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

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Christopher Elliott

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.

“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.”

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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.

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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 Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Tokyo.

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