This is a story about red tape and inflexibility, starring a wildfire, a small British Columbia inn called Becker’s Lodge, and one of our readers.
It is also a story without a happy ending but plenty of lessons — including the need for lots of research before you make a reservation.
Burned out on vacation
Let’s meet our reader, Jenny Heard. She was excited about a vacation in Bowron Lake, British Columbia, last summer. She looked forward to paddling around the lake with her husband.
Then massive wildfires ravaged the area. In fact, it was the worst wildfire season in history.
“Because of fires, the lakes were closed, and Becker’s offered to carry over the deposit or refund it.” she says.
She should have taken the money.
“I said that they could carry it over because I thought that was supportive of the area given the circumstances,”
Becker’s kept her $338 for one night at the lodge plus equipment rental.
Becker’s Lodge: No extension for you!
Then Heard tried to use the credit.
“This year, I emailed them about a reservation for the night and equipment, but then we decided not to do the trip this year after all,” she says. “The reservations person said there would be no refund. When I copied their refund language from the internet, she said that was new this year.”
Ah, the terms. I’ll get to those in a moment.
“When I asked to use the deposit in 2019, she said that owner would not do that either,” says Heard.
In other words, Becker’s is keeping her money.
What are the cancellation terms, anyway?
A closer look at Becker’s cancellation terms might raise some eyebrows. They’re pretty standard at first — a cancellation fee and partial refund if you cancel two months before your planned stay.
But there are also a few peculiarities. Note this paragraph:
All cancellation requests must be received in writing. When cancellation requests are received, it will be at BECKER’s LODGE’s discretion to offer equivalent credit for a rescheduled booking. This policy is necessary due to the remote location of our place and rebooking of our accommodations would be unlikely. Thank you in advance for your understanding.
I highlighted the two red flags. The notification must be “in writing.” I’ll come back to that in a second. And “policy is necessary due to the remote location of our place and rebooking of our accommodations would be unlikely.”
That’s strange. Why even have a hotel if it’s remote and rebooking would be “unlikely”? To me, that just sounds like an excuse.
Our advocates to the rescue? Not so much.
We tried to help. Our advocate, Michelle Friedman, contacted Becker’s on Heard’s behalf on several occasions.
Here’s where things get even stranger. Scroll back up to the part about needing a cancellation in writing. The owner, via an employee, insisted that all correspondence take place by regular mail.
Let me repeat that. They would not accept an email or phone call on behalf of Heard. They wanted a letter.
Hey 1950, are you missing a hotel?
Not surprisingly, we have not heard from the hotel since.
Had Heard checked one or two reviews of Becker’s Lodge before she made her booking, she might have had second thoughts.
Sadly, I’m closing this case. Technically, Becker’s Lodge is allowed to keep her money. Never mind that a customer was trying to support you by accepting a hotel credit. Never mind that your “letters only” policy is antiquated and customer-unfriendly.
Go on, Becker’s. Keep the $338. You’ve earned it.
After we closed this case, the owner reached out to Heard and told her that he is also closing her case. He said that the lodge will be under new “management” next year. He never contacted our advocate, despite having asked for her phone number.