Don’t forget to confirm your hotel reservation

Stock Solutions/Shutterstock
Stock Solutions/Shutterstock
A two-night stay at the Driftwood Inn in Chestertown, Md., was supposed to cost Bruce Romano $138 through a Web site called HotelPlus Destination Portal, as long as he prepaid for his accommodations. That seemed like a good deal. After all, it was Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest travel times of the year.

But it didn’t make sense to the Driftwood Inn, a budget hotel that decorates its rooms with flotsam and other artifacts pulled from the Atlantic. An employee claimed that the hotel didn’t know much about Romano’s reservation when he checked in.

“When I arrived at the Driftwood Inn, they had my name but insisted that I needed to pay them directly,” says Romano, who works for the federal government in Washington, “and at a higher rate.”

He coughed up an additional $157 for his room, paying twice for the same accommodations.

Although stories like Romano’s aren’t as common as they used to be back in the days when online travel agencies used fax machines — yes, the kind that are known to run out of paper from time to time — to confirm hotel reservations, they experience a surge during the summer, when occupancy levels are at annual highs.

After weeks of trying to secure a refund from the Driftwood Inn and HotelPlus, Romano turned to me for help, and I went to work on his case. Jay Desai, a spokesman for the Driftwood Inn, told me that it had reached out to HotelPlus on Romano’s behalf, that the company had agreed to issue a check for $138, and that the Driftwood would refund the money to Romano as soon as the hotel received the payment.

Desai said it “almost never” has problems like that, “but we are working our best to get this refund back to him as fast as possible.”

Desai also suggests that HotelPlus has generated more than its fair share of complaints. I’d never heard of the company, and a closer examination of the site, combined with the fact that the company never responded to any of my calls or e-mails, made me skeptical. Certainly, if you have a problem with a HotelPlus booking, the site makes it difficult to contact a real person.

But what happens if you arrive at a hotel or try to check in for a flight this summer only to find that no one has ever heard of you — or worse, that you have to pay for your reservation again?

Consider Angie Welborn’s recent flight from Kona, Hawaii, to Austin, by way of Honolulu and Los Angeles. She says that a Hawaiian Airlines ticket agent in Kona inadvertently canceled her reservation on her connecting flight. “When we got up to the gate agent in Honolulu and presented our boarding passes, she scanned them and told us that those seats were already taken,” remembers Welborn, an attorney based in Austin.

Hawaiian found room for her on the flight, but in middle seats at the back of the aircraft. “It ended up being one of the most miserable flights of my life,” she remembers.

In situations like hers, when an airline has made the mistake, passengers have certain rights that they may not be aware of.

Hawaiian’s contract of carriage, the legal agreement between Welborn and the airline, would have required it to cover the cost of her meals and accommodations while she waited for the next flight, had it not found a seat for her on her original flight to L.A. Unfortunately, though, the contract doesn’t guarantee that she can avoid a torturous center seat.

In some cases, any problems aren’t always immediately apparent. For example, when Jennifer Hammitt booked a recent vacation to San Francisco through Southwest Vacations, everything seemed to run smoothly. Her tickets were accepted at the airport, and her hotel, the San Francisco Marriott Marquis, took the voucher issued by Southwest Vacations. But when she returned home, she found a surprise on her credit card bill: Marriott had charged her for the hotel, again.

Southwest Vacations wouldn’t respond to e-mails asking about the erroneous billing and insisted that she call, she says.

“I reluctantly called them as requested, and the representative I spoke to was beyond rude,” recalls Hammitt, an assessment coordinator who lives in Noblesville, Ind. “Every time I explained it to her, she just got more and more rude. She eventually told me that she refused to look into this because ‘There is no way Southwest Vacations made a mistake.’ ”

Eventually, Hammitt took the matter up with Marriott by e-mail. Turns out that Southwest Vacations, a tour company operated by the Mark Travel Corporation, had made a mistake. It had neglected to pay the hotel bill, she says.

