Case dismissed: Oops, I booked eight nights instead of one

Meryl Lee Seewald thought she was booking just one night at the Holiday Inn Miami International Airport. Instead, she booked eight.

Now she’s stuck with a nonrefundable one-week reservation at the hotel. Oh, if she’d only used a professional travel agent!

But wait: Seewald is the travel agent, and the reservation is for a client who is taking a cruise.

Now what?

Seewald is stuck in the same place countless other hotel guests are who have an erroneous booking.

As soon as we discovered the error, we notified the hotel and asked them the rectify the charges.

The hotel would not even though we offered to pay an extra night or even two. They will not respond to me or my clients. They offered a credit good at their hotel only which my clients will not be able to use.

I spoke with Holiday Inn International, but they would not help in any way.


If you’re a regular reader of this site, you probably think this kind of thing only happened when DIY-ers try to book through one of the big online travel agencies, or directly through a hotel. And even when it does, you’d think a professional travel agent like Seewald would have special connections that would allow her to get a speedy refund.

I asked Holiday Inn about her case, thinking that maybe it wasn’t clear that this was an agency reservation.

I heard back from my contact at Holiday Inn corporate:

It’s my understanding that a prepaid rate with no option to cancel was selected by the person who made the reservation.
But, the hotel is willing to apply the funds to a later date, which is an excellent alternative. I hope this helps!

Um, not really.

Seewald says she’s disappointed.

I was trying to get them to work with me on the charges. My agency is in Colorado and I don’t have many clients staying near Miami airport, so it will be difficult to use these funds. They are unwilling to discuss any other remedies.

You have been wonderful in helping me with this. Now if I could just find a way to use these funds as I have personally refunded the overcharge to my client.

It’s nice of her to repay her clients for the erroneous booking. And Holiday Inn’s rules are clear on her reservation: no refunds and no changes. Technically, it was doing her a favor by offering credit.

I don’t want to move this into the “case dismissed” file, but what choice do I have?

Holiday Inn has already done all it can, or all that it thinks it can. Seewald say she’s going to book away from the hotel chain because of its restrictive policy. Her clients, meanwhile, have been made whole. It may be the best possible solution, all things considered.

Update (3:30 p.m.): Many of you have asked for specifics on the booking error. I asked Seewald, and here’s her response:

I booked the reservation through my system in the same record I had booked the airfare for my clients. Since the air was for 8 nights, my system automatically booked the hotel for 8 nights as well. This is where the error occurred.

We did not discover the error until my clients were checking out of the Holiday Inn Miami Airport. Their credit card was charged for the full amount even though they told them, they were checking out that day.

They called me and I immediately contacted the hotel and the manager. We were in contact with the manager within 1 day of the credit card charges. My clients commented on the fact that this was a very busy hotel with many airline people staying there.

(Photo: Brya nsereny/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • johnb78

    I voted ‘no’, as a cash refund would’ve been inappropriate. However, I don’t understand why Holiday Inn can’t offer her credit at *any* of its outlets, rather than solely the one at Miami Airport…?

  • Teresa

    We need a little more information to really judge here. How far in advance was the booking? And how long did it take before she discovered the mistake and contacted Holiday Inn? If it was a matter of hours, Holiday Inn should definitely change the booking just as with any other honest input error. (And I for one think that it ought to be written into state law that certain purchases made over the Internet can be cancelled or changed within a short time window if the customer discovers such a mistake.)

    A promise by a company to deliver future services is never adequate compensation. Because it often has no value to the customer.

    The subtext here is the proliferation of nonrefundable hotel bookings, which barely existed a few years ago. The economics behind the idea of nonrefundable bookings is sound enough. It’s a discount for consumers willing to assume risk that the hotel would otherwise bear. But it doesn’t always work out well in practice precisely because people make honest mistakes.

    If companies like Holiday Inn take a “gotcha” approach to honest mistakes, it starts to feel like nonrefundability is not just about shifting risk but also a deliberate strategy to profit off of human error. You wonder whether the companies want customers to screw up and trap themselves in the rules of the game.

  • Charles B

    An honest refund for an honest mistake seems like good corporate policy to me. As they seem to prefer to keep the money they would not have otherwise receiived… Well, the TA is right to avoid dealing with them again. I will also remember this when booking hotels in the future.

  • Elmo Clarity

    One key piece of information is missing in this story to know how to vote.  HOW did the mistake happen?  Did the agent enter the wrong dates?  Did the client give some incorrect information?  Seeing that they were just trying to get a room before a cruise, I would guess it would have been for just one night so did the agent put the wrong dates in?

    There seems there is more to the story of how the mistake happened that we are not being told.

  • sirwired

    The refund to her clients is exactly what I would expect, no more, no less.  Where is the admonishment to the TA to check the booking more carefully before hitting “buy”?  If a end-consumer had made the same mistake in an on-line booking, you would have put in a note that he/she should have been more careful.

    Chris, you really need to rethink your stance on independent travel agents here; I think you go too easy on them if they manage to reply to your inquiries (and sometimes you don’t offer any evidence of even talking to them before letting them off the hook for a clear mistake.)  You offer no such coddling if they are part of a chain agency or are an online agency.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I’ve followed up with the agent to ask how the error was made and how much time elapsed between the booking and the discovery. For what it’s worth, all the parties already know these details and they’ve already been factored into the resolution.

  • sirwired

    That one’s easy.  Most hotels are franchisees of the national brand.  So that means that “Holiday Inn” doesn’t actually have possession of the money at all; it’s being held by the company that owns that particular hotel.

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    One item that was not disclosed in the article is whether this hotel is a corporate owned property or a franchisee owned property.  Corporate properties are typically more easier to deal with when their is a mistake, wanting compenstation, refunds, etc.

  • Elmo Clarity

    That’s fine that all the parties know those details.  But if you are wanting us to vote on it, we need to know the details too.  The fact they are not being shared with us leads me to feel the agent really screwed something up and it was not just an honest mistake.

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    “My agency is in Colorado and I don’t have many clients staying near Miami airport, so it will be difficult to use these funds.”
    – – – – – – — – – – — –
    Does she know other travel agents that do have clients that stay near the Miami airport which she could use the credit for them?

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    I agree with you…the TA made a mistake whether she is a single independent TA, a TA in a small local or regional travel agency, a TA in a large travel agency chain or an online agency…it doesn’t matter.  She need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for her mistake.

    So what that she doesn’t have many clients staying near Miami airport, it that the fault of Holiday Inn?  Does she know other travel agents that do have clients that stay near the Miami airport which she could use the credit for them?

  • Tom

    The person who made the mistake paid the price, I guess that’s how it’s supposed to work. I bet she checks her work very carefully from now on and that’s a good thing.

    Still it seems a stinky of Holiday Inn to collect a week’s worth of rent while proving no service. They may have even rented the room out again and collected double. Makes me think the Holiday Inn is the kind of hotel that steals your towels.

  • BillC

    The TA made a mistake and repaid her clients. That’s what should happen. I am not clear on when the error was discovered. She says as soon as she noticed but that might have been a couple of days before the trip or it might have been as soon as hit the submit button. If the mistake was noticed immediatley perhaps the hotel would have been more reasonable.

    In her shoes I would continue to press the company,especially if this is a case where the mistake was noticed immediately and the hotel was able to rent the rooms out as well as collect her money. I would also mention that as I travel agent I would not book at this chain again and I would encourage my travel agent colleagues

    to avoid them as well. Companies (usually) only respond to a loss of business.

  • Brooklyn

    “It’s nice of her to repay her clients for the erroneous booking.”  Chris, are you suggesting for a single minute that she had the option of making the clients pay for her mistake??  One more reason not to use a travel agent….

  • AlexHalavais

    Of course, no changes means no changes. You get your discount you take your chances. She’s in the same boat many of us are. 

