This hotel is too small and I have a headache! Can I get my money back?

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By Christopher Elliott

Krishnamurthy Viswanathan has a problem with Hotels.com. His room is smaller than he expects and has poor ventilation. Can he get his money back?

Question

Hotels.com is refusing to honor the terms of our reservation, and I would like your help getting a refund. 

My wife and I made a refundable reservation and prepaid the entire amount of $3,630 (and $504 worth of OneKeyCash) on Hotels.com for a 10-day stay at Lost Property St Paul’s London – Curio Collection by Hilton. 

The rules said we could cancel without penalty. After checking in, we found that the room was much smaller than advertised, with barely any room to move after laying down our bags. Also, we could not open the window. 

As a result of insufficient ventilation, I woke up with a migraine headache the next day. We checked out the same day. 

I called Hotels.com to let it know we were checking out. A representative said they would contact the hotel’s reservation team about the refund. Hotels.com offered to make another reservation at a different hotel if we paid the price difference. We had already checked into another hotel which I made through Hotels.com. 

I asked for a refund for the nine nights we didn’t stay at Lost Property. But it refused because Lost Property would not refund the money. Can you help me get my $3,630 and all our points back? —  Krishnamurthy Viswanathan, Sunnyvale, Calif.

Answer

You prepaid for a hotel room through Hotels.com, but you also had free cancellation, so you should have been able to get a refund. 

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But before I get to my answer, you might be wondering if the hotel breached its contract by giving you a small room with a window you couldn’t open.

Maybe. Small hotel rooms are fairly common in London, as are hotel rooms with windows that don’t open. I have also stayed in some really small rooms in Europe — and like you, I think we deserve a fair warning before we pay good money for them.

What to do if your hotel room is too small 

So what can you do if someone hands you a keycard to a coffin-size room you booked through Hotels.com? Here are some proven strategies for creating a more spacious lodging experience.

Inspect the room before checking in

Before you commit to your quarters, take a moment to inspect them thoroughly. If they’re too small, politely ask for a different room. But instead of saying, “It’s too small!” try, “I’m not sure if there’s enough space for all our things. Would you happen to have something with more room?” Always be polite. (Related: How can you avoid a bad hotel room?)

Know the code

If your hotel refuses to move you, be prepared to mention its legal obligation to provide a safe and habitable room. Lodging statutes vary by country and state, so you will have to do a little research. But the laws are all similar, and most require a safe egress in case of a fire. If your room is too small, you might argue that you can’t safely get out in case of an emergency. Again, you’ll want to point this out politely. (Related: Here’s when you should refuse a hotel room.)

Ask to move to another hotel

If your hotel is full and the room is not to your satisfaction, ask if the hotel can “walk”  you to another property. If the hotel has another location in town or is part of a chain, it may be able to find you a bigger room at another hotel. (Here’s our guide to finding the best hotel at the lowest prices.)

Be positive

When requesting a room change, always approach the front desk with a smile and a positive attitude. Remember, the staff wants to help you. They just need to know what you need. If you encounter resistance, politely explain your concerns and ask to speak with a manager. Persistence often pays off. Remember the method.

But the absolute best way to avoid a small room is to plan ahead. Do your research before booking a room. Read reviews, look at photos, and check the hotel’s policies. Many hotels offer virtual tours or allow guests to select their specific rooms when they book. Take advantage of these features to ensure you get exactly what you want.

How you could have fixed your Hotels.com problem

You should have immediately asked someone at the front desk if you could move to a different room. If the hotel won’t relocate you, then contact your online travel agent. But you should have allowed Hotels.com to fix the situation instead of taking matters into your own hands.

I think the company would have been able to find you new accommodations at a reasonable rate, but you had already booked another hotel on your own, so you ended up paying again for a hotel room.

What if it couldn’t? I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of key customer service executives at Expedia (which owns Hotels.com), and you might have appealed to them. And don’t forget the hotel — I also have the names of Hilton’s executives on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

Your case seemed pretty cut-and-dried. You should have been able to cancel your room. (After all, you had a free cancellation, and oddly you were still within the window when you checked in). The hotel wouldn’t let you, and Hotels.com wouldn’t help you.

After you contacted my advocacy team, we took up your case and reached out to Hotels.com. In response, the company sent you $100 in OneKey Cash, Expedia’s loyalty program currency. That didn’t sit well with you — or me. So we sent your case back to Expedia. The company reviewed your case again, and this time it gave you a full refund, including your points.

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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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