“Then, when Marriott went to print them an invoice, it sent it to me directly instead of Southwest Vacations,” she adds. “Marriott fixed the mistake, apologized and put 2,000 rewards points in my account for the trouble.”

Experiences like the ones described above offer several important takeaways that may apply to your summer vacation. At every step of the way, and especially when you make your initial reservations, be sure to double-check your dates and look for a confirmation number. If you don’t see one, or if you never get a confirmation e-mail, it could be a sign of trouble.

Finding a missing reservation may not be possible right away, but the matter almost always gets resolved. Whether it goes your way depends on whether you’ve blazed a credible paper trail. All three travelers in this column kept their reservation records and ultimately relied on e-mails, not phone calls, to fix their problems.

As long as travel is booked by computer, reservations will continue to get lost. Recovering them isn’t as hard as it may seem when you’re standing at the hotel desk, homeless and not sure what to do next.

“My advice?” says Hammitt, the traveler with the worthless hotel voucher. “Remain calm.”

Update (6/29): HotelsPlus has responded to this story.

Upon learning that the property erroneously charged Mr. Romano, we immediately reached out to the manager on duty and explained the situation. We received confirmation from the property that Mr. Romano would be credited in full without delay on June 3rd. Our notes indicate that our Guest Satisfaction Manager left a voicemail at 10:10 am on June 3rd, providing a detailed update.

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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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  • California_Dave

    As many have stated on this site, I would never use a third-party on-line provider to book any travel reservations. 1) they normally require full prepayment 2) have very restrictive cancelation policies 3) add a layer of unnecessary complexity when something goes wrong 4) it is very difficult to talk to a live person that can actually assist you 5) hotel’s have to pay such high commissions for these reservations that some hotels will opt to put you in the worst rooms in order to provide nicer rooms to their regular or higher profit guests. Most chains and independent hotels will guarantee the lowest rate if you come to them directly and people STILL use these on-line sites. Save yourselves the trouble AND the need to re-confirm your reservation in the first place. Just my opinion, but I’ve never had to deal with any of the issues that Chris receives regarding these providers.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I might use a site like to check ratings, but I always book thru the hotel directly. Likewise, I use Orbitz or Kayak to see what my airline/flight options are (same for rental cars) and then book directly.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Agreed. The last time I booked with anyone other than the provider was in 2001. Fortunately it went well

  • sirwired

    ‘There is no way Southwest Vacations made a mistake.’

    “Eventually, Hammitt took the matter up with Marriott by e-mail. Turns out that Southwest Vacations, a tour company operated by the Mark Travel Corporation, had made a mistake. It had neglected to pay the hotel bill, she says.

    “Then, when Marriott went to print them an invoice, it sent it to me directly instead of Southwest Vacations,” she adds. “Marriott fixed the mistake, apologized and put 2,000 rewards points in my account for the trouble.”

    It sounds like the mistake was indeed made by Mariott (as opposed to Southwest Vacations), who neglected to bill the correct company. That said, the agency should have taken care of straightening things out with the hotel, instead of pushing it on her.


    And on the Hawaiian airlines problem:
    “Unfortunately, though, the contract doesn’t guarantee that she can avoid a torturous center seat.” If she didn’t pay extra for her seat, well, SOMEBODY has to sit in the center seats (they are hardly “torture” even if you might prefer a window or aisle); they make up anywhere from 1/3 or more of the seats on the aircraft. (in the case of a widebody aircraft, much more) Even if the reservation hadn’t been cancelled, there are lots of reasons you might lose the seat assignment you were given at check-in prior to boarding.

    If you can’t handle a standard coach seat, don’t book in coach.

  • technomage1

    I pretty much use the third party sites to comparison shop only anymore. As you note, the prices on the airline and hotel sites are very close to, if not identical to, the prices on a third party site, plus you get better service and less hassles.