    That said, Priceline (for example) has twice cancelled erroneous bookings for me, when I managed to enter the wrong date for a flight. In doing so, they kept me as a longterm customer. Such a policy seems wrongheaded from the perspective of the hotel, who has won a week of a customer at the cost of a lifetime customer. 

  • Richard

    If Holofay Inn makes a mistake and posts a fat finger rate online, they do not honor it. They should extend the same right to customers,within a reasonable period of time… Say 48 hours.

  • John Frenaye

    Speaking as a TA, stuff happens. Mistakes are made. The TA  knew the restrictions and probably selected the hotel based on the restricted price in consultation with her client.  She made a mistake. She needs to eat it.

    HI is clear on their policy and explained it to her.  If the rate is high enough, she should put a claim into her E&O policy and be done with it and chalk it up for being a mistake.

    I am unsure if HI offered the credit to the agent or to the client. Usually it is the client and in that case it is likely unusable. If the agent, that is out of the ordinary and a good thing. Certainly with Miami being the largest cruise port in the world (I believe) she should have the ability to use 7 more nights for cruise passengers.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Usually the Airlines and Hotels have different rules for Travel Agents. I am surprised  that a travel agents are stuck by the errors like that because TA errors are part of their jobs (often they have to make reservation and answer the phones, etc.. etc…) and travel service providers should understand and help them sell their products. If they don’t, so stay away from them and complain to higher authority of the chain.

  • Jmanelli

    I side with Holiday Inn on this one.  In an occupancy based business, there is both the actual cost of the reservation fees being paid to the distributor and the opportunity cost of having inventory unavailable.  As another comment noted, we really need to know how long between the reservation was made and the TA contacted HI.  If it was a period of weeks or months and the actual date of the reservation was close at hand, HI’s stance becomes even more understandable. 

  • RealTraveler

    “It’s nice of her to repay her clients for the erroneous booking.”

    Really?  What a moronic statement.  It’s her responsibility to pay for her own mistakes and pass them on to her “clients.”  The fact that her clients even came into the discussion smacks of fraud. 

  • Kathleen_keyte

    I am going with the same response I give when a ‘civilian’ makes a booking for a fee that is listed as non-refundable – too bad. Mistakes are mistakes. They offer these very low rates for people who know they are going ahead with the booking. The admin on their side to reverse these bookings makes the low rate a nonsense.

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    I agree.  It has been my experience that when the facts are not disclosed it is because those facts take away from the postionagendaetc. that is being promoted.  As a long time reader of this blog, it is very clear that Chris beleives that all reservations including the super cheap ratesfaresetc. with all of those strict restrictions (i.e. no changes, non-refundable, etc.) should always be refundable. 

    If the mistake was discovered within minutes then Holiday Inn is ‘wrong’.  However, if the mistake was discovered days or weeks later, the TA should be responsible for her mistake.  I have work for small companies and large companies where mistakes ($ 5,000 to $ 50,000) were made by company employees and we ate the cost of those mistakes instead of expecting our clients to eat the costs of our mistakes.

  • Gubby

    Holiday Inn could clearly cut them a break, they choose not to. 

  • Tony A.

    Yet another case of someone who made a mistake and tries to put the blame on someone else.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I was being sarcastic. Of course she should have refunded the room.

  • Mbods2002

    By saying she will steer her clients away from Holiday Inn is awesome.  I’m disappointed they would not help this women with her honest mistake.  Now they lose business on that end AND on this end……….

  • cjr001

    I think you’re mixing things up, Alex. In this story, the travel agent is the equivalent of Priceline, a middle man. The hotel and airline are equal. For all you know, when Priceline ‘cancels’ your booking, they simply resold your seat to somebody else and, in the end, nobody lost anything. But Priceline could have also had to eat the cost of that ticket.

    But then, unlike a TA, Priceline likely can’t guarantee that you won’t fly an airline or stay at a hotel you no longer want to do business with.

    With this story, the TA obviously screwed up, and we don’t know how long that mistake was out there. But as somebody else pointed out, the proliferation of non-refundable tickets/rooms is becoming a serious concern for a number of reasons.

  • Elmo Clarity

    How do we know that it was an honest mistake? Chris has opted to not disclose the details of what really happened. If this really was an honest mistake, why hide the details? To me, this sounds like sour grapes from the TA because HI would not cover the TA’s error.

  • Alan

    The cancerous spread of non-refundability for everything in travel has to stop somewhere. My own response has been to cut back on non-essential trips requiring reservations. The travel business tried to stick it to us, and the result is that their business is drying up.

  • Alan

    “it is very clear that Chris beleives that all reservations…should always be refundable.  ”

    And if this were to happen, guess what – people might traveling again! How horrifying! Can’t have that, now, can we?

    If arranging travel were to be no longer like dealing with the IRS, the weekend getaway and the mini-vacation might come back into style.

  • Isildain

    If her company is given the credit, she might be able to “sell” the rooms to just about anybody.  All they have to do is send her an e-mail saying that they need the room, and that they’ll buy it from her.  (I’m spending a night in Miami in a couple of months, unfortunately, I already bought my non-refundable room.)
    Surely there are seven readers on this forum who need to stay in Miami for a night or two who could buy them from her.

  • Tony A.

    With all due respect, I can’t see what’s the point of even bringing us this case. The travel agent made a boo-boo, the hotel gave her future-credits, and now WHAT? The hotel already went beyond its NO REFUND policy. So do we want to beat the hotel up in the court of public opinion? In my opinion, it’s the TAs fault and I hope she has E&O insurance.

  • ‘Little’ Bobby Tables

    Maybe I’ll be unpopular in this, but I think this one should be dismissed. It was a prepaid rate. Unless you like the terms of a prepaid rate, don’t use them. I will happily pay $20 more a night for the flexibility of being able to cancel up til 6p the night of arrival.

    Can I save a few dollars? Sure. Saving potential headaches, however, is worth the 10% premium most properties put on more flexible reservations.

  • Carver

    [i]t is very clear that Chris believes that all reservations including the
    super cheap ratesfaresetc. with all of those strict restrictions
    (i.e. no changes, non-refundable, etc.) should always be refundable.

    Its not clear at all to me and I’ve been as long a reader of this blog.  The position that Chris has repeatedly articulated  is full, adequate, and early disclosure.

  • Carver

    I’m not sure why a cash refund isn’t appropriate.  I’ve been one of the staunchest supporters of the travel industry in letting them off the hook when then make a mistake, e.g. the so-called fat fingered fares.  However,  I believe the same should be true for consumers and their agents. Mistakes will happen. Let’s not profit at the expense of   the mistake of others.

  • Carver

    The OP said she couldn’t.  I say let’s take her at her word.

  • Carver

    The question really should be how occupied was the hotel during that time period.  If not very occupied, then no harm no foul and HI should refund the money as the booking didn’t cause it any harm

    By contrast, if the hotel was full and the cancellation was last minute, it is much more likely that the hotel could have resold the rooms had it not been holding them for the OP’s customer

  • Jennifer

    Since she’s a travel agent, can they give her vouchers for those nights that she can give to her customers, without any specific name on them?

  • Carver

    We’re assuming it’s an honest mistake because the TA ended up paying for it.  No other likely scenario presents itself.

  • Carver

    The point is that difference people have different opinions than you do and those opinions deserve to be heard as well

  • Cynthia Kruger

    I am so tired of the rigid rulebound . . . errrr . . . hidebound . . . approach to the way we and business behave these days!  There is no flexibility, no give, and very little true understanding and compassion.  We have become slaves to our rules and machines . . . we have forgotten how to relate to one another on a human level.  It is all about rules and money.  Sign me disgusted!

  • Carver

    That’s a different scenario.  Its one thing to book a refundable rate for the ability to make changes.   Personally, I never book non-refundale rates unless I am already at the property and only to extend my stay.

    But this is someone making a typo (presumably as the details have not been disclosed).  Under that circumstance anything could happen.  You could have meant to book are   refundable rate and      hit the nonrefundable rate just as easily as screwing up the dates.

