An empty vacation package from Expedia

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By | April 11th, 2014

Gladys Martin’s Expedia vacation package is missing two key components. Should she have to pay for its mistake?

Question: I’m writing you about our problems with a vacation package we booked on Expedia to Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

A few weeks before our departure, we confirmed our accommodations and rental car with Expedia. But when we arrived, both the Dollar car rental location and our hotel, the Hostel Tamarindo Backpackers, emphatically denied doing business with Expedia. Both businesses claimed Expedia is notorious for overbooking reservations.

We ended up paying out-of-pocket for a week’s worth of hotel ($620) and car rental insurance. Per the Dollar Rental person, the government of Costa Rica requires that the tourists buy the car rental insurance in the country and they will not honor a car rental insurance from abroad.

We reached Expedia from Costa Rica and when we returned home. After hours on the telephone, numerous hang-ups, and even finally getting a fax number where supposedly we should send our receipts and an explanation of what happened so that an Expedia supervisor could resolve the issue (we are requesting a full refund of our hotel), the only response from Expedia was to issue a $164 refund which Expedia claims should account for the entire portion of the money we paid in advance for our room and $99 for the rental car insurance.


Could you please put some pressure on Expedia to reimburse us for the total cost we paid for room, which comes to $455? — Gladys Martin, Berea, OH

Answer: Obviously, Expedia got its wires crossed with both the Hostel Tamarindo Backpackers and Dollar. In a big way.

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Expedia should have made sure that you had a confirmed reservation with the hotel and not just a rental car, but also a rental car at the rate it promised you.

Expedia should have fixed this problem while you were still in Costa Rica, finding you a room and a rental car. I’m disappointed that it didn’t. By the way, you did the right thing by phoning Expedia. You needed a real-time resolution, but unfortunately you didn’t get it. After that, corresponding with Expedia by fax and email worked better, because you had a much-needed paper trail.

In the future, you might want to contact the hotel and car rental company directly, even if you have a confirmation from your online travel agent. Just to be safe.

Fortunately, this type of glitch appears to be very rare. I contacted Expedia on your behalf, and it reviewed your case again. Its records show that a refund of $455 was already in process.

I’m happy that Expedia eventually did the right thing without having to be asked.

Did Expedia refund Gladys Martin's vacation fast enough?

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  • bodega3

    I am a bit confused. Expedia had the Hostel in their inventory, which is how the OP was able to book it. But when they arrived at the Hostel, they were told that Expedia overbooks? What does this have to do with the other comment that the Hostel doesn’t sell via Expedia? I don’t find the Hostel with Expedia, but perhaps they were working on a contract that fell through? Regardless, Expedia screwed up. As for the ‘mandatory’ insurance, what are they saying was required? Liability coverage is required. The others aren’t, but not a bad idea in taking out. If you don’t take full coverage out and you have an accident, you could be delayed leaving the country. Breakins are a huge issue, just like in Italy.

  • sirwired

    I’ve taken to using the OTA’s as nothing more than search engines. It’s getting to be rare that they offer anything you can’t get for the same price direct from the provider.

  • FQTVLR

    Too many of the OTAs still have to manually book the hotel after it is booked on their website. And that allows for too much human error. Maybe the Hostel was on Expedia for a short while but the business was not enough to justify the relationship. But that is beside the point.
    Expedia confirmed both the accommodations and the car rental to the OP. Since it appears they did not follow through it is their obligation to solve the problem as soon as possible. They should have simply paid up front or refunded the client the full amount immediately.
    But I am confused on the car rental. Ms. Martin says that Dollar told her they do not work with Expedia, yet the only disputed amount is the car insurance which Expedia did refund. Did Dollar honor her Expedia reservation? Did she purchase insurance from Expedia on their website or did they tell her it was not required? If neither of these things then why is the insurance a problem? (Of course maybe I have not had enough coffee to get me started this morning and am simply misreading the letter,)

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I was curious about that as well. On the dollar website it says that liability insurance is required and must be purchased, unless the customer can provide written evidence of being covered under a Costa Rican liability policy. CDW is optional and it doesn’t even mention needing to provide proof. However, it does explicitly say that liability insurance purchased through 3rd party websites is not accepted, so if she purchased Expedia insurance that would be no good. And it’s a safe bet that her CC, unless she was carrying the AMEX International Dollar Card (which isn’t issued in the US), her CC wouldn’t cover the liability portion either.

  • Charles Owen

    I have used Expedia many times and Travelocity a few times. The first rule for using any travel agency, be it an OTA or local, is to confirm all arrangements directly with the provider in advance. Whenever we book using Expedia or Travelocity, we always contact the hotel directly to ensure they have the reservation. Airlines are easy to confirm on the airline site. We have never had a problem. But, I know others who have, and my daughter worked at a Disney hotel for a while and said Expedia was notorious there for reservation mistakes.

    There are only one reason to ever use an OTA: when it is the cheapest alternative. Practically for us, that nearly always means when we are buying a package. They will never be cheaper than buying airfare directly and are rarely cheaper than buying from the hotel directly. The one exception on the hotel is both will sometimes offer blanket discounts, usually 5% for Expedia, but as much as 20% for Travelocity. The hotel price will generally match their listing, then the discount makes it cheaper.