  • larry

    While I agree with your take in general, here’s the problem. Many online agencies “mask” an even lower hotel rate if it is purchased as part of a package such as Air/hotel or hotel/car or air/hotel/car. Also, you can get usually get an even lower price by using a rebate site such as or which gets the rate even lower. I just booked a package on orbitz that was MUCH cheaper than going to the providers own web site and got an extra $57.60 reduction using top cash back. Yes, I do agree that if you have a problem, it is easier to get it resolved if you booked directly, but if the savings are large, I have no problem taking the chance.

  • backprop

    Being devil’s advocate though, if you were to pay $60 more for, say, a premium exit row seat…that to me logically suggests that you’ve “upgraded”. The act of paying extra for a particular seat to me indicates that your contract with the airline now includes the seat. Not saying it happened with the OP, but if it did…

    (Hawaiian does charge extra for SOME aisle seats)

  • Thomas Ralph

    I don’t reconfirm hotels, but I book decent chain hotels directly through the hotels’ websites. Tends to work better than booking Bob’s Motel through

  • lost_in_travel

    Maybe I am doing more things than I used to in the past, maybe I am losing my patience with other people’s lack of personal responsibility, but it seems that I have to check and double check just about every action. I don’t use third party sites except to shop and then buy directly from the airline or hotel, then I check to see that I have the confirmation numbers. I rarely buy non changeable hotel reservations and have club numbers with every major chain. A few days before the trip I verify again with the hotel and the airline and the car service and the kennel. When I think about how many times I check on the same trip, it is crazy! I am keeping myself and several other people very busy and not generating any new business, just verifying old! Imagine how productive we could be if it were right the first time and I could believe it. No, I am not diagnosed with OCD, but one would think so.

    My son has a new summer job in retail, minimum wage, not a career choice, but a valuable learning experience. On his second day working, someone came into the store intending to buy sneakers for one child. By the time she left, she had purchased sneakers for all six people in her family – four kids and two adults – because my son smiled at her and was helpful in finding sizes. She probably would have made the purchases within a few days anyway, but she chose to make them all at once because he was nice to her. And she told the manager ! That is all it takes to make someone happy and get a comparatively large sale – a smile and some help.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I don’t use 3rd party sites, but I still call and verify my lodging reservations because of a case on 3 or 4 years ago and the advice that others gave. Sounds like overkill, right? I did that on a trip 2 years ago across the Southeastern US, and this one particular hotel sounded miffed when I called to confirm. “You’ve got a confirmation number, right? So you’ve got a reservation.” I duly noted that person’s name, date and time of call on my printed reservation confirmation and set out on my trip. Want to guess what happened? No reservation in the system. Then, when they found the reservation by number, said they were sold out, and too bad, so sorry. I mentioned the verbal confirmation, referencing the person to whom I spoke, the date and the time, which were a week prior. Said that if they didn’t have our room, they needed to walk us. Magically we got a room.

    I always call to confirm a reservation I’ve made online. I also ask the person looking up my reservation to note I may be coming in late, or asking if a refrigerator is available or a quiet room, or whatever, and I’ve had excellent results.

  • lost_in_travel

    If the problems with service were limited to travel it might be tolerable but it is spreading into every transaction. I use the self service check outs so I can sort and bag my own groceries by their locations when I put them away at home. Far too difficult to explain to the bagger what I am doing and they often feel offended that they cannot utilize their skill at pushing one more thing into the flimsy plastic bag which will spill all over my trunk anyway. I bring my own bags which stand up. I was at Stop and Shop this morning and the self check out machine malfunctioned, The over head light was flashing and five minutes (I timed it) went by with no help while the machine continued its very irritating mechanized voice telling me to please wait, so I decided to find an alternate route to customer service. I called directory assistance for the store phone number and reached a person in the Customer Service Office. I explained the problem and he came along quickly to fix the machine. He could see the light flashing and his staff not responding to it so it became his problem to fix. In an ideal world neither one of us should have been bothered by this, the machine should have worked, the back up person should have responded, instead a manager had to waste his and my time. When nearly every part of every action becomes a chore, no wonder tempers are frazzled. The Customer Service person was pleasant, I was pleasant, but what a waste of time and energy. Not to mention the 60 seconds of your life lost to read about it!

