Does she deserve a full refund for a hotel room she stayed in?

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When the Glenmoriston Town House, in Inverness, Scotland, gave Andrea McEwen the keys to the wrong hotel room, her first thought wasn’t a full refund.

That came later — much later.

“The hotel was overbooked because of a wedding and we were given a room with a child’s twin bed,” she says. “The bed was less than a standard bed accommodation, having only a mattress over 2 X 4’s across a wrought iron frame. Clearly not the luxury accommodations outlined on the property website nor representative of the pictures, either.”

Here’s how the property describes her room type:

King Club Double

Rising above our Comfort bedrooms are our Club rooms, with a generously-sized bedroom space and a compact seating area for private dining or work. The view from our Club rooms is a little sweeter than the one in our Comfort rooms.

The hotel’s management, she adds, seemed indifferent to her downgrade.

Over the next three days, she repeatedly asked the hotel to fix her room assignment. Finally, she asked the property to reduce her $908 bill by $400 after she checked out. The hotel didn’t answer her request.

Now she wants me to get involved in the case. I’m considering it.

McEwen didn’t take the Glenmoriston’s rejection lying down, even after leaving.

“When our initial communications to the hotel went unanswered, and we read similar reviews from others, we felt this was a deliberate attempt to defraud customers,” she says.

Did someone say “similar reviews”? Cue our good friends at TripAdvisor with a handful of unvetted reviews.

McEwen initiated a credit card dispute with her credit card, British Airways Chase Visa. Initially, her card agreed to fully refund the stay. But they always say that at the beginning. After the dispute process concluded, Chase sided with the hotel. After all, McEwen had stayed in the hotel.

“Chase provided no assistance despite my escalation with supervisors to the executive office,” she says. “The responses are evasive and elude to the fact that since we stayed at the hotel a refund is not provided. I’ve mentioned the Fair Credit Act, Breach of Contract and UDAP to Chase and Chase will not provide a response. It is almost as if the credit card company exonerates themselves regarding merchants abroad.”

How true. I’ve seen that time and again, particularly on international transactions. A card that promises to “protect” you when you’re on the road scurries for the exits at the first sign of trouble.

But here’s the problem: McEwen stayed at the Glenmoriston Town House, no question about it. She accepted the closet-size room and when she checked out, she settled her bill. For some credit card dispute departments, that’s an open-and-shut case.

But wait! Doesn’t the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) protect you against charges for goods and services you didn’t accept or that weren’t delivered as agreed? Yep, it does.

Shouldn’t it apply to McEwen’s case? Possibly, although there are some jurisdictional issues — the hotel isn’t in the United States and beyond the 100 miles of her billing address, as required by the FCBA. No, this is one of those times when a credit card should side with you not because it’s required to, but because it’s the right thing.

And that’s not happening.

Here’s what I’m not getting. British Airways Chase Visa cost her $95 a year and allowed her to rack up lots of worthless “miles.” It intentionally made the card more attractive to international travelers by abstaining from charging a foreign transaction fee on currency exchanges (how generous!). But then, when someone like McEwen has a problem with a purchase made in the U.K., it slowly backs away.

If you ask me, she didn’t get her $95 worth of card.

So what’s next? Should I pursue Chase to the ends of the earth for a partial refund? Or should I tell McEwen hers is a lost cause and that she needs to find a new credit card?

Should I mediate Andrea McEwen's case?

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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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  • mikegun

    Just like yesterday’s story on who benefits from a discounted upgrade…both isn’t an option in our poll.

    Either that …or you can like them both, but you have to like one MORE.

    :)

  • TonyA_says

    There you go. Very easy project :-)

  • TonyA_says

    I have a feeling she was expecting an American sized room and bed and she was just disgusted with what she saw there. The rooms are quite tiny
    Comfort 16 sqmt = 172 sqft
    Club 20 sqmt = 215 sqft
    The average room size in the US is about 325+ square feet.

    Then the bed itself. Maybe she was expecting a true American size queen mattress with a box spring. But she got European double on top of a wooden slatted frame.

    If found a TripAdvisor (UK) customer pic of the beds. I don’t really think they are that bad. But if one goes to Europe with American expectations, they sure would get disappointed.

  • MarkKelling

    The miles awarded on the card may not be worthless to the LW. She might fly places that BA goes quite often and be able to use them for those flights or might choose to use the miles for other purposes that result in a positive benefit. If she charges more than $3000 yearly on the card in places that Chase would normally apply a foreign exchange fee (which is 3% of the transaction amount) she recovers the cost of the annual fee. Trying to make the benefits offered by this card appear worthless because you wouldn’t benefit from them is off point.

    Even with Chase siding with the hotel instead of the LW I don’t feel she needs to drop the card and get a different one. The LW should have at least looked for a different hotel, which she does not indicate she did, instead of staying with the room she received if it was that unacceptable. Or camped in the lobby until the room she expected was provided.

    I was just in Inverness and the hotels there are all old and have small rooms. It is part of the “charm.” The room I had at the hotel was extremely tight. The bathroom was actually larger than the bedroom. The hotel called it “Business man’s suite.” Hah! If this room was offered anywhere in the US, no one would take it. But that is Europe.

