Should I help get a refund for a “disastrous” hotel stay?

The Sunswept Beach Hotel, a budget hotel on Barbados’ western coast, promises visitors they will be left “wanting for nought.” But when Josh Trevers checked in for a recent stay, he was left wanting for something: a working air conditioning to take the edge off the Caribbean heat.

Trevers’ case is a difficult one because there are so many players. More than usual.

He says he asked the hotel to fix the broken AC in his room, but it didn’t.

“I was told it could not be looked at and I could not be moved to another room until the following day,” he says. “The room, hallway, bathroom and pool were dirty. There was a constant squeezing sound right outside the room which made sleep impossible. At night there were no hotel staff present so there was no way to deal with any issues.”

Trevers checked out that night. He contacted Expedia, the online agency through which he’d purchased the hotel, and asked for a full refund. Now, in the past, he could have relied on something called the Expedia Promise to stand behind its purchase, but it appears that assurance was quietly dropped some time ago. Expedia simply sees itself as an online agent.

Expedia apologized for the bad stay but said his stay was nonrefundable.

We are truly sorry for the inconvenience. Expedia goes to great lengths to supply our clients with the information and opportunity to make well-informed travel purchases, and we are more than willing to assist our clients in any way commercially possible. We are dedicated to providing knowledgeable service and support to our clients, but we have to follow the policies of the vendors whose services we provide on our website. When you purchase a trip through, we act as the agent between you and the vendor. These vendors’ rules and regulations govern any transactions on the reservations.

Trevers appealed to me. Shouldn’t a hotel room in the Caribbean come with a working air condition? I agreed with him. So I contacted Expedia. Here’s what it told me.

Expedia contacted the management of the hotel to relay Mr. Trevers experience at their property and again requested a refund for the reservation. Expedia was informed that they would not authorize a refund. Expedia is unable to process the refund without authorization from the hotel.

Expedia strives to provide the highest level of customer service, and it’s disheartening when one of our vendors does not work to meet that goal as well. Expedia is sorry to hear that Mr. Trevers had a less-than-satisfactory experience when staying at the Sunswept Beach Hotel.

That’s disappointing.

Trevers is now left with two options: a credit card dispute or contacting the hotel directly and requesting a refund.

Ah, but that’s where it gets interesting!

The Sunswept is no more. Effective May 15th, Sunswept Beach is under new management and will be called Tropical Sunset. So now you have an online agency and new owners to contend with. What a mess.

I think Expedia could have done more to help its customer, who clearly didn’t get the product he was promised. Then again, I’ve been to the Caribbean many times, and you can’t always count on everything to work. (Heck, you can’t even count on everything to work in Florida … but I digress.)

What should the next step be for this dispute? Should I contact the new owners of the Sunswept, asking them to help a guest for something that didn’t happen on their watch? Should I double back to Expedia and urge them to help a customer? Or should he take this to his credit card company?

What should Josh Trevers' next move be?

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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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  • polexia_rogue

    since they are under new management i think his chances of getting a refund less then Zero.

    I have never worked in a hotel industry- where would the money come from? are the new managers even obligated to give a refund?

    “Trevers checked out that night” — a credit card dispute might be worth a try IF he can prove he did not use what he paid for. (receipts, etc…) the difficult part will be (i assume) the fact that the dispute will be with Expedia and as far as they are concerned it is a valid transaction.

  • Zarkov505

    There is generally a strict time limit on a credit card dispute. Some amount of that time has already been expended. Contacting the new owners will certainly expend more time, and is quite likely to prove to be a fruitless endeavor.

    Start the credit card dispute. That stops the clock on that process, and he at least has a fighting chance to win that one.

  • Ali Jackson

    “Heck, you can’t even count on everything to work in Florida … but I digress.”
    Was it really necessary to bad-mouth an entire state?