  • Cynthia Kruger

    she already indicated that her agency doesn’t have many clients who go to Miami, or that part of Miami at least.  Those vouchers would likely just gather dust until they expire.

  • Tony A.

    I agree Bobby. But I can see why the TA tried to squeeze every penny out of the total cost of the vacation. In her website (, she sells a 4-day cruise to the Bahamas for $199 p/p. With a cruise that cheap, an expensive one-night stay in an hotel in Miami (pre/post-cruise) would stick out like a sore thumb. So it’s easy to understand why she went for the cheapest non-refundable rate. Too bad she made a big mistake.

  • Tony A.

    Cynthia, I am sure you can find unrestricted fares and cancel at any time or refundable hotel rates. But are YOU WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE?

  • Crissy

    I wish you posted what the time frame from booking to noticing the mistake.  Since it’s a lower rate for a non-refundable room I think that if the TA noticed within 24 hours then the hotel should refund the money.  But if it was a week later then I don’t think the money should have been refunded.  Where’s the line on that?  I would say the TA should have 24 – 48 hours to review bookings for errors.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I didn’t leave out any relevant facts. But I’ve asked the agent for additional information that I don’t have, and will update this post when I get it.

  • Chris in NC

    I am a bit late to the discussion, but here’s my 2 cents…

    If it was a pre-pay rate, how the heck did the mistake occur in the first place? Lets assume the rate was $100/night. 1 night = $100 + tax, 8 nights = $800 + tax. I realize mistakes happen, even to the best of us, but there is a significant price difference that is charged upfront!

    The critical piece of missing information is how long between booking and when Seewald realized the mistake? If Holiday Inn was notified within a few hours or even within 24 hours of the original booking, then it is being completely unreasonable in keeping the money. However, if a significant time has passed, like weeks or even months, then the case should be closed. Since this information is “known to all parties involved” and is not being disclosed to the reader, I can only assume that there is more to the story.

    I can’t speak for Holiday Inn, but with Marriott, even the non-refundable, non-changeable rates have a 24 hour cancellation option. I realize that not all hotel chains offer this “grace” period, but if a hotel truly sticks by the once you buy, you’re stuck, even with an honest mistake, then should be forced to honor fat-fingered fares.

    Personally, I virtually never book non-refundable rates. The savings simply isn’t worth the risk. Traditionally, you would save 10-20% versus a refundable rate, though of recent, I have seen more significant savings of 33 to even 60%.

  • Chris in NC

    Its her prerogative to steer her clients away from HI, and if I were in her position I would too. However, before you throw HI under the bus, important facts are missing including how much time elapsed between the original booking and when the mistake was brought to HI’s attention.

  • Cynthia Kruger

    That’s not really my point and you know it.

  • Chris in NC

    but @facebook-583638748:disqus we’re not talking an easily overlooked error suchas booking the wrong date (Aug 15 vs Aug 16), or booking 2 nights versus 1. She prepaid for 8!!! nights versus 1 night. The charged amount would be off by at least several hundreds of dollars! That should have been a significant red flag!

  • MikeZ

    What ever happened to the old addage “The customer comes first”?

    Home Depot used to be the best home center, bar none until they stopped paying contractors a good wage to work there. And people went elsewhere. Same thing happens to businesses all over the country every day and it is the primary reason businesses stay open located right next to WalMart who may sell the same thing.

    I’m a proponent of a 24 hour change rule, and given that it isn’t being disclosed, I imagine some time went by and she didn’t realize the mistake until a thousand dollar charge was on the CC statement. However, being a TA, she should have gotten at least some flexibility from the chain, given that she can singlehandedly be responsibly for thousands in profit each and every year with that chain.

  • Michelle B.

    Since it is for 8 nights instead of 1, my *guess* is that the agent was presented with a calendar screen and clicked on the Monday (or whatever day of the week) that was 1 week later than the desired Monday (or whatever DOW).

  • Chelseagirl98

    I don’t understand how someone could make this error. There is usually a final screen with the booking information before you click “submit.” And even if there isn’t, you are supposed to double check the info after you put it in. How someone can go from one night to eight, I don’t know…still, Holiday Inn should want to make a travel agent happy; otherwise she won’t send them future business.

  • SoBeSparky

    Just when is “as soon as we discovered the error?”  Was it that hour, that morning, a day before arrival, or at arrival?  That makes a big difference.

    Once the confirmation email is sent and received, usually within minutes, then any error should be corrected that minute.  Otherwise, I agree with HI.

  • Desertstarone

    Got bumped from a late arrival, guaranteed reservation in Ft Lauderdale with Holiday a few years ago.  Nothing came from complaint letters sent by me and my travel agent.  Haven’t used Holiday Inns since and bad mouth them every chance I get.

  • Tony A.

    And what will all these talking accomplish? Holiday Inn already offered future credits?

  • Tony A.

    No I don’t. For a 20% discount, a Holiday Inn customer MAY OPT to for the Advance Purchase Price. But they agree to the ff:

    All Advance Purchase reservations are final and
    require full prepayment for the entire stay at time of booking.
    Payment is non-refundable. No refunds if cancelled or changed. Once a
    reservation is confirmed, your credit card will be charged between time
    of booking and day of arrival for the total amount shown, regardless
    of whether or not the reservation is used.

    Cynthia if you don’t agree with the Holiday Inn Advance Purchase policy then by all means DON’T BUY IT. You can go with their standard plans instead.

    What I am reading with many posts here is that there is a group of people that WANT TO FORCE A CERTAIN UNIFORM REFUND POLICY. In my opinion that removes my freedom to choose between different plans. Hey, people can read the fine print. If they choose to buy risky plans, then so be it.

  • Steve R

    I’m curious as to: how much time elapsed between booking the room and discovering the error, and how far in advance was the room booked? IMHO, if the error was discovered within a few hours, the OP deserves a full refund. Period. Mistakes happen, and I can guarantee you that if the shoe was on the other foot – say, if the Holiday Inn website offered rooms for $0.99 a night when they meant to offer them for $99 a night – the company wouldn’t honor it.

    Even if the error wasn’t discovered right away, if the reservation was for some time several months or more in advance (as I’m guessing it was, unless this was a last-minute cruise booking), Holiday Inn should do the reasonable thing and refund the extra nights. For one thing, I imagine they stand to lose quite a bit more than a few hundred dollars if this travel agent is now going to steer her clients away from Holiday Inn.

    The only way I’m on Holiday Inn’s side here is if the error wasn’t discovered until shortly before the date of the reservation – I’m talking at the very most a few weeks before.

  • Tony A.

    But the point is the customer TOOK THE RISK. They bought in to Holiday Inn’s Advance Purchase (Pre-Paid) Plan which is NON REFUNDABLE (I posted the fine print above). Sure they booked rooms at 20% off.

    I’m sure that Seewald is not the only person in the world to have committed the awful mistake in booking more days than necessary. If hotels have to refund every mistake people do, then why will they bother to sell pre-paid programs with stiff penalties? Some customers (might not be you) are willing to take those risks, that’s why those plans are offered.

  • Tony A.

    The cancerous spread of non-refundable anything is being caused by the cancerous spread of gullible consumers clamoring for cheaper prices. It’s the same thing with buying cheap Chinese goods. You get what you pay for.

  • Carver

    You’re reading wrong.

    No one is arguing against restricted rates.  A restricted rate serves a segment of the population.  Particularly among hotels given the generally robust level of competition. If you elect a cheaper, restricted rate and you change your mind or your plans change you are SOL.

    What is being advocated is some humanity. Within our society, it is normative for rules to have reasonable exceptions.  The phrase “rules is rules” is unimaginative at best.

    Some of the reasonable exceptions are death, serious illness, inaccessibility, dangerous conditions, or legal obligation such as jury duty.  These are so rare that the impact on the providers bottom line is negligible.

