A canceled wedding causes an existential crisis

Not every case that crosses my desk makes me question the very foundations of my consumer advocacy practice. But Sandy Neff’s did.

Neff reads my column in her local newspaper in Texas, and she turned to me for help with a recent hotel reservation.

“The first of the year my niece announced that her wedding was going to be on September 7th in Mill Valley, California, and suggested that anyone who would be attending should make his or her hotel reservations early,” she says.

She booked a reservation through a moderately-priced hotel in the area for Sept. 5 to 9, expecting to join her niece to celebrate the wedding. Total cost: $750.

But it wasn’t meant to be. On May 16th, her niece canceled the wedding.

“The next day I called the hotel’s general manager and asked if there was anything that he could do to help me out,” she says.

You can probably guess what happened. Neff had booked a completely non-refundable room.

“I would give anything to have my money back, since I live on a fixed income and this had come out of my savings,” she says. “But I understood that that was probably not going to happen. Instead, I asked if they might be able to give me some sort of gift card that I could use at some of their properties around Texas.”

The hotel wouldn’t do that. Instead, it offered her a two-night stay anytime before May 21, 2014, at that hotel. Bear in mind, it’s a non-refundable room. She wasn’t entitled to anything.

“That’s worthless to me,” she said.

In talking with Neff, I felt that she really wasn’t asking for that much more. A credit at one of the chain’s hotels was not the same thing as asking for a full refund, and if it could be done, why not? After all, it’s not as if Neff canceled the wedding. These were clearly circumstances beyond her control.

I contacted the hotel on her behalf asking if there was anything it could do for her. Actually, those were my exact words. In retrospect, I should have chosen my words more carefully.

Here’s how the manager responded:

I won’t have any problem reselling the room. My issue is that she purchased a “non-refundable” advanced purchase room at a discounted rate…..and knew it was non-refundable……but on your advice I will refund her….my point is it seems there is “no responsibility” for decisions made (especially bad ones)…..and this is very, very prevalent and getting worse every day.

Hmm, I don’t recall asking him to refund the room. All she wanted was for her credit to be a little more flexible.

“That’s very generous of you,” I wrote back. “But I don’t recall offering any advice on this case.”

To which he sent me a one-line response, excerpting from my first email: “Anything you might be able to do for this guest would be much appreciated.”

My response? After the “where-did-I-go-wrong” reaction, I tried to backtrack.

“It wasn’t meant that way,” I wrote. “I apologize if you felt as if I was pressuring you. As I read her correspondence, it seemed the customer felt her appeal hadn’t been properly reviewed.”

But it’s true, I was asking the manager to make yet another exception to his refund rules for a reader on a fixed income. But a full refund? I hadn’t advocated for that, nor would I.

By rolling over and coughing up the money, the hotel was making me feel like the bad guy. Maybe it’s just as well. Those of you who read this site, waiting for me to make one of these confessions, probably can’t wait to write a “told you so” comment that tries to invalidate two decades of consumer advocacy. Others will say, “Don’t feel so bad — you’re trying.”

The hotel decided to refund the money, anyway. But if it had refused, I would have supported that decision. After all, it’s a non-refundable room. How much clearer could that be?

My takeaway: Be very specific when you’re asking for a review of a case. People don’t read carefully, they have a different view of context, and they won’t always come to the same conclusion that you would.

That’s true whether you’re a hotel guest — or you’re running a hotel.

What should the hotel have done with Sandy Neff's request?

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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 chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Ian Parrish

    I think this post highlights the very dilemma of being a travel advocate. You’d like to have an outcome that’s fair for both the traveler and the travel company; however, as soon as you get involved they feel pressured…even if you don’t pressure them. They don’t want to look bad, so perhaps they over-capitulate. Either that, or they take the opposite tack. If they make an exception that gets published, why doesn’t everyone on a fixed income that has any setback qualify for that exception.

    It’s tricky to navigate that line, and I don’t think you can really handle it any differently than you did here.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    I think this one is squarely on the hotel manager. He could have easily written: “After a careful review… in the name of good customer relations… we’d like to extend a credit of xxx to any property within the chain…” As long as it’s well-written, that would’ve been sufficient. No need to feel guilty. It’s a give and take. Smart business people know where to draw the line. Minus points for the OP for bringing up fixed income, though. Wonder if there’ll be another request from the OP for you to try to get her plane fare refunded?

  • PsyGuy

    What did you suspect? The pen is mightier then the sword and you have a pretty big pen with a very big audience. Your in the position of applying media pressure, and effecting the companies public relations. Even if your a nice guy and you side with them, they don’t know that. What they do know is your going to publish to that very big audience that either they were the bad guys or they were the good guys.Making nice is the best thing they can do given the cost is $750.

  • Kevin Mathews

    You do a fine job at what you do. Like everyone else that is in a position of “power”, you just have to choose your words carefully.
    Personally, I would’ve stated it something closer to:
    Sandy Neff asked for a refund. I understand and support the decision not to give her a full refund on a non-refundable room as she has to have some accountability for booking an advanced non-refundable room. The circumstances of her travel, cancelled wedding, were out of her control and she no longer has a need to travel. Understanding that she booked a non-refundable room, she agrees that she is not entitled to her money back. But a 2-night stay at your property doesn’t help her at all either. Is there someway we could meet in the middle here? Is there anything more you can do to help this customer out given she cancelled 4 months in advance?

    Basically, something to let the property know that you are simply trying to mediate the case and not taking sides one way or the other. But leaving the Open Ended question posed the way you did, I can understand the rubberband reaction of the hotel to not want to look bad in front of the media…

  • AS

    How about an intermediate solution, which requires all parties to act like adults. Hotel holds the money until the end of the reservation, and in the case that it is able to resell the room, guest gets the refund.

  • Kevin Mathews

    Too much of an Accounting Headache…
    That would require the Hotel to keep those funds on their books and potentially have to write them off as a refund if the date of cancellation and reservation fall across their fiscal years.
    Also, it’s probably a safe assumption that there were other people attending the wedding that also had to cancel their reservations. If all said and told, there were 5 rooms cancelled, and the hotel was only able to re-book 3 of them, Do you split the difference between the guests? Do you do a first come first serve? There is no clear and concise way to do this without either the hotel taking a hit, or the customer’s. It light of the gray area, it’s easier for the hotel to simply lay out the “Non-Refundable” clause upfront and deal with the exceptions on a case by case scenario…

  • sirwired

    I can see why the “credit at another hotel in the chain” idea went nowhere. Most hotels are franchise properties and are not owned by the “mother ship.” If a hotel wants to provide a gift card good at any of corporate’s locations, they’ll have to purchase it (with cold, hard, cash), just like a consumer would. They might get a slight discount, but not much. So from the owner’s perspective, it’s no different from a refund.