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Hey, I empathize totally with the grocery bagging, so it wasn’t a waste of 60 seconds of my life, but a vindication that I’m not the only one out there who cares that my produce gets home unharmed!

  • Asiansm Dan

    Please. I am computer specialist and I can say lost of reservations is a BS. They lost at their convenience, they never lost its if you are a no-show.
    When the occupancy rate are low than usual they want to sell the rooms/seats at discount but when the demand exceed their capacity (overbook in English) they manage to lose the low rate reservations.

  • J. Random Driveby

    Best resource I’ve found for checking airline/flight options is

  • SoBeSparky

    No. I do not confirm because my hotel chain confirms for me, sending me a reminder of my reservation around 48 hours in advance of arrival. Nice touch from IHG.

    This whole column is just another reason to avoid prepaying for your hotel. There are too many flaws in the process, especially since when you arrive they can assign whatever room the hotel feels like, and then you must fight to get your money back. The Golden Rule applies to hotels. He who has the gold, rules. You can book most hotels by guaranteeing the reservation, with cancellation privileges. Arrive before the cancellation deadline, frequently 6 p.m. Then if anything is unsatisfactory, you are not financially locked into that hotel. If the hotel requires 24-hour notice to cancel, go elsewhere unless you want to subject yourself to the vagaries of the front desk.

    Would you prepay or guarantee a reservation at a restaurant for a fixed price meal with a 24-hour advance cancellation period?

    And you can still reserve rooms without a credit card guarantee. Try calling the property directly for a nonguaranteed reservation which is cancelled by 5 or 6 p.m.. They still exist at some properties. And if it is not peak season, then arrive without reservations. I have gotten very good “walk-up” rates from time to time when there are plenty of rooms available. Sometimes you do not need to “walk-up” but just call the hotel and tell them, “I am at the airport, and what is your best rate for tonight?”

  • Asiansm Dan

    There 3 categories of problems with third party reservation :
    – Technical : Booking Processus – availability, confirmation, accuracy of parameters (cat of rooms, price, request, etc…)
    – Quality of product or rating (the meaning of the Star is not the same from country to country, even website to website)
    – Before, During and After sale support

    Of course the less you want to pay, the more you encounter a problem and the odd increase with the complexity of the itinerary which passing thru 12 times zones, 1 stop in a Pacific Island where I bet some of the reader of side have difficulty to figure what day they need to book.

    That’s the reason I still like the service of Travel Agent even with a fee and they can do better job than me when my itinerary need more than 2 hotels.

    Some Third Party Reservation work well, I do use sometimes and never had a problem of lost of reservation even it’s a remote small hotel of 20 rooms in Thailand or Vietnam.
    An advanced Information technology equipped Driftwood Inn in Chestertown, Md lost a reservation is a lie.

  • jerryatric

    And when confirming by phone, remember to get the person’s name, & note it & date (even time) of call

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    We have a saying in our family: “Would you fly on an airline you never heard of?” Why do people persist in giving their money to an online booking site? Make your reservations directly with the hotel or through a reputable online agency.

  • Miami510

    Something I’ve done with success: I comparison shop on various hotel reservation sites and then call the hotel directly. When the price is the same, I make the reservation directly with the hotel and request an email confirmation after giving them my credit card information.
    When the hotel’s price is greater, I ask to speak to the reservations manager and mention that the same accommodations are available through, and add “If you’re willing to sell the room to them for that with their commissions, won’t you sell it to me for the same thing?” Most of the time I’m successful.

  • Richard from France

    Never had a problem with Agoda either. I would add China to your list, have used them in Hong Kong, Guilin, Yangshou (small hotel) & Guangzhou.

  • TonyA_says

    Yes it is complete BS.

