Here’s a common problem for travelers who book a hotel room online: Once they “confirm” their accommodations with a credit card, the hotel doesn’t assign a room, leaving them wondering if they’ll have a place to stay.

My standard advice to homeless guests is: Don’t worry, you’ll have a room. And they always do.

But Robin Ross needed more than verbal assurances for an upcoming stay at the Signature at MGM Grand, a condo-hotel she’d booked through a discount luxury booking service called Blue Chip Vegas. In an email to Ross, Blue Chip had promised a “PH level corner unit one-bedroom suite” at $199 a night, not including the extras that Vegas hotels like to throw in, like daily resort fees, and taxes.

But in subsequent messages, after Ross plunked down a $499 deposit, Blue Chip Vegas seemed to waver.

I am jaw-droppingly amazed at the lack of customer service at the Blue Chip Vegas hotel management company. I have been trying since January 5 to obtain a written confirmation of my reservation, to no avail. I’ve sent numerous emails and have received no responses. I called their toll-free number today at 12:03 p.m., left a message,
and so far no return call.

All I’ve been asking for is a confirmation of my schedule change and I don’t think I’m asking too much. I have no
assurance that I’ll ever receive the product that I paid for. Because of all this aggravation, I am now at the point where I no longer want to stay at their property and have asked for a refund of the $499 which was originally charged to my Visa card to secure the reservation.

I’m concerned that I’ll never see a credit.

I’ve handled a few requests like this in the past but haven’t really written about them. When a hotel is booked through a third party like Blue Chip, the property often waits until shortly before the guest arrives before confirming the reservation. Specific room requests are possible, but you have to ask the hotel directly, which becomes problematic when you aren’t even in its reservation system.

I contacted Blue Chip on Ross’ behalf to see if it could offer a more tangible assurance that she had the room she’d booked online. To its credit, the company contacted me quickly and agreed to send her a confirmation. It also sent the following explanation:

As you know there are always two sides to a story. Ms. Ross has rescheduled her stay numerous times, which is not an issue if the Signature were a typical hotel. The Signature at MGM Grand is a condo-hotel and every suite is privately-owned. These units are changing hands quite frequently in the current market environment and we have been forced to relocate existing reservations to other units upon any sale.

Ms. Ross’ stay is still months away and she has required a very specific suite making it difficult to ensure that the suite she has at the moment will be the same one she receives at the time of her arrival. In fact, the unit she had recently been assigned has now entered escrow so the confirmation she would have received would no longer be valid.

By comparison, had she booked her suite directly through the hotel she would receive only a generic confirmation with no guarantee of a specific suite. As you know, this is standard practice in the hotel industry.

That seems reasonable.

I think Blue Chip might have done itself a favor by offering more generic rooms on its site, to avoid raising Ross’ expectations about her accommodations. And I think Ross’ complaints about “jaw-droppingly” bad service were, in the end, unhelpful. Politeness and patience would have served her better in her efforts to get the confirmation she needed.

(Photo: ken mccown/Flickr Creative Commons)