  • sirwired

    But a hotel reservation isn’t like an apartment lease; there isn’t a room with her name on it assigned months in advance. If you have multiple people cancel, who do you decide “owns” a room when another booking shows up?

  • DChamp

    I think the problem is the proliferation of “non refundable” anything. If he indeed could resell the room, I see no reason not to refund the person (after all, she did cancel 4 months before the date).
    Maybe “non-refundable” should be (in certain instances) only up to 30 days before your stay, as it may be difficult to resell the room.
    BUT, this should be in most all circumstances, air travel, car rental, etc. If they can resell, they have no right to keep the money.

  • BillCCC

    I can see the hotel manager’s point. Guests book a non-refundable room and accept all of the conditions associated with the booking in order to save a few bucks. Their plans change for whatever reason. The hotel wants them to honor what they agreed to and when they don’t the guest contacts someone like Chris to complain that the hotel won’t change their policies for them.

    When the hotel manager receives an email from Chris he thinks that the hotel’s name will be published as a place without a heart, a business that only wants to make money and doesn’t care about the customer.

    In this case while the circumstances were not within the guest’s control they were certainly not within the hotel’s control either. This wasn’t a natural disaster, bedbugs, illness. This was a cancelled wedding.

  • jpp42

    Just a minor point, since the innkeeper admits he can resell the room, the cost to the hotel is a lot less than $750. They might even make money on the deal if the next booking happens to be at a higher rate.

  • backprop

    I’m glad the hotel manager said what he said. Anyone reading this column daily can see that people book nonrefundable and then expect someone else to “fix” it for them. Unlike airfare, buying a refundable hotel fare is not that much more expensive.

    If you want risk the possibility of losing your payment to save literally $10-20 per night, then you need to be prepared to assume that risk!

    (Fixed income or not; that is only a pair in the Deck of Misfortune ;))

    And yes, I think the manager was right to assume that you were ‘asking’ (wink wink) for something to be done.

  • Wayne Dayton

    A 4-night stay…nothing “moderately priced” when the average nightly rate comes out to be $185…AND it’s non-refundable. What was the difference between the pre-paid and the cancel 24hrs prior rate…$15/nt? Often the difference in rates, the minimal “savings”, is about 10%…the commission they’ve screwed a travel agent out of by making the pre-paid rate non-commissionable. They need not have given a credit to any hotel in their chain…but most franchises are not single-location operations, they are owned by REITs and managed by multi-location hotel management firms that tend to have several locations over many brands nationwide; they need not have given said credit at Chain A but could have said “here’s a credit at any of X properties across North America that WE own/manage”….especially when the GM admits he will re-sell the room, probably at a higher rate. If he had said “no”, then I would have said “ok, keep my reservation”…no way you’re going to profit twice on my behalf.

  • Nikki

    Context is important… I agree with that… but I think the manager could have worded things a little differently without coming off as being snide (which is what I took away from all that). The one-line response throwing your quote back at you, boasting that he could re-sell the room… sorry, that’s not professional. Now, it was nice of him to authorize a refund, which we all know he didn’t have to do, but his attempts at being the travel agent for the guilt trip? He gets serious negative points from me for that. There’s ways to handle yourself in emails without being like that.

    And yeah – the OP sort of had me until the “fixed income” mention. If it was that important to her to be there, fixed income or not, she knew it was a nonrefundable room and paid accordingly. Sympathy points down the drain to the tunes of a wailing violin here…

    Chris – you have got to stop beating yourself up. There’s been more than enough people willing to do that to you, why do it to yourself? You go with your gut both in your writing and in your actions. Don’t take “you’re your own worst critic” so freakin’ literally!

  • jpp42

    I think the best solution for this would be for the restricted room rates to have a cancellation fee equivalent to the difference between the standard and restricted rate. For example, if the full rate is $180/night and the restricted rate is $150/night, the cancellation fee is $30/night. This fee would reimburse the hotel for the adminsitrative costs of processing the refund as well as covers the risk they may not be able to resell that room. This same risk would exist if a standard, refundable rate had been reserved in the first place, and by offering the restricted rate, the hotel is discounting the room by $30/night to avoid that risk. So it seems asking the guest to pay this difference in event of cancellation would be fair. But I haven’t ever seen any hotels actually operating with this type of structure – probably “cancellation fees” would get people angry too :(

  • Taylor Michie

    From a customer service standpoint, I think the hotel manager handled this poorly, and could’ve come off a little more diplomatic in his email.

    However, I think his point is more or less valid. People will do anything to save a buck, including booking nonrefundable hotel/airfare/etc., but when their plans change, they always want an exception. That’s just not the way it works. The rules don’t apply to everyone *except* you. I want to be sympathetic towards the OP and her financial situation, but this one seems pretty cut and dry.

  • John Baker

    This one case highlights a few points I’ve made in the past…

    1. For some reason, people will no longer except responsibility for their decisions. There’s always some reason why the non-refundable rate they booked should be refunded. The manager said as much. Such as in this case, she accepted a discount for a non-refundable room. When things changed, now she wants to change the deal. Imagine if the hotel took the same view and decided to increase her rate because of something it didn’t foresee. I don’t see her having the same view when the “shoe is on the other foot.”

    2. The power of the pen is a broad weapon. There are going to be very few businesses that can afford the risk of annoying the media… Put a different way, one of my dad’s favorite quotes is “never get in a p@$$ing match with a guy that buys ink by the tanker truck. You always lose.” Intended or not, most GMs or owners are going to roll over when Chris writes (whether justified or not) because they can’t afford the bad press. Even if they have done nothing wrong, that’s not how a consumer advocate is going to write the story.

    In this case, how much did she really save on the prepaid rate? $10 – $15 maybe? Hotel rates aren’t like airline fares. The price difference is marginal and I never pay the non-refundable rate for a stay more than a few days out. When I do, I understand that the money is spent whether I show up or not.

  • Nikki

    It is for this reason that I personally do not use OTAs for reservations. The cost difference is, indeed, very marginal… and I’d like the flexibility of cancelling if I have to, without being charged. (Of course, as long as I do it within the property’s cxl policies.)

  • marina

    Yup. @jpp42 nailed it exactly. He will have no problem re-selling the room, so I don’t feel bad he refunded the money. To me, it seems win-win all round. She gets cash back and he hasn’t lost anything if the room is re-sold.

  • Lisa M McN

    Well, just because a hotel carries a flag does not mean they have the ability or authority to give a Brand Credit. There are so many species of hotel branding: Owned and Operated, Managed, Franchised, etc. However, most GM’s or Hotel Managers I have known would have gladly returned the funds. The dates was over 90 days out, the circumstance was an extended one, and the customer was sincere.
    I agree with the Hotel Managers opinions and statements. However, I think, as with all matters of hospitality and even the meeting industry, each case warrants it own review and consideration against upholding policy.