  • jerryatric

    A first! I disagree with your assertion of calling the hotel/car rental after using Expedia or any of the other companies to confirm. If I have to resort to that, I might as well make the reservations directly. This is what I do anyway. I price compare with the likes of Expedia & Priceline, & then phone/e mail directly to the hotel/car rental companies.
    Did that for renting a car for a week – checked these online sites called around, & got an even better price from Alamo.

  • jerryatric

    I agree 100% see my new comment

  • Kerry Mooneyham

    That is why using a travel agent is always better, and most times you will pay the same or less.

  • bodega3

    As a seller of travel for 3 decades, I have never called to reconfirm a hotel reservation or car reservation that I have made for any client. There has never been an issue with one booking in this regard. However, in today’s world of vending machine transactions, this seems to be recommended. So with long distance international calls, why not use a travel consultant who handles everything, saving you not only money but your time.

  • Charles Owen

    Maybe because I don’t trust a travel consultant any more than I trust Expedia? Especially one who clearly indicates that they never reconfirm hotel or car reservations. Most of my business travel is arranged by conventional travel agents under contract. I have had plenty of mistakes in those over the years.

    I have rarely called. For airlines, I can check the airline site. For hotels and car rentals, I send a quick email asking for confirmation. I always get a reply.

  • Charles Owen

    There are cases where Expedia and Travelocity will be cheaper. I NEVER book with an OTA that is the same price or more expensive. But, I have booked packages on Expedia and Travelocity where I have saved 10 to 20% and, yes, I very carefully checked that I really was saving. In August of last year we booked Disney’s All Star Music for 20% less than Disney direct on Travelocity because we had a coupon code. I completely agree about not using an OTA if they are the same price. Why add a middle-man for nothing. But, if they are cheaper, and they sometimes are, why pay more just to avoid a simple email to confirm that the reservation was made correctly?

  • bodega3

    Sorry to hear that you have had issues. None of my clients ever have.

  • bodega3

    There are additional places to get that hotel for less. But if booking with an OTA that screws up a lot works for the savings you think you are getting, go for it.

  • Annie M

    When will people learn that if it seems to good to be true it usually is? The guest ended up paying what she would have had she used a travel agent or even booked directly on her own and had the added bonus of hours on the phone and aggravation from Expedia.

  • Annie M

    As a travel agent, I even email hotels to confirm that my clients have reservations and I ask the hotel to afford them any amenities possible. Then I know for sure that there is a res so I can avoid problems like this. And that is what a good agent gets paid for from the hotel, not the client.

  • Annie M

    We do confirm reservations for most clients depending on the vendor we use, and it is mostly just to advise the hotel of their arrival, especially for a VIP client. It depends on the supplier but I am do this when necessary. The added touch of the hotel greeting the client by name is a plus when my clients get to the hotels.

  • Annie M

    Just remember, there are humans behind the OTA’s and yes indeed, they can make mistakes, especially if the human is not very experienced.

  • Helio

    [off topic]
    New front page layout?

  • jerryatric

    If you will notice I stated Online agents, NOT physical ones. I have used “real” agents without a problem. And as I said I never use an on line agency, only for comparison purposes.

  • bodega3

    I got a new layout the first time I come to the site. Then the second time, the old format was there. Weird!

  • bodega3

    That we also do. But not for every hotel night booked for every client. I find newbies do this a lot, but most got into the business due to booking with OTA for their own travels and it becomes a control issue. Our vendors have never let us down.

  • Mark Cuban

    If brick and mortar agents were good at resolving issues fewer people would be using Expedia and other online tools. On more than one occasion I’ve had TAs throw up their hands and say there was nothing they could do. TAs who say their clients haven’t had issues have been lucky none have come up.

  • bodega3

    With the internet, many don’t look for TA’s any longer and don’t know they still exist. I started worked when long distance charges made calling hotels cost prohibitive. No agency would call and it just never had been an issue with the vendors we use. I could be just lucky, but I trust the vendors I use and don’t use ones that too big where you get lost in their system. That makes a big difference IMHO.

  • TonyA_says

    Third time, new format again :-)

  • Helio

    It happened to me, but now is fixed in the new one.

    it’s nice, but… it is missing a very useful functionality – it isn’t showing the number of comments for each post. I use it to know if a particular post has or not new comments, I don’t want to enter in old posts just to check it.

    Chris, please put back the counters!!!! :-)

  • TonyA_says

    ROFL. That’s the reason why I became my own travel consultant and agent. There’s too many idiots in this industry.

  • TonyA_says

    PREPAID? Voucher? Asking for a headache?

