This is another hotel horror story. How about an Amex refund?

Angela Chen is just the latest reader with a hotel horror story. Now she wants an Amex refund. But does she deserve it?

Question

I booked hotel accommodations via the Amex website using my Amex platinum card while visiting Troyes, France. Upon arrival, the hotel was closed and the doors locked. Eventually, we managed to get into the hotel with the help of another guest. Looking around, we found our room keys strewn at the empty reception counter.

As two women traveling on our own, we felt very concerned about our safety at the hotel since we weren’t sure if anyone else had entered our room given that the key was simply left in a publicly accessible area. Given that it was past midnight, our only option was to just stay for the night.

The room conditions were nothing like what the online photos showed. The shower head didn’t work, the bed was stained, and the room smelled bad. The next morning we checked out with our bags and explained the situation to the manager. When he menacingly approached us, we left.

We contacted Amex, and a supervisor initially promised a refund. Then Amex declined to refund us the $151 for the two unused nights because the hotel wouldn’t issue a refund. I would like to get my money back for the two unused nights. Can you help? — Angela Chen, Seattle

Answer

I’m sorry your trip to Troyes began with a hotel horror story. You certainly shouldn’t expect to get stiffed by the hotel given the deplorable conditions in your room when you arrived.

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I did a quick online search of the Hôtel de la Gare Troyes Centre. It was described as a two-star hotel with “modest lodging.” Maybe that should have been a red flag for you.

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20. Nevertheless, you deserved a better reception from the hotel manager, and especially from Amex since you’re a Platinum cardholder. You pay extra for perks to mitigate such inconveniences.

And, to your credit, you immediately took steps to rectify your problem, something many consumers refuse to do.

Reporting this hotel horror story – and getting an Amex refund

You communicated via telephone (four to five hours) and exchanged numerous emails with at least three Amex travel supervisors. One promised to get you a refund, and then you never heard back from her.

A second supervisor told you Amex wasn’t responsible for refunding you, and another said that since Amex worked with Expedia on your booking, there was nothing Amex could do.

She cited a disclaimer that Amex acts solely as a “sales agent” and is “not liable for the acts … or negligence of any such suppliers.”

“There is nothing else we can do since the hotel declined our refund request twice,” said Theresa, an Amex supervisor. (The hotel told Amex they sent you check-in information and gave her a passcode before her arrival.)

She offered you a $50 travel voucher for your next amextravel.com booking.

Pro tip: You probably could have avoided hassles with American Express if you had initially linked to our executive contacts at Amex.

These contacts help to facilitate claims and address concerns of travelers who reach out to us. Your situation became more complicated because your reservation was nonrefundable.

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A step you took immediately was to compile an impressive paper trail of all your interactions with hotel and Amex personnel. That’s a great way to find a happy ending to your hotel horror story.

When you reached out to Elliott Advocacy, your paper trail made our job a lot easier. We always need to see written proof that consumers gave the company a chance to respond to their complaints.

For more information about how to resolve a consumer dispute or complaint, you can find our frequently asked questions at resolving consumer dispute.

Finally, an Amex refund and a happy ending to your hotel horror story

After you contacted us, one of our advocates, Dwayne Coward, wrote to American Express on your behalf. He asked Amex to review your account and advise him if Amex could assist you.

A week later, you notified us that Amex replied to you in an email. You now have your Amex refund for the amount you had initially requested. And you can put the memories of this hotel horror story behind you.

Michael Hinkelman

Michael Hinkelman is an award-winning journalist with more than 35 years experience. He has worked for daily newspapers in Atlanta and Philadelphia, most recently as a small-business columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, before retiring in 2016. In 1993, Hinkelman won a prestigious Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism for an investigation into the finances of the Atlanta Public Schools. In 2016, he was a lecturer in media relations at the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government. Read more of Michael's stories here.

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