  • Asiansm Dan

    187.50$ for a non-labor-day non-refundable rate is expensive. It’s a bad decision, specially with all the highly RANDOM status of the actual airlines industries, bizarre weather and sentimental relationship of today youths. If the discount is not 50% or more, the non-refundable restriction is not worth.

    I have 3 cousins who cancelled their wedding more than once, since I have one preformated answer and an Email Template, “Congratulations, but sorry, I will be in Thailand at this date”.

  • Nikki

    Ohhhhhhhh, I should do that for next wedding season………..!! Sure would save me a lot of agony! lol

  • John Baker

    I should have added the following too…. (Sorry Chris)

    Chris does a lot of really great work for people who have been wronged. He’s also genuinely a very nice guy. None of my comments are meant to try and destroy or invalidate his life’s work. They’re just observations. Sometimes we learn the most when we learn how we are perceived.

    In fact, I gave his name yesterday to a group that had been done very wrong by a cruise line even though the line is acting, marginally, within the bounds of the cruise contract.

  • segv

    I would have said no refund – except for the fact that the hotel was going to easily resell the room – that doesn’t sit well with me – if I bought a nonrefundable room and couldn’t come and couldn’t get a refund, I wouldn’t cancel – I’d want the room to stay empty! Double-dipping just doesn’t seem right. If the room is resold, the customer should get a refund. If they can’t resell, no refund is appropriate

    FTR… once made a nonrefundable reservation at a Westin in Memphis by mistake on their site- called the hotel immediately and they cancelled it with no penalties… rest assured, I will stay at that hotel preferentially whenever I go to Memphis (which I do often)

  • John Baker

    @ianparrish:disqus You said it far better than I did

  • Escriteur

    jpp42 made the same two points that occurred to me:

    * If the hotel’s general manager openly states that he “won’t have any problem reselling the room,” then why be so hard-nosed about considering a refund in this instance, especially with 4 months advance notice? While I understand that he feels people should have repercussions for booking and then trying to cancel non-refundable rates, is it ethical to collect payment twice on a room (the original booking and the resell), when the original customer is not receiving the service she paid for?

    * Since it’s true the hotel makes a little less money for rooms booked at the no-refund advance booking rate vs. the standard rate, as jpp42 suggested, they could have have charged her the difference in the two rates as a fee for cancelling what is normally a non-refundable rate. The hotel would at least get something out of it, and the customer would (hopefully) learn a lesson about the value of paying the small upcharge for cancellation privileges in future.

    There is also one thing that puzzles me about this case. If the general manager wasn’t willing to give the customer favorable consideration, why wouldn’t she appeal to the executives of the hotel chain to request a credit to be used at Texas properties? To maintain the customer’s goodwill toward the brand as a whole, they might have been more willing to work with her than a local hotel manager.

    At any rate, while I understand those that say the OP didn’t deserve a refund when she booked a non-refundable rate, I’m glad that she got one — it wasn’t her fault the bride & groom flaked out on their wedding plans, so why should she be punished? I think you did the right thing, Chris — it’s not your fault the hotel manager got snippy instead of trying to have a reasonable dialog.

  • SoBeSparky

    Always ask for a specific cure to a disagreement. Never leave it generalized or open to interpretation. Those rules I was taught here or elsewhere by consumer advocates. Without knowing how to please the disgruntled customer, how can the vendor respond?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    “Tell them what you want – use your sweet voice! I’ve already mentioned the importance of a positive attitude. Be extra nice. Leaving this detail out could doom your request to failure. It leaves the question of “How do you fix this?” up to the customer-service representative – and rest assured, their answer will disappoint you more often than not.”

    P. 152 of Scammed, by Christopher Elliott.

  • SoBeSparky

    I thought so!

  • Nikki

    Oh I dunno John, you did just fine. :D

  • Michelle B.

    If the hotel manager hadn’t written “I’ll have no problem reselling the room”, my reaction would be completely different. But since he did know he could easily resell the room, refunding the money is an acceptable outcome to all. It was his choice to do so, and you should not feel guilty.

  • bodega3

    I think the manager made a comment that is exactly what is happening today and Chris plays a part in this. What part of nonrefundable don’t people get? Many hotels offer a lower price for the room if a guest books a nonrefundable rate. This rate lets the management know they have a guaranteed guest. But due to pressure of bad publicity by Chris, the manager caved in even though the OP, with what she claims are her savings planned to stay at an hotel that costs about $200 with taxes. There are less expensive hotels just north of Mill Valley, which is one of the most expensive and upscale areas north of the Golden Gate.
    If the OP couldn’t afford to lose her nonrefundable room rate, then why did she book it? I am sorry that the manager gave in to what he felt was pressure to refund something to the OP. So I guess when you look up the definition of nonrefundable, it should not say, it doesn’t apply to travel plans when you complain.

  • emanon256

    The whole reason hotels offer discounted non-refundable rates, is because they know some people will cancel and the hotel does not have to refund them. If they refunded every non-refundable discounted room in the event the room is re-sold, then that would drive the rate of the non-refundable rooms up to the same amount as refundable rooms defeating the entire purpose behind the discounted rate.

  • BobChi

    Chris does have something of a thin skin. Nobody is trying invalidate 20 years of work, shut him down, or anything because we disagree with him from time to time. As you say, he does play a commendable role when people are truly wronged. I do think it’s true that almost every single case where a person wants to get a refund for something they knowingly purchased as non-refundable, they have some kind of sad story to tell about why they deserve it. If there’s a rate called “non-refundable except if you have a sad story to tell,” I’ll book that rate every time. Otherwise, I’ll carefully weigh the likelihood plans will change, and refrain from booking non-refundable if there’s some reasonable doubt. For lodging, in particular, the difference is usually not really large, so be willing to pay a little extra and know plans do change sometimes.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I believe you nailed it as to why the hotel owner gave the refund. His only workable options were refund, or keep the money. She’d already been offered the option of keeping the reservation but moving the dates…and that wasn’t workable for her, since she has no reason to travel to that area. So there it was – give her back her money, or not.

    Also, given that this was likely a franchisee, this was not some corporate manager with superior negotiation skills. He’s probably just a small-time hotel manager. He got Christopher’s email and figured, give in or get a nasty write-up and lose business.

    While I understand Christopher firing off his usual email and expecting it to be given appropriate consideration, I have to agree with Kevin Mathews above – he should have worded it more clearly. It’s funny – Christopher himself says that one of the mistakes we make when complaining to a merchant is that we don’t ask for exactly what we want. In this case, neither did he – he just asked for some nebulous, indefinable “anything you might be able to do”.

