Is this enough compensation? Funny money for a fat-finger rate

Bob Slattery booked a room at La Maltese Estate Villa, a hotel that exudes the ambience of a privileged “members only” private club in Santorini, Greece. The rate? An unbelievable $110 per night, snagged through the site

Too good to be true, right? Right.

It shouldn’t have been, though. A few weeks before his trip, he received a call from Vacationist.

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She informed me that the dates I had picked — May 25 to 29 — should have been blocked out on their site when I booked the room.

She offered me two other hotels currently available on Vacationist that don’t compare to La Maltese.

What would you ask for, considering the circumstances?

Slattery says he was careful to check the La Maltese website before he booked the room with Vacationist. The Superior Double Room with a Caldera View room was available on the hotel website when he booked it with Vacationist. But it was priced at 340 Euro a night.

When I read that, I thought: Uh-oh, not another fat-finger rate.

Oh yes.

Slattery contacted both Vacationist and the property, and he did some more digging. He found the room he booked was available on and several other sites.

Also, almost every date in May is available on the Vacationist site except my dates and the Friday and Saturday before. Interestingly, the room price on Vacationist is $322 per night now instead of the $110 I paid.

My best guess is that someone loaded the wrong price at Vacationist and instead of honoring my reservation and taking the hit on the difference they decided to cancel my reservation.

Slattery is disappointed, and rightfully so. The terms on Vacationist say purchases are nonrefundable and no cancellations or notifications are allowed.

“I guess that only applies if the customer has to change something,” he told me. “Not when they have to.”

Vacationist responded to his inquiry with the following email:

I regret the misinformation you received. The incorrect rates were loaded into the system and when noticed was updated. As a customer service gesture, the Vacationist agent refunded your ticket and submitted $100 credit into your Vacationist account. Please email me after your next purchase and I will have it credited to you.

That’s a decent gesture, but is it enough?

I can see both sides. The hotel would be on the hook for several hundred dollars if it honored the rate. Offering the rebook Slattery in a different hotel and crediting him $100 seems like it’s meeting him halfway.

On the other hand, had Slattery decided he made a mistake and wanted to cancel, then Vacationist wouldn’t have been so understanding, and neither would his credit card, which would have almost certainly sided with the only travel agency in a dispute.

I might side with Vacationist if Slattery were one of those fat-finger trolls who hangs our on FlyerTalk and intentionally books zero fares, but there’s no evidence of that. He found this deal, fair and square.

Is a $100 credit enough?

Update (6:30 p.m.): Vacationist responds:

At Vacationist, our member’s satisfaction is our first priority. We sincerely apologize for the experience this customer had with booking a hotel stay using our service.

We did make a mistake in loading our specially allocated inventory and rates on the site, and we’re sorry that this caused any inconvenience. Unfortunately the dates this particular customer chose were considered “black-out dates” and were never available to Vacationist. We immediately corrected the problem once we detected it, and informed the traveler as to why his dates were not available, and apologized directly to him.

Our Vacationist team has worked with this individual to not only assist with offering other hotels as options, but also offer him credit towards any Vacationist package. In addition, we worked with other luxury hotels in the area to secure these dates at the same rate and with an equal room grade for the customer so that the caliber of the booking would remain whole. Unfortunately, the customer chose not to take advantage of these offers, and we issued a full refund plus a credit on file.

We worked with each and every customer affected by this rate confusion honoring all bookings at the posted rated and absorbing the difference ourselves.

We value all of our customers and work diligently to ensure we provide great value and great service to each and every member of Vacationist. Despite our policy of no refunds, changes or cancellations, we work with customers every single day to resolve these types of issues when we’re able to ensure a pleasant travel experience.

(Photo: She lby PDX/Flickr Creative Commons)

48 thoughts on “Is this enough compensation? Funny money for a fat-finger rate

  1. It’s not clear from the narration, but the sense I’m getting (and the reason I voted “Yes”) was that the traveller was notified immediately/very soon after making the booking.  I would have had a different view if he was not notified shortly after making the booking, and showed up in Santorini with every expectation of the room as booked.  

