What to do when you fall for a fake star

Fiona Lau contacted me in a panic a few days ago. She’d booked a “three-star” hotel through Hotwire, which doesn’t reveal the name of the property until you’ve paid for a non-refundable reservation by credit card. She ended up at a Clarion Hotel property in Pennsylvania she didn’t expect — or want.

“I looked at the picture from the official Clarion website, and the hotel doesn’t just look old, the family suite picture that they displayed is showing an extremely old room with patches on the wall,” she says.
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Did Princess ship ignore a vessel asking for help?

Did Princess ship ignore a vessel asking for help?

Oh, never mind. / Photo by cruadin - Flickr
It sounds like something straight out of a nightmare: You’re on a small fishing vessel, adrift in the Pacific. You see a ship in the distance, and you signal for help. But it keeps going.

Nearly a month later, when you’re finally rescued, two of your crewmates are dead. Had that ship responded to your plea for help, they’d still be alive today.
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Hey, that’s no four-star hotel!

Question: I recently booked a hotel in Prague through Expedia. While perusing the hotels online, I saw an advertisement for an unpublished rate hotel. I clicked the advertisement and was presented with three four-star hotels from which to choose.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Star confusion on my Hotwire hotel room

Question: I just booked a hotel room in New Orleans through Hotwire. It seemed like a great deal. The listing was for a 4.5 star hotel. I started looking around their website, trying to determine what the possibilities were and by looking at the “hotel plus car” section I was able to see that there seemed to be three nice choices of 4.5 star hotels in the area the listing was in.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Four stars for that resort? Says who?

Question: I recently booked a four-star hotel in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, through Hotwire. Hotwire claims its four-star hotels are prestigious, respected properties. Not only that, but the map of the area looks as if it runs along the coast, virtually ensuring a resort near the beach.

After I made my purchase, I found out I had a room at the Hacienda Vista Real Resort & Spa, which was located far away from the beach. According to TripAdvisor.com, they have at least 85 percent bad reviews. I am traveling with my husband and a baby, and want to avoid taking taxis to get to the beach.

Initially, I tried to tell Hotwire that the hotel was neither prestigious nor well known, and that it wasn’t close to the beach. But now that I’ve read the reviews, I’m even more concerned. Hotwire sent me a form response, saying, “We reviewed the hotel’s location and verified it is within the Playa del Carmen — Playacar, Quintana Roo city area.” What should I do? — Valerie Acosta, Fullerton, Calif.

Answer: Hotwire owed you more than a form letter in response to your request to review your hotel assignment. But before I get to Hotwire’s mistake, let’s talk about your booking choice.

Did you say you booked a resort in Mexico for you and your baby through Hotwire? Seriously?
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A $387 bill for a cracked windshield? You’ve gotta be kidding

Debbie Vinton saw a star on her recent vacation in Los Angeles, but it isn’t the kind that you’d want an autograph from. Instead, her car rental company asked to sign a form agreeing to cover the damage for a cracked windshield “star” on her front windshield.

It’s a decision she now regrets. The bill came to $387, not including a $50 “administrative fee” for a repair that should have cost just $50.

Vinton’s case is a reminder that you ask questions before, not after, signing a release — and always, always check the windshield.
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Is my hotel’s lost star a lost cause?

Question: My fiance and I are going to Melbourne, Australia, to celebrate his six-month, “all clear” from cancer. I booked a four-star hotel on Priceline.com for our first two nights and when they revealed the hotel, it was actually a three-star on the hotel’s own Web site.

I called Priceline’s customer service immediately after booking to protest, but Priceline’s agents passed the buck back and forth for more than 30 minutes before telling me they could do nothing, and I would get an email in three to five business days. Thanks for nothing.

Not only have I not received a response after a week, but when I called again yesterday, they promised a resolution by 8 p.m. yesterday, and still nothing. I am looking for a refund and will never use Priceline again. Thanks so much for any help you can provide. — Stephanie Farrow, Charleston, S.C.

Answer: If the hotel considers itself a three-star, I can’t think of any reason for Priceline to contradict it.

Except, maybe to upgrade its price category and charge you a little more.
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