No confirmation from Booking.com and no refund

LeeAnn Graham thought she had made a reservation for a vacation rental on Booking.com. She thought wrong. Or did she?

That is today’s mystery. And sadly, since you can probably read the header on this story, it’s a mystery with a very unsatisfactory resolution.

But before we go there, let’s ponder one of the travel industry’s greatest enigmas: What happens after you push the “book” button, giving your online travel agency the authority to charge your credit card? If you said, “I have no idea,” then join the 99 percent of the rest of us who have no clue about credit card processing systems. (The other 1 percent includes our very own Will Leeper, who wrote the FAQ on them.)

A few weeks ago, Graham booked a four-bedroom vacation rental in Sun River, Ore., through Booking.com, which, she claims, advertised the accommodations as being completely refundable. Not that it mattered — her vacation plans were set.

She never received a confirmation email.

Graham phoned Booking.com to figure out if she even had a reservation — as I said, what happens after your push that “book” button is a real headscratcher — and a representative told her the reservation could not be found.

Turns out “could not be found” doesn’t mean “does not exist.”

Graham then made another reservation through Booking.com in Sun River. And … you can probably see where this is going.

“A few days later, I found out that my first reservation did go through,” she says. What had happened? Booking.com had an incorrect e-mail address for her.

That’s completely preventable. You just double-check the email that you input. Then the confirmation goes to the right place. But you know what? I’ve mistyped my own address, and I’m sure you have, too. It happens.

“My husband spent over an hour on the phone with an associate trying to explain what had happened so that we could cancel it and get a refund,” she says. “He was told that it was less than 60 days out, and there are very strict policies for this property.”

That’s not fair, she adds.

“This is very misleading because when I booked the reservation, Booking.com stated that reservations can be canceled at any time, and you do not have to pay until you arrive.”

The full $2,328 was deducted from Graham’s bank account a few days later, even though Booking.com knew that she wouldn’t be able to stay in the home. Booking.com said she should contact the vacation rental company for a resolution, which she tried to do. No luck.

That’s not just disappointing — it’s infuriating. It’s not as if Graham is trying to bend a rule to get a refund. This was an honest mistake.

Our advocacy team reached out to Booking.com on her behalf. The company’s records do not align with every aspect of her story.

Booking.com says that when it was notified of the double booking, a representative contacted the property and requested a “free” cancellation for the guest.

“The guest’s free cancellation for this booking was denied by the property,” according to a representative.

“The last recorded contact from Ms. Graham was a message she sent to the property directly via Booking.com’s communications platform that allows guests to communicate with the property,” the representative told us. “In this communication, Ms. Graham requested that the property postpone her reserved stay due to a scheduling conflict. Ms. Graham asked that the property contact her directly to discuss this and provided a contact number.”

So which is it? A double reservation or a change of plans? It’s hard to know for certain, but there’s certainly enough doubt that neither Booking.com nor the property in question will budge on this refund request. And we can’t force them.

So now what? We have to reluctantly place this in the “case dismissed” folder, but not before issuing this warning: Check your email address when you book online, and then double-check it. Keep your story straight, because for all of their apparent lack of sophistication, online agencies do monitor your messages, and they record your calls.

On a separate note, wouldn’t it be great if Graham had access to all the information Booking.com did? What if she had the phone call recordings and electronic messages? Imagine how much more she might be able to do. Imagine how much more we would be able to do.

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