  • Papa e

    The client is OK; the travel agent is punished for her error, has kept peace with the client, and has learned to be more careful when on-line booking…and the hotel chain, holding fast to it’s “principles,” has lost forever the world-wide, or, at least the US-wide trade of a travel agent, and probably a number of her extensive professional associates, representing, probably, hundreds of times more revenue than they retained…ahh! justice is served!

  • Tony A.

    Should the 24 hour change rule be adopted to ANY TRANSACTION including STOCK TRADES? How about marriages? Who will draw the line? What good is a hand shake deal if you can come back 24 hours from now and renege on your promise?

    And, any 24 hour cooling off period WORKS BOTH WAYS. The hotel or airline can also Jettison your so-called purchase for someone else’s better offer. Let me see y’all complain – what, ya sold me room and seat the next day to someone else.

    Beware of what you ask for.

  • Tony A.

    Teresa, how about simply googling – Holiday Inn Advance Purchase.
    Then read the fine print –

    Terms & Conditions
    …All Advance Purchase reservations are final and require full prepayment for the entire stay at time of booking. Payment is non-refundable. No refunds if cancelled or changed. Once a reservation is confirmed, your credit card will be charged between time of booking and day of arrival for the total amount shown, regardless of whether or not the reservation is used.

    So now what?

  • Tony A.

    Well if I remember right, I signed on the dotted line to marry my wife in 1987. There was NO REFUND or 24-hr change policy mentioned in the simple vow. I’m still married to my lovely wife and now we have 3 nice kids.

  • Tony A.

    Exactly Papa. They all got what they deserved. So be it.

  • flutiefan

    *sarcasm*…lost on some people.

  • Gratianus

    I voted

  • Gratianus

    [Sorry for the incomplete post immediately above this one]I voted no not because I think the travel agent doesn’t have a case but because the refund/don’t refund choices don’t cover the problem. On the face of it, an eight night reservation at an airport hotel, which was intended to be an overnight before or after a cruise, is obviously an error, not a change of plans. The franchise owner of that Holiday Inn property should acknowledge that and accept the agent’s compromise offer of paying for several nights and receiving a refund for the balance. But I guess compromise has gotten a bad name lately.

  • 3lijik34

    I lol’d

  • flutiefan

    i’m with the others who have asked, Didn’t she notice a significant price jump when she was on the final “make sure everything is correct” screen? or was she mindlessly clicking/pressing enter? i mean, 8 days vs 1 is quite a difference.
    could it be that originally her clients thought it might be fun to arrive a week ahead of their cruise and see the sights of Miami? then they reconsidered, and decided 1 day in advance was really all they could afford? just spitballing scenarios here…

  • Chris in NC

    “But the point is the customer TOOK THE RISK. They bought in to Holiday
    Inn’s Advance Purchase (Pre-Paid) Plan which is NON REFUNDABLE (I posted
    the fine print above). Sure they booked rooms at 20% off.”

    Did you read the article? The customer didn’t take the risk. The OP/TA booked the hotel. The client had the intention and used the 1 night. The issue is that a mistake was made in the booking, not that the client didn’t want to stay there. Having said that I stand by my statement that if the mistake was for 1 extra day, fine, 2 extra days, oops, 3 extra days, yikes, but 7 days??? Thats a heck of a “mistake”

    I certainly would have questioned the reservation if the invoice came back 8 times higher than I was expecting.

    I understand HI’s terms and conditions. HI is not my preferred chain, so I could care less what the terms and conditions are. I stay a lot at Marriott’s and they do allow a 24 hour grace period for non-refundable advanced rates.

    On the flip side, if HI wants to be so rigid about it, I believe they should eat every single fat fingered fare they offer, and honor every pre-paid reservation they accept rather than come up with some lame excuse (oops, we re-branded the hotel, so we are canceling all reservations, or oops, we oversold the property)

    I think we are in agreement on one thing though. I personally detest it when someone books a non-refundable rate, then due to bad weather, missed flight, family “situation” can’t use the room and demands a refund. I personally wish that no ombudsman would even consider mediating such a case.

    I’m not saying that I NEVER book a non-refundable/advanced purchase rate. The nature of my travel is unpredictable and often is subject to change. Thus, there are few scenarios when I am willing to take a risk in booking an advanced purchase rate!

  • web/gadget guru

     More companies should follow the Google Business Statement…Don’t be evil…This is a clear case where the hotel could do “the right thing” but refuses. All this will get them is bad blood. But perhaps their business is so good that even if they ruin their reputation, people will still stay at their hotel because they don’t have a choice…that’s always a possibility!

  • Raven

    I’m calling this one a case of “Caveat Emptor”

    The TA screwed up, and the terms and conditions are pretty cut and dry.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Please see the update.

  • Meryl Lee Seewald

    I am the travel agent who made this reservation.  I would like to clarify some points.
    First:  The reservation was made on my Airline Reservation System which is very different from the web sites you all are familiar with.  When booking a hotel with the air schedule, the system automatically enters the dates of travel, which are the air travel dates. The travel dates must be changed for the hotel. Since the client was going on a cruise the air dates were 8 nights.  In my search for the best rate for my clients, I looked at many hotels.  My mistake came when I did not re-enter the 1 night date as I booked the hotel.  In my system there is no send button which brings up the total.  There is no invoice generated, only a confirmation number with the per night rate.

    The hotel did not charge my client’s credit card until the night they checked in.  If they had charged them immediately we would have discovered the mistake earlier.  I spoke with the manager of the hotel the day my clients checked out and learned of the charge.  I had other reservations for the same family for 1 night, so it was obvious I made a mistake in this 1 reservation alone.

    Ironically, I also checked the rate at the hotel the day my clients checked out and the flexible, not prepaid rate was $20.23 less per night than the prepaid discount of 20% my clients were to receive for prepaying.

    There was never any question that I would refund the money to my client.  I made the mistake, not my client. 

    My clients relayed to me that the hotel was very busy with many airline personnel staying there.  It is very likely they resold the rooms.

    I made an honest mistake which I admitted to upon discovering it and I had hoped the Holiday Inn would work with me.

  • y_p_w

    Non-refundability is a given these days.  Non-transferrable is another. I remember looking up an air fare, and the most restrictive coach fare was about 1/4 of what a fully refundable fare.  Even a partially refundable fare was more than 3 times the restrictive fare.  At that price you simply eat it if you can’t make it.

    I’ve noticed that most of these non-refundable hotel reservations are required to be booked several weeks in advance, and the savings might be maybe 25%.  They offer the steep discount because they typically get paid in advance (not in this case though) and know they’ll get paid.  Otherwise – someone booking can claim they made a mistake yet still get the special rate.

  • Tony A.

    The client is represented by the Agent. They (together) took the risk. But is was the agent that MADE A MISTAKE in the dates. So the client was made whole by the agent (refunded them the money). I believe the client still will stay in the HI for the correct number of days because he/she committed to that originally. Now the agent has a BIG LOSS for the excess days.

    If you read the OP carefully, the was no mention of a CC dispute at all by the client. This makes we wonder how the transaction or payment settlement took place between the TA and the hotel. If this was a CASH transaction using a GDS, then from a money perspective the TA was like a customer to the hotel because she was the one paying the hotel.

    Of course to Elliott the DETAILS don’t matter. The travek source is always guilty of not refunding money.

  • Tom

    Well with the additional information, I’m entirely on Holiday Inn’s side. She didn’t discover the mistake until the second day of an eight day stay? That is pretty late for Holiday Inn to have much of a chance to re-rent the room. And if they offered a special rate for an eight day, non refundable stay and she wants to convert that to a one night rental, that’s a major change. Holiday Inn shouldn’t be on the hook for the travel agents mistake. The travel agent should learn her lesson and be much more careful in the future.

  • y_p_w

    An unrestricted and fully refundable air fare is a different beast than a non-refundable hotel reservation.  The restricted airfare (which can still be applied to another flight with a change fee) is typically so much less that one might eat it unless they have a habit of cancelling more than 50% of the time.

    I’ve found that non-refundable hotel room stays typically save less than 25% off maybe an auto-club rate.

