Hang on, this hotel doesn’t exist!

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Angela Newby books a room at a Ramada Inn, but when the hotel closes, her stay is in limbo. Who should she call?

Question: I’m scheduled to stay at a Ramada Inn next weekend, which I booked through Priceline earlier this year. I called today to confirm my reservation, and I found out that the hotel closed a few weeks ago.

Priceline never contacted me about this, and when I contacted the company today, the best answer I got was that I might know something by the end of this week. I have to check in the day after that.

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I called the Ramada call center, and I was told that it didn’t have an answer for what was going to happen with the prepaid reservations for this hotel, either. What should I do? — Angela Newby, Fort Worth, Texas

Answer: Priceline should have informed you about the hotel’s closure at least a week before your stay and offered comparable accommodations. But before I get to Priceline and Ramada, may I just say how impressed I am that you called the hotel more than a week before your arrival to confirm your stay? Nice work.

I always recommend that you call at least 24 hours before you’re scheduled to check in. A week is even better, and it allowed you to fix this before it turned into the kind of problem that would have left you homeless.

When a hotel closes, it typically notifies customers either by phone or email. It also tells travel agents about the shuttered property. In this particular case, Ramada closed the hotel without telling Priceline, according to Priceline.

“Had we known, we would have reached out to Ms. Newby,” a Priceline spokesman told me.

It’s not entirely clear to me whether your type of reservation created the problem. You prepaid for your room via Priceline’s opaque option, which means you don’t find out the name of the hotel you’ll be staying at until you’ve paid for it (Priceline promises steep discounts in exchange).

When Ramada and Priceline found out about your reservation, they should have acted immediately to find you a replacement room. I’m not sure if waiting a week was a reasonable request. I list executive contacts for Ramada and for Priceline on my site.

But time was short, so I decided to get involved. I contacted Priceline on your behalf.
“We have found her another hotel in the area and upgraded her to a three-star property, versus the 2.5-star property she had booked, at no extra charge,” a company spokesman told me.

Have a great stay and enjoy the extra amenities!

Who should have fixed this case?

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85 thoughts on “Hang on, this hotel doesn’t exist!

  1. yeah if you book through price line ALWAYS confirm.

    i know they flood the tv with their ads, but actual companies treat these people like 2nd class citizens (compared to people who book through their real site.)

    not from priceline but hotels.com:

    i was visting inlaws and staying at a certain hotel. i need to extend my stay. i called hotels.com and they said “our systems don’t show any availability.”

    so i walked to the front desk. and they were able to make a 2nd reservation right then and there.

    my point- there is a discrepency between hotels and 3rd party sites.

        1. On the average, I doubt if OTA rates will be any different for SAME DAY or 2/3 Days in Advance, unless the hotel is really distressed.

          1. I have on more than one occasion, when I wanted to extend my stay, found online rates cheaper than the front desk. I even remember some of the hotels, Embassy Suites – South by LAX and Renaissance Esmeralda in Indian Wells

          2. Online what? Online direct or Online TA.
            The only online TA I would touch is booking dotcom postpaid. Priceline owns booking dotcom. But I wouldn’t book Priceline itself since they are prepaid. Almost all of my local USA are direct with mostly AAA discount.

            IMO, buy a hotel prepaid with an OTA and you are asking for trouble.

        2. It is the sales department of the hotel that would have all the rates. The front desk only sees what they are allowed to sell.

          1. That is what I said. The front desk only sees in their computer what they are allowed to sell. They won’t see a contracted rate with outside vendors, but the sales office would be able to access those.

    1. hotelsdom, hotwire, priceline, etc. typically sells “excess inventory” In your situation, there could have been no excess inventory for the additional night(s) that you were requesting.

      I have booked reservations for hotel rooms where some of the nights were at the AAA rates and some nights were non-AAA rates because the AAA rate was already sold out for those nights.

    2. Often OTAs only have a limited number of rooms they’re allowed to sell for a particular hotel.

      However, I do remember getting a hotel room for $40/night, and I was having breakfast while I overheard someone getting an extra night at the “corporate rate” of $85.

