Downgraded to an inferior hotel — is this worth only $79?

Ellen Kim reserved three nights at the Hotel San Zulian in Venice, Italy, through Booking.com. But when she checked in, a representative told her the property was overbooked and sent her to the Hotel Panada.

She thinks the new hotel is a downgrade and wants $550 for the hotel change. Booking.com’s offer: just $79.

“The Hotel Panada is an inferior, terrible hotel,” she says.

It’s understandable that Kim is upset — first, at being moved, and second, at the lowball offer. Kim says she took the time to select the hotel she wanted and paid for the reservation through Booking.com, which is a third-party booking agent.

Kim says she carefully selected the Hotel San Zulian, paying $809 for three nights. Instead, she landed at the Panada, where rooms go for $75 to $100 a night.

“My room was on the fifth floor and [the hotel] didn’t have an elevator,” she remembers. “There were 68 very steep stairs to climb. The room was damp and had holes in the wall. It was so dark that I couldn’t read anything. And, the TV wasn’t working.”

She adds, “I would like the difference in price between the two hotels refunded.”

Overbooking in the hotel industry is common. Our website contains a FAQ section about hotels that addresses overbooking. Basically, if the hotel doesn’t have the booked room, it should “walk” you to a comparable hotel. Unfortunately, it’s the customers who have used third-party booking agents that get “walked” first.

Before contacting our advocates for help, Kim could have posted a query to our help forums, which are staffed by travel industry experts, and often read by company executives. Our forum advocates may have had helpful information for her. And, Kim could have escalated her complaint by directly contacting company executives. We list executive contact information for Booking.com on our website.

Related story:   Can't get into my Airbnb rental -- why won't they give me a refund?

Kim requested that we help her recover $550 of the $809 she paid for the Hotel San Zulian. That would have resulted in her paying $259 for a 3 night hotel stay in Venice. That seemed low, so our advocates researched the Hotel San Zulian and the Hotel Panada. It turned out that the hotels were priced and rated similarly on Booking.com.

It appears that the difference in the price of the two hotels was overstated, so our advocates have declined to get involved for now. Not being accurate destroys the credibility of the entire claim, and it taints the entire advocacy process. In order for our advocates to volunteer their time and effort to assist with a dispute, it’s essential that it be an honest one.

Booking.com made a goodwill gesture to Kim when it offered her a $79 refund.

Is a $79 refund enough to compensate Ellen Kim?

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Diane Perera

Diane and her family love to travel, and they do so as much as they can. Having experienced the downside of travel, and having learned so much from Elliott.org, led Diane to become an advocate and to help fight the good fight. Read more of Diane's articles here.

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