I did not cancel my Vrbo reservation — so who did?

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By Christopher Elliott

Alan Sanchez says he did not cancel his recent Vrbo reservation but he thinks he knows who did — and why. Now he’s demanding a refund and he wants the Elliott Advocacy team to help get it. 

Question

I made a reservation and paid $2,200 for a rental in Oceanside, Calif., through Vrbo. After the coronavirus outbreak, I contacted the owner to find out about my cancellation options. The owner said I would need to log into my account and click the “cancel” option and they would refund 50 percent of the nightly rate. At no time did I cancel this Vrbo reservation.

But I logged into Vrbo and saw that there was also a flexible credit option that would allow me to reschedule my trip. If I canceled the reservation, Vrbo and the owner would charge me a fee. I didn’t think that was reasonable, so I didn’t cancel. The property manager replied with an option to reschedule if I had my new dates to them within two days.  I would just need to pay any difference in the rate.

One day later, I received a message from the property owner that said my stay had been canceled at “my request.” They also cited Vrbo’s policy that said homeowners have mortgages and employees to pay.

I didn’t cancel my reservation and I explained that to Vrbo. Since the property manager canceled my reservation without my authorization, they have to refund all my money. They breached the contract. Can you help me get my money back? — Alan Sanchez, Mission Viejo, Calif.

Answer

You’re absolutely right. If the owner canceled your reservation, Vrbo owes you a full refund.

Unfortunately, the Elliott Advocacy team has been getting a lot of complaints from Vrbo guests since the pandemic started. Vrbo is only “asking” property owners and managers to offer a full credit for the amount you already paid if you are outside of your cancellation window. And it is “strongly encouraging” the owners to issue at least a partial refund for situations in which a flexible credit cannot be accommodated. Vrbo is also refunding its fees, according to its coronavirus refund policy.

In other words, it’s up to the owner to issue a full refund. And when you get an email from the owner about having to pay mortgages and staff, you know the answer before you ask.

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

I’m sympathetic to both sides. Guests have to cancel their trips because of the lockdowns and travel restrictions. Owners are facing staggering losses and can’t pay their bills. I favor a middle ground — offering the guest a credit for a future stay. However, if the guest can’t travel in the future, I think the owner should issue a full refund.

No, the Vrbo owner can’t cancel your reservation and keep your money

But your owners appeared to have gone a step further by simply canceling your stay and then keeping everything. That’s wrong.

I see that you kept your correspondence in writing through Vrbo’s internal messaging system. Well done! Having a reliable paper trail is the fastest way to resolve a consumer dispute. You might have also appealed this to one of the Vrbo executives the Elliott Advocacy research team has listed in our database.

I contacted Vrbo on your behalf. The company reviewed your case. Its assessment: This was a “complex” case involving extraordinary circumstances, emergency policies related to COVID-19, and miscommunication. “No one was at fault,” a representative said. Vrbo refunded your full stay in hopes that your next Vrbo experience will be seamless.

Before you go: Here’s another frustrating Vrbo case involving a missed birthday party. 

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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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