    I wouldn’t allow this to become an existential dilemma…but if I were Christopher, I WOULD take this as an opportunity to think about the wording I use when mediating for clients who don’t, officially, deserve anything back.

  • emanon256

    The whole reason the non-refundable rooms are discounted, is because there are accountants estimating how many people will cancel without refund, and the discount is based on that number. If hotels refunded non-refundable rooms when they were able to re-sell a reservation, it defeats the entire purpose of the discounted non-refundable rooms, and drives the discount to $0. Its a risk for both parties, the traveler is gambling that they will not need to cancel when taking the discount, and the hotel is gambling that enough people will cancel to make up for the loss they took by giving the discount. They system works as intended, and the only problem is that people think they should still get a refund on a non-refundable rate.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Just a random observation, completely unrelated to whether I agree with the outcome here:

    I REALLY wish people would stop playing the “I’m on a fixed income” card. Who ISN’T on a fixed income? I work full time, and I’m on a fixed income – I get the same paycheck every two weeks. Does that make me more sympathetic and worthy of a refund? How do we know what her “fixed income” is? Maybe she gets $10,000 a month! If what she’s trying to say is that she lives on a “modest” or “low” income, then say that. “Fixed” just means it’s the same every month. And even knowing that her income might be low doesn’t affect what I believe the outcome should be. Regardless of how poor or wealthy someone is, if they are wronged by a company, the company should make it right.

    In fact, knowing that she’s (ostensibly) financially strapped makes me feel LESS inclined to root for her, since it seems not very wise to have spent that much money on a non-refundable stay. I’d love to know the hotel – it must be a ritzy place for that rate!

    Just for the record, I’m not a heartless wench. I actually think the right thing happened here…mainly because it’s so far in advance. Yes, rules are rules – but we’re all humans, and we all have the option of showing some compassion. But part of me agrees with the hotel manager that she should have considered this possibility before she devoted a large chunk of her savings to an expensive hotel stay.

  • Suki Eleuterio

    I think the true takeaway from this is the problem with unintentional email tone. Tone in email is always a problem and something that should be considered wisely before sending. The woman was fortunate to get her money back. I have lost money at “non-refundable” hotels before and it is quite a shame when you will never see that money again.

  • bodega3

    Then why book nonrefundable rates? You do have options.

  • Londoner1936

    I am about to lose 90 Euros on a non-refundable room at the Ibis hotel, Paris CDG airport. Why did we take a non-refundable rate ? We were flying out the following day on a fundamentally non-refundable air reservation to the US. Done this frequently in the past, and we kept our schedule, but this time, sickness intervened … and we are not even in France right now. So you swallow the loss – not overwhelming, but a loss for all that – and we also are on a “fixed” income (as one poster says, who is not a “Fixed income”, old or young, pensioners or working people – very few). My savings were minimal – the rate would have been 115 Euros for a refundable reservation, but I grew up watching every penny and old habits die hard. Ibis will probably resell the room – there are always masses of customers in the lobby in the early evening, with or without reservations. Reservation made through the Accor Hotels web site – works well, efficient, and clear about conditions.

    So, yes, I am left wondering why make a 4 day non-refundable reservation in the very upscale community of MIll Valley, CA ? Well, why not, Sandy Neff did not expect this wedding to be canceled any more than I expected to get sick and become unable to travel. This is the way cookie crumbles, and we have to live with it, hard as it seems.

    And as to Chris feeling guilty or putting pressure on the hotel management; well that also is the way the cookie crumbles. I see nothing wrong in what he asked for, and if the manager, after admitting he will have no problem reselling the room, gets a bit snippy about the way Chris handled the matter, too bad for him. He should have been a bit more adept perhaps, and offered her half of her payment back as a good will gesture, and then, even if he did not resell the room for all four nights, at least he minimized his losses, and one can guess that he can certainly resell the room for at least two of those four nights.

    Ms. Neff got more than she probably really deserved (though who am I to define this), and the manager got in his two cents worth on the issue of refundable and non-refundable reservations, so he should feel better.

    One final thought: non-refundable reservations for hotel rooms seem to me to be from the past 10-15 years, and I say this with 50 years of hotel reservations behind me. There was a time when all you forfeited as a no show was one nights room charge. Various hotel chains had various policies concerning cancellations, but even the most rigorous usually only required 3-4 days advanced notice. Was this not a satisfactory approach to the matter ? And I cannot see why even the most demanding advanced reservation system cannot offer a full refund for a cancellation 30 or 45 days in advance, and a sliding scale after that ???

  • Noah

    If the hotel is easily able to re-rent the room, I don’t understand why it’s able to keep her money in any event (other than the cost of re-renting the room or the difference in room rate). When the amount of damages are ascertainable, as they are in the case of a hotel room rental, that kind of contract provision is called a penalty clause (rather than a “liquidated damages clause” in a case where damages are not likely to be ascertainable), and is not enforceable.

    From a legal standpoint, they have to mitigate their damages and she IS entitled to a refund. The only issue here is that they already had her money making it hard to enforce her rights.

  • Noah

    This was the fair outcome. The hotel said it could easily re-rent the room. It wasn’t injured by her cancelling her reservation. Why would it get to keep her money?

  • LeeAnneClark

    LIKE TIMES 1000! This was so perfectly stated. Wish I’d written it.

  • Helio

    It really amazes me when someone’s plans change, and he/she asks for a refund because he/she cannot afford LOSING the money. But before he/she could afford SPENDING the money?

    And she played the “fixed income” card. I’m not sympathetic. Luckily for her, Chris got a refund. But she didn’t deserve it – at least, not a full one.

  • Jim Zakany

    I’ll give you that point, but will counter that resources are limited and it is therefore important that some benefit is derived from their expenditure.

    If you purchased a $2000 television and it didn’t work, you would hardly just accept it because, well, you could afford to spend the money when you bought it.

    No. You’d return it. maybe you’d buy a different one. Maybe you’d use the money to buy granite counters for the kitchen. But you would not feel compelled to keep an unusable item because you had the money to buy it.

  • bodega3

    What part of the contracted nonrefundable rate do you not understand? She opted for an advance, discounted rate then needed to cancel. Why is this the hotels fault? She had options, nobody made her book at this hotel, at that rate. Sorry, but being a business owner myself, I get tired of listening to people whine when they change their minds and want a refund, when the purchase is NONREFUNDABLE.

  • Jim Zakany

    The hotel manager chose to refund the client her money.

    If he felt bad about his decision, well, that’s his problem and no one else’s.