  • TonyA_says

    C’mon folks this is just plain ole common sense. Maybe consumers are just too greedy so that is why they fall for scams. There has to be a point where consumers (suckers) are blamed for their own stupidity (as in please do your homework before you part with your money with some internet scam). 3 simple rules:

    (1) Book Direct (or from an agent using a GDS to book it directly for you). Do not go through a wholesaler/aggregator. Sure sign of this is you are given a prepaid voucher for your stay.

    (2) Never Prepay unless you are prepaying the property DIRECTLY. Do not trust any voucher.

    (3) If you don’t know what you are doing, ask help from an expert (not the internet).

    And confirming hotel reservations ??? Haven’t you ever heard of a GDS or a non-GDS CRS like Pegasus ??? They access the hotel’s inventory to make a booking so your booking is CONFIRMED.

  • TonyA_says

    ITASoftware (a google comp) has lots of known issues.
    Incorrect prices, stale seat inventory to name a few.
    Since they do not sell you tickets, they essentially have no responsibility for their errors.

  • TonyA_says

    IF it is a lie, then it is a scam and must be reported by Chris to the FL attorney general where the seller is based.

  • TonyA_says

    Greed and Stupidity, that’s why.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’m curious, where is the lack of person responsibility that you mention early on ?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The only online reservation that was ever lost was my reservation at the Las Vegas Westin. It was opening week and I got a great deal. Upon arrival they couldn’t find the reservation but I had my printout. This was about ten years ago.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Amazing. A down vote in 10 seconds for a purely straightforward recitation of history. I guess some of the trolls are awake.

  • Carchar

    I had made a reservation online with the Riande Aeropuerto hotel in Panama City. Unfortunately, my plane was delayed by about 8 hours and I arrived at the hotel after 3 a.m. I got my room, a couple of hours sleep, breakfast, and then checked out for my connection to Quito. I looked at my bill and saw that the charge for my room was a little more than on my reservation. I showed them my printed reservation and the clerk discovered that I had been determined to be a no-show for the night before and then charged for the next day, even though I was leaving before check-out time. I would have been charged for 2 nights. The clerk was very apologetic and redid the bill. Next time I arrive at a hotel after the day’s receipts have been closed out, I will make sure they have me down for the correct date.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Best things about Agoda.
    1- Very easy to change reservation – Very few non refundable rate. No cancellation fee, so if they lower the price, just change the booking and new price apply.
    2- Ristourne / Discount cumulate when you continue to use the site.

  • Rose Y

    I use regularly, in fact twice this year already. Luckily, I
    have had no problems at all. I knew what I was getting into. A saving
    of 30% or higher for a few days stay I couldn’t get from the hotel
    chains. 95% of the time I was able to guess which hotels I was booking
    from the opague sites. The prices are almost always lower than booking from the hotels directly.

  • TonyA_says

    What is the point of calling a middle seat, torturous?
    Even narrow body aircrafts have them and there’s no practical way to get around them.
    All we are accomplishing is making people feel more miserable.

  • TonyA_says

    I hope more people listen to you.
    But there is such a large middleman industry that still tries to fool the public that they have a valuable service as a vending machine.

  • Michael__K

    Most chains and independent hotels will guarantee the lowest rate if you come to them directly and people STILL use these on-line sites.

    Those guarantees aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Particularly if you are within the cancellation notice deadline — which is 24 or 48 or 72+ hours at many destinations — then it’s pretty common to find lower rates for the same room under the same terms via OTA’s than directly through the hotel chain’s own website.

    The best price guarantees are usually not applicable AT ALL for reservations made less than 24 hours before checkin time. And good luck if you try to invoke the guarantee and hope to collect on your claim for a reservation booked 48 hours or 72 hours in advance, even if you are technically 100% right.

    A few months ago, I purchased a room for $85 through Expedia that would have been $119 through the hotel’s own website — the exact same room type and the exact same cancellation terms (48 hours). I tried to call the hotel chain’s customer service to invoke their best price guarantee. Long story short: I wasted about 90 minutes on the phone, and to pursue the best price guarantee, I would have had to pay $119/night non-refundable up front and I wouldn’t have found out if my claim was accepted until after my stay. I opted to pay Expedia $85/night. (And after completing the reservation, I did call the hotel directly to verify that they had my reservation. They did).

