We would love to help, but what’s the problem?

By | March 17th, 2017

Wendy Mettger made two hotel reservations for her upcoming trip to Sicily and ended up canceling both. She contacted us for help obtaining confirmation of these cancellation transactions. But when we searched through her meticulous paper trail, we found that she already had a firm cancellation for the reservation that she was concerned about.

So where was the problem?

Mettger’s case is proof that there is such a thing as being too cautious and perhaps missing out on the enjoyment and anticipation that comes with planning a great vacation. It also highlights what our advocates will — and will not do for you.

When Mettger contacted us, she was concerned that some time in the future she would be blindsided by an unwanted charge for a canceled hotel that she had booked through Getaroom. She describes her initial booking, “I booked at what I thought was the hotel’s official site. The next day, when I was checking my online bank account, I found that the total amount of our stay has been debited from our account. It’s at this point that I realize that I did not book directly with the hotel, but with a group called Getaroom.com. They set up the website page so that it looks like you are booking directly with the hotel’s website.”

Not wanting to keep her reservation with an unknown company that she felt had misled her, she canceled that reservation. Her debit card was refunded and she received a definitive cancellation notice from Getaroom.

Here, we should note that it is always unwise to use a debit card to reserve a hotel. This form of payment does not provide any of the protection and benefits of a traditional credit card. But that’s a story for another day.

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Confident that this cancellation was taken care of, she approached the hotel directly via email and requested a new reservation for the same dates. She asked the hotel if they had received her cancellation from Getaroom. They told her that they had not. When reviewing her paper trail it appears that because Mettger made the reservation and canceled within a day or so, the original reservation from Getaroom may never have been transmitted to the hotel.

Some time after this, Mettger decided that she wanted to stay at an entirely different hotel during her vacation to Sicily. She canceled the reservation that she had made herself and asked again if they had received the cancellation from Getaroom. Once more, they told her that they had no information from Getaroom.


At this point, I believe there may have been a language barrier between Mettger and the hotel. She continued to be focused on the reservation with Getaroom — the one that had the clear written cancellation confirmation. Again, she contacted Getaroom to express her concern and they reiterated that her reservation was fully canceled.

Inexplicably, Mettger remained unconvinced and asked our advocates, “Are you willing to call the hotel and act as my advocate, explaining the problem? I was planning to call myself, but I feel like no matter how clear I am explaining the situation, there is some fundamental miscommunication that continues to put roadblocks in the way of resolving this issue.”

These types of requests always put our advocates in a difficult position. We do all of our mediating via writing, and you should, too. This type of communication provides you a written record of all that has transpired and will be invaluable in helping to resolve any problems that may arise later.

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Getting a verbal acknowledgment of Mettger’s cancellation would be far less useful than the printed version of her cancellation currently in her possession.

We explained to her that the cancellation that she already had was all the proof that she needed — if she ever needed it.

The second issue with Mettger’s request is that we don’t advocate anticipated problems. In her case, there was no problem to mediate. Her reservation was canceled, she received a refund, and we had a copy of her cancellation confirmation.

Our advocates are here to assist when a company has not followed a clear policy; when a consumer has been wronged.

Things that you can and should do on your own, such as confirming your hotel cancellations, do not require the assistance of a consumer advocate. Perhaps they require the assistance of a good travel agent. That’s not who we are.

When you decide to book your own vacation you will, from time to time, hit bumps in the road along the way. In Mettger’s case a short email to the hotel should have been sufficient for her to confirm that all of her reservations were canceled. We are not sure why the written confirmation did not assuage Mettger’s concerns, but we seem to have been unable to convince her as well.

Our advocates are ready and willing to help when you have been wronged — but this didn’t happen in Mettger’s case. We hope that she was able clarify her cancellations to her level of comfort and we wish her a pleasant journey.

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  • finance_tony

    “They set up the website page so that it looks like you are booking directly with the hotel’s website”

    I went to getaroom.com and looked at several hotels. The site looks nothing like a hotel website. Not that I’d ever book through getaroom, but this seems to be a suspicious claim.

  • jae1

    I suppose if you’re used to booking through Expedia, and think of that as a hotel website, getaroom might look like a hotel website. The template is very similar. It doesn’t look like you’re connecting directly to the hotel.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Um…no. ;-)

    It always makes me laugh, though, when there are a smattering of “yes” votes in a poll in which the only rational response is “no”. I’m assuming the two “yes” votes on there are from the LW.