  • Carol

    I have a client who has changed and/or cancelled every reservation I have ever booked for him. I have repeatedly suggested that he either wait until he’s sure he will be traveling or purchase refundable air tickets or hotel rooms that can be cancelled up to day of arrival. He will never do this. He always wants the lowest fare no matter what. On every hotel reservation that he has cancelled, it was within their cancellation policy and he would normally lose at least one night’s charge. I do go the extra mile and place a call to the hotel to see if they will waive their penalty and so far they have done it on every one of his reservations. I don’t want my client to lose money if possible, but I am also frustrated every time they agree to waive the penalty. On every one of these instances, I have lost what little commission i would have made and all of my efforts resulted in zero compensation as I do not charge a fee for hotel bookings.
    It’s the same with air tickets. I do charge a fee for those (unless I can book one of our contracted fares where I can still make commission). There is a lot of work involved in trying to get a refund on a non-refundable airline ticket. If I refund it myself I will most certainly get a debit memo from the airline, not only charging me back for the entire cost of the ticket, but adding an admin fee on top of that.
    It’s not fair to refund non-refundable tickets or hotel reservations for some and not for others. I realize there are extenuating circumstances in all cases that should be looked at but refunding because a meeting was cancelled, or a wedding was called off, and other similar excuses do not qualify in my opinion. I’m stuck in the middle: I must adhere to the airline’s rules or they will charge me and the client who gets a “no” answer from me and then calls the airline directly and gets a refund, makes me look bad.
    I’ve been in the business for over 20 years and book mostly international air for corporate, missionary and adoption travel and do my best to see the client gets the best fare and schedule possible. I do not feel it’s fair to refund anything non-refundable unless there is illness and those should be done on a case-by-case basis.
    As many posters have already commented, “What part of non-refundable do they not understand?”.

  • bodega3

    If you buy a TV based on a nonrefundable price, it usually still has a warranty that you contact the manufacturer directly about for service.

    People should make responsible decisions on purchases, but it doesn’t appear most have to when they can whine and get their way on both ends sides of the purchase.

  • Jim Zakany

    I don’t understand you.

    You say, “it’s not fair to refund non-refundable tickets or hotel reservations for some and not for others” then immediately state that it might be fair depending on the circumstances, but it was unfair in your opinion in this case.

    So it’s never fair, but it might be fair, but this wasn’t fair.


  • Carol

    Sorry if my post was confusing. What I was trying to say is that I do believe that in a case of sudden illness, that would be considered an extenuating circumstance. I do not believe that a wedding being cancelled or a meeting date being changed qualifies to get a non-refundable ticket refunded. If the airline or hotel will refund for these reasons, then they should refund for any reason and for everyone. Again, if something is non-refundable I believe those words do not need further definition.

  • Helio

    It depends.

    If I buy a boxed, brand new TV, I’ll want a refund because I’ll be upset, it must work fine, not because “I’m living in a fixed income, this came from my savings, my dad gave me this money from the savings account of my mother with Alzheimer, etc., etc.”

    But if I buy a demo TV, opened, with no warranty or no return, with a big discount, I’ll be gambling. I’d need to evaluate if the discount is good enough to take the chances. If I turn on this TV and it works fine, cool – I saved money. But if it didn’t work, well, I knew I had this risk – I was advised that there was no warranty or no refund. And I do believe that non-refundable reservations should work in the same way.

    Of course nothing is so black and white. I appreciate Chris efforts to help people, and I agree that in some circumstances exceptions should be made. I only think that this one isn’t the case.

  • emanon256

    I was typing something similar and “new comment” popped up and it was pretty much what I was typing. So I deleted it and replaced it with this :)

  • emanon256

    it wasn’t her fault the bride & groom flaked out on their wedding plans, so why should she be punished?

    It wasn’t the hotels fault that the bride and groom flaked out, so why should the hotel be punished?

  • emanon256

    Buying non-refundable is always a risk/reward proposition for both parties. The risk is incurred because its non-refundable. The guest is betting their plans won’t change and they get the reduced rate. The hotel is betting the guests plans will change, and they can keep the money and re-sell the room. Hotels work hard to calculate these discounts based on how many people historically cancel. Its a form of hedging the hotel uses. If these non-refundable rates keep getting refunded, they will nullify the discount offered, as well as drive up the refundable rates if the hotel was actually good at their hedging which I believe they are.
    I think it was actually very nice of the hotel to offer two nights, that was more than they had to do, and shows they believe in good customer service. But they really didn’t have to do that at all, and probably should not have. I also udnerstand them not offering credit at another hotel with the same name. As mentioned, many hotels are individually owned, and many others are owned by a group that owns several hotels across brands. Even for these conglomerates, it would be an accounting nigthmare to transfer the credit from one hotel to another, assuming they even had any in Texas.

    The OP took a risk by booking the cheaper non-refundable rate. That is a risk she took. If she has anyone to blame other than herself it should be the Bride and Groom. Then again, I doubt they suggested she get a non-refundable room, that was her choice. There are so many cases like this, and I always wonder why they can afford to pay for it, and then later suddenly can’t afford it. It baffles me. They paid knowing it was non-refundable. Yes it was out of the OPs control, but it was also out of the hotels control. Why should the hotel suffer when they were up front with the terms?

    Now my real question is what happens to gifts people already bought and shipped to the Bride and Groom? I really want to know because I bought wedding presents for a couple who later called off their wedding. I never received the gifts back, and never received a thank you. Whats is the etiquette there?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Has it occurred to anyone that maybe the NIECE should hold some responsibility here, and have maybe helped out her financially strapped Aunt? Hey, she’s the one who booked a destination wedding and then told all her relatives to make their reservations. I’d be willing to bet the aunt was not the only one who made non-refundable plans based on the niece’s word that there would be a wedding.

    Isn’t it incumbent on on couples who book destination weddings and then cancel, to offer remuneration to relatives who book non-refundable trips for the wedding that didn’t happen?

    I think a question to Miss Manners is in order.

  • John Baker

    Hold her darling niece responsible? Never :-)
    It can’t be anyone’s fault but the mean hotel GM.

  • emanon256

    Who is this Miss Manners? I must ask her the question I proposed in my comment just above (or below) yours.

  • JenniferFinger

    I don’t think you’re a bad consumer advocate, Chris, and I do think there was some misunderstanding between the hotel manager and you at first, because it sounds like he thought you wanted him to refund Neff her money at first.

    And that would have been a fair exchange to me. As he said, he could have re-rented the room without losing money. A credit adjustment does mean that they’re not going to have the cash to spend on payrolls, maintenance, and the other costs of running a hotel. He was even willing to offer her a credit, but the fact that Neff finds the required dates “worthless,” or that she wants to stay at another property or she’s on a fixed income can’t really be his problem.

  • emanon256

    Would this hotel be the Holiday Inn Express perhaps? I get almost the exact same rate for those 4 nights if I pre-pay. Its only $10 more a night to pay later which is then fully refundable. If I am right, the OP only saved $40 by pre-paying.