  • MarkKelling

    They used to actually train baggers on how to put stuff in a bag (heavy canned goods on the bottom, bread on top, eggs separately, and so on) and there were regional contests which rewarded the top finishers with more money than they made in a month if they were good enough. I placed 3rd in the Southwest regionals many years ago. But no more. Even store management basically shovels things into bags in the order they come down the conveyor. Very frustrating.

    I have learned to place the items on the belt in the order they should be bagged. Helps sometimes, others I just bag them myself. I can still bag quicker and use less bags and still not crush or break anything much better than anyone I have found working at any store lately. Sometimes the cashier will look at how I bagged stuff and go “Wow, how did you do that so quick?” :-)

  • MarkKelling

    There are cases of parallel databases where the replication from one to the other does not occur successfully. When the system shifts to the other during maintenance windows or other down time, the re-sync does not occur properly and some things get lost. However, I agree that it always seems that it is the great rate reservation that is lost when this happens! :-)

  • MarkKelling

    “As long as travel is booked by computer, reservations will continue to get lost.”

    Ok, so are you suggesting we go back to telephone operators entering the details by hand into a ledger book and then faxing or even mailing the paper work out to the interested parties??

    I believe that there are many fewer reservations lost simply because a computer is used from one end to the other in the process with no manual intervention required. Sure, there will always be a few that disappear for whatever reason. Computers crash before the data is backed up, things get cancelled or deleted from one end or the other, things go wrong. But the thing is how the issue is handled when discovered. If the client has a reservation confirmation number, the reservation should be honored as originally booked unless it can be proved that the client actually cancelled or modified the reservation in some way causing the original terms to become void.

    I did have one travel experience where it was a good thing I re-confirmed my air travel a couple days before I was due to fly. The airline had removed one segment from my flights and not let me know of the change. How they expected me to get between those points without flying was never explained to me. However, they were eager to work with me and put me on flights that got me where I needed to be. And they put me on a much more expensive flight (at no extra charge to me!) that cut out a plane change allowing me to get there almost 5 hours earlier.

  • Cat

    And they way the airlines sell, release, reserve, purposely separate groups, block and exclude seats they may have had the same seats on their original tickets!

  • lost_in_travel

    There are discussions in other columns about passengers who should have been more pro-active about spelling or dates or connections, but isn’t there also a personal responsibility on the part of the vender’s agent to get the order right? A work ethic? A personal satisfaction in a job well done? I have to say that today has been a good day so far, but yesterday my breakfast order had the wrong sandwich in the bag, the receipt printer at the gas pump was out of order, and someone else’s mail was in my Post Office Box (wrong box number too, but my question, is mine misplaced too?) These are not things within my control but I must check and recheck to see that some one else has done his or her job properly. If I have a confirmation number for a hotel reservation, why should I need to re-confirm and waste the time on both sides of the transaction? I do because just enough times, there is a snafu and I need to be proactive to make sure the snafu is not on me. I have thought about the comment that if three bad encounters happen, one should look to oneself as the culprit, but I don’t see me as responsible for yesterday mornings trio of errors, but I had to deal with the fallout.

  • lost_in_travel

    Congratulations on your 3rd place! That was back when the paper bags were sturdy enough to actually hold canned goods and would stand up to allow proper filling. My biggest complaint with the plastic bags is that they disgorge all the contents in my trunk so I have to repack the now mangled items to carry them into the house. Duane Reade, a drugstore chain in NYC, has the best grocery bags for purchase – a plain black bag with green double length handles labeled as “Urban Luggage”. I bought a stack of them last trip to the City.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I heard somebody else say the same thing about the best price guarantee. It’s not a price match but requires you to actually pay the higher fare first in order to file for the guarantee. But who would ever do that as opposed to just taking the lower price to start with? Thus, the guarantee means almost nothing.

