The Crowne Pointe Historic Inn is described as a “classic 140 year old Cape Cod Sea Captain’s estate” in Provincetown, Mass., and Carolyn Boschi was looking forward to her stay at the upscale resort. Then her father-in-law died unexpectedly, and she asked the hotel’s owners if they could apply her deposit toward a future stay.

They turned her down.

Her story is a cautionary tale for anyone planning a vacation, particularly a special getaway that includes a stay at a small inn or bed and breakfast. Yes, travel insurance is a good idea, of course. But when small hotels warn that their rooms are nonrefundable, they mean it. And that’s something even the ombudsman can’t fix.

Boschi explains,

My father-in-law passed away on August 17 and our vacation was to be August 21 through August 28. A hotel representative [denied me credit], citing the 21-day cancellation policy and was unwilling to assist me.

I emailed the general manager, explaining the situation and provided him with a copy of my father-in-law’s death certificate to prove I was not trying┬áto “get out” of a reservation. He was unwilling to put any portion of my deposit on a gift card that we could use at his Inn for a future stay.

I called Bank of America to see if my Platinum Plus MasterCard offered any sort of protection in a situation like this, but they too were unable to help me.

I would greatly appreciate any advice or help you could provide in this situation.

I contacted the Crowne Pointe’s general manager, Thomas Walter, on her behalf. (He also runs another property, The Brass Key, in Provincetown). Here’s what he had to say:

She canceled her reservation three days prior to arrival. When she made her reservation, she was informed of our cancellation policy. We require 21 days notice in advance of your arrival date in order to cancel reservations. We take a 50 percent deposit at the time of reservation. This policy was explained at the time of reservation and was in her confirmation letter. We also suggest taking out trip insurance.

We are a small property located in a remote location people do not plan a weeks vacation three days out. The total reservation was over $3,200 we were not able to re-rent the room so we lost $1,600 that we can never recover.

We basically have two months revenue to cover 12 months expenses. So as it stands now her cancellation cost me $1,600 and her $1,600. While I am sympathetic of her loss, should I pay another $1,600 to her because of a loss to a family member? What do you think is fair? Even the credit card company would not side with her as she understood the terms of the reservation.

At the end of the day this is a business and my livelihood. I’m not the Marriott Corporation with endless resources.

Walter makes some valid points. I asked Boschi what she thought of his response.

It’s unfortunate that Mr. Walter is missing the point — we were not asking for a refund of the $1,600, merely that it be applied to a future stay (where he would have then recouped the remainder of the reservation amount). Perhaps his lack of compassion and unwillingness to work with guests is why he’s not a “Marriott Corporation with endless resources”.

I’ve recounted this experience on TripAdvisor.com, filed a complaint with the Massachusetts BBB and posted this to my Facebook page. I would like to alert as many people as possible of Mr. Walter’s unwillingness to work with return (or any) guests, even in the event of unavoidable and unforeseen circumstances.

I understand both sides of this argument. Boschi was distraught after her father-in-law passed away, and felt as if she was shown no compassion by the hotel, even though she planned to return after the funeral. And Walter, who was already out $1,600, didn’t want to lose any more money.

Anyone know how to resolve this?

(Photo: Troy Thompson/Flickr Creative Commons)