    1. We don’t know when the OP made the reservation or if this reservation was for 2010, 2011 or 2012.  The only thing that we know is that Vacationist called the OP 2 to 3 weeks before the start of the reservation.  I doubt that he was contacted within 24 or 48 hours.  Even if he was, how about holding responsible for their errors? 

  2. It is called a contract. They made an offer. He accepted and gave consideration (his payment). They should pay up.

  3. Is there a disclosure on the site stating if there is a rate error that can cancel the reservation?  If not, then they should pay.

  4. Ummmm I’m the first to normally defend a company but can’t in this case. The op makes the mistake and he would have to eat it. There’s no reason why vacationist should do the same the second they took his money.

  5. I’m also a little curious as to the timing.  If they notified him within say 48 hours, I would cut the hotel a little slack.  but more time then that I think they need to honor the rate. 

    Also, with there being other dates available at that rate the OP wouldn’t have any reason to think this was an accidental rate.  The problem with behavior like this (from Vacationist) is that the OP might not have taken this vacation except for the rate they offered.  But when he saw this rate for this hotel, he took the triip.  Now he might be stuck (airline tickets) with a subpar trip that he may not have booked otherwise.

  6. If the traveller had put the wrong month or mistyped his name, would allow a change? Probably not. I have found very cheap rates on very expensive hotels that were not fat finger discounts, but hotels trying to fill up some empty rooms. I have paid $160 per night for four nights in a five star resort in Australia, there is no reason to automatically assume a cheap rate is a fat finger discount, especially on sites that are selling surplus stock. 

  7. Not nearly enough “compensation”.  I wouldn’t use the term compensation at all.  This isn’t some $9 rate or something like that – $110 is at least somewhat plausible.  There are deals out there from time to time on expensive vacation properties if you look hard enough.  To notify him a few weeks before his trip – when he’s on the hook for other expenses like airfare and entertainment reservations which cannot be canceled – is entirely unacceptable.  This is a contract and the Vacationist should honor it IMO.

    At the very, very least, they should have offered to split the extra cost of the stay with Bob by 50%.  So if he’s on the hook for $110 and the price is 340 Euros ($480 US), the difference is $370.  The minimum offer I would expect would be for Bob to pick up $185/night of the difference and the Vacationist to pick up the other $185/night.  If Bob didn’t want to do that, then offer him the rebooking at a different hotel.  But a $100 credit is completely insulting in a case like this.

  8. The rate was not outside the bounds of reasonableness.  While I can understand not honoring the original rate (that’s still a pretty big price difference), I think this is the case where they should have made a “meet us halfway” offer in actual cash.  Not a $100 future travel credit.

  9. The problem I have is that he states Vacationist told him those rooms should have been blocked out for his dates. To me, that means the rooms aren’t available to anyone. Yet he was able to find the rooms on other sites, just at a higher rate. It almost sounds like they were trying to come up with a lame excuse (read: lie) to cover up their error.

    From the sounds of it, he did not receive a call from Vacationist shortly after he booked. Otherwise, I think he would have stated “after I booked” rather than “before I arrived”. I think he was closer to the vacation date than the booking date.

  10. If the company only informed him of the mistake three weeks before his trip then they should have allowed the reservation to stand.

    After checking the hotel site and seeing such a discrepancy in price it might have been a good idea to confirm the deal.

  11. Hear me now businesses – being short staffed, sloppy or whatever does not give you a free pass – EVER. It is called accountability. If your employees do not double check their work, then it is on you. End of discussion. When I was an investment banker, mistakes I made, which resulted in a monetary loss – such as entering the wrong stock symbol on a trade ticket – they hit my paycheck directly. You better believe I triple checked my work…

    The hotel or the website made the error – they eat it. End of discussion. Get some errors and omissions insurance or better yet, train your employees to double check their work.