  • Tony A.

    The other thing that is ODD to me (who works with LEISURE itineraries on a day to day basis) is I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYONE STAY AT AN AIRPORT HOTEL FOR 8 DAYS. Especially if the customer is taking a cruise. This should be a DEAD GIVEAWAY to any TRAVEL PRO looking at an itinerary. The customer can’t be sleeping in 2 different places (HI and the boat) at the same night. Go figure.

    To me the SECOND MISTAKE the OP did is post here and make a fool of herself telling the whole world she screwed up. As an agent I would have just bit my tongue and licked my wounds. At best, I would use the HI future credits as a give away so I can sell more Miami based cruises. Now that would-be customers may have read what she did, they might just use another agent. Sorry for not thinking straight.

  • DavidS

    Yikes! It wasn’t noticed until checkout? Having used GDS’s in the past, I know the default it to place a hotel between the air segments, using those travel dates as hotel stay dates. I think this is the type of mistake all TA’s have made at some point, but the non-refundable hotel rate option is a more recent development and makes a correction more difficult. Even a nonrefundable airline ticket can be “voided” for a period of time after issuing…but had the dates been wrong on a ticket and not noticed until travel, I don’t think an airline would be so forgiving either.

    Consumers want the option of a lower non-refundable fare from hotels and don’t always want the restrictions that they carry. Now, if the consumer booked this themselves on a travel website or direct with Holiday Inn, they would have no recourse. I applaud the Travel Agent for paying for their error.

    Since a Travel Agent is supposed to be a partner with travel providers, the HI should have assisted. Had it been caught at some point between booking and check in, perhaps that would have been the case.

    While I feel this could go either way, it would be interesting to hear Holiday Inn’s side of the story. FWIW, I am very familiar with the property and never been impressed with the facility or management. Knowing that, another property or chain would probably be more forgiving with their partners.

    I am torn between a Holiday Inn property or another brand (in a different part of the country) for an upcoming stay…maybe this will help me decide!

  • Meryl Lee

    I am the travel agent who made this reservation.  I would like to clarify some points.
    First:  The reservation was made on my Airline Reservation System which is very different from the web sites you all are familiar with.  When booking a hotel with the air schedule, the system automatically enters the dates of travel, which are the air travel dates. The travel dates must be changed for the hotel. Since the client was going on a cruise the air dates were 8 nights.  In my search for the best rate for my clients, I looked at many hotels.  My mistake came when I did not re-enter the 1 night date as I booked the hotel.  In my system there is no send button which brings up the total.  There is no invoice generated, only a confirmation number with the per night rate.

    The hotel did not charge my client’s credit card until the night they checked in.  If they had charged them immediately we would have discovered the mistake earlier.  I spoke with the manager of the hotel the day my clients checked out and learned of the charge.  I had other reservations for the same family for 1 night, so it was obvious I made a mistake in this 1 reservation alone.

    Ironically, I also checked the rate at the hotel the day my clients checked out and the flexible, not prepaid rate was $20.23 less per night than the prepaid discount of 20% my clients were to receive for prepaying.

    There was never any question that I would refund the money to my client.  I made the mistake, not my client. 

    My clients relayed to me that the hotel was very busy with many airline personnel staying there.  It is very likely they resold the rooms.

    I made an honest mistake which I admitted to upon discovering it and I had hoped the Holiday Inn would work with me.  In addition, I have received nothing from the hotel.  I have no vouchers, nothing that states I have 7 nights credit.

  • Tony A.

    Great, except that Google will collect pay per click fees to sites that might do evil. Very clever of google. Talking out of both sides of the mouth.

  • Joe Farrell

    The travel agent here simply did not check the number of nights before she clicked book – was there poor programming from a system ‘trying to be helpful?’  Absolutely.  Was it 100% her fault for not verifying the number of nights?  Yep.   Should a travel agent be given some assistance by the hotel as a professional accommodation?  Absolutely.  Will this travel agent ever book a room with these folks ever again unless the client specifically requests it?  Nope.   Will she steer clients away from Holiday Inns in the future and will they lose many more than 7 nights?  Yes.   Ok then –

  • DavidS

    “There was never any question that I would refund the money to my client.  I made the mistake, not my client.”

    I hope your clients know what you did and intend to repeat…but maybe not at the Holiday Inn Miami Airport. FYI, this property has had a hard time getting what they publish for their rooms…they used to be a regular on Priceline for rates in the $30’s several years ago.

  • Elmo Clarity

    The TA had no other option but to refund the money.  The TA made the mistake, honest or not, and so is responsible.

    Now with the explanation from the TA on what happened, I can see where the mistake happened.  I think HI could have been more cooperative but in the end, it was the TA’s responsibility to book it correctly but they made a mistake.

  • DavidS

    What would be an example of a dishonest mitake?

  • cjr001

    “Since the air was for 8 nights, my system automatically booked the hotel for 8 nights as well. This is where the error occurred.”

    That is not a very good system.

  • cjr001

    Wow. That is not only not a very good system, it’s a downright awful one if you can’t even get a estimated total.

    The problem here, regardless of how far in advance this room was booked before they arrived, was that it wasn’t discovered until they went to check out. So, it doesn’t surprise me that the hotel is far less forgiving in this case (although you also need an entirely new booking system to work with).

  • cjr001

    Well, I’m glad that your marriage means so much that it can be compared so easily to getting a hotel room for a night.

  • djp

    A similar thing happened to me today.  I was changing a planned overnight stay a couple hours away from me for Saturday night but needed to postpone it until a future weekend. went online and changed it.  

    In the reservation process when changing on the web the system does not disclose the rate you are being charged is a nonrfundable rate (which is only about $10 cheaper then the regular rate).  I only found out this was the case at the end of the rebooking.

    I called the hotel chain (Hyatt) and told them and the person ackowledged the system problem and changed the rate to the fully cancel/change rate.

    As for this case….

    you think the hotel chain would be more than willing to coooperate with the travel agent.  last time I checked Holiday Inn  is a national brand which means there are other hotels in other cities she could book clients into—that will likely be lost now since the refused to be cooperative.

    As sge described, this appeared to be a software glitch.  I wonder what type of software the agency uses and was this a universal glitch in the system.

    This brings up the issue that any and all travel reservation systems must be an opt in for add ons not an opt out… i.e.  …..the travel agent enters the date of the hotel stays and not let the system figure it out.

  • Michael K

    If only it worked both ways.  Chris has written about a number of cases where reservations were cancelled by the hotel for various reasons such as: erroneous (“fat finger”) rates, overbooking, and closures for private events.

  • DavidS

    Most airline booking systems are built on ’60s technology. The commands used to book a hotel default to the dates in the booked airline segments. The TA forgot to change the dates in this hotel request and instead of booking one, booked eight night. The have updated the interface over the years, but it still defaults to the dates of the air segments.

    While most people jump online and book today via simple web interfaces,  before internet booking engines, I went to weeks of training to learn GDS commands. (Global Distribution System) The long entries would be unrecognizable to most people and novice agents today.

    Most travel providers such as airlines, car rental agencies, tour operators and hotels considered Travel Agents a valued part of the distribution channel and would work with them to correct errors such as this. Those days started to end years ago and appear to be over with Holday Inn.

  • Tony A.

    cjr, how about yours? an agreement is as agreement. break it then pay.

  • Tony A.

    The change fee in an international ticket to Europe is currently $250-300 PLUS the difference in fare. That ain’t small change either.

  • Tony A.

    Iberia had some very cheap MISTAKE fares. They (the travel supplier) ate the losses since the mistake fares were not on their own flights, they were on AA codeshares. Sometimes, the consumer also wins.

  • Tony A.

    cjr, do you know of a better one that 25,000 agents can use daily?
    what options do TAs have?

  • Tony A.

    Why are you blaming the system and not the operator?
    For every mistake (like Seewald did), there are a lot, lot more bookings that are okay. If you don’t care to you a GDS then don’t.

