Case dismissed: Was there really no room at the inn?

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By Christopher Elliott

Ifti Qadir’s case against the Royal San Marco & Suites Hotel and Orbitz seemed like a slam-dunk when it crossed my desk recently. He’d paid $1,307 for two rooms, for a total of three nights.

“When we arrived at the hotel, we were told they don’t have any room available for us,” he says.

Qadir contacted Orbitz, the website through which he booked the rooms, and a representative told him to book another hotel and promised him a refund within five days, he says. But the money never came.

“Finally, we were told that it is not possible, because Orbitz had already paid the hotel,” he says.

Huh? At this point, my blood pressure has gone up by a few points. They can’t just keep Qadir’s money — can they?

Actually, they can.

No-show hotel refund

I checked with Orbitz and its records reflected a different version of events. Orbitz says it didn’t receive a call until a day after Qadir’s scheduled arrival.

The hotel advised that the customer was a “no-show” for both rooms and because they had not been contacted (i.e., “our flight cancelled, please hold our rooms for arrival tomorrow”) the rooms were given to another guest. The customer was under a “non-refundable” penalty for the hotel.

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The hotel advised that due to its “no-show”, no refund was possible. At this point, as the hotel denied a refund, Orbitz has not provided any refund.

My advocacy team and I checked with Qadir to see if he had any response. He says Orbitz’ records are incorrect and that he did call the online agency on the day of his scheduled arrival. (Here’s our guide to finding the best hotel.)

I told them that I will not be able to make it today and will be coming in the next day.

When I contacted Orbitz the next day from the hotel lobby, a representative, after talking to the hotel clerk advised me to find a different hotel and assured me that I will receive my refund within five business days.

I called Orbitz the next day for a follow-up and she assured me again — it is all set, she has all the information needed and just needs one final approval from the supervisor before she can submit the refund request.

OK, back to Orbitz. It insists the first contact didn’t happen until the next day, after Qadir no-showed. Orbitz says Qadir failed to notify the hotel of his change in plans. It told him it would try to secure a refund, but that it didn’t make any promises.

The process is such that the hotel invoices us upon the completion of the guest’s stay. In this case, the no-show triggered the hotel closing out the stay.

We were invoiced electronically and payment was issued. Our funds were transmitted to the resort. By the time we were contacted, this payment process was likely well underway.

A refund to the customer would have required the hotel refunding Orbitz, to free up those funds to refund the customer. We said we would try, but the resort declined.

I’m moving this one into the “case dismissed” file.

Qadir should have also notified the hotel of his late arrival before he was scheduled to check in, not called his online travel agency afterwards, as Orbitz’ records suggest. It might also be nice to have something in writing when you travel plans are disrupted; even an email from the hotel would have helped. Beyond that, you really have to pay attention to the terms of your hotel stay.

Increasingly, nonrefundable really means nonrefundable.

Should Orbitz have refunded Ifti Qadir's money?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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