    Also, it seems to me the question she should have been asking the hotel was not “has my reservation been cancelled”, but “do I have a reservation at all”! If getaroom never sent one over, there’s nothing to cancel, and she can ask if a non-existent reservation has been canceled until the cows come home, but she’ll never get the answer she’s looking for.

    If there IS a reservation in her name, the problem is easy enough to fix: cancel the darn thing herself! She already got her money back.

    This one is a head-scratcher for sure!

  • Chris_In_NC

    Dear Elliott team,
    You are consumer advocates, not personal assistants. You should only advocate for travelers who have done their due diligence and demonstrate that they have made a reasonable effort to solve the problem on their own. Hence why a paper trail or documentation is a good rule. Otherwise feel free to charge $200/hour!

  • Kristiana Lee

    I’ll admit to being one of those people once. I was getting ready to vote no but my tablet slipped right when my finger hit and I ended up voting yes. I wonder if others have done the same.

  • LeeAnneClark

    LOL! Full disclosure – I’ve done that too. ;-)

    Also, there have been a few times when I voted one way, but after reading the comments, wished I’d voted another way. This is one of the reasons I’m so glad the comments section is back: Christopher’s savvy commenters are often able to put a different perspective on things that I didn’t at first consider, but ultimately sway my view completely to the other side. I really value that…I’ve learned a lot.

  • BubbaJoe123

    “Here, we should note that it is always unwise to use a debit card to reserve a hotel.”

    That sentence is just as true if you remove the “to reserve a hotel.”

  • MarkKelling

    Yep, using a debit card for anything other than getting cash from your bank’s ATM is unwise.

  • PsyGuy

    This is one of those times when the LW needs a certain type of help that a medical professional would provide and not a consumer advocate.

  • PsyGuy

    I agree, I did the same thing, and I wouldn’t mistake the getaroom site for a hotel website.

  • PsyGuy

    I didn’t head scratch at all I chalked it up to a cognitive medical condition, and moved on.

  • PsyGuy

    I’ve never done that, I strictly use a full keyboard at a computer when voting on this forum, too much is at stake to relegate it to a tablet.

    #TRAVELLIVESMATTER

  • Rebecca

    Based on the story here, I have a feeling the OP asks a lot of questions to customer service folks that she never gets an answer to. I remember running into these customers every so often, and I remember one specifically almost 20 years later.

    I remember a customer that would always come into the grocery store I worked at in high school asking for “chicken tonight”. They haven’t made it on over 20 years – it was a jar of sauce to bake chicken. We didn’t carry it. The manager contacted the warehouse, who informed him they don’t stock it and weren’t able to because the manufacturer had discontinued it. And this customer would come in 3 or 4 times a week and look for a different person to ask. She’d ask different managers if they could contact the warehouse to order a case and she’d buy the whole case. Over and over, despite the fact she had been told it was discontinued and completely unavailable. Several months later, I learned that she had been doing the exact same thing at a different grocery store. It was just baffling that she would ask different people, as if they would have a different response. Also baffling that she was so obsessed with a jar of sauce for chicken, honestly.

  • michael anthony

    Suggesting the consumer needs a medical professional rather than a travel advocate is not appropriate. Perhaps she’s been burned by travel providers before and is overly cautious.

    She did suggest that she thought that part of the issue could be due to a language barrier when contacting the hotel. If it would ease her mind, I’d suggest finding a translater who would make the call with her, for a nominal fee. A travel agent that specializes in travel to that country might be willing to do it for a small charge. Agents are savvy enough to get the correct answer and the name of the person who gave the information, along with the written note, us definitely more than needed. But, it should give her the peace of mind she needs.

  • Blamona

    Fixing an anticipated problem only creates a new one!

  • charliebgolf

    If she originally typed in the hotel name in a search engine, she could have gotten a different Getaroom page than you would find by going to that reservation company’s primary web site. I’ve seen this many times when searching for hotels by name.

  • gpx21dlr

    UNRELATED TO STORY BUT RELATED TO A COMMENT YOU MADE.

    “Here, we should note that it is always unwise to use a debit card to
    reserve a hotel. This form of payment does not provide any of the
    protection and benefits of a traditional credit card. But that’s a story
    for another day.”
    I have no choice but to use my debit card. I have a bankruptcy and do not qualify for credit cards at this time.
    Could you or someone comment or help in my situation?

  • James

    I think this points to a more important, meta-problem: The reputation for lack of openness and trustworthiness in the travel industry.

  • Michael__K

    You may want to look into a secured credit card or even Paypal. Anything that gives you chargeback rights and a layer of protection against fraudulent charges.

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