HotelsOne took my money — can you help me get it back?

Mary Puchein wants her $499 back.

The circumstances of her loss will sound all too familiar to regular readers of this site. When she tried to make a direct reservation with the Majestic Beach Resort in Panama City Beach, Fla., she found herself talking to a third party, which took her money and now won’t return it.

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“I believed I had made reservations directly,” she says.

She hadn’t, even though an agent assured her that he represented the property. She ended up with a reservation she didn’t want, which contained surcharges she didn’t expect and on dates when she didn’t plan to be in town.

“It’s similar to a bait-and-switch,” she complained.

Her case — and its resolution — shows the importance of paperwork, due diligence and attention to detail when you’re out there doing the DIY thing.

Here’s what happened to Puchein: She clicked on a site she thought was the Majestic’s, and used a reservations phone number on the page to make a booking. In fact, it routed her to a third party, HotelsOne. She discovered the problem only after receiving her confirmation.

“The reservation was for another place,” she says. “Wrong dates, and some hidden charges.”

The American Hotel & Lodging Association claims travelers make 15 million bogus reservations like this every year.

Our advocacy team wondered what actually happened to her reservation. So we asked.

A HotelsOne representative had this to say:

Please know that we want to be as fair as possible with our customers and if there is an agent error we will cover the costs.

In this case, we went back and located the original recording of the booking given that the customer is claiming agent error. We confirmed after our team listened to the recording of the conversation that there was no agent error.

The customer originally requested a different hotel but upon hearing the quoted price declined to book there. The agent then offered the Edgewater Hotel which the customer accepted.

The customer was quoted all applicable terms and conditions associated with the reservation including the cancellation policy of the hotel. Customer later called in and inquired on cancelling but was explained the fees associated with a cancellation and did not go through with the cancellation.

We were charged in full by the hotel for the booking made by the customer and thus the customer is not due a refund.

Puchein says she didn’t recall the conversation going like that and would like to hear the recording. Unfortunately, HotelsOne would not release the recording to her.

Is this the wrong time to mention my pet project, a law that would require companies to give customers access to the same call records a company has?

She’s disputed the charges on her credit card and spent at least four hours on the phone with HotelsOne. Nothing has worked.

Our friends at SiteJabber have a few choice things to say about HotelsOne. I’ll just provide a link and let you browse the one-star reviews at your leisure.

Needless to say, Puchein isn’t alone.

I have strong doubts about the content of the recording, and I think if we could hear it, we might arrive at a different conclusion from HotelsOne. But our advocacy team doesn’t have much of a choice. Her $499 is lost.

21 thoughts on “HotelsOne took my money — can you help me get it back?

  1. At this point, the answer would seem to be “Buy a recorder for your telephone. Use it whenever you make a call for which you might need the evidence later.” When they say ‘This call may be recorded…’, they are telling you in so many words that THEY have consented to recording the call.

    1. That’s not actually the case. It would be very cool if the “two-party consent” states made such a rule, but it’s not the current state of the law. (Most states, however, are single-party consent states, meaning you don’t need to ask. Thing do, however, get fuzzy if one party is in a two-party state and the other is in a one-party.)

      A quick Googling says you only need to worry about this in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington.

    2. You don’t need a recorder, just make the call over Skype on your computer (use a headset if you don’t like the echo or noise), and then use a sound capture program to record the audio. On a Mac you can use Quicktime (free).

  2. Yes, it is more than a bit suspicious that they claim the recording backs up their version of events, but don’t feel like releasing it to you or the customer. If I was in their shoes, and such a recording actually existed, I’d be all “Ha! I’ll show this guy that sometimes the customer isn’t right after all!”

  3. At the time they offer a different property for lower isn’t a clue it’s not direct? (I’m not blaming Mary, phone calls you’re on the spot) but it should be (even if small) a red flag?

  4. This seems ripe for some young lawyer and a class action lawsuit (if there are enough parties aggrieved by HotelsOne). Of course, the problem is that the parties will only get pennies on the dollar, but it will put a crimp into what seems to be unfair business practices by the company.