  • Michael__K

    The guarantee programs generally do promise an incentive beyond just matching the lower price. Hilton will match the price and give you a $50 gift card. Starwood will match the price and take off an additional 10%.

    One big problem is that it can take days to get a ruling and it’s completely possible (and in fact likely in the case of a 48-hour advance reservation) that the rate you saw will be gone or unverifiable by the time someone gets around to reviewing your claim.

    Another problem is that the terms & conditions are complex and subject to interpretation and incomplete. Look carefully and you will always find cop-out language in the terms, such as:

    “[hotel] reserves the right to modify or cancel the guarantee at any time without prior notice”


    “additional conditions apply” (where no additional conditions are available either online or if you call customer service and ask about the “additional conditions”).

  • Jason Q

    In those cases, the airline would refund the $60 for the better seat (it’s happened to me on Delta and United)

  • TowerRat

    And THAT is the smartest travel idea I’ve heard all month. Thank You!

  • James Penrose

    I am always careful when using second party reservation sites (and even when booking directly) as things can get mucked up and there is *always* finger pointing or ridiculous delays: (Desai said it “almost never” has problems like that, “but we are working our best to get this refund back to him as fast as possible.”).

    If they really meant that, they’d cut him a check on their own but they are still passing the buck rather than dealing with the screw up.

    You especially need to watch for code shares as even when booked direct with airline “A”, they can change things and not tell airline “B”.

    I once spent considerable time trying to resolve a missing reservation for a connecting flight because the originating airline changed the flight number on the first leg. The person at the counter finally had to use my checked luggage receipt to pull up the reservation (Hats off to Lufthansa, the guy spend nearly half an hour trying to fix United’s screw up.)

    He updated things, worked it out and I got my flight but as a precautionary measure, I hit Lufthansa’s customer service desk to check the return flight and had the same hassle and again when I checked in despite having a nice print out from the service people showing what was screwed up. Not Lufthansa’s fault and they did yeoman work in getting me on my flights.

    Lufthansa was put to considerable time and effort to fix what United did and I salute them.

    Always bring printouts of your reservations, payment etc and call the airline or hotel to make sure you actually *got* a reservation. You simply cannot count on the online booking agencies to do squat for you once they have your money no matter what their ads promise. The clown reading scripts in Mumbai neither understands nor cares enough to actually fix your problem and likely has no authority to do so and most companies would prefert to spend ten times as much avoiding the solution as solving the problem would cost them.

  • James Penrose

    Most of those “guarantees” are worthless once you figure int he value of your time in trying to get them to honor their own promises.

    The rates and fares are so complex you never get the same one twice and I’ve had to email scanned copies of print outs sometimes to prove I could find rate “X” when their own people couldn’t.

    Too much outsourcing to third world companies that have no clue and less interest in actually helping you (assuming they can even understand you and vice versa) has ruined a lot of companies but they continue to pinch pennies while losing dollars.

  • James Penrose

    A lot of honest managers will tell you it is very hard to get low level employees with functioning brains.

    I used to order pizza regularly from a given chain. They had a system that easily let the order taker pull up your prior order and duplicate it. yet two times out of three, the employee would get so flustered, they had to call the manager over to help them.

    I got so I just asked to speak to “Frank” and he’d take care of me. We had some nice chats about the problem of getting help that could think in more complex terms than grunting.

    In fast food chains I *always* check my order as there is a greater than 50% chance they screwed it up. Ever look over the counter at their registers? More and more have to have little pictures of the food because the employees are illiterate in several languages and if there isn’t a picture to match the menu item, they fall over and fibrillate.

  • James Penrose

    Reporting a travel or vacation scam in Florida is like yelling in the Grand Canyon and expecting an echo.

    Why do you think so many travel and vacation companies have their HQ there? Weak consumer protection laws with a particular 800 pound mouse making sure things stays that way.

