Hang on — are you sure your hotel’s closed for the season?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Steve Broman tries to check in to his hotel, he finds that it’s closed. For the season. Now Hotels.com won’t give him a refund until it can confirm the hotel is closed. How long should he have to wait?

Question

I booked a stay in Ocean City, Md., through Hotels.com. Upon arrival for check-in, I found the hotel was closed for the season. All numbers I could find for the hotel, including the front desk, reservations, housekeeping, and administrative offices, either rang endlessly or had a voicemail stating that the hotel was closed.

I do not know if it was the fault of the hotel or Hotels.com. In either case we wound up staying at a more expensive hotel at the last minute. We wound up spending approximately $100 more on a hotel than we had planned.

I wouldn’t have been overly bothered about this if Hotels.com had immediately apologized and promptly refunded the money I sent them. However, I was told that, since Hotels.com could not contact the hotel, I would have to wait until the hotel re-opened (sometime in the spring) for them to speak to someone there before refunding my money. After expressing that this was unacceptable and requesting to speak to a supervisor, they put me on hold and then informed me that my money would be refunded within the next one to two days.

A few days later, I called as my refund still hadn’t been processed and was informed it would take three to seven days. This morning, upon calling Hotels.com, I was told that my refund had been “escalated” to another department and to check back next month. Help! — Steve Broman, Baltimore

Answer

I don’t understand how Hotels.com can accept a reservation — let alone send you to a hotel — that’s closed. It would be one thing if the hotel closed suddenly because of a fire or foreclosure. But this was a seasonal closure.

When you were standing in front of the closed property, you should have phoned Hotels.com right away. A representative should have found you a suitable replacement room immediately at the same rate you paid for the original hotel. That employee could have also verified that the hotel was closed for the season. (Related: Should I help get a refund for a “disastrous” hotel stay?)

Instead, you waited. I can understand why you’d postpone this — after all, you needed a room right away, and Hotels.com hadn’t exactly proven itself as reliable. Still, resolving this problem right then and there would have spared you a lot of grief later on.

Hotels.com confirmed the hotel was closed

You called Hotels.com when you returned, which didn’t really work. You need something in writing, preferably by email. By sending a link the inn’s website to a Hotels.com representative you can easily prove the hotel is closed. Additionally, you can forward the entire chain to a supervisor instead of waiting on “hold” for someone who may or may not be in a position to help you. (Related: The hotel didn’t open as scheduled. What does Marriott owe me?)

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I contacted Hotels.com on your behalf. It apologized for the problem with your hotel. The hotel also confirmed that it was closed, and refunded $401, the cost of the original hotel. What had happened? “The hotel did in fact close. Unfortunately, they did not update their information in our system for the dates Mr. Broman booked,” a representative told me. (Here’s how to find the best hotel at the most affordable rate.)

Hotels.com said it would take additional steps to make sure this didn’t happen again. It also agreed to refund you for the extra expenses incurred as a result of your hotel mishap.

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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. He is based in Rio de Janeiro.

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