    1. I completely agree. In retail, if an item is mis-tagged, or someone forgets to take the sale price off the shelf, it doesn’t matter. The store must honor the price on the item even if it is a mistake. I just don’t understand why the travel industry thinks they should be any different.

      1. funny, when i pick something up that turned out to be on the wrong shelf (other customers probably put the product there, not the store) or under the wrong price sign, i NEVER get the item at the lower cost. the store always says it was not supposed to be there, and therefore that price can’t be honored. this is at Target, Macy’s, PathMark, etc.

        1. When the shelf tag price is lower but the description doesn’t match the actual item description why would you expect to get it at the lower cost? Most shoppers are astute enough to decipher a shelf tag.

          Now, if the shelf tag description matches the item, yet you get charged a higher price…you should get a refund, or price adjustment, for the difference. This is not only an established good customer service practice, but also the law in most states.

          When the company’s website reviews the description and price, confirms the purchase and charges you a non-refundable rate…why shouldn’t you get it at that mutually agreed upon price? Once I see a charge and get a confirmation number, I would, at that point, have been comfortable purchasing a non-refundable airfare!

        2. Yes but if you paid them the incorrect price or they had the wrong price entered into their POS terminals, they don’t chase you down and demand more money.
          Once they except payment, the item is sold at that price.

          If in the situation above, they didn’t let him check out or didn’t take payment of any type until check in, I would agree with you but that didn’t happen.

  12. A little off-topic, but is anyone else getting a little tired of these companies offering, as compensation, a discount or credit off your next use of their already sub-par service? Their attempt to resolve two totally separate problems (compensation for lack of service & marketing to a dissatisfied customer) that occured because of the same situation is more than a little off-putting.

    Chris – maybe you could do a column on companies that tie compensation to marketing ploys?

    1. Agreed, Absherlock, particularly when Chris’ recommendation is NOT to tell the offending company you will not use their service again.  If the company makes an egregious error and offers only a small discount on future services, it is a slap in the face to the consumer.

  13. Been there. Las Vegas hotel offers great rate for large suite on website (I found on my own). I book online and hotel takes deposit. Six months later I get phone call telling me the rate was an error and they will offer me standard room in sister hotel (lower category). I decline and advise I would like to keep the same room in their hotel. (Have made plans to entertain clients in posh suite.) They advise it was error they cannot honor. I remind them they have entered into a contract and taken consideration in form of one night deposit. They plead mistake and refer me to T&C of website bookings. I bluff my limited knowledge of the law and advise that T&C cannot supercede the law, like a trucking company cannot have an 85mph speed limit for their drivers when the posted limit is 60mph. They advise me they will get back to me. They call back “happy” to honor rate. I spend lots of money at hotel entertaining clients and now return to hotel regularly.
    Making notes to NOT book La Maltese Estate Villa or any hotel through

  14. If you make a mistake, it’s your fault.
    If the hotel/airline makes a mistake, it’s your fault.

    No, this isn’t enough compensation, because the hotel should be honoring the rate they agreed to. And in the end, the rate doesn’t really matter, because there are other stories of hotels doing similar when the ‘discrepancy’ isn’t nearly as large: it could have been $250 instead of $110 and they’d still try and cheat him out of the lower rate.

  15. I have found it is more difficult to resolve price issues in Europe than in the U.S.  They would have lost several hundred Euros, but it was an error on their part. I’m curious if there was anyone else that had booked a room during the incorrect published rate.

  16. I think that the OP is being taken for a ride for several reasons. The one that immediately strikes me is that Vacationist did not contact him immediately to alert him to the misprint. Second, Vacationist lied about the rooms being blocked during his vacation, and finally, as multiple posters have noted, if the OP had made any mistake whatsoever, Vacationist may not have allowed any change at all. I find that sort of double standard to be entirely unacceptable, especially since the prcing error was made by the service and not by the hotel.

