What does Marriott owe me for a reflagging nightmare?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Donna Larkin booked a room at the Hotel Ashbourne Marriott near Dublin last year, she had no way of knowing it was about to change owners. Or that some of the information on the hotel’s former website was less than accurate.

But that’s exactly what happened when she and her family arrived in Ireland for a two-week visit. The hotel was no longer a Marriott and it wasn’t as close to Dublin as promised. And that’s not all.

“Upon arrival at the hotel, we were informed that the hotel was not 10 minutes from Dublin but 40 minutes from Dublin,” she says. “It was not near any public transportation and it did not have rooms that would accommodate our party as requested on our reservation. Of course, we were told that no room was guaranteed, even though we booked well over two months in advance so that our party could be accommodated in a comfortable manner.”

What happened?

Changes of ownership or “reflaggings”

Well, the Marriott was now the Pillo Hotel Ashbourne, and although it agreed to honor Larkin’s reservation, it would do so on its terms. Changes of ownership — or “reflaggings” in hotel industry parlance — are not unusual and normally run fairly smoothly. This one appears to be an exception.

Larkin continues,

The employees at Pillo were polite, but stated the best they could do would be to add cots to the rooms.

Frankly, I spent way too much money on your hotel to be sleeping on a cot! They were also charging us double for an extra person in the room (a room which could not even accommodate our party).

They informed us they were only honoring a reservation that was listed, but for any problems we would need to contact the Marriott Corporation and provided us the phone number to Customer Cares with Marriott.

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Pillo could not help us since they were not involved in the initial reservation.

Larkin spent the next two hours on the phone with a Marriott agent trying to resolve the problem. A representative told them that when Marriott sold the hotel, they should have been notified and offered a refund. They’d received no notification and no refund, they told the Marriott employee.

Breach of contract and unresolved refund

“She tried her best to diffuse the situation and found us a room in Dublin,” says Larkin. “She tried to speak with a manager in reservations to assist with a refund but was unsuccessful since there is no manager on duty for the weekend. Although she could not explain why my credit card was not credited for the reservation once Marriott sold the hotel to Pillo, she did state she did not think it would be a problem, but did not guarantee anything.”

In other words, Larkin should get a full refund for her room at the Pillo.

“I believe that since the hotels changed hands our reservations became null and void and was a breach of a contract, our money should have been credited back to my credit card at that time,” she adds.

But that’s not what happened. Despite repeated requests, Marriott didn’t refund the $600 the Larkins had paid on their original reservation. (Here’s our guide on how to find the best hotel at the most affordable rate.)

I didn’t like this resolution. It appeared the Larkins had pre-paid for their reservation and that their rate was nonrefundable. The new hotel had agreed to honor the reservation, but under slightly different — and ultimately unacceptable — terms. What’s more, the property had been misrepresented on the Marriott site, the family claims. So the company breached its contract in several ways.

Email response from the Marrott

I contacted Marriott on Larkin’s behalf. Here’s how it responded. (Yes, this is the actual email.)

I’m sincerely apologize for stress and inconvenience this caused your family. But since you made the choice to keep the current reservation, had you called our reservation department they would have been more than happy to make alternate reservations.

We are unable to offer a cash refund, as all monies for the guests that chose to keep their original reservations went to the Pillo Corporation, which of course was an advanced purchase.

Once you made the decision to keep that reservation our hands were tied as far as getting the monies back from them.

As a gesture of goodwill, I will be happy to purchase 20,000 reward points. Again I offer my deepest apologies that I am unable to honor your request of a refund.

Nothing says “we care” like a well-crafted letter.

“The rewards points are better than nothing,” says Larkin. (Related: Marriott canceled my reservation and then went silent.)

I agree. But I think Marriott should have contacted the family before they left for Ireland and explained what happened and offered a refund. As far as I can tell, that didn’t happen. If Larkin had known that the hotel was far away from Dublin and that it couldn’t accommodate her family, I’m not sure she would have kept the reservation.

Did Marriott offer Donna Larkin enough compensation?

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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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