  • Lindabator

    In room type, yes – but NOT in bedding. So she would have probably whined if she did get the right room. Depending on how this was booked, she should get the difference back.

  • Lindabator

    Gives you a better view.

  • TonyA_says

    With a room that small, I’d pay for the better view :-)
    At least I get to see the river.

  • emanon256

    I just noticed the two feet in the middle, it’s two twins pushed together. That’s what we always got when we booked full beds in Europe.

  • Travelnut

    My aunt wasn’t wealthy but she was a pretty high-up union rep, and yes, she stayed in very nice hotels on the nice floors, for sure. A couple of times she took me out on the union’s dime.

  • emanon256

    Maybe this is what the OP was expecting? This has to be the largest standard hotel room I have ever been in.
    Behind me is a wet bar and behind that is the closet. They could have
    fit two normal hotel rooms in this single room and it would be bigger
    than the OPs room. I joked that I could throw a javelin down this room it was so long.

    This was at the Breckenridge Double Tree if anyone wants a hotel with HUGE rooms!

  • TonyA_says

    Oh Avios. If you like paying hundreds of dollars in taxes and carrier fees on award tickets, this is the card for you :-)

  • MarkKelling

    Wow, that looks larger than my condo in Denver. ;-)

  • MarkKelling

    Hey, I don’t have one! ;-)

  • TonyA_says

    Hmmm, how does this hotel sell itself a wedding specialist?
    I think those beds can be dangerous, unless the mattress is one piece. I sure hope no one literally falls between the cracks :-)

  • emanon256

    I can’t find the square footage on the hotels website, but it is huge!

  • TonyA_says

    That’s the kind of room I need when I have grand kids :-)

  • emanon256

    In our case it was always two mattresses too, but one sheet stretched over both. It is easy to start to fall into the abyss.

  • TonyA_says

    No wonder the LW is very unhappy.

  • emanon256

    To me its all part of the experience.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Oh, you have no idea. She’s very, very unhappy. Tomorrow’s post will explain everything.

  • Common sense

    Sounds like she (a) had unrealistic expectations of European room and bed sizes and (b) should have complained within minutes of check-in or at the very latest when checking out. Her expectations are way unreasonable.

  • TonyA_says

    But what if the LW was expecting this kind of bed they have in their pictures? It seems to have a box spring and a fluffy mattress.
    I will be very unhappy if I was planning a romantic getaway and was given an Ikea bed.
    So know we probably know it WAS REALLY the bed she was complaining about

  • TonyA_says

    Not really. If I pay $300 a night, I expect a non-Ikea bed.

  • TonyA_says

    Frankly, I don’t recall ever being on a 4-star hotel with platform Ikea beds.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I agree…I don’t think that we have the whole story…as Chris wrote below, there will be a follow-up to this story that will hopefully explain everything.

  • emanon256

    I only see that picture on the website under the “Deluxe” the highest room category. If she was expecting that, she was looking at the wrong room type. The “Club” and “Comfort” dont show that bed, but show a portion of a bed similar to your first picture and specify, “All beds are Double within the Townhouse Comfort and Club category whilst our Townhouse Deluxe River View boast King size beds”.

    I wish the OP took a picture of the bed. However it sounds to me like she was downgraded from a “Club” room to a “Comfort” room, and I do believe she is due a refund of the difference. However, both of those room categories contain Double beds, so she would have gotten the same bed either way. I think she is barking up the wrong tree, if she made a case for the change in category and asked for a refund of the difference, she might have gotten it. I am guessing the hotel is so fed up with her that they are ignoring her complaints.

  • bodega3

    Well you shouldn’t! I have had some interesting type beds in Europe at all different room pricing.

  • Travel Girl

    I think she should have started raising a stink the moment she saw her room, before even sleeping in it. She should have left the next morning while escalating her concerns up the management ladder. But to stay 3 nights and then complain just isn’t kosher in my book.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    This remind me of the time that I went to the Hertz or Budget rental counter (it was a franchisee location not a corporate location) at the Tri-Cities Airport. I had a reservation for a full-size car and they were out. The person gave me a key to an intermediate-size car and told me that was my car. I told her that this isn’t a full-size car and she didn’t reduce the rate. She told me that they were out and I could upgrade to a premium-size car for an additional fee. I told her that I will take the premium-size car for the same rate or give me a full size car per our corporate agreement with them. I ended up with a premium-size car for the rate of a full-size car.

    The point is NOT to accept a different offering (a different room type; a different rental car class; etc.) than you what reserve UNLESS the travel provider is reducing the price to your satisfaction or put a refundcompensationetc. in writing to you (or record a video of the conversation with your iPhone or etc); or etc. Once you take ‘possession’ without having agreed to the ‘compensation’ for the different offering, it is hard to ‘collect’.

