“I never forgot how kind this hotel was to us”

Kimberly Palmer/Shutterstock
Kimberly Palmer/Shutterstock

I’m researching an article about hotel cancellation policies for the Washington Post, but one of the stories shared by a reader resonated with me so much that I just had to pass it along. It’s another heartwarming, almost too-good-to-be-true tale of customer service.

Last winter, Lauren Staley and her husband were driving from Colorado back to California, where they live. They’d planned to spend the night at the halfway point, in Elko, Nev. But they never made it.

“A huge snowstorm caught us unaware,” she remembers. “We ended up stopped on the Salt Flats [in Utah] for several hours due to an accident, and by the time we got moving again the sun had gone down and the roads were completely iced over.”
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After the storm, who has your refund?

The recent superstorm and series of nor’easters that slammed into the East Coast grounded tens of thousands of travelers, including Neil Weiss.

Fortunately, most travel companies waived their usual rules, offering those delayed by the storms a refund or a credit. But not all travel companies. Weiss, an editor for a trade magazine based in Cherry Hill, N.J., found an unlikely roadblock to his refund: his online travel agency.
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They canceled the flight anyway — can I get a refund?

Here’s a problem I run into every now and then, and which I normally refer back to the airline – which usually tells the passenger “tough luck.”

But this one is a little different. It comes to me by way of Laura Lee, who had made reservations to fly from Sacramento, Calif., to New York on United Airlines for Nov. 6.
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Unnatural disaster: What to do when your hotel doesn’t have room

The deadly storms that left large swaths of the East Coast without power just before the Fourth of July holiday provided an uncomfortable lesson to hotel guests like Ken White: Always call to confirm your reservation — especially when the place you’re visiting is reeling from a natural disaster.

White lives in Charlottesville, Va., an area that was hit hard by the hurricane-force winds. Many residents were struggling to stay cool in record-breaking heat, and checking into an air-conditioned hotel nearby was a popular solution.
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If you’re reading this, you’re probably not home for Christmas

No, you’re stuck at the airport or in a motel, waiting for the winter storm to pass.

The National Weather Service has issued a warning for heavy snow in the mountain counties of North Carolina not bordering Tennessee, the mountains of South Carolina and Georgia, and the North Carolina foothills. Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are under a winter storm watch. Airlines are proactively canceling flights and waiving cancellation penalties.

Western Europe, which has been battered by winter storms, has it even worse. About 200 people spent the night at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, which cancelled 400 flights because of snow and ice.

I spent a good part of yesterday fielding calls from reporters who wanted to know what to do if winter weather disrupts your holiday travel plans. Unfortunately, by “travel” they meant “air travel” — and that’s not how must of us are getting home. More than 90 percent of us are driving or taking the train. Or trying.

Do I have any advice for stranded travelers?

No, not really, other than to sit tight, pull out a good book or click on your favorite travel blog, and wait for the weather to pass. Airlines consider blizzards to be an “Act of God” and they aren’t required to do anything under their onerous contracts of carriage. As for motorists, when’s the last time you negotiated a meal voucher from a car that’s stuck in a snow drift?

I do, however, have some interesting holiday reading.
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It’s cold out there — don’t you wish you were here?

If you live on the East Coast of the United States — and most folks reading this site do — then you’re probably thinking about the weather this weekend. Complaining about it, to be exact.

Yeah, it’s cold and snowy. And winter’s just getting started.

Since this blog is all about solutions, and since I’m kind of in the same predicament (there’s a freeze warning for Central Florida tonight) I thought I’d mention a few places that you might rather be.
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Is this enough compensation? A discount on an icy hotel room

When the power went out in Jeri Kellerman’s hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express in Poulsbo, Wash., she and her husband spent the night in pitch black and freezing cold.

They assumed they’d get a refund for their room — others affected by the blackout in the area did. But they assumed wrong.

Their case raises bigger questions. Is there ever a time when a hotel should offer a full refund for a room? What about an act of God, like a natural disaster? Is a partial refund, or even just an apology, ever sufficient?
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