  • James Penrose

    And even then, sometimes you’re out of luck as outsourced customer support companies have been known to just make up fake names just to get you to go away or for use by whoever sits at that desk that day. Later you are told “There is no “Bob” working for us.” And good luck trying to get a last name or employe I.D. from many of them on the phone.

    I rather enjoy talking (sometimes) to someone named “Bob” who has an accent so heavy you just *know* their real name sure isn’t going to be “Bob” and an obvious lack of comprehension of current American modes of speech indicating they haven’t been within five thousand miles of the U.S. in this lifetime. Two ways to tell: Use American slang and see if they understand or try a current “catch phrase” and see if they register it properly. I use “read my lips” as most non-native speakers don’t catch the reference and get literal “I cannot be reading your lips sir, I am not seeing you over the phone.” (Actual, verbatim response once. I admit I do not speak Hindi or Bengali, but then I am not trying to pretend to be from there or running a customer service hotline catering to people in that part of the world.)

  • James Penrose

    Dickering over price has not yet died out. I enjoy doing things this way also. Even a simple “Is that really the best you can do?” can get you a break. Oh and always join the loyalty club for whatever hotel you are booking, that can work wonders even if you have no points accrued. Many chains give better consideration or upgraded rooms to members or extra perks even when you do not have any premium status.

    I’ve even had an airline match my frequent flier status with another, non-affiliated airline (upon receipt of proof of course) just by asking if they would do so.

    Want something? Ask, it wont hurt. The smart places know an empty hotel room makes zero money and a well treated newcomer may become a long-term money maker.

  • James Penrose

    If at all possible, call and let them know you are delayed. If you haven’t pre-paid and maybe even if you have, they may release your reservation and you might not find a room at the inn. This can even be worth paying horrid in-flight phone rates.

    I’ve never had a problem if I let a hotel know I am on a delayed flight etc. I was once delayed 16 hours from L.A. to Baltimore (long and annoying story of aircraft change and screwing frequent flyers with status for some reason) and still had a room waiting for me and they didn’t even charge me for the aborted night…class act from a chain I shall call Hi @.

  • James Penrose

    I only use the opaque sites when I know the region (and hotels) really well as sometimes the geographic area is too large and you end up so far from where you need to be that cab fare sucks up the price savings and eats up your time or their idea of a 3 star hotel doesn’t even come close to your idea.

  • James Penrose

    I have shoulders and arms like a linebacker, if I sit in a middle seat *everyone* suffers…grin. So I go to great lengths *not* to get a middle seat including paying extra if need be.

  • James Penrose

    The problem is, now when something gets lost, there is often no paper trail and staff who simply do not give a damn or have no skills in trying to figure out if you really do have a valid reservation. In the days of paper tickets, the ticket itself was your proof and was generally considered solid evidence.

    A print out of your reservation may or may not help, especially on code shares or complex travel where the person on the other side of the counter may not even share a common alphabet let alone language or be in some part of the world where computer connections are still spotty at best.

  • Carchar

    I have called about delays on other occasions. I thought about it, but didn’t this time, as I knew the hotel wasn’t full, I was only staying for one night, the deadline for canceling had passed, and I was covered for it by insurance for this particular trip. (I always insure my foreign trips.) As it turned out, it all worked well.

  • Linda

    I voted no because I never use those 3rd-party sites for hotels – especially if they charge up front. I’ve just heard too many stories like these. I use the hotel’s website, print out the confirmation (including the promised rate) and take it with me.

  • Linda

    WRT to your trunk problem, you could put a large carton or laundry basket in there (permanently) and put the bags inside. (I always forget to do this, but it does prevent the items “escaping”). Well, a little off-topic I guess :-)

  • SallyLu

    Not sure if this was the case this time, but occassionally, I’ll go to click the up arrow, and accidentally hit the down arrow instead. I always go back and click it again, and it seems to remove the down vote, but maybe someone didn’t realize they could do that (or even that they down voted). I hope that is the case, because you’re right – straight forward comment. What’s not to like?

  • Carver Clark Farrow


    I think that there are folks who down vote anyone whom the dislike.