  • BillCCC

    Why didn’t he stay and move to another room the next day as he was promised? He would have a much better case for a refund or discount for one night. From what I am reading the only real problem was the AC.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I live in Florida. I was talking about my place, mostly. ;-)

  • EdB

    That wasn’t bad-mouthing an entire state. That was just a statement of fact. You can substitute any state, region, location and it is still true.

  • mbods

    Chris, you didn’t have the option to contract Expedia. I feel this problem lies with them to resolve. It makes me never want to book through Expedia again. They should stand by the hotels offered through their site.

  • PsyGuy

    I think he did the right thing, by leaving when he did. The air conditioner was just the biggest complaint on what would have been a miserable experience given the pool and the general condition of the property. By leaving the first day, he can support the position that he wasn’t provided what he bought. If he would have stayed the property and Expedia would have likely used the argument that regardless of how bad it was he did use the room. Of course the best thing to do would be to have Chris contact the original owners and argue for a refund, but asking the new owners to refund the money that they don’t have seems unfair.

    The real evil here is that Expedia, feels it can abdicate its role in this issue. Regardless of what guarantees they provided in the past, they are operating in the capacity of a travel agent, they took the money, and hey have a responsibility to the merchantability of the product or service that they sold. I would continue to hit them up for resolution to the problem.

  • JenniferFinger

    Expedia’s made clear that they’re not going to help, and I think that trying to get a refund out of the new owners is highly unlikely, so the only option is for him to dispute the credit card charge. If he can prove that he didn’t stay over night, he might have some luck.

  • Chris Osman

    After reading the first line “budget hotel,” I think my mind was already made up. Having used budget hotels extensively in my travels, you really can’t expect top of the line service or really service at all. This is why it’s called budget. Also there’s probably a good reason this one is under new management. It’s terrible and the market is responding as it should.

    However, a hotel in this area should have an air conditioning unit but I don’t think this person deserves a full refund, he got what he paid for. But there should be some compensation.

  • Cam

    Just let it go. The time to escalate and persist was when the guy was on hotel premises.

  • disqus_A6K3VBf8Zn

    Good luck in disputing the charge. Let him try and get back to us in three years.

  • MarkKelling

    While a hotel is not required to have air conditioning in the tropics, if it does have one you expect it to work. Would the room they promised to move him to have been any better? We will never know.

    Could this be a case of buyer’s remorse? He reserved the place expecting 5-star and got 1- or 2-star. Sure the AC was out, but was it completely unbearable? I lived in south Texas for most of my life and have been to Florida during the summer a lot so I know how hot and uncomfortable tropical conditions can be, but I have survived many nights without AC during the peak of summer. And, especially in Florida, if you are lucky there is a nice breeze blowing and the night can be almost pleasant.

    He could have put on his pajamas and made himself at home in the lobby until a new room was found for him, but that might not have worked at a budget hotel with no staff present after hours.

    I think he should have stayed. But at this point, his only option is a credit card dispute. Which if it goes in his favor will immediately be sent to a collection agency. So it is really time to just move on and learn from the experience.

  • Alan Gore

    I propose a travel industry version of Godwin’s Law: when you come to the name Carnival or Expedia in a travel story, you can stop reading at that point. It will be unresolvable.

  • James Orth

    I thought that you were just trying to be a little funny and light hearted Let’s all try not to be offended so easily. You do a great Job Christopher

  • Daddydo

    There is nothing above that discusses hotel rating. Nobody at Gogo Worldwide Vacations, Apple, or Travel Impressions has heard of this property. If it was a 1-2 star hotel, he paid and got what he deserved. You have had many a discussion re: hotel site ratings, so it is immaterial how Expedia rated this property, when some of the biggest wholesalers won’t even handle it. All a travel agent can do, is beg from the tour company. Did the Trevers do any research for this property, or just look for cheap and then cry about it.

  • EdB

    “he got what he paid for. But there should be some compensation.”

