Hotels.com left me in Paris sans hotel

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By Christopher Elliott

When Judi McManigal arrives at her hotel in Paris, she discovers she doesn’t have a reservation. Her online travel agency won’t help her. Is she stuck with the bill?

Question

We made a reservation recently on Hotels.com for a hotel in Paris. When we arrived, the hotel informed us that they had canceled the reservation due to an issue with the credit card transaction. Apparently, not all U.S. credit cards are accepted in Europe, which we also learned when we tried to buy train tickets from a machine with the same credit card.

Our hotel told us that they had notified Hotels.com of the credit card issue and cancellation before our arrival. They even showed me a printout of the email. However, Hotels.com never notified us of the credit card problem, nor the cancellation. The hotel had only one night available, so we had to find another hotel at the last minute for the three remaining nights.

We called the Hotels.com number in France, and the agent stated that they had the cancellation in their system. But after speaking with several representatives, Hotels.com refused to put us in another hotel at the same rate.

We were able to finally locate another similar hotel nearby, which we also booked through Hotels.com, but the rate difference was $360. I have contacted Hotels.com, asking it to reimburse me for the difference, but it refuses. Can you help me? — Judi McManigal, San Francisco

Answer

If the cancellation was in Hotels.com’s system, then one of two things might have happened. Either Hotels.com failed to notify you of the cancellation, or the email never made it to you because of your spam filter.

It’s difficult to know whose fault this was without conducting some digital forensics analysis. And in the end, it probably doesn’t matter. When Hotels.com learned that you were in Paris sans hotel, it should have tried to help you. Leaving you to fend for yourself isn’t my idea of good customer service. (Related: But no one told me the pool was closed!)

You might have avoided this by calling Hotels.com or logging on to the site and verifying your reservation. If the reservation had been canceled, then it wouldn’t have shown up, and the situation could have been addressed before your flight. You might want to check out my guide to booking a hotel. Also, consider “whitelisting” emails from Hotels.com, so they’ll always get through. (Here’s our ultimate guide to finding the best travel advice.)

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The thing is, when you’re stuck in the hotel lobby, all you can do is call your online travel agency to fix a problem like this. If it can’t, you’re on your own.

My advocacy team and I contacted Hotels.com on your behalf. It refunded the $360 difference between your new hotel and your previous reservation.

Who was responsible for McManigal's cancellation?

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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 São Paulo.

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