accommodate you, it will “walk” you to a comparable property and cover your first night. If you’d asked a representative to “walk” you to another hotel, you might have been able to avoid paying an extra $365. (Related: Chase promised a refund on our Priceline purchase – where is it?)

Priceline’s refusal to refund the money sounds absurd, but it makes sense. The online travel agency doesn’t know any more than what’s in your record. And your record says you didn’t check-in (which is true, but not the entire truth).

Insured Nomads helps you get travel insurance for as low as $2.88 per day, and options to add trip cancellation, global legal assistance, car rental cover and adventure sports. Award-winning plans. Exceptional service. Digital policy card to store with to your boarding pass and loyalty programs in your Apple/Google Wallet, in-app emergency button, lounge access for registered delayed flights and so much more than just medical. It’s peace of mind to reduce the uncertainty and travel with confidence short term for leisure and even longer for remote work, or your cruise and safari excursions. TrustPilot reviewed ”Excellent.” Read more and get covered.

You need proof that Hotel Pennsylvania turned you away

Your experience is an important lesson for the rest of us. If you’ve pre-paid for a room through Priceline or Hotwire, and the hotel can’t accommodate you, make sure you get a confirmation of your cancellation in writing. In other words, you should have asked for proof on the Hotel Pennsylvania’s letterhead that the it turned you away. Unfortunately, you didn’t and the Hotel Pennsylvania listed you as a “no show” — and you almost lost your money.

I’m unhappy that the Executive Services email offered the same canned response as everyone else. We list the names, numbers and email addresses of Priceline’s customer service executives in company contacts database that can be accessed from our homepage. (Here’s our guide to finding the best hotel at the lowest rate.)

The company should have researched your claim, which would have proven you were correct.

My advocacy team and I contacted Priceline on your behalf. It refunded the $170 you spent for the room you never got at the Hotel Pennsylvania.

Photo of author

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 Panamá City.

Related Posts