  • bodega3

    Not sure why the negative comments on the BA card, as that doesn’t play into what she was requesting of you. I pay $95 a year for one of my cards and nothing for the rest of them. The benefits I get for $95 more that pays for that cost. I am not clear if she is from the US or not and if her card is a US issued one.
    I am also not clear on the rate she was expecting to pay, to know if what they hotel charged her for was reduced to the rate for the lower category room or she was charged at the other room rate.

  • bodega3

    Most European hotel beds are pushed together for two people.

  • TonyA_says

    The Deluxe category has a King Size Bed and a view of the river (front of hotel). The Club has “double” beds (and no awesome views). The Comfort is tinier than the Club but also has double sized beds.

    I found this pic from Trip Advisor UK (taken by a guest).
    It does not look like the hotel’s own pics for a Deluxe Room so I suspect it is a Club Room. Look at the bed …

  • emanon256

    I honestly don’t see anything wrong with it. The hotel gives room sizes, and they are all very small, and they disclose that they are all double beds.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    One question that I have is “has the OP ever been to Europe before?” As it has been posted in other comments, hotel rooms in Europe are usually smaller than US-based hotel rooms. I can still remember our room in Paris where we had to move our luggage in order to walk around the bed.

    After returning from spending 30 days in Europe, I went on a business trip to Oregon the first week back where I was upgraded to a two-room suite at a Hampton Inn…that room felt like a football field compared to most of the European hotel rooms that we stayed at in the previous month.

    My suggestions to travelers that are going to a foreign country is to check out the ‘hotel standards’ (the size of the room; is there AC…a lot of European hotels do not have AC; etc) of the country that you will be visiting BEFORE you book, etc. There are tons of websites where you can find this information; you can speak with a brick & mortar travel agent, etc.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I agree…you need to know what to expect when you travel to another country. For example, in China, the beds can be a single mattress on the floor in the Chinese-based hotels; whereas, the beds in the US based-hotel chains (Marriott, Hyatt, etc.) are usually a box spring with a mattress.

    We went on a tour in China back in 2005 and the first hotel was a Chinese-based hotel with a single mattress pad…everyone was complaining. The tour guide said that was the standard and there were no hotels in China that had “western beds” with a box spring and a mattress. The next hotel on the tour was a Sheraton where it was the box-spring and mattress pads.

  • TonyA_says

    Oh btw, look at the pic I posted above with the 3 different prices.
    The pic came from the hotels online booking site.
    The bed shown for the club level, GBP 190/night, is a much nicer bed (the one with bed posts).
    Now at the comfort level – definitely an ikea bed.

    Whether her desires are unrealistic is another story.
    But I think we are beginning to understand what we are dealing with her. Unmet expectations.

  • TonyA_says

    Don’t tell me it’s all because of a bed :-)

  • Travelnut

    That’s twice the size of my first apartment!

  • mikegun

    Close! No bed underneath. Just an upper bunk and a desk area under.

  • TonyA_says

    I really like your comment. You are right. Usually you get to your hotel believing it will be your home for the night. Not getting anything near your expectation is quite stressful. It is not easy to simply walk out and look for another hotel.

    I believe hotels should deliver what they promise. Or else they are not in the HOSPITALITY business.

  • jennj99738

    Platform beds are not just Ikea beds. I don’t know where that idea came from. There are plenty of high end manufacturers of platform beds. It’s just considered more modern than traditional. I don’t recall a hotel with platform beds either but that doesn’t make them cheap.

  • Cheri Head

    We had a guest who stayed at our hotel recently who after she left disputed her room charge with American Express because booking.com told her the room had a balcony but instead it had a patio. We offered her an upgrade to our nicest room (which did have a balcony) but she refused, preferring to stay in her original room. She obviously did this so she could dispute the charge and pay nothing, which is exactly what happened. The person at Amex I talked with said that they see that ALL THE TIME, especially by people who book through OTAs. Seems there are a lot of very dishonest people out there.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The Le Meridien in the 14th Arrondissement of Paris has platform beds.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That happened to me in Florence. My King Bed was really two twin pushed together. In the middle of the night I had a sinking feeling. Turns out it was me. The beds were on wheels and in the night they two beds had started to come apart. What a weird feeling to be falling down in slow motions.

  • PsyGuy

    If you go after this, go after the credit card company, not the hotel. She didn’t get what was agreed to, but she accepted the accommodations.

  • Lisa Stevak

    I guess my first question is why didn’t she change hotels? It seems like the room was terrible. There are lots of places to stay in Inverness.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Now that we know who this person really is (aka @TheFOODESCORT), I’d say she deserves nothing. Well, nothing but a “well aren’t YOU a sweetie?” retort! Talk about the ultimate “entitled” attitude…YOWZA!

  • Annie M

    I voted for you to mediate, but NOT for a full refund for the difference in what she paid for vs. what she got. As others have said, she should have asked to be moved to another hotel the second day if the room was that terrible. But she stayed so she only should receive the difference back in the room accommodations. Perhaps her credit card company would have sided with her if she didn’t expect a full refund.

  • Annie M

    There was also a difference in the size of the room, not just the bed. And that is the picture of the room that she supposedly booked – and she got the top picture instead.