A ski vacation that was all downhill

Question: I have an issue I’m hoping you can help me with. I made a reservation at Snowbird Resort in Utah last year for a five-night stay over Christmas break. Unfortunately, we missed our flight, so I rescheduled for the first week in March.

More bad luck followed. My daughter fell and tore a ligament in her knee and needs surgery, so skiing is out of the question for her until next season. Snowbird is saying the credit must be used by May. We can’t go because of my daughter’s injury, and no one in my family or circle of friends can take our place.

I would appreciate any help you can provide. I am not asking for a refund, just that the credit be applied to next season, when we can once again travel and ski. The hotel cost $330 per night for high season, and my credit card was charged the full amount. – Colleen Bosler, Blue Bell, Pa.

Answer: A resort is well within its rights to pocket your money when you cancel at the last minute — even if it’s for reasons beyond your control. But this is one of those times when asking politely and being just a little persistent might get what you want, even if you aren’t entitled to it.

I probably don’t need to explain why hotels have cancellation policies. But here it goes, anyway. If you were allowed to make a reservation and then not show up — particularly around the holidays — then a hotel would quickly go bankrupt. So you’ll find that often, cancellation policies are pretty strict. I’m talking airline-like strict.

Snowbird was extremely generous to offer credit for a future stay. To make another reservation and then cancel it again, even for good reasons, left you with almost no options.

But you weren’t entirely out of options. First, you could have contacted your travel agent. You were working with Travelocity, which is an online travel agent. It offers a guarantee that, among other things, assures you that “in those rare cases when things don’t go the way they should, you can count on us to fix it or work with you to offer a reasonable alternative.” Here’s the full text of its promise. Travelocity might have been able to push for a refund or an extension of your vouchers.

You could have also contacted the resort and made a more forceful case for an extension of your resort credit. In other words, when the customer service department says “no,” escalate your case to a manager, who would be in a position to bend a rule for you. What have you got to lose?

There’s a lesson for the rest of us here: Even when we don’t have a prayer of getting a refund or compensation, it doesn’t hurt to ask. You never know. You might get lucky.

I didn’t think you would when I contacted Snowbird (a resort I’ve visited a time or two, incidentally, and really like). A representative told me your credit couldn’t be extended. But several weeks later you received an e-mail from Travelocity that you would be credited $2,009 — the full amount of your hotel bill.

Maybe there’s something to that guarantee.

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.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Google Plus