    If he got what he paid for, why should there be any compensation? I haven’t seen the list of amenities for the rooms where he stayed, but if it listed A/C, but it wasn’t working, then he didn’t get what he paid for.

  • emanon256

    That was my thought too. I was looking to vote for Chris to push Expedia to work with the hotel to get a refund as it was an option in the article.

  • emanon256

    When I saw the words “Budget Hotel” I knew there was a problem. It seems that the cheep always comes out more expensive. Anytime someone, myself included, books the cheapest anything there are always problems. However, I looked at their website in an internet cache and they list A/C as a room amenity, so I think the hotel should be able to provide a refund as they were not able to provide the service he purchased. In fact, just looking at the hotels website makes me wary of staying there.

    Should he have waited a day and seen if the new room was any better? Probably. I would have given them at least that chance. But if they didn’t resolve it the next day, I would have demanded a manager and demanded a refund of the rest of my stay before leaving, if necessary I would even call Expedia while I was with the manager and getting them to work it out.

    I would continue to push Expedia to try to make things right, but I am not sure how far it will go since the OP didn’t really give the hotel a chance to fix it. Hopefully he will get something back.

  • tio2girl

    And the dirty pool, hallway, etc. Sounds like the entire hotel was less than pleasant. If he had stayed another night, I’m sure people would be hounding him for not taking matters into his own hands and going someplace more pleasant.

  • makili217

    A credit card dispute will probably be his only option. I hope he took a lot of pictures to prove his claim.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Disappointing beginning to a holiday. That said, in this day and age of user uploaded photos, can anyone REALLY be surprised by a property anymore? If there aren’t lots of photos of a property on the web, that’s a warning bell. I don’t necessarily disagree with him leaving the property on the first night, but you’d better be sure that I’d be back the next day seeking a resolution and not just hoping that things would work out when I got back from vacation. Yes, it’s a crappy way to spend your holiday, but know what’s even crappier? Losing the entire cost of the hotel stay. The most Expedia could do is blacklist the property, but then again, that doesn’t help the OP and it’s unlikely that Expedia would take action after just one complaint. Personally, I don’t think this case is mediation-worthy. There’s no leverage. No one’s afraid of getting bad publicity here – not Expedia and not the rebranded property. Strike it up as buyer beware and next-time-be-more-proactive-in-resolving-while-you’re-there.

  • Amy Engelhardt

    There’s also this idea: Let it go. Unless we’re talking about a lot of money.

  • emanon256

    Really? How did that comet get a down vote?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    If he wanted any money back, staying longer than he did was going to be mandatory. He bailed without giving them much of an opportunity to address any complaints. He’s stuck now.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    It’s a longshot at best. He didn’t even wait to see if a different room was going to be better.

    He had basically two options: If getting some money back was the goal, he needed to stick it out a bit longer to give them an opportunity to address the problems. If getting a better place to stay ASAP was the goal, he did the right thing but that means essentially eating the cost of the first place.

  • bodega3

    As a TA, I would like to comment on your statement of never wishing to book through Expedia again. What you need to understand is that they are just selling any and all properties and it is you the consumer who decide on what to book, not them. That is a HUGE difference in how the travel agency world books, which is why our industry does not consider OTA to be sellers of travel but vending machines who take your money and you take your chances.
    The article states the OP booked a budget hotel. Having sold travel for 3 decades, I can tell you that you get what you pay for, and if you have expectations at cheap prices in the Caribbean, you often also get surprises, such as a/c not working, torn sheets, less than clean rooms, etc.

  • Nigel Appleby

    That’s why I may use Expedia or the other OTA’s for research I will book through a bricks and mortar travel agent or, very occasionally book direct with the airline. doing it this way I’ve had no problems and our TA has managed to match or better the prices I’ve found on an OTA. And a sa bonus saves me from the goofs I made one time doing it myself and ended paying changes fees although they were not as onerous then as they are now.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Depends. Was the reservation refundable or non-refundable. That’s the key. If it was refundable, then staying one night was sufficient and he was entitled to cancel the remaining days regardless In that case he is asking only for the one night which the hotel cannot remediate as its already happened.