        1. Isn’t the benefit of corporate rates is that they stay consistent even when availability is low. I recently traveled to the Bonaventure for a client. The best rate I found was $600, but the corporate rate was $175ish which was still cheaper than the standard $250ish rate

          1. Having booked corporate travel, I am talking about rates that are set up for a particular company, mostly very large corporations. They usually come with added amenities and better cancel policies. There are also rack corporate rates than any business person can book.

          2. Did you book the room via their agent? If not, you saw the basic corporate rate. You won’t find negotiated corporate rates online, unless the companies travel desk has set up a special site for employees to use.

          3. And a hotel’s system can define different channels (i.e. internal, GDS, OTA, etc.) each with different inventory.

    3. I haven’t had many issues with hotels treating me worse due to priceline and sometimes I have no choice but to go through them after calling the property and telling them I had a better price and not getting a match. I then tell the front desk that I attempted to go through them directly.

      One problem with priceline’s opaque systems is that when traveling with my in-laws and needing 2 beds, the only way to bid is for a single guaranteed bed. Which is great for my wife and I but not so good for families. Why bid for 2 rooms when it may be a lot cheaper and better for all concerned to use rooms with 2 beds?

  2. As opposed to yesterday’s LW, this is a great example of a situation where I’m glad Chris was able to help. Somehow, the wrong wires got crossed and a prod from a consumer advocate made Priceline do the right thing they should have done in the first place.

    1. This case sounds like it needs a report to her State Attorney General. If Priceline was informed that it could not deliver their part of the contract then Priceline does not have to wait for a consumer advocate to start solving a problem. They hold the customer’s money and can easily book another hotel for the customer or return the money.
      Sometimes Elliott’s helping masks the real problem since you have to believe the LW is not the only victim to these kinds of problems.

      1. I agree 100%. I was just pointing out that there are those that write to Chris for help with a legitimate problem and aren’t asking for the moon/whining. Many in the comments tend to jump all over LWs and this is a case where the LW is right to be annoyed and is asking for what she is entitled to, nothing outrageous. If we criticize, we should also point out when people are completely in the right. He absolutely should not have to be involved, priceline should have fixed this on their own.

        1. How do we get these OTAs to behave well then? If it aint gonna cost them to mistreat us, they’ll just keep on doing it.

          1. 2 ways

            1. Market based solution, i.e. don’t use them until they improve.

            2. Legislative solution: Pass appropriate consumer protection laws. Then this becomes a consumer protection matter rather than a simple civil matter in which law enforcement entities generally avoid.

          2. If she lives in a state with Seller of Travel Laws, which are consumer protected laws for citizens of that state, she may have had those to back her up if it was needed. For you, CA has them and as long as you book with a company that is registered to do business in CA, you have a way to get your money back if what you paid for didn’t come through, if no other means helped you. For some reason, Chris never addresses these.

          3. A very cursory look suggests that lodging is not covered. This is what I found on the website…

            “Sells or markets” means providing, furnishing, contracting, for, or advertising that you can, may, or have arranged, either wholesale or retail, air or sea transportation, or land or water vessel transportation

          4. The law was put in place for transportation problems, but hotels have been covered in packages and I would still contact the state if nothing else was getting the money back and nothing was obtained, be it with another hotel reservation. In this case, since she paid with a credit card, that would be her best line of defense if she lost her money due to not getting what she paid for with her credit card. In our state, the vendor must be registered to do business in the state and in this company’s case they must be to sell air to a CA resident, which is a component that they offer to travelers.

  3. Can someone who voted that Ramada should have fixed this problem, please explain your logic or reason?

    The OP used Priceline as their “travel agent”…Priceline “sold” the OP a room at the Ramada Inn…the OP paid Priceline…Priceline made “money” for selling that room…that room become unavailable. Since Priceline acted as an agent in this transaction, it is the responsibility of the agent to find another room.

    This is like yesterday when the OP purchased a Jet Blue gift card on the secondary gift card market and the card was originally purchased with a stolen credit card and there were some people that voted that Jet Blue should be responsible for the replacement of the OP’s money instead of the company that run the secondary gift card website and whom the OP paid the money to.

    At the time of this comment, over 23% has voted for Ramada to fix this problem, please explain your logic.

    1. Ramada closed without notifying the LW or Priceline. Ramada should have let someone know and refund back to Priceline, who could then book another place for the customer. But I’m glad Priceline stepped up after Chris intervened. I don’t necessarily disagree with the people who voted the other way.

