What to do about that nonrefundable refundable hotel rate in Paris

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By Christopher Elliott

Something tells me Fatima from the front desk of the Hôtel du Triangle d’Or wants me to mind my own business, and I will. But not before telling Monika Christian’s story.

Christian recently found a reasonably good rate to stay at the hotel, located in Paris’ upscale 8th Arrondissement, for three nights, Aug. 25 to 27. Total price, including taxes, came to 477 euro.

Just below her confirmation were the terms of her reservation: “Promo Internet Free Cancellation.”

And so, when she tried to cancel a few days later, Christian was surprised when the hotel informed her it would be pocketing her 477 euro, down to the last cent.

We have to inform you that the booking you have made on our site is indeed a non-refundable booking.

You have choosed a promotion, 2=3 nights, and in order to have this offer you have to pay all at the reservation time, non-refundable.

As you can see in the cancellation policy.

Mind the English.

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I asked Christian to show me the entire thread between her and the Hôtel du Triangle d’Or. Maybe there had been some kind of misunderstanding.

Sure enough, Christian showed the hotel screenshots of the offer. Here’s the relevant wording:

Promo Internet Free Cancellation

Our cancellation policy is 48 hours before arrival without charge. In case of no show or late cancellation, the first night will be charged.

That looks pretty cut-and-dried, doesn’t it? Christian showed it to the hotel. Its response, according to her, was to revise its website to clarify this special rate.

Oops! No longer was it refundable.

Enough of the shenanigans, I thought. I contacted the Hôtel du Triangle d’Or and asked if it could please clarify the situation. Was Christian’s room refundable or not?

The response? Well, read for yourself

Dear Sir,

Further to your request our manager decide to refundable your guest exceptionally and he apologizes for this misunderstanding.

It is the first time you meet this situation. Almost guests understood wether in this promotion 2=3 the last night was free and non refundable.

As long as our policy is based on commercial transparency, it doesn’t have to be justified.

We hope to have answered at your request and we remain at your disposal for any information you may need.

Best regards.

Fatima.

Front desk.

Well, Fatima from the front desk, thank you for refunding Christian’s charge, and I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, too. But the bigger issue is: was the room refundable or not? If it wasn’t, you don’t have to refund anything. If it was, then you do.

I don’t know if there are any major takeaways for us. Christian got everything in writing, and still the outcome was less than ideal, until I got involved. (Here is our ultimate guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

Language barrier? Oui, goes without saying.

Deal with a reputable travel agent? Sure, that might have prevented it. The terms would have been clearly displayed in an agent’s reservation system, or at least one would hope.

I’m conflicted about this one. My advocacy team and I didn’t advocate for the Hôtel du Triangle d’Or to refund this customer. I can well understand Fatima’s displeasure at my intervention, but is it asking too much to be clear about a cancellation policy?

Should I have turned down Monika Christian's case?

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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 X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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