    If however, the entire stay was non-refundable, then I would agree that perhaps he needed to give the hotel a chance to make it right. However, if the circumstances were bad enough, then he shouldn’t have to stay further.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Since you lived in South Texas, you probably became acclimated to the weather. I grew up in the Caribbean and while it was hot, I never thought of it as unbearable. I went back a few years ago and I thought I would die. Living away from that murderously humid heat made unable to bear it.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Even if you book cheaply, you expect certain basic amenities and a working AC in the Caribbean is one of those amenities.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s a good point, but once you spend a miserable night somewhere, its hard to do that for a second consecutive night.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I think I’d rather lose the cost of the first night’s hotel, then lose limited vacation time fighting for the refund. Especially since it doesn’t affect my overall vacation budget.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • emanon256

    How does one define “Bad Enough”? To me, that is the hard part.

  • The Brian

    Chris,I feel the time for third party booking has come and gone. If you cannot do the deal directly with the hotel or car rental agency…etc.. Do not do the deal. I have had success doing the Priceline thing and even Expedia. Way back in the infancy of the net,I could see these 3rd party outfits working,not now. Deal with the property directly or look somewhere else.People these days want to pass the buck around,involving more people just make everything look like a shell game.

  • Lindabator

    But not allowing the hotel to even address the issues makes it hard to argue for a refund for a nonrefundable stay!

  • Lindabator

    Except that most brick-and-mortar travel consultants use a third party – its what allows us to discount your rates for you (some QUITE substantially). BUt I agree – NO real need for the OTAs.

  • mbods

    Yes, of course I see your point but we’re “experienced”, aren’t we? Just poking around the Expedia site (and all the others…), an unsuspecting, new traveler might book through them believing if they have any problems they can easily contact customer support. The site is so cheerful, believable, it’s so easy! And if they join the “rewards program”, they get “elite status” with “priority customer care”. What does that mean exactly I wonder? I’d like to see these travel sites take more care as to the hotels they allow and be more customer oriented. Wait, that will never happen because they’re, as you say, just vending machines. Well , they should say that then, be more up front (yooohooo, you’re on your own!!!), instead of implying they’re something more. Obviously folks believe they’re more or there won’t be so many of these problems. Thank you.

  • bodega3

    I am not sure what people expect when they book via a computer, on a site that will sell anything that pays the OTA a commission, on something the customer picks themselves, not recommended by the vendor, at a budget price in another country. The internet has made a lot of people look very foolish with their cheap decisions.

  • MarkKelling

    Don’t think I ever really got used to the heat. But on those nights when the AC was broke and the repair man had not gotten there to fix it, I survived. Hot, sweaty and in a foul mood, but I survived. Glad I live in Colorado now. Except in the winter when it is zero outside. :-)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    are the new managers even obligated to give a refund?
    Assume that the OP is due a refund then it depends. If the new owners bought the business then the new owners inherit the liabilities as well. If the new owners only bough the assets then no they are not responsible for the liabilities of the business

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Maybe. Depends on how bad the hotel was and how likely are they going to be able to fix it. For example, suppose the property is advertised as ADA compliant but turns out its not, There’s not much a property can do in the short term to remediate that.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Because tilting at windmills can be frustrating and is rarely productive. The hotel is overseas, so it is highly unlikely any money is going to be coming back. A credit card dispute maybe be the best shot and that’s still not likely to go the OP’s way. This sounds like a cheap hotel in the 1- or maybe 2-star range, so the OP’s goal was almost certainly to save money as opposed to finding the most luxurious accommodations. In a situation like that, a reasonable person needs to be prepared to overlook some stuff and possibly put up with some shuffling around between rooms to overcome issues like broken AC. Instead, the OP switched hotels almost immediately before any attempt could be made to address the problems. I don’t have a huge amount of sympathy because of that. The best chances of a resolution in their favor were while they were staying at the hotel, not long after they’d bailed.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’ve gotten satisfaction from issues with two oversees hotels. Admittedly neither was a 1-2 star hotel. However, only the OP knows what is frustrating to him. Perhaps not trying would be more frustrating. We don’t know the OP