    There are other ways to get a hotel listing in GDS without using the AIR SEGMENTS. I know, I use one everyday.

    The OP said “I had other reservations for the same family for 1 night, so it was obvious I made a mistake in this 1 reservation alone.” So is this the same hotel for one night at the END OF THE CRUISE? So how come that worked on this so-called antiquated GDS system?


  • Tony A.

    Dr Ms. Seewald,

    So exactly what did you attempt to accomplish posting your problem (which you admitted you caused) in an ombudsman site like

    Did you think Elliott could have persuaded Holiday Inn to refund those 7 extra nights?

    Why would Holiday Inn cave in? Had Holiday Inn refund you (or your client) the money, then that would leave Holiday Inn liable to similarly situated cases like yours. Who knows how much revenue HI has pocketed due to their NO REFUND policy? Maybe millions?

    You, people here and even I may not agree with Holiday Inn’s Refund Policies. But we must also adhere to our contractual obligations. America is still a free country. Feel free to boycott Holiday Inn.

  • Linda Loudermilk Tomberlin

    No one said she was a GOOD travel agent.

  • DavidS

    I don’t think she is blaming the system, but trying to explain to non-travel agents that it is not the same interface one sees when booking on a consumer website. (in response to other comments)

    She had admitted it was her mistake.

  • Tony A.

    DavidS, the supposed partnership between the TA and the travel supplier is pretty much gone nowadays. You must have worked when the airlines still gave a customary 10% commission to TAs. Today most airlines give you zilch. Worse, they are fast to send out Debit Memos if you do not cross the Ts and dot the Is. Many hotels still give 10% though. And if you book a pre-paid room, you can get your commission immediately. Most TAs today sell cruises and tours because that’s where the money is. That fact that Seewald couldn’t get someone inside HI to bat for her (and she had to come to this site to make her case) speaks volumes of the supplier-agent relationship. It’s just hard for the independent TA out there. Definitely survival of the fittest.

  • DavidS

    “the supposed partnership between the TA and the travel supplier is pretty much gone nowadays”

    Yep…exactly what I was illustrating.

    I also am very familiar with that particular hotel…and not impressed with the facility or staff/management. (Unless they have gotten their act together in the last 4-5 years.)

    Yes, I was a Travel Agent during the time when you could get 10% or more on a $10K first class ticket.

    Once the commission caps and cuts came, I left and started consulting with small/medium companies to self book and negotiate directly with suppliers. I found I could get more from suppliers for my client with less buying power because we did not use a TA as a middleman.

  • Tony A.

    DavidS, I was referring to CJR’s comment about how bad the system is.
    Ms. Seewald clearly stated it was her (OPERATOR) error.
    Yes the system is antiquated. So is the whole NYC drinking water supply system. They both still work.

  • Tony A.

    Quote – “my system automatically booked the hotel for 8 nights as well. This is where the error occurred.”

    CJR – a GDS does *not* automatically book hotel rooms, PERIOD.

    Seewald is referring to Displaying Hotel Lists and Rates. When you request rates, the system will automatically use the flight segment dates. There is nothing wrong with this default because people need hotel rooms when they break their journey (i.e. a stopover). The GDS may not have any knowledge of a cruise occurring at the same time.

    The OPERATOR has full control of the rates s/he SELLS. S/he needs to enter a separate sell command to book the hotel and enter the credit card #. That is not automatic.

    So don’t confuse between the LISTING and the BOOKING. There’s plenty of opportunity to change the IN/OUT date when you look at the Rate display.

    I don’t buy this antiquated system excuse, because she (the TA) sold the cruise and knew exactly when the cruise started and ended. Depending on what GDS she used, it MAY be possible to add TRAVEL SEGMENTS for the cruise so the Operator can be reminded when it started.

    Yes GDS might be antiquated but they still work.

  • Michael K

    “Sometimes” isn’t good enough if you’re arguing for zero rule flexibility for innocent human errors.  Kudos to Iberia if they behaved as you describe.  You’ll find several examples on this website of travel providers who were not quite so magnanimous on their own when the human error was on their end.

  • Carver


    Your  “worry” is unfounded, I assume do to lack of knowledge of consumer cooling down laws.  They are always applicable only when a merchant (some regularly engaged in this business) transacts with consumer, the consumer is given a time frame to void the contract assuming he can return any goods received.  There is no applicability in such laws to merchant-merchant (b2b) or consumer-consumer (c2c) transactions.

  • Carver

    I stayed at the Westin LAX for 7 days once.  It’s an airport hotel, I had a conference nearby and I got a great rate.  Not so unusual.

  • S E Tammela

    Good job, Holiday Inn, that’s the kind of publicity no business can buy! I hope 7 nights’ accommodation you stole off the agent is worth the hundreds of lost nights you’ll get from everyone reading about your stingy and stupid decision.

  • Anna

    This. Had the TA noticed her mistake two months in advance, it would be a different story. But she didn’t – in fact it seems like she never even checked the booking; the clients were the ones who noticed the mistake. And the hotel has already offered a discount on future bookings even though they owe her nada. This is entirely the TA’s fault. 

  • Tony A.

    did you read the word LEISURE?

  • Anna

    Even so, your chances of a hotel/airline/whatever kindly refunding an nonrefundable booking are significantly better if you notice your mistake in advance, rather than halfway through.

  • Anna


  • Tony A.

    Since the OP clarified what happened, the the Terms and Conditions of the RATE RULES apply as displayed in the GDS. But she did not tell us what the HI Miami-Intl Rules were for the rates she picked. There is a WARNING in HUGE LETTERS in the GDS training MANUAL that tells you to READ THE RULES *BEFORE* YOU BOOK HOTEL ROOMS since your client may be charged if you cancel a booking! I AGREE with your point IF THE OP FOUND HER MISTAKE EARLIER. She could have immediately cancelled or change the date of the hotel segment. But I assume that she didn’t because the clients only knew of the problem AFTER the first night they stayed.

    The OP and the client has had sufficient time to check out the TAs work.
    For those unfamiliar with GDS, the GDS has a public internet available portal.
    Here is one for travelport. Take a look at the sample itinerary’s HOTEL section.

    Note that the Check In and Out Dates are clearly indicated.

    Since we don’t know how many days passed between the Reservation and the date the client checked-in, then it’s hard to tell whether the hotel was way too hard on the TA. If there were a lot of days between the reservation and the check-in, then the TA had SO MUCH TIME TO RECTIFY THE PROBLEM AND SHE DID NOT.

  • Tony A.

    YES I agree. Scott McCarthney of the WSJ wrote an excellent article about that here.

    He writes [in quotes]:
    Delta Air Lines Inc. states in its contract of carriage, the legal rules printed on tickets, that for erroneous fares it “reserves the right to cancel the ticket purchase and refund all amounts paid by the purchaser or, at the purchaser’s option, to reissue the ticket for the correct fare.” But some airlines say they will honor any price they sell, mistake or not.

    UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, Continental Airlines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., JetBlue Airways Corp. and Singapore Airlines all say their policy is to not cancel tickets even when a mistake is discovered, no matter how large the error.

    So there you go – fly the friendly skies.

  • Tony A.

    I agree. But one has to wonder why the Hotel was immediately vilified in this forum. They didn’t commit the mistake. They were simply going by the conditions of the contract.

  • Tony A.

    The TA is not using a CONSUMER-BASED system. A GDS is for travel professionals – those SELLING travel services. The only glitch here was an OPERATOR ERROR.

  • DavidS

    I , grudgingly, tend to agree with the hotel…but DO find it interesting that the guests stay dates were not confirmed by the desk clerk at check in. The information presented indicates the error was discovered at check OUT. I’m not sure how much difference it would have made at that point either, but basic hotel check in training says you confirm the length of stay with the guests at time of check in.

    Would a desk clerk look at the confimations of the seperate parties checking in, notice it was an error and correct it before processing the credit card? Perhaps…but we will never know!

