The Isle of Skye off the coast of Scotland is a coveted vacation destination in August. And Chuck Swan had the good fortune to score two hotel rooms there. But then there was a glitch getting back to the mainland.
Swan’s story is a cautionary tale for all those self-booking travelers: Make sure to familiarize yourself with the cancellation details of your booking before hitting that confirm button.
“I booked two rooms for August 18 and 19 at the Torvaig House on the Isle of Skye, charging $1,350 to my American Express card,” he explains. “While completing our itinerary, I found that we couldn’t get an early morning reservation on the ferry since it was running a Sunday schedule.”
A self-booking error?
Swan tried to reschedule for August 19 to 21 through Expedia. But Expedia showed no available rooms at the Torvaig House on Aug 21. But Swan initially held the first reservation since August reservations on Skye were almost nonexistent.
He then did an internet search and found that Torvaig House had availability through Booking.com, providing he was also willing to include dinners with their reservation. He confirmed this reservation and canceled the one with Expedia.
“…on May 14, we received a refund from Expedia for August 18. We then paid Sonos, the holding company for Torvaig and other properties, for 2 rooms on Aug 19 – 21. We paid Sonos an additional deposit of $351 on July 18 on our Visa card.”
But when Swan received his bill from the hotel he noticed that there was no credit for the prepayment he thought had been made by Expedia. Since they had an early checkout, the staff had no access to management and he was advised to check back since they had no record of the Expedia payment.
Which he did.
He told our advocate that the hotel claimed it had no record of the payment and that it only receive funds from Expedia and other booking agents when the guest checks in and that he should contact Expedia for the funds.
“After many emails and phone conversations with Expedia, as well as calls to Scotland, we determined that Expedia had, in fact, sent the funds to Sonos,” he says. “After being confronted, the Sonos representative said that it was a cancellation charge. I questioned how there could be a cancellation when we had occupied two rooms for two days. She then backed off and said that she couldn’t refund since we had used two booking agents.”
So here we have lots of communications problems caused by booking two duplicate reservations through two different third-party travel vendors.
In an accusatory email to the hotel, Swan wrote, “In summary, we are out an additional $675 due to Sonos’ bookkeeping procedures.”
But that’s not what our our advocate found, pointing out to Swan, that his documentation shows that the Expedia reservation was cancelled and he was charged the cancellation fee (first nights rate for each room), which is in accordance to the cancellation policy on his confirmation: “Cancellations or changes made before 11:59 p.m. (GMT Daylight Time) on Aug. 15, 2017 or no-shows are subject to a property fee equal to the first night’s rate plus taxes and fees.”
Still, he might have avoided the fee if he’d communicated directly with the hotel as they advised him during a testy email exchange.
The hotel’s response
“I do not appreciate insults when I have spent so much time trying to explain a policy that you received in black and white both times you booked,” wrote the hotel’s reservation manager. “You made two completely separate reservations through two separate agents yet are expecting us to connect these third parties together, disregarding all fees and treat them as one reservation. I have let you know how we are unable to amend bookings made through these channels; but had you spoken to us directly at the time this would never have been an issue.”
The takeaway? Here, as in many aspects of life, it pays to be polite, even if you think you’re in the right. Correspondence from the hotel suggests that they might have tried a little harder to bend the rules if, instead of coming out of his corner swinging, Swan had approached them asking for help with the mistake he had made.
And, as useful as they often are, using a third-party reservation system adds another possible point of error when booking travel. That is particularly true in this case, when Swan was attempting to score rooms at an expensive hotel in high season. In this case, dealing directly with the hotel might have saved him hundreds of dollars.
It’s a financial loss that our advocates are unable to help with, so this one is marked “case dismissed.”