  5. As an alternative to the hang-up inducing, “I’m recording the call too!”, why not use the same verbiage as the CSRs, with an ambiguous twist – in response to their query if I understand that the call may be recorded, respond with something like, “This call MAY be recorded for quality assurance purposes, is that correct?”
    Ultimately, I like Chris’ suggestion that these sort of CSR recordings are accessable by all parties. The CSR could give a reference # for the recording at the end of the conversation.

    1. Last time I called the cable company and they mentioned recording the call, I told them I would be recording it as well. The CSR said she would wait until I got my recorder going…she was perfectly fine with it.

      I would say tell them you are recording. If they hang up, it probably wouldn’t have ended well anyway.

      (And don’t tell the cable folks, but I don’t really have a recorder)

        1. I don’t have a problem with that. Better to get the deals they actually offer, instead of the ones they claw back later by jacking up my bill.

          1. That’s just my point, you won’t get a deal, not because there isn’t one you are eligible for and would provide you real savings, but because the CSR is now in the position of possibly over selling. They may truly believe you are eligible for one type of savings and package, but why take the risk that you aren’t or it’s not approved, or their manager explained it incorrectly, it’s not going to matter because they will be the ones recorded.

          2. Ah, but I did get a deal – one to which I was entitled, and one that I won’t have to argue about, send endless email, and eventually start a thread on the forum about.

            So, as long as you’re polite, you should get what you deserve. And, if you’re not, you should get the same.

          3. Huh?

            Reading the forum here, I see hundreds of people here who were promised something, but in order to actually get it, they had to spend hours, days, weeks months begging the company to give them what they were promised. And at that, they are not always successful.

            I’m not sure what your game is here, but in reply I can only say:

            No one ever made history spending hours on hold with Comcast trying to get the deal they were promised.

          4. Then don’t do those things, why spend all that time and effort and resources when you can just write Chris, and problem solved. Chris fixes more cable issues than the FCC. Why spend months talking to a company when you can spend 30 minutes talking to Chris and his swarm of advocates, and problem solved.

            The issue is they got it though. The company over promised and they still got it. They got the better deal, that’s the point. Sure you can save huge amount of time and trouble and just pay the standard rate. You can go into an airport, walk up to the counter and pay the fare to fly from point A too point B, and there won’t be a litany of issues. You will pick up your printed ticket, walk towards the gates, go through security and take your seat. It will be relatively painless process, but you won’t get a deal on that transaction.

            Finally, that’s wrong there have been a number of youtube videos and articles written about customers spending historically excessive amounts of time on the phone talking to Comcast and some of the shocking things Comcast has said.

  6. She’s disputed the charges on her credit card and spent at least four hours on the phone with HotelsOne. Nothing has worked.

    What was the merchant’s response to the credit card company? In their response to Chris they don’t even bother to address that even the dates were not the dates the customer says they asked for.

    She should follow back up with her credit card company and follow their instructions for disputing the merchant’s response and re-opening their investigation.

    Also, she can try to file a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. I don’t see that HotelsOne is a registered seller of travel in Florida and, as I understand it, any business which sells travel in Florida needs to register or obtain a statement of exemption.

  7. Disreputable companies can and do doctor recordings. She should demand to hear the recording. I was involved with a case where my small business was fradulently billed for fake Yellow Pages advertising. When I called (along with someone from the Post Master General’s office on the line listening) the “magically” produced (after putting me on hold for a long time), a recording that seemed to be someone consenting to all the fees (they substituted different quesitons and inserted the “yes” and “no” recorded answers she had given to OTHER questions when called). I worked in the directory industry at the time so I knew the scam. The fact that the voice was my 12 year old who was manning the phones that day did not phase them, and the fact that she clearly never consented seemed immaterial. I clearly got out of the fees but was shocked at the complexity of the scam. The call was eventually used as evidence against them in court.

  8. I have learned to page down to look for “Official Site”. Bring up any cruise line, resort, etc and there are so many that use the name of the supplier and a fake website that you can go down half a page to find the true website.

  9. Hopefully the CC dispute will work. She could always sue in small claims court and subpoena the recording, which is what i would do.

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