  • Ewkcpa

    If payment is due at time of booking, the error should have been discovered at that time- the account would have been charged for all 8 nights.  How is it that it was not discovered until the clients checked out? 

  • Anna

    I find myself reading these stories with increasing suspicion. Why was the part about the mistake going unnoticed until check-out initially left out? Would you really say the TA’s words,

    “as soon as we discovered the error, we notified the hotel…”

    tell the selfsame story as “the clients noticed the error at check-out and called the TA, who then contacted the hotel…?” 

  • cjr001

     “Why are you blaming the system and not the operator?”

    Because a bad system is a bad system. Yes, operators make errors, but in this case, even a slightly better system – which presented an invoice of any kind – would have prevented this kind of error and we wouldn’t all be wasting our time having this conversation.

    I think of the company I work for and the third-party software we use. As somebody with a bit of programming experience, I cringe whenever I think about how many errors could have been prevented over the years… if only there was a little bit more validation built into the software. Validation that would have taken less time to code than the time that has been spent finding and fixing the errors to the data over the years.

    “They both still work.” What a joke.

  • cjr001

    Well, seeing as I’m not absurd enough to make such a comparison in the first place, my marriage is irrelevant to the conversation.

  • cjr001

    That’s another great point, DavidS. I can’t think of a time where the desk clerk didn’t mention or ask to confirm how many nights I was staying when checking in. There’s no reason for this not to have been discovered then.

  • Anna

    The hotel has lost business with a TA who has so few clients going to Miami she’s not even sure she’ll be able to use the credit they offered her. Big loss, eh!?

  • cjr001

     “Beware of what you ask for.”

    Also beware of advice from folks who are constantly comparing apples to oranges.

  • Anna

    The clients payed for the hotel at check-out. Apparently the TA only made the reservation for them. 

  • DavidS

    Having the right to do something and doing the right thing are sometimes two different things.

    Trying to get out of a non-ref rate because your plans changed and working with the hotel to correct an error are two different things. It’s a shame the error wasn’t discovered sooner, I would expect the hotel may have been more forgiving.

    Had the client called 1-800-holiday to book, rather than a TA, and found the reservation was incorrect while at the hotel, and the hotel saw the rest of the travel companions rooms were correct, I would be willing to bet we would not be having this discussion and the hotel would only charge the one night they stayed.

    Had the client made the booking themselves online, through any channel, they would be on the hook.

    As we discussed before, a TA used to be considered an extension of the hotels’ sales force and courtesies were granted. Knowing the particular hotel in question,  I am not surprised at their stance.

  • Anna

    It’s funny how everybody is bashing the hotel for “trying to make money!!!1!11!!!” while the TA is doing the exact same thing.

  • Rosered7033

    Possibly Ms. Seewald expected Chris to have more clout than she, but the better outcome (for us, at least) is that this particular HI has been outed for their consumer-unfriendly practice.  It’s difficult to tell if this is a corporate-owned HI, but I suspect not, as they are adamant about not refunding the money.  I wonder if HI headquarters would have any pull in this.

  • Michael K

    BTW, It doesn’t even need to be in the contract apparently.  I’ve been “walked” multiple times from overbooked hotels.  In each instance there was absolutely nothing in the reservation terms or on the property’s web site which even addressed the possibility of such a scenario.

  • Asiansm Dan

    It’s an inexperienced TA here. I am not a TA, but able to book myself several hotels on a itinerary with only 1 airlines ticket.
    And there is a meticulous job of revision of the whole itinerary if you are a conscientious TA and aware not to cause any problem for your customer when traveling abroad because communication while traveling abroad is not easy and expensive.
    I am a frequent user of TA, sympathetic to TA in general but I am very severe about error on my bookings. My TA know that and she verify 3 times before deliver any bookings to me.

  • Rosered7033

    “It’s an inexperienced TA here.”  Broad statement that the facts don’t support.  One mistake does not inexperience make.

  • DavidS

    Experienced people don’t make mistakes too?

    I don’t recall anything about the TA’s lack of experience. Please provide the details to support your statement.

  • Tony A.

    To all – I  created a pdf document (with pictures) showing how a typical hotel reservation is done using a GDS. This will remove the cloud that is whirling up in the air. It is simpler than what the OP is trying to make you believe.

    Also, the Cancellation Terms are clearly displayed on the Rate Display.
    No IFs and BUTs. In fact the Advance Purchase No Refunds rate needs five (5) days advance reservations. That said, it took more than 5 days for the TA to realize her clients were being charged for 8 nights instead of 1. Totally UN-EXCUSABLE!

    Please read the document so you can decide for yourself whether there is a GDS excuse here. Thanks.

  • joshua82

    Except that the hotel reflects poorly to the TA on its entire 1300-hotel chain. An independent hotel could get away with this, but it will be harder for a Holiday Inn to do so.

  • Meryl Lee

    World Span GDS you posted is a completely different system from the Apollo system I use. World Span gives much more information.  However, that is a moot point.  I have always admitted I booked a prepaid room for 8 nights in error.  The client’s credit card was not charged before her checkin at the hotel.

    Mistake made, admitted to, and Holiday Inn inflexible.

  • Tony A.

    Do we know that for certain? All we are hearing is Seewald’s version of the story. Here is what Seewald said:

    “The hotel did not charge my client’s credit card until the night they
    checked in.  If they had charged them immediately we would have
    discovered the mistake earlier.  I spoke with the manager of the hotel
    the day my clients checked out and learned of the charge.”

    So, the hotel actually charges the clients card AT CHECK IN. I assume the client saw the charge at check in and said “WOW !%#$*”. I think that’s how they knew there was a screw up and probably got in touch with Seewald. But Seewald only TALKED to the hotel the day after they checked OUT.

    The hotel must have charges the client for 8 nights of the NON REFUNDABLE RATE during check in since that is the time the clients discovered the error.

    Finally, didn’t the clients ever look at their itinerary? If Seewald printed on from her GDS, the hotel booking would be there. Why blame the hotel for everything. YES THEIR REFUND POLICY SUCKS, but CUSTOMERS (or their TAs) ARE TO BLAME FOR BOOKING NONREFUNDABLE ROOMS.

  • Tony A.

    The form editor sucks, too. Sorry for the typos. It’s hard to edit why I just typed wrong.

  • Tony A.

    Yes DavidS, the Holiday Inn Non Refundable Fare Policy STINKS TO HIGH HEAVEN. I agree 100%. So I won’t select it for myself. That said, IT IS LEGAL. And it seems to work for Holiday Inn’s SALES. We can’t change the past and force Holiday Inn to return the clients money (so they can payback Seewald). So maybe if you and cjr start a BOYCOTT HI Campaign we might all agree on something. Peace. Tony.

  • DavidS


    Thanks…that is a great explanation and it shows the point I have been making on HOW the error occured. The default dates for a hotel stay are based on the air segments, your document even states that. She neglected to change the default check out date. While she had a different GDS…the concept remains.

    “It is simpler than what the OP is trying to make you believe.” It is simple..and simple process are undone by simple mistakes.

    I don’t think the TA was blaming the mistake on the GDS, but trying to let the non-TA’s know that there is slight difference in adding hotels into a PNR and going to hotels . com. The irony is that had she created a hotel only booking in a different PNR, she would have had to input the dates manually and this probably wouldn’t have happened.

    I don’t think she was trying to say she wasn’t aware it was non-refundable and she has not backed away from saying it was her error, but was hoping for assistance from the travel provider… a la “the old days”.

  • DavidS

    Don’t worry about the typos…we all make simple mistakes! ;) At least this one doesn’t cost you money!

  • DavidS

    I know that particular property all too well. My boycott of it has been going on for many years!

  • Tony A.

    Sorry about the Meryl Lee. Why not ask for vouchers? Maybe Elliott can twist their arm. Then use the vouchers as give-aways so you can sell more cruises from Miami?

