Booking.com’s failure to cancel my reservation cost me $278

When Joan Cooper reads negative reviews of her hotel, she asks Booking.com to cancel her reservation, but it doesn’t — and the hotel treats her as a no-show guest. Can our advocates help Cooper recover her hotel fee?

Question: Last February I made a reservation through Booking.com for the Wayfarer Inn in Carmel, Calif., for a stay in April. But after I saw some bad reviews of the hotel, I emailed Booking.com to cancel my reservation.

Booking.com sent me an email confirming the cancellation, but it notified me that the Wayfarer Inn was assessing me a $30 cancellation fee. I asked Booking.com to waive this fee, as I was a first-time user of its site. Booking.com’s agent replied that it was up to the Wayfarer Inn to decide whether it would waive the fee, and that Booking.com would forward my request to the hotel and get back to me.

I didn’t hear from Booking.com after that until April, after the date of my originally scheduled stay at the Wayfarer Inn, when I received automatic emails asking me to rate the hotel. I immediately contacted Booking.com and advised its agents that I had never stayed at the Wayfarer Inn, forwarding them my confirmation email from Booking.com. Then the Wayfarer Inn charged my credit card $278.

Booking.com responded that it was my responsibility to cancel my reservation according to its rules and that the Wayfarer Inn was within its rights to charge my account, disregarding that I had canceled my reservation in accordance with its rules.

Even though Booking.com had sent me the email confirming that I was canceling my reservation, it had never processed the cancellation with the Wayfarer Inn. I think Booking.com wrongly decided that I had not canceled based on my request for a waiver of the Wayfarer Inn’s $30 cancellation fee.

Related story:   Why is my hotel dragging its feet on a refund?

Can you get Booking.com to admit responsibility for this error and to refund me the $278? — Joan Cooper, Petaluma, Calif.

Answer: I can understand your frustration at canceling a reservation and receiving a confirmation of the cancellation, only to later be charged for the reservation and told that it was your responsibility. That created an unnecessary mess.

But this mess might have been avoided if you had checked the hotel’s reviews before, not after, booking your reservation. Although the reviews weren’t visible on Booking.com’s website until after you completed the reservation process, you might have checked them out on travel sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Sometimes it isn’t possible to cancel hotel reservations after booking them through online travel websites like Booking.com. Luckily, you still had your email confirming your cancellation, which established that you should have received a refund.

Booking.com’s terms and conditions provide with regard to cancellations that

[if] you wish to review, adjust or cancel your reservation, please revert to the confirmation email and follow the instructions therein. Please note that you may be charged for your cancellation in accordance with the accommodation provider’s cancellation, (pre)payment and no-show policy or not be entitled to any repayment of any (pre)paid amount. We recommend that you read the cancellation, (pre)payment and no-show policy of the accommodation provider carefully prior to making your reservation and remember to make further payments on time as may be required for the relevant reservation.

Since you followed these instructions and the Wayfarer Inn’s website makes no mention of a cancellation fee, your contesting the $30 charge is understandable. Unfortunately, your aggressive tone in your communications with Booking.com’s personnel, which included a threat of a television exposé, didn’t help your case.

Related story:   Loosen the vise grip

You might have used our executive contacts for Booking.com to escalate your complaint to higher-ranking executives of the company (a brand of the Priceline Group). Instead, you contacted our advocates for assistance in getting a $278 refund.

We reached out to Booking.com on your behalf. Booking.com agreed to issue a refund to your credit card.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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