Help! My vacation package is missing a hotel

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By Christopher Elliott

After her hotel closes for renovations, Amber Sharma’s vacation package seems to fall apart. Now the online agency she bought it with won’t help her fix it.

Question

I recently booked a vacation package in Cozumel, Mexico, through Priceline. I called the hotel’s customer service line yesterday to ask a question, at which point I was informed that the hotel was closed for construction and would remain closed until next year.

Priceline said they couldn’t confirm the hotel closure because no one was answering the hotel telephone — because, well, they’re closed — and even so, would be able to offer a refund for only the hotel. The best they could do was maybe a credit with the airline for the ticket cost.

I tried to politely tell them that I booked a package, not a flight and hotel separately, and that there would be no point in my going there if I could not stay where I needed. The hotel I’d booked is all-inclusive and has good prices. It also caters to scuba divers by having a private pier with boat pickups, etc. I am also, as a young woman, traveling alone and on a budget, and only felt comfortable at that hotel because I have stayed there in the past.

Please help me. I would really appreciate anything you can do. — Amber Sharma, Washington

Answer

Priceline should have contacted you when the hotel announced it was closing for renovations and offered you a comparable package. But ultimately, since Priceline sold you the package, it’s responsible for ensuring you can actually use all the components of the trip as advertised.

It’s not clear why that didn’t happen, but to be fair to Priceline, it has to track tens of thousands of hotels in its system and then match each hotel to a reservation. Maybe your hotel didn’t notify Priceline about the temporary closure. Maybe it did, but Priceline failed to find your reservation and then contact you.

I have reviewed many complaints about Priceline before. As I review your file, I notice that you tried to resolve this problem by phone. That would have been the right way to fix this if you’d landed in Cozumel and found yourself hotel-less (thank goodness it didn’t come to that) but when you still have a little time before your vacation, sending an email works best. Also, Priceline’s records suggest you gave the company only two hours between contacting it and writing to me. I might have given the company a little more time. (Here’s our guide to finding the best hotel at the most affordable rates.)

Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Remember, there’s no record of a phone conversation, but you can keep an email thread and forward it to a supervisor — or to me. Priceline’s email addresses follow the format [email protected] and you can find a list of its managers online.

I also list the names of Priceline’s executives on my site.

Fortunately, none of that was necessary. In fact, apparently neither were we. By the time my advocacy team and I contacted the company on your behalf, it had already agreed to process a full refund.

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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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