    In the meantime, I will take your and DavidS advice to steer my clients away from this TRAP now that it is painfully clear to all TAs reading this forum.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Ms. Seewald, was this a franchise operation or HI itself?  I stayed at a perfectly grisly HI in Ft. Lauderdale prior to taking a cruise a few years; HI corporate was not interested in hearing about the experience.  Franchise locations are now off my list; wondering if corporate locations should be, as well.

  • cjr001

    “Do we know that for certain?”

    Well, you seem to be the one who has all the answers right now, so why don’t you tell us exactly what happened?

  • cjr001

    “Yes GDS might be antiquated but they still work.”

    So do computers with Windows 3.1, rotary dial phones, and the horse & buggy

    But that doesn’t mean there’s any reason for people to keep using them.

  • DavidS

    Unfortunately, for a Travel Agent GDS’s ARE the most advanced option.

    Horse and buggy ..or walk.
    Windows 3.1 …or an abacus.
    Rotary Dial Phone …or can and string.

  • Rosered7033

    One thing that bothers me is that the charge on a NON-REFUNDABLE hotel reservation was not made to the crecit card until check-in/check-out.  If it is non-refundable, why wouldn’t they charge the card at the time of reservation?  Is this SOP?

  • Tony A.

    It bothered me, too, until I read this on the Rate Disclosure:


    Here’s my guess – the hotel would rather SWIPE the credit card and get an authorization code because: (a) the merchant fee is less (b) less fraud (c) more protection from credit card company.

    Otherwise, the charge would have been a CARD NOT PRESENT transaction which would have been much easier to DISPUTE.

    So,  I definitely think the HI at MIA airport really figured out the best way (strategy) to protect themselves against charge-backs because of their UNFRIENDLY No Refund Policy.

  • Rosered7033

    That makes sense.  Too bad the customer didn’t notice the charge when he checked in and refused to allow a swipe, or contacted his TA then for advice on how to handle.  If HI did charge him the day AFTER, at checkout time, it might seem to go against its policy of charging between the reservation date and day of arrival ;-).

  • Linda Bator

    Not how a GDS works.  IF she just inserted the hotel request between flight segments, it automatically goes by those dates, so she would have needed to amend the request for the actual travel dates.  Sorry, but no popup windows, calendars, etc.  She used the shortcut rather than a long request, and that is the reason for the 8 days (the length of time between the flight dates).  She still should have caught that immediately, and NOT once the client was checking out!  You check, double check and triple check reservations JUST for that reason!  And I’m also surprised the clients didn’t see the clearly stated 8 nights that would have shown on the receipt.

  • Linda Bator

    Plus, she sold a cruise vacation.  Folks in Colorado travel in bad weather, and she should be suggesting a day early as par for the course, so I’m, sure she can find SOMEONE else with all the ships leaving from Miami!

  • Linda Bator

    You mean NOT to use a bad one.  I have booked travel for 20 years, and would NEVER expect my client to bite the bullet.  And the majority of my business is by refeerrals from my very satisfied clients.  So don’t knock all of us who work hard to go above & beyond for our clients.  It shows a lack of respect that is beneath you.  You should be SUPPORTING local businesses, not trying to put them out of business. 

  • Linda Bator

    Once again, NOT how a GDS works.  It is NOT a point and click system.  But it WOULD clearly show an 8 night stay in the record that neither the agent NOR the client seemed to see.  Frankly (and I am a travel agent) this is strictly the agent’s fault, and she needs to bite the bullet.  She obviously did NOT check her work, and if she is selling cruises for folks from Colorado, it is hard to believe she can’t find ANYBODY to use those vouchers, especially as she could offer them for a lower rate to help recoup the monies if need be.

  • Linda Btor

    I always verify, and ensure my client does as well — that way, I never have to go to Chris to bail me out!  :)

  • Meryl Lee

    You are correct, they charged the clients card the night they checked in but did not give them a copy of the invoice till the next morning when they were checking out and hurrying to get their transfer to the ship.  Clients called me on the way to the ship and I started trying to contact the manager immediately.

  • DavidS

    Argument could be made that the card was not charged BETWEEN those dates, since it was charged ON one of the dates. Don’t know how much good it would do, but that..along with the apparent lack of reconfirmation of check out date at the time of check in shows the discrepancy is written procedures and what the hotel does. Sounds like they are STLL lax in following SOPs. (Standard Operating Procedures)

    One may even find that the charge was actually posted on the calendar day AFTER check in if they do a batch credit card posting overnight.

    Again, more of a technicality.

  • jennj99738

    I have to agree with Linda.  This was entirely the mistake of the TA.  I understand how it happened but it was never caught until the guest was checking out.  This is not a case where the mistake was caught immediately or even a couple of weeks before checkout.  It was caught during the stay.  The hotel was not given an opportunity to resell the room and given it was nonrefundable, the onus should have been on the TA to double and triple check. 

    The fact that the mistake was never caught by the TA does not engender good feelings with me.  IMHO, Holiday Inn was not unreasonable to withhold a refund and provide a credit when there was no basis to demand a refund in the first place.  It is one thing to request nicely an accommodation.  It is a whole other thing to make this kind of mistake and submit it to an Ombudsman for publication after the request was already addressed by HI.  The TA should make a claim against her E&O insurance depending on if there is as deductible and how much it is and chalk it up to a lesson learned for her future clients.   

  • Scapel

    I think the travel agent was at fault. I don’t know how a system could make that mistake. Computers are only as smart as the people that operate them.
    Pre-paying 8 days of rooms at a hotel is to me unusual. It must be a real special rate. Usually I am responsible for only the first night if I do not cancel and do not show up. I am booking at the regular rate of the hotel.
    This is goo to know so one should check on everything that you are going to be financially responsible even if the TA is doing the mechanics.

  • DavidS

    The agent did not claim the computer made the mistake. She admitted it was her mistake. Someone wondered HOW the mistake could be made and a reasonable explanation was given.

  • Carver

    Different hotel chains have different policies..  Marriott and Starwood generally charge nonrefundable reservationns sometime after bookings.  Hilton by contrast charges the card as part of the booking procedures.  I assume they are following HI general procedures.

  • Jennifer

    Dont TAs have “errors and omissions” insurance that would have covered her for having to reimburse the clients? I thought I read about that in another one of Chris’ cases.

  • Carver

    I remember my contracts final in law school.   The professor listed several absurd positions that we were specifically forbidden from advocating on the exam.  Your position was the first forbidden absurdity.  I haven’t thought about that in years.

  • Carver

    I don’t see how your post responds to mine.  You made several grand and overreaching assertions about consumer cooling down periods none of which were true.

  • Tony A.

    Legal beagles should read the rules of the hotel first before they start making assertions. I posted HI MIA INTL rules for ADV Purchase rate here. I did the research. It did not provide any “give”. So unless you can produce and Florida or Miami law the requires a cooling down period between a TA and a GDS booked NON REFUNDABLE Hotel Room, I believe you are just wrong.

  • KyRoamer

    As a travel agent she should avoid using any Holiday Inn related facility for customers unless holiday Inn is clearly the best choice. Holiday Inn should have offered her free nights elsewhere not just in Miami or just charged one extra day. Good will justifies that. Franchisee issue?

  • Dfjkh

    I voted “no” because this was only discovered as they were checking OUT? That’s a major mistake on the travel agent’s part, as well as the customer’s.  Nobody looked at the reservation?  I triple check mine.  If the error was discovered right away, and the hotel was made aware, I would have voted “yes.”  I think that similar to the airlines, there should be a law/rule for hotels to be able to change non-refundable bookings within 24 hours. It wouldn’t hurt the hotel but it’d all but eliminate fat-finger mistakes which take up resources to solve and leave their customers angry. However, this is not the case here.  Check your tickets right when you book, people.

  • Lindas

    I am a travel agent and I think as a professional courtesy Holiday Inn should have refunded the client/agent! If that was not possible than a credit could be issued to the Agency.  I am sure overtime the agency would have been able to use it.  I too will book away from Holiday Inn at the Miami Airport!!!!