    I made a booking mistake with Expedia once (Budapest instead of Bucharest) and since I called them back almost immediately they made the change for me without charging a fee. Had the site contacted the OP right after the reservation had been made, I would have voted yes. They didn’t. Suck to be Vacationist — they need to eat the loss and let the OP stay where he booked at the rate he booked.

    1. So any compensation offer is fine, so long as you tell the injured party?

      “Sorry, you can’t fly tomorrow because we made a mistake with the ticket price.  Instead, here’s a $10 credit usable on another flight.  Sorry you had plans and it’s going to cost you more to book a flight at this late hour, but since we notified you of the compensation, all is fine.”   Really?

  17. Hotels, tour companies, travel agents assume the responsability once money has exchanged hands. The online agency, with or without a correct rate is now responsible to get the gentleman his room for the stay, no matter what the cost. They oopsed and they pay!

  18. Betcha anything that if he had booked under the name “Bob Slattery, J.D.” or “Judge Bob Slattery,” Vacationist wouldn’t have tried to pull this stunt.  Because there is no way it would ever stand up in court!

  19. I’ll vote that the compensation is insufficient.
    The following blatantly copied from website FAQ’s…

    11. What is your cancellation policy?
    There’s a reason can connect you with offers that are too good to be public – we work hard to get them. In order to maintain sky-high levels of quality while keeping our prices too good to pass up, we do NOT allow cancellations of any kind.

    1. And if they are going to say that their offers are ‘too good to be true’ and ‘too good to pass up’ then the OP can be forgiven for not magically realizing that his offer was a mistake, right?

      Vacationist has just gone on the list of sites that I avoid.

    2. “…we do NOT allow cancellations of any kind.” That is why I voted No.  If they do not allow cancellations of ANY kind, then their cancellation of the OP’s reservation shouldn’t have happened and any compensation under honoring the original reservation and price is unacceptable.

  20. Sorry, but La Maltese advertised a price on the website and the OP accepted.  Isn’t that called a meeting of the minds?  Isn’t that the basic premise of a contract for it to be enforceable?  

    Seems to me the resort needs to honor it’s side of the contract.

  21. Not sure of the timeline on this one….hotels should have a grace period as well if their were fat finger errors of 24-48 hrs and they notify you that there is a rate error….but if he booked this a few months ago and they are only coming back now then this is there fault..not his. 

    These consolidator sites should have penalties on the hotel too if these kind things happen.   The penalty for consumers is no refund…but if the hotel renigs then they should pay the traveler.

    I wonder what else is going on behind the scenes with this hotel where they may have advertized this rate because of low demand but then later on some wealth people who were traveling wanted to book  rooms at full price so they are now going through their reserved list and booting customers who paid less than full market rate.

    Imagine this happening with airlines……I see happening sometime.  The people who are forced booted are the ones that paid at some discounted rate.  The lower the rate the more likely you will get booted.

  22. It would depend on how much time there was for him to make new suitable reservations, but it also seems to me that if your can’t change or cancel neither should the hotel

  23. This may be a clever “bait and switch” by Vacationist and other providers.  Step 1, post a shill listing at an excellent price.  Next step- Wait awhile, then follow with a cancellation and “apology”.  Hope the customer will go with the full price rather than cancel their vacation.  If they cancel, the room can be resold at the more lucrative price while the original customer/victim is given a voucher which means they may come back for more.  And if they don’t, there is no loss to Vacationist other than loss of goodwill (which too many companies underestimate).  Complete financial “up side” to the travel provider!  Of course it may have been an innocent mistake, but where there’s smoke…. 

  24. I think the compensation was fair.  The website admitted they made an error, did their best to correct it and offered a credit to make up for the inconvenience.   That is much more than what most companies would do.

    1. I disagree. I believe it is actually less than what most companies would do.

      The “website” did not make an error. The company that operates it did.

