Sarah Gaines wants a refund for her short-lived hotel stay at the Windsor Hotel on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The reason? She claims the property was infested with bedbugs.
The site through which she booked the hotel, Hotels.com, refuses to refund the $750 she paid, even though she checked out after staying in her room for just a few hours. Appeals to her credit card company have been unsuccessful, and now she wants me to get involved.
Here are a few specifics about Gaines’ case: Shortly after making her reservation through Hotels.com last fall, she looked up the property online. She found multiple complaints about bedbugs at the hotel.
“We immediately called and were assured the problem had been dealt with,” she says. “They even told us if we happened to find any problems upon arrival, they would be happy to move us to a completely different floor, as they were ‘sure to have vacancy’ still.”
That didn’t happen. When they checked in, the hotel was running a full occupancy.
“Both rooms had infestations,” Gaines reports. “We crammed into the one with fewer bugs — some of us on the floor. We left the next morning as soon as we found a new hotel.”
Gaines says she contacted the hotel after she checked out and asked for a refund. It refused, citing its refund policy. Then she contacted Hotels.com, the online agent that sold her the room. It also refused, citing its policy. Finally, she disputed the charge with American Express.
“Today we received our answer from American Express that the charges have been reapplied as neither Hotels.com nor Expedia guarantee ‘the condition of the hotel’,” she says. “Note, we stayed for about six hours in one room, and were charged the full amount for both rooms for both nights, and woke up to a bedbug on my six-year-old’s pillow!”
Oh my. As the father of a six-year-old, I can tell you that I would be pretty upset if I found a bedbug on my daughter’s pillow in a hotel.
I say their ‘no refund’ policy surely cannot apply when the hotel presents a health risk!
And worse, possibly, is that Hotels.com still has The Windsor on their site!! When I looked at it tonight, a pop up menu announces, “This hotel has been booked three times in the last 24 hours”!
It’s not immediately clear why Gaines didn’t investigate the property before making her reservation. Or why she didn’t make more of an effort to switch hotels prior to her stay — or why she didn’t ask for the hotel to help her once it became clear she was staying in an undesirable room. There may be, as commenters on this site would say, some “missing” details.
Once you’ve left the building, getting a refund is really difficult. From a hotel’s perspective, you’ve abandoned a room that they probably won’t be able to resell, so they’re out the $750 you spent. Their policy says: no refund.
But I’m not entirely happy with Hotels.com’s response, either. Saying that the site isn’t responsible for the condition of its rooms is absurd. After all, its tagline promises it will find you the “perfect place” — and a room infested with insects is not the perfect place.
I was going to put this case up for a vote, as I do every Tuesday, but shortly after I finished writing this story, I heard back from Gaines. Hotels.com offered her a full refund. Case dismissed.