Is this enough compensation? How much is that fat-finger mistake worth?

Gretchen Kenney thought the $232 a night rate at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club was pretty darned good, considering that Marriott’s own website showed the same two-bedroom unit at $589 a night.

But not too good to be true.

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Ah, but it was.

After Kenney phoned the online travel agency,, to confirm the rate and then booked the Marriott property and received an email confirmation, she waited patiently for a Marriott confirmation number. It never came.

When she contacted by phone, she was told there was an “error” in her reservation and that the company would offer her a $100 Visa gift card for the trouble.

I told them regardless of their mistake they needed to honor the rate that was published and booked. She put me on hold and came back on with a $200 Visa gift card.

I told her the matter of them offering a gift card was pointless, that I wanted my confirmed rate, room type and nothing less.

Related: In today’s edition of the smarter consumer, find out how to fix your customer service problem in real time.

Fat-finger rates — which is what these kinds of errors are called in the biz — happen from time to time. But they aren’t all the same.

Implausible fat-finger rates are so obviously wrong that no reasonable person would book them. I’m talking about the 20 cents for the $2,000-a-night suite at the Four Seasons. Obviously, they missed a couple of decimal points!

Plausible fat-finger rates like a $99 fare that normally goes for $299 is believable to the average traveler or travel agent. I think travelers who book these rates have a much stronger leg to stand on when a travel company pulls the rug out from underneath them.

There’s a group of hard-core frequent travelers out there who think a company should honor every price, no matter how erroneous — or absurd. They share information about fat-finger errors with each other, exploiting these obvious mistakes. They are wrong, and I will not advocate for them.

But Kenney’s case is different. She found the rate error through a normal online search and made multiple attempts to confirm the rate’s legitimacy before booking it.

Oyster also made a few mistakes, including waiting until only a few weeks before her trip — indeed, until it was prompted by her — to disclose she didn’t have a reservation. When was it planning to share this important detail with her?

I wish there was a lesson to be learned from this, but even a confirmation from your online travel agency doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. I wonder what would have happened if Kenney had showed up at the Ko Olina Beach Club with her Oyster reservation? Would it have turned her away?

I asked to review her file, and it did. A representative contacted her and doubled the offer to $400. In the meantime, since Kenney’s Hawaii trip was just around the corner, she had secured accommodations elsewhere.

I think the $400 offer is pretty decent of I checked with Kenney, and she said the true cost of the incident is closer to $650 — $400 to cover the additional cost and $250 for her time. But in the end, she accepted the $400 offer.

(Photo: jwin fred/Flickr)