All Melvin Miller wanted was a hotel room with two beds. And that’s exactly what he thought he had when he made a reservation at the Ramada Cumberland Downtown in Cumberland, Md., through Booking.com.
But did he really? Ramada says “no,” and Booking.com says “no” — even after we asked. But before we send this one to the “Case Dismissed!” file, let’s see what we can learn about the wacky and weird world of hotel websites.
“I booked a room with two beds,” Miller says. “When I arrived, I was given a room with one bed.”
He told the front-desk employee that he needed two beds. No problem, said the employee.
“After an hour wait she gave me a room with two beds, but did not say anything about an increase in price,” says Miller.
But when he checked out the next day, he found that the price wasn’t $95, but $111 — a $16 difference.
“I want a refund, ” he said.
(And yes, we would go to bat for $16. That’s just who we are.)
One of the first things we do when we get a case like this is try the booking for ourselves. Booking.com has an interesting results matrix, with a one-bed room at the top left and a two-bed room below.
You have to review it a few times before you understand what you’re looking at: the results next to and immediately below the room on the right side are in that room category; a one-point line separates the two.
I admit, I found the results a little perplexing. Booking.com must have marketing reasons for displaying its results in this way, because I can think of many more consumer-friendly ways of showing prices.
Anyway, after some fumbling around, I figured out how to reserve a two-bed room at the Ramada. But Miller appears to have gotten lost. He thought he had the right room — he knew he was traveling with a second person and needed an extra bed — but he didn’t reserve the right room type.
Still, Miller had the foresight to take a screenshot. He shared it with us.
We forwarded all of the information to Booking.com.
Their response? It says it gave Miller exactly what he reserved:
Per Mr. Miller’s communication, in which he shared a screenshot of his Booking.com reservation confirmation, he booked a “Double Room – Non-Smoking” accommodation type.
I have attached a screenshot of the online booking page for Ramada Cumberland Downtown on Booking.com, which clearly states below the accommodation type Mr. Melvin selected that the room has one bed (“Bed: 1 double bed”).”
In other words, read the fine print. You got exactly what you paid for.
Our advocacy team reviewed the screenshot again, and it turns out we were kind of confused, too. After all, Ramada was calling it a “Double Room.” Shouldn’t there be two beds in a double room? Well, apparently not.
This is one of our stranger cases, because the harder I look at the facts, the more convinced I become that a) Booking.com’s display matrix is really confusing and b) it’s easy to see how someone might think a double room should have two beds.
That’s not the weird part, though. We asked Miller about the circumstances of his booking again. Did he take the screenshot after making the reservation? Actually, he now claims he reserved the room by phone. Booking.com insists he made it online.
Lesson learned: If you think you might be confused — confused enough to take a screenshot — it’s better to ask for a clarification. Had Miller asked about the beds, he might have avoided a $16 upcharge.
Oh, and if you’re running a booking site, make sure you’re clear about your terms. If you’re not, you could find yourself with thousands of unhappy customers like Miller — and, maybe, a confused consumer advocate, too.