  • Rebecca

    I always say I would rather it be freezing cold than hot and humid. You can always warm up with layers.and blankets. But its much harder to cool off. You can take off every layer, but even naked its still hot and humid.

  • TonyA_says

    Looks like he got the Expedia room. It is heavily discounted so no reason to rush and please him.
    Besides, he picked a budget hotel. They ain’t called bugdet for no reason. I simply think the OP made a bad choice. As I say all the time, never prepay.

  • TonyA_says

    An electric fan pointed directly to your naked skin works wonders.

  • TonyA_says

    There is a good reason people use an OTA like Expedia.
    1. They advertise so people know them more than the hotel.
    2. Their website is easier to use than most hotels or airlines.
    3. People can one stop shop or buy bundles.
    Most people do not travel for a living or sell travel for a living.
    All they want to do is buy what they want or think they need easily.
    That said these OTAs are easy to use vending machines.
    Bottom line, do some research before you decide where to stay for that one or two week vacation. Blame yourself if you screw up.

  • TonyA_says

    Hmmm… I would probably die of hypothermia first before a heat stroke.

  • Aagje

    Basically I would recommend him to count his losses and move on. Anything he gets out of it is a bonus. This is not how it should be, but there you are. Life is too short!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    So what’s change between “the infancy of the internet” and today such that OTAs were good then, but not now?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    There are times when prepayment can be appropriate. Prepayment works when the discount is significant and the chances of forfeiting is minimal. For example, I have booked a non-refundable rate upon landing at my destination airport. Of course, these rates were obtained directly from the hotel. It would take a lot for me to book a nonrefundable rates via a third party website.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    But it isn’t the case of losing just the first night. The OP has lost the cost of his entire stay at the first property.

  • Extra mail

    Isn’t it fairly easy to investigate properties before plunking down any money? Trip advisor, for one. I have found that I can research a property on the Internet, look for deals for the couple of properties where I would like to stay and then I call the properties directly and the first one who comes close to matching the deal, I book. I’ve only done this twice in the last 12 months but I’ve been pleasantly surprised and satisfied with my choices. Maybe I could have saved a little bit of money booking through a vending machine but I also had no problem with the two places I stayed. Coincidence, maybe? Satisfaction, yes.

  • William_Leeper

    Yes it does! Lol :)

  • Cybrsk8r

    I agree. My guess is the new owners will try to run the clock out on a dispute.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Travel vending machines? That so perfectly fits Expedia, Travelocity, etc. Great comment.

  • Nikki

    Ohhh Chris. I wish everyone involved the best of luck. The only thing I can think of that would even make this remotely feasible, is to dispute the credit card charge. Expedia is not willing to help, and there’s no way to know if the current owners are the same owners with a different business name – or if there was an actual change in owners. If they’re the same owners – then damn right, they should be held responsible… but good luck getting that information on an overseas property.

    (Edited to add: The post that referred to Expedia et al as “travel vending machines” is classic. Someone ought to be taking these quotes down for “historical reference”! lol)

  • Brittany

    I disagree. I’ve lived and traveled in the Western Caribbean and working AC is not always the norm in hotels. In fact, there are quite a number of hotels that don’t have AC at all, but instead provide fans in the room. Same goes with hot water. It may be a “basic amenity” in the US, but that does not mean it is in Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Barbados, etc.

  • lescass

    Did he take pictures of the dirty areas? Did he call Expedia before he checked out? If he did those two things, go ahead and mediate. If not, he needs to learn to tie his own shoes sometime!