How can I get a refund for this nonrefundable hotel during the pandemic?

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Christopher Elliott

After the COVID-19 outbreak, Noemi Freeman has to cancel her trip to Greece. Does this mean she can’t get a refund for the $592 she paid for her nonrefundable hotel?

Question

I booked a room at the Hotel Tzekos Villas in Santorini, Greece, last year through Hotels.com. The reservation was nonrefundable. Due to the virus, we were unable to leave the U.S.

I called and emailed several times to cancel and get a refund or a voucher for a future stay. Neither Hotels.com nor the Hotel Tzekos Villas would refund our money. After calling several times and receiving no response, we disputed the charge with our Chase Visa Sapphire Reserve. The credit card issuer sided with Hotels.com. Can you help me get our $592 back or a credit? — Noemi Freeman, Aventura, Fla.

Answer

Hotels com should have helped you with a refund even if the hotel was nonrefundable. After all, Europe was closed to Americans at the time you were supposed to visit. And if the hotel and the booking site couldn’t assist you, then your credit card should have been able to help with a chargeback. It didn’t.

What’s going on here? First, your case is one of hundreds of thousands of refund requests. It took weeks, and often months for travel companies to sift through all of them. Yours was also a complicated case, because you paid for part of the hotel with a Hotels.com gift card. It looks as if you pushed forward with a credit card dispute relatively soon after your cancellation. I understand that you wanted your money back, but once you initiate a chargeback, it limits some of your other options.

One of the options would have been a brief, polite email to a Hotels com executive (Expedia owns Hotels.com). The Elliott Advocacy research team lists them in our database.

Ultimately, the problem was the type of hotel room you booked: a prepaid, nonrefundable reservation. When you agree to one of those, you’re saying that come hell or high water, you’ll be there. And if you aren’t, the hotel can keep your money.

A goodwill gesture: a refund for your nonrefundable hotel

Travel insurance might have helped you recover some of your losses. But I think Hotels com could have done better, too. I’ve heard from other travelers who said Hotels com took good care of them during the pandemic by pushing for refunds or vouchers. It doesn’t seem fair to make you eat that $592. I also think Chase Sapphire could have fought harder for you during the dispute. Those pricey credit cards advertise themselves as the traveler’s best friend, but they don’t always come through for you when you need them.

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After months of back and forth, I contacted Hotels com on your behalf. The company refunded all of your money.

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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 weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, Forbes and the Washington Post. He also publishes 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 Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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