      1. Ramada would not even have been PAID yet – Priceline booked her, there is not hotel, it is THEIR responsibility to find a new hotel. Same thing if you book a vacation thru a tour operator — if the hotel they were using closed, THEY would re-accommodate you.

      2. Priceline is claiming that Ramada didn’t contact them which is their side of the story. Since Ramada ‘sells’ their rooms to Priceline, it is hard to believe that they didn’t tell Priceline that rooms for that hotel is not available after a certain date, etc. To me, it COULD be a way for Priceline to pass the blame to Ramada. Hotels are changing brandsnames (i.e. going from a Hilton brand to a Sheraton brand) or even closing their doors so that it is hard for me to believe that Ramada didn’t contact Priceline.

        Even if Ramada did dropped the ball of not contacting Priceline (I don’t know how much contact information {i.e. e-mail, phone number, etc.} does Priceline sends to the hotel), the OP called at least a week in advance to Priceline to inform them that the hotel is closed.

        The OP paid Priceline to find her a room and they should have find her another room immediately once they were informed by the OP that the hotel was closed. They can’t sell something and then don’t deliver.

    2. Ramada was the one offering the hotel room and had been paid for it already via Priceline. Ramada (or the franchisee) made the decision to close to the hotel and did not inform Priceline (from the information we have). While Priceline should have (and did) help the OP find a new room, responsibility rests with Ramada for accepting payment and then failing to perform.

      I use Priceline for hotels a couple of times a year, but never months in advance of the trip. Their model is based upon unsold inventory and months in advance, virtually everything is unsold. If I use them, I start checking a week ahead of departure and bid (if necessary) up until the day before I leave.

      1. I neither believe or disbelieve that Ramada failed to contact Priceline unless there is a collaboration like an e-mail from Ramada apologizing for not contacting Priceline. I know too many companies in this situation that will blame the third-party (i.e. Ramada in this case) to make them look good. A year ago, we received new credit cards because the bank told us that a merchant had a breach of security…a few days later, a story was published that the bank’s credit card security was breached.

        Ramada wasn’t offering the room, it was Priceline that was offering the room from its (Priceline) inventory of 2.5-star rooms to the OP. It is the responsibility of Priceline that the OP got the room that the OP paid for…that is why Priceline gets the majority of the room rate that was charged.

        Since I don’t use Priceline, it is my understanding that you pay PRICELINE the money based upon what I have read, etc. not the hotel…Priceline pays the hotel for you. Based upon my research, hotels only get a fraction of the low room rate that a person receives because Priceline takes a huge chunk as commission. Priceline does help occupancy numbers and maintains employment for hotel staff during slow seasons. Generally, Priceline rates at least cover the hotel’s cost to maintain the room.

        Ramada did NOT accept payment…it was Priceline that accepted the OP payment.

        1. Yes, Ramada was offering the room. Priceline is just one of the sales channels they use. When OP walked in the door (if it was still open), it would say Ramada on the building not Priceline. Priceline acts as the intermediary in accepting payment, but Ramada is the one who actually delivers services. It the bed is broken or the sink backs up, the OP will call Ramada (via the front desk), not Priceline.

          What percentage of the payment Ramada receives from Priceline is negotiated in advance between the two parties and is not the OP’s concern.

          1. But if the room you are given by a hotel that you booked via a vendor, isn’t dealing with your issues, after you checkin, then a call to the booking agent is certainly the way to go. I only use vendors that stand by the products they offer for me to sell. Only once in 3 decades of selling accommodations have I ever had a client have an issue after checking in and I got it handled immediately.

        2. I took Chris’ article to mean that Priceline confirmed they weren’t told about the closure.

          “When a hotel closes, it typically notifies customers either by phone
          or email. It also tells travel agents about the shuttered property. In
          this particular case, Ramada closed the hotel without telling Priceline,
          according to Priceline.

          “Had we known, we would have reached out to Ms. Newby,” a Priceline spokesman told me.”

          That’s enough confirmation for me. Are you saying you think Ramada might have told Priceline, but Priceline just didn’t realize it? Because according to Priceline, they didn’t know.

          1. Yes, Priceline might be lying or just no be good at handling this sort of information internally.

      2. “responsibility rests with Ramada for accepting payment and then failing to perform.”

