Travel solutions: Who should pay for this Booking.com error?
Travel solutions

Travel solutions: Who should pay for this Booking.com error?

I recently tried to book a hotel in Amsterdam but ended up with two rooms because of a Booking.com error. When I was booking the first room, I got an error message that the room wasn’t available and the booking didn’t go through. Although Booking.com offered another room type, the alternative didn’t accommodate all of us.

I checked my email, and I did not receive a confirmation email on this room, so I searched again and picked another hotel and completed the checkout.

I then received two emails from Booking.com stating I had reservations for both hotels. I immediately called Booking.com and talked to a representative. He agreed to contact the first hotel to cancel the reservation. But he never did. I emailed the hotel, and they never heard from Booking.com about this issue.

It is not right or fair that I have to pay for this hotel due to a Booking.com error. Can you help? — Larry Day, Wyoming, Michigan

A: You shouldn’t have two nonrefundable reservations on Booking.com — and if you do, the site should quickly refund one of them.

You were right to contact Booking.com by phone immediately. This is one of the rare times when you do want to call instead of emailing. But — and there’s always a but! — you also want to immediately follow up by email to the online travel agency and hotel to create a paper trail and confirm when your refund will arrive. In your case, the refund wasn’t forthcoming.

When the refund did not come, and it was clear that Booking.com would make you pay for its error, you tried to appeal to an executive. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Booking.com’s executives on my nonprofit consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

Unfortunately, the executives just kicked your case back to the customer service department, which offered the wrong resolution to this Booking.com error. After you showed Booking.com that you did, indeed, receive the first reservation after making the second one, the online agency offered you a refund equal to 10% of the cancellation fee at the first hotel, “as a goodwill gesture.”

In a situation like this, you were absolutely right to reach out to a third party for help. (That would be me.) You were stuck in a frustrating cycle — where no matter what you did, the company would not listen. Sometimes it just takes an outsider and a fresh set of eyes.

I contacted Booking.com on your behalf. You also found a screenshot of the error message you received. Great work on the record-keeping, by the way. I sent the information to Booking.com on your behalf.

Booking.com reviewed its records. Even though the site showed an error message, Booking.com made your first reservation. The confirmation arrived five minutes later. By then, you had already made the second reservation, according to the company.

“It’s clear there was confusion and that Mr. Day intended to make a successful booking,” a company representative told me. “We’ve spoken with Mr. Day and explained the situation, offering a full refund, which has been accepted.”

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can email him at chris@elliott.org.

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