Wrong rate for my Tuscan villa – should they honor the price anyway?

Neil Bansal wants to be clear about how he discovered a bargain rate at the Castiglion Del Bosco in Tuscany. He didn’t go to some travel “hacking” site or forum or hear about a fare error from an insider.

He found it through a website called Escapio, and it looked legit.

For 1,000 euro a night, he could have an entire luxury villa, which sleeps up to eight people. So he booked the villa for four nights in May, and paid a 20 percent deposit.

A month later, the hotel contacted him with some unfortunate news.

“I kindly would like to inform you that due to technical problems with the system on parts of the hotel there has been a mistake with the price of the room,” it said. “The actual price for the Villa Casa del Fiume is around EUR 4,400 per night.”

That didn’t sit well with Bansal. After all, had he decided to cancel his booking, the Castiglion would have kept his 20 percent deposit. How could it just rescind the offer?

(Another issue: the hotel’s site says it requires a 50 percent deposit. The requirement may have changed since his initial booking.)

“This is completely unfair,” he says. “I made a legal, fair booking in good faith. I also arranged all my travel around being able to stay at this property. I need your help in contacting the hotel and making sure that my original booking is honored.”

The hotel had other ideas.

Unfortunately, the hotel is not willing to sustain the booking with the incorrect price. As the room that you booked disposes of four bedrooms and you booked for only 2 people, the hotel would like to offer you an alternative in the Suite Borgo, at the rate of EUR 957 per night.

The Borgo Suites dispose of a spacious living room and separate large master bedroom with bathroom. They distinguish themselves by airy spaces, finely furnished details and typical Tuscan-countryside colours. They are located in the main buildings of the Borgo. Size ranges from 79 to 101 m² / 856 to 1103 sq. ft. Amenities are by Tuscan Soul Salvatore Ferragamo.

That sounds nice, but Bansal wanted what he paid for — or thought he paid for.

“I am simply looking for the hotel to honor the contract,” he says. “I made a deposit. The rate was not some obvious error such as a 4 euro room.”

He’s right. This passes the sniff test, more or less.

The rate is good, but not as they say “too good to be true.” I couldn’t find any posts on the hacker sites, where members were encouraging each other to book an erroneous rate, either. That would have sent this case straight to the recycler.

As a reminder, this is a Can This Trip Be Saved? post, which takes a completely unvetted reader complaint and asks you, the reader, if I should get involved. I haven’t contacted the hotel yet.

Here’s where this case gets a little fuzzy: After the Castiglion Del Bosco discovered its rate error, did it do enough to fix the problem? Clearly, it wants Bansal to come to Tuscany and stay there, and it’s offering a suite for less than he would have paid for the villa. Does Bansal really need a vacation rental that sleeps eight people? The hotel doesn’t seem to think so.

The hotel is giving him plenty of advance notice. He’s not scheduled to check in until May.

But still, should a business be able to cancel any contract it doesn’t like, weeks later? I mean, what if the hotel decided to do that with one of its food vendors? Renegotiating a deal after you’ve signed it is not good business.

Yet I’m reluctant to step in. The Internet is full of consumers who pursue rate errors and then, when a business discovers these mistakes, tries to hold their feet to the fire. I’d be lying if I said I don’t have my doubts about this case.

I guess I’m more worried about the precedent this might set. If I go to bat for Bansal, then should I also help people who innocently booked a fare error like this one? Where’s the line?

Should I mediate Neil Bansal's case?

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