        Priceline also accepted payment and failed to perform (at least until Chris got involved). You need something else to differentiate Priceline and Ramada here. For my money, they are both responsible.

        1. If this were a regular travel agent, I would be with you. But since this was the opaque listing, priceline acts as a consolidator, i.e. they purchased rooms and are reselling those rooms for some profit. The guest is really Priceline’s customer, not the customer of the hotel.

          Another reason to think long and hard about using Priceline.

          Edited. Plus its entirely possible that the Ramada didn’t know the LW. I believe that on consolidator type reservations, the room is listed as Priceline until priceline transmits the information to the hotel. Perhaps one of the TAs can speak more authoritatively.

          1. You misunderstand my point, which perhaps I did not explain clearly enough. If Ramada cancels a reservation, it DEFINITELY has responsibility for that, regardless of whether or not it knows the customer. It needs to tell the TA. If it took the TA’s money, it needs to return it. Surely, nobody is taking the position that Ramada has no obligations once it accepts a reservation from a TA. I mean, right?

          2. Yes, a hotel is responsible for contacting the booking entity. If that is a vendor, then the vendor has to contact their client. The vendor is the first place of contact, but that is why you give your phone number and it is entered at contact #2 in the booking system. However, you should refer the hotel to your booking agency, just to protect yourself from a fraudulent phone call.

          3. I did misunderstand. Ramada must absolutely inform priceline. I don’t think anyone is disputing that. The question, as I understand it, was what is Ramada’s obligation to the LW. Thus my posts.

  4. I’ve been in the same position, where I booked well in advance of a stay and later found out the hotel was closed. Since I booked directly with the hotel…I had NO ONE to talk to! In this case, I feel it’s Ramada’s responsibility to notify the guests or their agent of the closing. (In my case, it was not a chain, just an independent hotel that closed without notifying me.)

    Since the hotel had closed, I had no other options but to stay 30 minutes away from where I wanted to be. By the time I found out, the other hotels in the area were booked.

    I would have been better off booking with Priceline, rather than direct with the hotel!

    1. “I would have been better off booking with Priceline, rather than direct with the hotel”.

      Why? Without Chris being involved, Priceline was not going to fix the problem. Once Priceline was informed by the OP that the hotel had closed, they had the obligation to quickly provide a replacement hotel room or to refund the OP’s money. End of story.

      1. Yes, I may have enlisted Chris’ help (or maybe not). Had I received the same solution, I still would have been better off. In my case I ending up paying more for a hotel in a location I didn’t prefer.

        We’d have to ask how Chris would have approached my case where the hotel no longer existed. I don’t see how he could have convinced a hotel that was out of business to still honor the reservation.

      1. No, it wasn’t. I DID have to pay more for the hotel I ended up at though.

        If it HAD been prepaid via Priceline, and had I gotten the same resolution (with or without Chirs’ help), I’d have been better off. Better hotel, same rate.

          1. I’m saying if I DID get the same resolution it would have been a better hotel than booked, just like in the case.

  5. How many more reasons do we need for people to stop using Priceline? Seriously? They are more like a slot machine that a TA.

    1. You suppose the same thing couldn’t have happened if she had booked with Ramada’s corporate website?

      I’ve personally never had a PL booked reservation turned down for any reason.

      1. I think she would have been notified by Ramada right away when it closed had she booked through Ramada corporate. I believe Priceline was notified electronically, even thoguh the agent didn’t know. Even after she contacted Priceline, they told her to wait a week and a day before calling them back, which would be too late. Priceline didn’t do anything until CE called them.

        1. I would venture to make a guess, just a guess.
          If you book directly, or through an agent (not a mechant), the hotel lists you as the guest when the booking is made.
          I think when you book with a merchant, they become the party on record, and the hotel typically finds out about you as a guest later, usually 24-48 hrs prior arrival date. Sometimes you are only identified by the voucher you have in your hand.

          So when it comes to notifications, if you add an intermediary, make sure they really plan to provide after sales service.