  • LeeAnneClark

    LOL I just saw your comment above mine…I was wondering why nobody yet had brought up the responsibility of the erstwhile bride & groom.

    You also brought up another excellent point. It cracks me up when people on a “fixed income” willingly spend money when they think they are getting something for it, then when they can’t do whatever it is they spent the money for, suddenly they can’t afford to “lose” that money. I guess the joy of going on the trip would have made up for their inability to buy groceries for the next few months after it, huh? ;-)

  • Susakajo

    In your voting poll, you didn’t give an option of providing credit within the chain’s other hotels as the customer had asked. Also, if a lot of people pre-booked for the wedding the owner may be getting multiple requests for refunds.

  • sanibelsyl

    I voted no refund simply because the hotel was not obligated. But they did refund, which is nice of them to have done. I agree with many statements here and especially the remark that the niece holds some responsibility as does the very faulty email communication where tone is missing, a key ingredient in interpreting what is really being said. I don’t see any one, including yourself, having done anything “wrong” here.

  • Nathan Witt

    I DO understand the “rules are rules” crowd. It’s not as if customers aren’t informed of the terms of their purchases beforehand. What I DON’T understand is why the rules in the travel industry uniformly appear to benefit the vendor at the expense of the consumer. Why is there even such a thing as a hotel rate that’s completely non-refundable at any time, even months before the date of use? What other industry tells you that it’s justifiable for them to keep your money in exchange for exactly nothing? Sure, they incur a nominal cost to open the room back up for another reservation, and for pretty much everyone else, that’s called a cost of doing business.
    What this tells me as a traveler is that it’s me vs. them. They don’t want any relationship with me other than one where I pay them money. They don’t care if I enjoy myself, get a reasonable deal, or like them/recommend them afterward. As Chris has outlined in other articles, they’d rather game the review system to make themselves appear friendly, clean, reasonable, etc. than do the work to BE those things. Obviously, this is not true of every travel service provider, but it appears that it’s becoming more common than not.

  • bodega3

    I think you are looking at this the wrong way. The vendors are giving you a discount for committing to your reservation with their nonrefundable pricing. They also offer other rates/fares that give you more flexibility, so it is up to you to decide on what you want to book.
    This isn’t just in the travel industry. Many stores have items that they will offer that is ‘all sales final’. Again, you have decide on if you wish to take the risk of not liking it after getting it home.
    This isn’t the business against you, it is the business offering a special to save you money, but once you commit, you are the one who pays for a change of mind/plans.
    When I sell a travel package that saves a client money off an FIT booking, they are told that while they are saving money, there are restrictions. If they don’t change anything, the savings is great. But if they make a change, the cost will usually off set their savings.
    Where does the purchaser take responsibility for their decisions?

  • Randall Shirley

    I think of the risk EVERY time I consider a non-refundable room or car or flight. And I have eaten the loss on a few of them. If you click “agree” to the terms and conditions and that includes no refunds, for heaven’s sake, it MEANS NO REFUNDS! Silly girls. And Chris, as someone who’s out there, actively traveling right now and making these same kinds of purchase decisions for your “away is home” family, you knew better on this one–never should have become involved.

  • Noah

    There is no part of it that I don’t understand. The “nonrefundable” part of the contract is an unenforceable penalty provision. Reread what I wrote.

  • bodega3

    No it isn’t. You click that you agree to the terms and conditions. That is a contract. I have seen it win in court.

  • Noah

    Note, of course, that this would be different if you sell widgets and you could sell an unlimited number of them. But a hotel only has so many rooms on a certain day. If the hotel can replace the guest, they aren’t injured by the guest’s breach, and shouldn’t be able to keep her money. Why does the hotel get windfall, allowing it to rent the same room twice?

    And, I agree that if the hotel can’t re-rent the room, then it keeps her money. That’s not the situation here – the hotel GM made that clear.

  • bodega3

    That would be up to the establishment, but since the OP knew the terms up front and agreed to them by giving out her credit card, what does it matter what the hotel will or won’t do with her room. They are in business and she tied up the room with her reservation as she made a commitment. Had she booked a cancelable rate, the hotel would not know if she will show up or not and thus might overbook on those room.
    Hey Judge Judy would tell the OP to not book these type of rooms if she can’t afford to go and too bad :-)!

  • Nathan Witt

    I agree that the purchaser bears some responsibility for their choices. But the services providers have set up a false dichotomy; i.e., for non-refundable reservatiosn, once you make a reservation, the burden of reselling the seat/room/cabin is so onerous that we can’t give you your money back, and if we did, we’d go broke On the other hand, losing the money on refundable fares is fine.
    Telling a customer who cancels in May that rebooking the room before September is impossible isn’t honest. In the case of the airlines, the cost difference between a refundable and non-refundable fares eliminates the flexible option from consideration for most people. It seems that the fair balance between the two positions is to allow full refunds up to a certain time point before the use of services.

  • Lindabator

    Because those who TOOK RESPONSIBILITY and paid full price IN CASE they had a problem, did not get that lower rate. She took no responsibility, got the lower price, then called foul. And as this manager said, it is becoming more and more prevelent.

  • bodega3

    The service provider has offered you a lower rate for your commitment. Cancel and you don’t get your money back. What they do or don’t do with the product afterwards isn’t your business. You told them, by booking a NONREFUNDABLE rate, you are traveling regardless or you are willing to forfeit the cost of the product due to your change of mind. The OP could have still stayed, she just decided not to still travel. That was her decision. I don’t think making the hotel into the bad guy is fair.
    BTW, if this is for this coming Sept, it isn’t know if that room will be full, is it?

  • bodega3

    Sad statement of today’s mentality isn’t it. I want it all :-(

  • Lindabator

    So true! Everyone just assumes the hotel should be the one to bend the rules, but why? Everyone has a “reason” to cancel that nonrefundable room – they can’t make “exceptions” to everyone!

  • Lindabator

    His comment was to say he did not argue that point – his problem was with the multitudes of people who thought they could game the system — book the cheapest rate, nonrefundable, then cancel and whine you’re special and get the refund anyway.

  • Lindabator

    Too true – I heard excuses like this all the time when I worked for the airlines – and it was always OUR fault they chose the cheapest flight with the strictest rules, and therefore OUR fault when they cancelled and wanted a refund. (REALLY???)

  • Lindabator

    You might want to start charging a PITA fee :) — we had a standard fee that was imposed on any reservation cancelled in full. (Did not have to use it, but would for a client like this). You’re right – you are spending a lot of time playing a revolving door system for this client, and if you could not recoup something for all the work, the only alternative is to fire him (after all, he’s only a valuable client if it isn’t COSTING you to keep him!)

