Sometimes, the Internet isn’t the best way to book a hotel room.
That may be something of an understatement for Karen Berg, who recently tried to reserve a room in Miami through Hotels.com. She ran into so much trouble, including being overcharged multiple times and then getting accommodations that she didn’t expect, that she’s having second thoughts about ever buying online again.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to see this kind of a problem coming. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to avoid it. More on that in a second.
First, let’s hear from Berg.
I attempted first to book a room at the Avalon Hotel and could not successfully complete the transaction because the computer continuously stated that there was an error to accept the prompt asking for the security code on the back of my check card. I canceled out of the booking, went back into the Web site, and tried again.
After the third try, I decided to go to a different hotel. I attempted to book at the Carlton South Beach Hotel. I made three attempts, without success, and decided to make a phone call and make the reservation with a customer service person. All was completed and I received a hotel confirmation immediately on my home computer e-mail.
One week prior to my departure on my stay, I checked my checking account online to be sure things looked okay. I discovered there were multiple deductions (7) from Hotels.com which totaled over $1,200. Each time I had hit “enter” it took $200 out of my account. I had to spend time on the phone with the bank filing a claim to cover my mortgage payment the next morning. I contacted Hotels.com again without any success to clear up this matter. At that point, I figured the bank would take care of it for me.
The day I arrived to check into the Carlson South Beach Hotel, a hotel employee told me I had four reservations. I immediately called Hotels.com and was on the phone with them for over an hour to reverse the charges and the bookings. I also tried to clear up the charges at the Avalon Hotel, without success.
This has been very disheartening to me. Hotels.com claims the Miami South Beach hotels are a certain star rating and they are dumpy. I spent over $175 for a skuzzy hotel. We were placed in a room facing the main drag where spring breakers partied all night. I received zero sleep.
So we have two problems here. First, the multiple reservations. And second, the dumpy hotel.
I’ve encountered the card problem myself a few times. My Visa card goes through one final step to verify your identity, called Verified by Visa. The system requires you to use a password with letters and numbers — one that’s invariably difficult to remember. I’ve been kicked off the system more than a few times.
These purchases shouldn’t go through on your card. But you need to do some due diligence after you’ve bought something online. Check your credit card statement and make sure you haven’t been sent multiple confirmations by Hotels.com. The sooner you address the problem, the easier it will be to resolve it.
In terms of the substandard Spring Break hotel, well, that’s something a little research might have helped with. A good travel agent wouldn’t have let this happen, but certainly, a look at the calendar and the hotel reviews might have suggested that South Beach wasn’t the best place to overnight during Spring Break. Unless you’re 18.
I contacted Hotels.com on Berg’s behalf. Yesterday, she got the following email from the company:
Thank you for taking the time to write to us in regards to booking numbers 081193841, 081192307, 081191963, 081192285, 081193528, 081193560 and 081193576. I do show that each one of these bookings have been cancelled and fully refunded.
I am very sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.
We would like to extend to you USD 100.00, in hotel credit vouchers, known as “Hotel Bucks” in appreciation for your business. These “Hotel Bucks” may be used as credit towards your next Hotels.com reservation with any hotel we service (pre-paid, discounted properties only).
Berg is happy with that resolution. So am I.
(Photo of South Beach girls by lumierefl/Flickr Creative Commons)