  6. i often use Priceline for hotels, and have never had the situation of
    NOT being notified when the hotel was unable to fulfill my “purchase”.
    Several years ago the U.S. Grant in San Diego took longer to complete
    their renovations than was expected, going from a 2* to a 4* at
    completion. I had made my purchase several months in advance for a pre
    & post-cruise stay, and ended up being ‘walked’ & upgraded in
    both cases. (I had done my homework in advance, and was about 99% sure
    that I would ‘win’ the U.S. Grant, and would probably be walked because
    the re-opening date was already being postponed.) PL let me know at
    least 2 months in advance of each of my planned stays. No complaints
    here.

  7. It is happening more often today than in the past; hotel owners are changing franchises all of the time. Ramada was not where the reservation was made, so they have absolutely no responsibility with this event. This one is all on Priceline. Every travel computer that I have ever been trained on has a queue system that informs the agent that there is a situation. When 4 Pittsburgh (our hub city) hotels changed names in a 2 month period, we had dozens of changes, but the clients knew about them from the agency. You are correct that Angela may be the one of the first people from your posts that I have seen re-confirm a reservation. Congratulations.

    1. Who do you think reads the queue at Priceline? A robot? Someone in the Philippines or in India?
      I doubt if it is someone in the end of Exit 13, I-95 at Norwalk, Conn.

    2. I re-confirm stuff. It’s self-preservation.

      Had 3 RT to SE Asia from EWR on EVAAir for the year, obtained thru my TA in Bangkok. Had to cancel ONE of ’em. When next one approached, I called to confirm; EVA told me there was none. I told EVA my confirm number; they said it was cancelled. ME: By whom? Not I! EVA: Your TA. Called TA; found out they had an inept worker who cancelled ALL THREE instead of only one. They fired that worker, sadly.

      1. Had AA do that to my reservation. My first segment was canceled due to fog and they sent us, by bus to another airport. When I got to my destination, is when I found out the rest of my reservations had been canceled, which included my accommodations.

          1. Rebooked me. I learned never to put anything but air in one PNR and book hotel and car in their own PNR’s. What could have been an issue wasn’t, but while I was on this trip, we went to war and carriers were canceling flights and rebooking people as the carrier’s planes were being use to transport soldiers overseas. In the end, I was put in business class on my flight home, so I was happy!

          2. So nothing gets touched in that PNR but that one travel component. It depends on how you book the other components, what system you are on and what an agent at the airport sees, but it is highly advised for us not to put everything in one record. So my clients air is in one PNR. I book the hotels in another, a car in another.

      2. They got what they paid for. A cheap poorly trained and unskilled worker. This is my general observation regarding outsourced service centers.

        1. Wasn’t outsourced. Was brick and mortar of long standing and good repute whom I have used for years. They just had a lax worker who messed up. Former worker, that is.

          1. Yes. I have homes in both places. At the moment, I’m in our Glorious Omnipotent Politically-Correct Atheistic Progressive Socialist Empire. I’ll be returning to the Kingdom of Thailand soon.

            Wonderful place. When the criminals get too uppity, the Army steps in and calibrates everything. [The Army is never really out; simply in the background.] The current coup government there has an 88% approval rating. That’s higher than even the populist guy who was so rich that he bought every peasant’s vote for $30 each. [Democracy in action – Chicago style, that is.] People there are happy under martial law. Extortion is being punished. Mafia’s being crushed. Stuff’s getting fixed. Interesting…..

  8. What an entitled whiner! What part of nonrefundable doesn’t she understand?

    Didn’t she read Priceline’s rules before she bid? It says nonrefundable and nonchangeable. No if’s, no and’s, no but’s. There’s no exception in the rules if the hotel closes. You get what you pay for and what do you expect when you use an opaque site? Why doesn’t she think Priceline’s rules apply to her?

    Why didn’t she file a claim with her travel insurance? No sympathy!

    How suspicious that she called the hotel a week before her trip. She probably used BetterBidding or Yuku and knew that the 2.5 star hotel she would get was going to close. And then she schemed to use Chris to help her extort Priceline into giving her a three-star hotel for the price of a 2.5 star. Outrageous!

    :-S

    1. and you PROBABLY this and you PROBABLY that. Based on the same evidence you are using to bash the lady.

      Non-refundable even if they don’t deliver because they no longer exist? Maybe that’s how they do it on YOUR planet, but on ours, it’s different….

      1. Didn’t expect I’d catch any fish with that bait 😉

        [Note to self: next time make the diatribe more over-the-top and don’t rely on an emoticon….]

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