  • Lindabator

    BRAVO! BEST comment I’ve heard yet! :)

  • Lindabator

    But they don’t. The travelling public is the ONLY sector who have not seen the same raise in pricing other areas have. They whine for cheaper and cheaper – so airlines, hotels, etc come up with cheap and restrictive fares, higher fares with less restrictions, or HIGH rates with no restrictions. Then you can choose based on need. But people want all the benefits of the HIGH fare for the cheapest rate – and THAT is the problem, and why that sense of entitlement is coming out more and more. IF you can’t afford to lose, you don’t gamble; if you can’t afford to lose, you don’t invest in the market. So why do we assume if we can’t afford to lose we should still risk it with travel vendors and then whine when we lose???

  • emanon256

    This sums the whole thing up beautifully:

    But people want all the benefits of the HIGH fare for the cheapest rate –
    and THAT is the problem, and why that sense of entitlement is coming
    out more and more.

  • emanon256

    The hotel never says its going to be so onerous to re-sell the room/seat, etc. that we can’t give you your money back. In fact, they have every right to re sell it and keep the money. The discount that you get takes into account the face that some people will cancel and not get their money back. In fact, when determining the discount they give, they account for how often they can re-sell the room, and they account for keeping the money. Its a very complicated science to calculate the non-refundable rates, some of the actuaries who do this are the smartest people I know. If airlines, hotels, what have you made everything refundable, get ready to pay much higher fares across the board. And by higher, I mean higher that the current refundable rate as well.

  • Cheri Head

    When someone books a room at a hotel, both parties enter into a contract: the guest agrees to pay for the room they book, and the hotel agrees to provide them that room and not sell it to anyone else. Seems simple enough to me. When a hotel is very clear about its cancellation policies–especially in the case of a discounted, non-refundable room–I believe it is the responsibility of the person who books the room to live up to their part of the bargain. The fact that the wedding was cancelled was not the fault of the hotel. Yes, you can argue the point that it wasn’t the fault of the woman who booked the room, either, but if someone has to take a financial hit, why should it be the hotel and not the person who knowingly booked a non-refundable room? We own a small hotel, and cancellations can and do cause us great financial harm. But many people seem to think that if someone has to absorb a loss, it should always be the hotel. I never understood that.

    People….read the hotel’s cancellation policy before booking. If you don’t agree to it, don’t book there. If you book something that is non-refundable, spring for the few extra bucks for travel insurance. But don’t try to push your loss off onto an innocent third party. It just isn’t fair. Take some personal responsibility.

    That being said, it never hurts to ask if the hotel might be able to make an exception. But if the hotel says no, don’t throw a hissy fit about how unfairly you’re being treated. Accept it and move on. We have made exceptions to our cancellation policy in the past, especially for people who are very nice, but sometimes we just can’t do it. It’s never fair to blackmail the hotel by threatening negative online reviews or other such measures unless the hotel somehow caused the problem. You’re the one not living up to your part of the bargain–not the hotel.

  • wiseword

    Doesn’t the niece bear some responsibility? She TOLD the aunt to make a reservation right away. She might have offered some compensation, perhaps a night or two at a reasonably convenient hotel. Oh, I know I’m dreaming!

  • Noah

    How is the hotel harmed by having the room “tied up” if it’s ultimately able to rent the room at the same rate? (Other than the cost of re-renting, which I agree she’s responsible for.)

    I totally agree, to avoid this fight, OP should have booked a refundable rate. But these types of penalty clauses are held invalid all the time. The fact that she “signed the contract” doesn’t necessarily make each of its terms enforceable.

  • Helio

    I had a friend who called off the wedding few weeks before the date, and he sent back all gifts he won, even the refrigerator, stove, TV, etc. My mother won a nice new second-hand blender by this time… ;-)

  • Helio

    It seems nobody is aware of the concept of “Sunk Cost”…

  • Cass

    I don’t think she was “playing a card”. I think to her it was an important point and she wasn’t saying “I *need* this *because* I’m on a fixed income.” She went on to say that she knew it wasn’t likely she was going to get a refund but she was hopeful they would at least give her something she could use instead of something she couldn’t use. Also, some of you may be just fine with spending the extra $40-80 (as others here have estimated) she would have spent had she booked a room that was refundable but when you are on a “fixed budget” it usually means you are living on assistance and that much money is food for a week. Something like a wedding could have been her one big thing for the next 5-10 years, money she took from her savings. Yeah, she could have left it out but saying it doesn’t mean she’s “playing” anything, just that it is something that greatly affects her. If she had said that her husband had died and she could no longer afford the trip, would the reaction be that she was “playing the death card”?

  • bodega3

    As a Seller of Travel, I have heard it all over the years. You get jaded but I do have a heart, which is why I NEVER had anyone book nonrefundable hotel rates, which are usually only a same amount less for that ‘just in case’ situation. It is penny wise and pound foolish to not think ahead. Life happens. The hotel offered her something and she didn’t like it. Hard for me to be sympathetic.

  • bodega3

    Well if you want to fight the next nonrefundable contract you enter into, please share your experience and results with us. And we wonder why we pay more for things due to lawsuits from those who don’t follow the rules!

  • Carol

    Exactly! And as you mentioned above, what about the responsible people who booked a higher rate in case they needed to cancel? They are then being punished for abiding by the rules and booking the appropriate rate.

  • TonyA_says

    Interesting. It was easier to back out of a wedding than a non-refundable hotel room.

  • PsyGuy

    The innkeeper was going to resell the room anyway, but with $750 less in the bank since he gave the traveler a refund. How is that win-win? From an accounting standpoint it’s Win-Lose $750.

  • TonyA_says

    When does advocacy cross the line and gets closer to tortious interference? Sometimes the customer or consumer is just wrong and the other party should be able to enforce their contract without being shamed in public. Also enough of this fixed income pity garbage. My income is not fixed. It is going down :(

  • Frank Windows

    I can’t believe they pounced on “Anything you can do…” but on the other hand, Chris, perhaps you should have pounced on “I will have no problem reselling the room.” If that’s the case, then the whole non-refundable room idea is just a cash grab. Why not make the room refundable until a certain date? That would be fair to both hotel and traveler. A room that is non-refundable months before occupancy is the hotel’s answer to the $150 airline change fee… in other words, it’s BS.

  • Brian

    I understand why the hotel manager responded in that manner — if I had received that communication from Chris, I would feel like I was being pressured to give a refund.
    The hotel manager is right. Sandy knowingly booked a non refundable room for a specific date (at a discounted price), but then wanted a refund. The hotel’s offer of two nights compensation, is more than adequate (and I believe generous).
    There are many instances of the consumer being fleeced, and need help to obtian a refund. This was not one of them, and by “pressuring” the hotel to do more,
    I have booked non refundable rates, and have had to change my plans (and did not get a refund). But, I knew going into the transaction I was paying a lower price, in return for agreeign I would not get a refund.

