A canceled room, but no refund

Question: I recently made a reservation on the Days Inn Web site for six nights at the Days Inn Barnwell, SC. My American Express card was charged $415.

Because of a death in my family that required me to travel to Oklahoma to attend the funeral, I called Days Inn and requested that my reservation be canceled. I was informed that online reservations could not be canceled and that my credit card would be charged — the reason for the cancellation request notwithstanding.

I sent an email to the corporate office using the Web site’s “Contact Us” feature, requesting a review. My Amex card was charged a few days later, and I received a call from a Days Inn customer service agent shortly after that, who informed me that nothing could be done to reverse the charge. Can you help me get a refund? — Art Wallace, Miami Beach, Fla.

Answer: Days Inn should have given you a refund, or at least allowed you to apply your $415 credit toward a future stay. But its “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude just doesn’t work for me.

Days Inn should have clearly disclosed that the online rate you were quoted was nonrefundable. I’m sure if you went back to the booking screen, you would see the terms. But were they adequately disclosed? If you learned about them for the first time when you called Days Inn to cancel, then the answer is “no.”

Even airlines, which have some of the most restrictive and customer-hostile policies in the travel industry, allow you to rebook another flight when you cancel. And air carriers frequently offer full refunds when there’s a death in the family. Why is Days Inn being so difficult?

I believe the answer is that Days Inn franchisees don’t want to give the money back. And why should they? From the hotel owners’ perspective, they offered a lower rate in exchange for a commitment from you to show up on the day of your reservation. If you don’t check in, they get to keep the money. You’re essentially stuck between Days Inn corporate and a group of independent owners. Not a very good place to be, if you ask me.

Maybe it’s time to clarify some of Days Inn’s refund rules. When a room is booked online, can it be canceled – and if so, under what circumstances? Can the hotel issue credit that can be reused later, like an airline?

You might have complained to someone higher up at Days Inn, which is owned by Wyndham Worldwide. But in this case, I think that applying steady pressure by way of the Better Business Bureau and South Carolina’s attorney general (who you should have copied on your correspondence) you might have shaken something loose.

Contacting me wasn’t a bad idea, either. I got in touch with the corporate Days Inn office and asked it to review your case. The company apologized for the difficulty you had in making a cancellation and agreed to a full refund. Days Inn is also working to modify some of its policies to make it easier for customers to deal with an unforeseen cancellation.

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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  • Will B Provided

    Nice work there on helping that guy get a refund?  I challenge you on this one:  Your success will save the local franchise owner from having to deal with the state attorney general office on this (re:”Consumer frauds)/

    Wanna try: in april 2011, was RESERVING 1 room 4 months in advance. I specifically CHOSE the higher rate even though the website offered a “Save 20%. 14 day advance booking. prepayment required”.  I clicked the HIGHER rate, and planned to “confirm” the stay at the 14 day window later on IF we were making the trip.   Their website changed my higher rate to the lower rate!…said “”Save 20%. 14 day advance etc. prepayment required.”  i did NOT want to prepay.and was no “BOOKING (confirming)” the room..so down lower on the screen, next to the now lower price, it said “canelc” or “reserve”. So, i KNOw i was only making a “reservation” (and not intending to guaranyty/confirm OR  prepay so i logically thought clicking on “RESERVE would make ONLY a reservation. 

    I was uncertain abuot the vague (VERY vague) wording on the screen whiwhich said “”any required prepayment will be charged immediately, otherwsie card will be charged at checkout.”   Well, since i knew I was only a “reservation” I was fine with “”will be charged at checkout….BUT..jus tto be safe..i typed in the comments section: “please confirm that this is a RESERVATION only and not a prepayment”.

    Guess what.? A week later, they charged my bank card. When i emailed to asky why, they replied “no refund”. I didnt even ask to cancel or for a refund yet….they evidently were anticpating it though.     I finall ywas able to convince the central rervations peole that my INTENT was clearly stated in the “comments” o nthe reservation screen…and i want the room cancelled.  Local franshise owner has now refused TWICE to refune the charges. Local manager told me that even though they DID see my question (and didnt answer it), they cited that THEIR internal policy “allows us” to charge the card immediately, regardless of what the customer puts in the “comments” section.  

    It was CLEAR that they changed the rate on the screen, then misled me intinto thining iwas making a reservation only..THEN, they CHOSE to ignore my question..so that they codl charge me immediately..even thugh i had clearl ysaid ” “reservation only..not prepaying”…AND i had clearly chosen the HIGHER cancellable, REFUNDALE rate.  This is a HUGE scam…
    and my “cover” is that I had asked for clarification BEFORE the transaction..yet they clearly chose to igonore at so they codl dip into m ybank account. and rip me off.

    want more details?  The state attorney general is next on this. Unles you want to give it a go.  ?  Oddly, i regulary stay at a Wingate hotel and never had a problem….but this days inn experience has me unraveled, and they have zero interest in refunding my $ even though THEY changed the whole transcation to the lower rate so they coould charge me.    They clearly know what they are doing on this: the wording is vague enough to dupe ANYONE into committing to a”reservation” while being unaware that its nonrefundable, noncancellable. IT says  any requred prepayment ill be charged immediately OR will be charged at checkout.” …Well, my INTENT was clearly stated NOTto prepay..that i was reservation only…and expected to be charged “at time of checkout”..

    wanna try this one ?

  • Will-B-PRovided

    yes you are correct there on “standing fast” but in my case, i chose the HIGHER rate because i wasnt sure of the date of stay. Their computer system literally changed the higher rate to a lower “save 20%. advance rate. ”    I had no choice then, as my orignal choice (higher rate) was gone from the screen and replaced by the Lower rate that i had not asked for nor wanted.   I also typed in the “comments section” i wanted “reservation only, not prpaying”. 

    so its not like Days Inn is being fair at all. if a consumer CHOOSES the higher rate…days inn shuold not automatically make it a lower rate..and then put up VAGUE terms along with it. Example:” instead of “guarnty” or “prepay” the icon says “RESERVE”  I wanted a non-binding reservation..AND the higher price.

    so while i see yor point copletely…Days INN then COUNTERS the cusomter action on the reservation..and changes the cusomter choic to a 14 day advance rate…and catches the consumer off guard…  People click , thinkig its a nonbnding reservation. PLUs..i clearly stated o nthe comments section that i wanted a “reservation” not  aprepaymeyment..THEY IGNORED THE COMMENt..THAT’S BAD BUSINESS…as they CLEARLY could see that i was NOT interesed in the prpayment price..yet they charged me anyway.     NExt stop: attorney general office.