  25. The update really should go above the poll, since the update gives us more information, usually from the companies’ side.
    Although the company is usually the one at fault, we rarely here the whole story from the customer, so these sorts of updates are very inmportant

  26. It’s funny. Two years ago, I bet the comments would have run about 50-50 for holding Vacationist to the contract versus allowing for the “honest mistake”. Today, it seems to be running way in favor of holding Vacationist’s feet to the fire. I guess that’s what two years of consumer abuse does.

  27. Sorry, Vacationist, just not buying what you’re selling.  A $100 credit on account after you’ve burned a customer is not what he is looking for, nor should he be satisfied with it.  And saying that you are flexible, in direct opposition to the statement on your website, with no way to prove or disprove, is hardly a defense.  There seem to be some very astute C. Elliott followers who will not be looking to book through you.

  28. Not booking on Vacationist ever after seeing how they handle mistakes. Mistakes happen. How you choose to respond to those mistakes is a sign of your character as a business. You can’t expect to make money on every transaction, but if you have the best outcome for the customer in mind, that will build loyalty.

  29. 110$ on a 322$  is not a fat-finger rate. Nowadays, a promotion rate at 33% of the regular rate are common in Europe and Asia.
    If the offer provider made a mistake they have to live with it.
    Usually they are unsympathetically to the tourist if the tourist made the mistake. The service provider always want to play at their advantage. I am sure the don’t refund the non-refundable rate if the OP made an error of date.

  30. I once bought 9 tickets Montreal-Honolulu-Montreal for 499$ Round-trip for Christmas vacations for the whole family. My travel agent issued all the tickets on American Airlines tickets stocks. American Airlines discover that they made a mistake by forgetting about the blackout period for Christmas. But it was too late, the ticket were issued and American are bound by it contract once the tickets are issued. Usually it cost 1200$ each for Christmas.

  31. Had a situation where a vendor unilaterally cancelled a reservation. I suspect it was because they decided it wasn’t a good deal for them. Specifically a car rental reservation during Christmas week several years ago when a weekly rate of $129, made months before, was cancelled by the vendor without any notification. Checking up on it a few days before travel date found that the same car was now available for $269. Despite having a confirmation, the original reservation was not honored. The car company was not a large, national brand and is no longer in business. All travelers need to be diligent in what they are booking and who they are booking with.

  32. The rate seems within the range of plausibility and the error was not the hotel’s fault, but Vacationist’s error.  Had the customer erred, I’m sure Vacationist would have tried every trick to lock him into the contractual terms.  Vacationist should own up to their mistake and make the user whole.  Otherwise, let’s hope Chris’ blog deters other users from becoming victims of Vacationist’s incompetence and corporate irresponsibility.

  33. When one reads Vacationist’s response it sounds like the typical response from a hotel PR group. A lot of nothing. When one makes a mistake, then follow through with the pricing and biute the bullet. Several times when I worked for Marriott mistakes were made but rather than hide behind “we have a problem and you (the guest) has to fix it … we honored what had been agreed upon. Good companies do this … what are a few hundred dollars in the scheme of things … here’s what I think: cost of room was incorrectly put in the system; hotel finds out about it; hotel General Manager is scared of owner and repercussion; he tells sales to “fix it”; sales calls customer and offers alternative but tells customer his booking has been cancelled. No recourse for the guest. So one gets back their air ticket and deposit … if that is what the guest had wanted he wouldn’t have spent the money in the first place. Shame on Vacationist. Shows what type of organizatuion they are!!

  34. If the booking was not fully nonrefundable/nonchangeable, I might be more sympathetic to Vacationist. But as other people have said: you can’t have it both ways. If a travel site is going to offer deals that they themselves call “too good to be true,” and require that reservations be nonrefundable, then if and when they make a mistake and post a too-low rate they should eat the cost. Period.

    A $100 credit that can only be used on their site is a joke.

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