Q: I recently booked a hotel room for a three-night stay at the DoubleTree Beach Resort by Hilton Hotel Tampa Bay - North Redington Beach through Expedia. I opted to pay the higher rate of $239 a night to guarantee a beachfront room. The lower rate of $199 was refundable but would not guarantee the ocean-view room.
My husband and I decided it was worth the risk of losing our $800 so that we can have the ocean view. This was risky, since we have four small children and anything could have happened to force us to cancel our reservation.
When we arrived at the hotel on March 2, they gave me a land-view room and told me that Expedia booked me a land-view room. I thought once I called Expedia, the issue would be resolved, but after an hour on the phone with a supervisor who was extremely rude, I had no such luck.
When I went back to read my confirmation from Expedia, it said nothing about the ocean-view room - only that I was guaranteed a king-size bed. This is false advertising and a scam, as when I booked the room, Expedia's website clearly stated that I was booking a guaranteed ocean-view room. The hotel was completely booked all weekend and couldn't do anything for us.
The hotel told me that this happens every weekend with at least four reservations coming in telling them the same thing. Expedia clearly is pocketing the extra money and booking the land-view rooms for the customers who paid the higher rate to have an ocean-view room. We never would have stayed at this hotel if ocean-view rooms were not available or guaranteed.
When I came home from my trip, I called Expedia one last time and spoke with a supervisor, who offered me a $50 voucher to use with Expedia and that's the best he said he could do. I told him I was not interested in taking a $50 voucher for Expedia to have them take my money and make false promises. Can you help?
- Mary Fahy, Chicago
A: If Expedia sold you an ocean-view room, then you should have received an ocean-view room or a refund of the difference between an ocean-view and a standard room.
Is having an ocean-view room a big deal? In your case, yes. You specifically asked for it, you paid extra for it, and you gave up your right to a refund. Definitely worth it, by the way; the views of the ocean are spectacular on Florida's west coast, and well worth paying a little extra to see.
But if an ocean-view room was so important, why not check your confirmation to make sure it's there? You just spent a lot of extra money for an amenity but didn't check your receipt to make sure you received it. If you had, you could have phoned Expedia and fixed this long before you checked in.
Once you checked into the hotel, Expedia wasn't the only higher power to which you could appeal. You also could have phoned Hilton corporate to ask it to upgrade your room after the hotel turned you down.
I asked Expedia about your case. Its records show you booked your room online, with help from a phone agent. It reviewed its call records and determined that the agent incorrectly guaranteed ocean-view accommodations at the time of purchase. The company has refunded the $120 rate difference and offered you a $50 travel coupon, which can be used for a future purchase.
Christopher Elliott is the author of "Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals" (Wiley). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org