  • bodega3

    So now you know you can stomp your feet and then write to Chris to get the rules broken because that what rules are now meant to be. Sort of like a Stop sign. It is just a suggestion, nobody stops any more.

  • Annie M

    First of all, did the bride explain to the guests that the hotel was non-refundable? It doesn’t sound like she had a group agreements with the hotel and was only advising them to book a room. And in this case, cancel for any reason travel insurance would have covered the guests.

    This is a case where a travel agent who books destination weddings could have made a huge difference for the bride AND her guests,

  • Annie M

    Well said. Let’s see what happens when Auntie tells the rest of the guests who may have booked that she got a refund.

  • Annie M

    She could have booked a refundable room at a higher price. The niece actually blew it by telling people to book – someone should have advised the guests of the different rate options. Apparently it seems she did not have a group contract with the hotel, as that would have left the BRIDE holding the bag for the canceled rooms if she canceled the wedding.

  • Annie M

    The hotel website most likely had two options – non-refundable and refundable and the guests chose the cheaper option. People that are not travel savvy should really use a travel agent who can help them understand what they are booking.

  • Annie M

    Well said.

  • Annie M

    Correct! If the bride had done the right thing and entered into a contract for the rooms, SHE would have been left holding the bag for her decision to cancel her wedding, not the guests.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Oh, GOD. I hadn’t thought about that. Too funny! Chris… get ready for some emails. :-)

  • Cat

    If the hotel can fill the room- why should it be entitled to keep her money? Why do businesses think they should get money for doing/providing nothing? Maybe a SMALL administration fee or a lessor charge if they actually can’t fill the room- after all it will be sitting empty, no housekeeping etc. Claiming a room rate (or flight cost) is not refundable should not absolve a business of acting in an ethical and fair manner. Can you imagine reversing this??- say you make some minor stipulation in your room contract and they forget to provide it- should your entire stay be for free?

  • Escriteur

    How is the hotel being “punished” if they’re able to resell the room, presumably at the same rate or higher? You honestly think she deserves to be out $750 for a service she has no way of using (or that would cost her substantially more to use, considering transportation and meals)? She booked the room in good faith, with every intention of traveling there for the wedding. I could certainly see them keeping the money if they weren’t able to resell the room. But since they CAN…what’s the harm in making things right for the customer in this instance? That said, as I stated, I think it would have been entirely fair for the hotel to deduct some type of fee to compensate for the time spent handling the reservation/cancellation — I’m not advocating a full refund as the only solution. Ah well; we’re all entitled to our opinion…those of us who feel certain concessions should be made on occasion in the name of customer service/goodwill, and those of you who believe the business is always right (caveat emptor!).

  • Escriteur

    You do have a valid point, Annie. Ideally, the bride should have been the one to contact the hotel on her guests’ behalf, and tried to resolve the issue to both the hotel AND the guests’ satisfaction…

  • Escriteur

    Exactly — excellent points!

  • Carol

    “Why do businesses think they should get money for doing/providing nothing? ”

    The answer is simple… because that is what she agreed to.
    I doubt it said anywhere that if her room wasn’t cleaned properly or some other excuse, that she could stay for free, but it DID state that her rate was non-refundable. She was not forced to book the non-refundable rate. She CHOSE to do it and then complained when her plans changed. Fairness doesn’t enter into it. She wanted a non-refundable rate. I put everything in writing for all of my clients so there is no misunderstanding later. I offer the lowest non-refundable rate or fare and also give the them the lowest refundable rate or fare and let them choose. It’s astonishing to me how many times they will contact me later and say “:My plans have changed. Can I get my money back?” I still don’t understand what part of NON-REFUNDABLE people are confused by. Do I think all airline and/or hotel rules are fair? Of course not. But no one is forcing anyone to purchase non-refundable rates or fares. They do it willingly knowing it is non-refundable and then feel that the rules do not apply to them. As another poster put it “they want the lowest rate with all the perks of the higher rate”. What about the people who book the higher rate that can be cancelled? It doesn’t seem fair to them if people who book non-refundable rates get their money back. Having been in this business for many years, this is not a rare occurrence. Many people expect money back even when they were completely informed there would be no refund if they cancelled.Sorry but you get what you pay for. She paid for a non-refundable rate. It’s that simple.

  • Emanuel Levy

    I couldn’t vote because I didn’t like the options. As the hotel manager said he will have no problem reselling the room. I’m 39 years old and consider myself on a fixed income. I get paid X amount for the work I do, If I have extra expenses it has to come out of my savings. I can’t go to my employer and say I need more money for my job.

    I do feel at times vendors will do what they think you want done because of the concern of bad publicity and I feel that happened here.

    Now as to what should have happened varies on the answer to one question.

    Was the hotel booked one that is a franchise or corporate owned? if it was a franchise then giving her credit at another location would cost the same as the refund because it is out of the pocket of the hotel. If it was corporate owned then it’s a wash.

  • Carol

    I truly don’t mean to sound so heartless in my comment above. I pride myself on doing all I can to get the best possible deal for my clients. But I also am extremely thorough in explaining the rules of whatever they are paying for. It’s amazing to me how many of those people who have all the rules in writing will still contact me expecting to get money back.

  • Annie M

    I agree! We have a cancellation fee for clients like this – how much work are you doing for nothing? I guarantee you if you imposed your owncancellation fee, this behavior would stop. By not doing it, you are allowing this client to abuse the system and YOU.

  • Suki Eleuterio

    Booked that hotel because I was flying in last minute and had to get a room quickly. Later read online that the room was in the “red light district” and had “severe bed bugs.” Now I ask you- would you stay at that hotel? So when I booked it and didn’t see in the fine print it was non-refundable, I decided to not stay at the hotel and took the money as a loss. I would rather do that than end up with bed bug bites all over me. Options maybe- but non-refundable hotels are very good at scamming. Is all I’m saying.

  • bodega3

    I wouldn’t have booked it without doing more research. Last minute reservation made, then having time after booking is the bookers fault. There is no scam, just someone who screwed up on what they booked! Just saying.

  • ndally

    I travel extensively and often my schedule changes. I book rooms on refundable rates well in advance of my travel to make sure I have a space. Using AARP, AAA membership discounts, etc.. Often is a rate very similar to the “non-cancellable rate. I also look again, closer to the travel date when I know that my plans are firm for a better non-cancellable rate and if I find one, I book the room and cancel the original rate. Considering the difference in the two rates, even if I don’t get the lower one, it takes quite a few of the difference between the rates to make up for paying for a room I can’t use

  • ndally

    Another point… The manager probably couldn’t offer a credit for other flagged locations. Most hotels are franchised and while he may have been able to give a credit to other properties managed by his group it would have been difficult to do so across the chain.