There goes $469 down the drain (thanks a lot, Priceline)

By | December 1st, 2011

Alexa Buffini admits she made an “honest mistake” when she booked her rooms through Priceline and bid for the wrong date. She hoped the company would help her fix it.

But it didn’t, and now she has to kiss $469 goodbye.

Today’s “case dismissed” file is a heartbreaker, because Buffini apparently made several mistakes that would be easy to repeat.

In October, she says she clicked on Priceline to book two hotel rooms from Nov. 11 to 13.

“I put in all of my information, submitted my bid and it was accepted,” she recalls. “Priceline sent me a confirmation, I forwarded it to my girlfriend and we were delighted with the Renaissance Esmeralda we were booked into.”

I’ve attached one of emails she received afterwards, which she read quickly and took to mean that she had been booked on her correct dates. (It wasn’t.)

When we arrived at the hotel on November 11th to check in, we were told they had no reservations for us.

We looked at our email confirmation to show the front desk and the dates were not what I thought I bid on…the reservation confirmation showed the dates we were booked in were for October 14th-16th.

The hotel said they could sell us rooms but could do nothing about refunding our reservation that we unknowingly no-showed for.

I called Priceline customer service and they said that they understood and were very sorry, but there was absolutely nothing they could do because we did not show up at the hotel on our reserved dates (which I never knew until we showed up).

Oh, boy.

“Is there anything I can do to receive a refund for the 469.88 I paid mistakenly?” she asks.

I looked at the confirmation and thought, I could have easily made the same mistake. Neither Pricline nor the hotel are under any obligation to refund for a no-show, but I believed Priceline might be concerned that a customer was confused about a booking.

So I asked. Priceline investigated and sent me its response:

The reservation shows October because that’s what was requested and the bid was accepted: check-in October 14, check-out October 16.

Ms. Buffini returned a day later to attempt another booking, this time for a November 11 check-in, but the bid was too low and it was rejected.

Aha, so two reservations. I looped back with Buffini to see if that made sense. Did she indeed make two separate reservations?

Actually, she made three, she says.

We used the Priceline name your own price and booked – 1 room at the Hyatt on 11/12 because my aunt decided to join us for a night and 1 room at La Quinta for 11/10 because we added a Thursday night to our trip. The third booking was the one at Renaissance for the wrong dates for 2 room for 11/11-11/13.

A careful review of the email she received will show that it was, in fact, not a confirmation. Instead, it was offering her to book another name-your-own-price hotel room. You have to read the actual confirmation either at Priceline or via email.

When you’re acting as your own travel agent, you can’t leave anything to chance. Double-check your dates, and if you have a question, call the hotel or the online travel agency.

Although I find it difficult to reconcile Buffini’s story with Priceline’s, one thing is clear: This is Priceline’s final answer. It is keeping her $469.

“How disappointing,” she says.

I agree.

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