Is this enough compensation? I got a refund and they blacklisted the property, but …

By | August 2nd, 2011

It wasn’t Margaret Peary’s first hotel booking on Priceline. But it may have been her last.

She’d been quoted a rate of $77 a night, which didn’t include hotel taxes for a condo in Kihei, Maui. Great rate, right?

But when she got her credit card bill, the fun started.

Wow! I was charged a whopping $207. I called the condo rental agency and said “There must be some mistake.”

I was told “Oh no, the charges are correct. In addition to the $77 room price, we charge a $35 “booking fee” (even though I booked through Priceline) and an $85 cleaning fee plus the tax.”


I did a little digging, and found that yes, some properties on Priceline do in fact charge booking fees — and more.

Here’s a resort in Kirkwood, Calif., that charges a $20 “booking fee” and a $7 per night “recreation fee.” Here’s another resort with a 5 percent booking fee.

But you’d expect all this to be disclosed up front, and preferably included in the room rate, especially if the fees are required.

Peary fought the charge.

I contacted Bank of America Visa and after speaking to a young man who gave very glib answers I asked to speak to a supervisor. She did a three-way call with Priceline, who claimed I chose a “pay as you go” reservation and who supposedly had the itinerary which detailed all of those hidden charges of which I supposedly received an email copy after making the reservation.

All of it was bogus! When I asked him to please email me what he was looking at, he agreed to do so. No email was ever received.

B of A agreed to eat the $120 in excessive fees and credited my Visa for that amount … kudos to them!

The Visa supervisor made a very astute statement when she asked Priceline, “When did Mrs. Peary authorize Priceline to allow a third party vendor to have access to her credit card?”

When indeed? Priceline did not bill me … the vendor billed my Visa.

This is a scam of epic proportions, Chris, and no one wants to assume responsibility for the consumer fraud that is being foisted upon the public.

The condo folks said “We get lots of calls from people who booked through Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, etc. who are unaware of our additional fees.”

Of course they’re unaware because the fees are not posted anywhere!

That didn’t sound right, so I contacted Priceline.

“Not the customer experience we’re looking for,” a representative admitted.

Priceline apologized to Peary and said it would stop making reservations with the property “until this gets squared away.”

I asked Priceline if it had disclosed the fees. Yes, the representative said, but she apparently didn’t see them. It’s working on improving its disclosure.

I think it’s great that Priceline blacklisted the property for taking money from one its customers without permission. Nice of it to mention its fees more prominently, too. But is that enough?

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