  • TonyA_says

    Re: On more than one occasion I’ve had TAs throw up their hands and say there was nothing they could do.
    You know why?
    Because the principal (property or airline or real supplier) could NOT give a damn about (small) travel agents.
    If they don’t make the majority or a large chunk of their sales from (small) travel agents then that is exactly what you can expect. Sorry that is today’s reality.
    In fact so many travel agents today simply sell something their consortia (consortium) is pushing because that is the only way they can have some (perceived) power.
    In my opinion a good travel “consultant” today can better serve their clients by doing something to PREVENT problems by DE-RISKing travel rather than having to fix them later.
    Today’s TAs can innovate or stagnate.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Helio

    There are good and bad professionals. I had one TA who didn’t check the hotel confirmation she made, the best NYC hotel for her is Pennsylvania, but I really gave up her when she didn’t confirmed and extra leg in a vacation because she mistakenly though she will pay the int’l call to my mobile…

    In other hands, I know other TA who usually find better fares than me, once he was able to get a refund for a non-refundable seat because the airline changed one leg and made the trip unpractical, yet feasible, and even today he sent me information about changes in required travel documentation, etc.

    I prefer to book myself, but reading comments from other posters, I found that I know very little about it. I don’t know if even the 2nd TA I quoted knows as much as fellow posters, but now I believe I’m more educated to be able to help a TA to help me.

  • Helio

    I always check my reservations, even if I did everything by myself. I prefer having this extra work in order to minimize the odds for problems, instead of arrive in a place an find that I don’t have a room or a flight back home.

  • emanon256

    I keep getting the mobile layout :(

  • emanon256

    I have been lucky, the few times I have had issues when I used an agent, the agent has always worked things out at no additional cost to me.

  • TonyA_says

    Hi Helio,
    In reality it is very hard to be a good travel agent.
    Everyone’s area of expertise in limited. Usually it is decided by your location. If agents want to get better or increase their knowledge they will have to either travel a lot or figure out a way to do business with other locations.
    Consider a typical telephone agent today? How much money do they make? Can they afford to travel to the places you are going? If not, then what to do know about your destinations? Just because they have a GDS or a professional guidebook to look over, that does not mean they have enough expertise that makes them valuable.
    Today, I am convinced that the world’s smartest traveler needs to do what I call SMART DIYing for less complex trips. The actual part of BOOKING can easily be DIYed because most hotels, airlines and car rental companies have decent online booking sites.
    But what is really MOST important is knowing WHAT to book and HOW to book. This is what I think travel consulting should really be.

  • LFH0

    Unfortunately that is so true, with many unable to understand travel other than just entering an origin and destination with the expectation that the system will do everything for them (and these days, nearly any literate person can do the same). I had been using a very knowledgeable travel agent for a long time, someone who knew travel well (specializing in rail travel, and also knowing bus travel very well). He has been so many places in the world–not beach resorts but actual countries with real cities and sights–and was especially helpful with multimodal journeys where all the pieces had to fit together temporally (a significant risk for the DIYer, where one could book and pay for leg 1, and then leg 2 becomes “unavailable” in real time, leading one with a now-useless leg 1). Unfortunately, he ended up associating with a larger agency that imposed unnecessary and excessive ticketing fees (on top of commissionable Amtrak sales) and kept losing tickets that were supposed to be mailed out to me.

  • TonyA_says

    Call them HUMAN Vending Machines.

  • TonyA_says

    You know any travel agent who specializes in HOSTELS like this one – Hostel Tamarindo Backpackers ???

  • bodega3

    There is one company that we can use to book some hostels, but most don’t work with TA’s. So you can book it for a passed on fee if you want.

  • We’re upgrading the site. Which counters are missing?

  • TonyA_says

    Helio can you pls answer Chris’ question about the counters. Thanks.

  • bodega3

    It bounces back and forth for me. I don’t care for the newer format as there is no home button to click, you don’t see the most recent posts and as you mentioned, how many have responded. New and improved isn’t always better.

  • bodega3

    I now see a home button :-)

  • I do listen. We’re trying to make this redesign better.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    No counter on # of comments until you click to enter the actual story of interest. Before, I could see the # of comments associated with each story, below and slight right of center of the synopsis.

    I miss that “What are they saying?” window where I can see recent comments. That way I can see if someone has posted something new on a story in which I’m interested, even if it’s not the story of the day.

  • bodega3

    Mahalo!

  • Helio

    Hi. The yellow ones:

  • Helio

    And I believe this is the box Jeanne asked about (and I like it too ;-)

  • Helio

    Done! ;-)

  • Helio

    (I’m not able to refrain myself… ;-)

    Chris, are you unbundling the site, removing the features that some people doesn’t care, to charge extra the people who cares about?

  • We’re working on that. It’s a problem with Disqus, but my web guy is trying to resolve it. You can see the “What they are talking about” in the sidebar now, but for some reason it isn’t populating.

  • I’m working on it. Stay tuned.

  • Helio

    Good luck! Well, for me is almost 8:00pm, I need to leave. But I’ll be back later to see results. I’m sure I’ll appreciate your efforts (and your web guy’s too!)

  • Cheri Head

    If people continue to use OTAs, especially Expedia, things like this will continue to happen. Period. When our horror story (http://bit.do/expediaisbadnews) went viral, many people told us they had learned from our ugly experience with them and vowed to never use them again. These companies are NOT your advocates. They do NOT care if you have a good trip or save money. They exist SOLELY to make as much money as possible. And remember: all that money they make is eventually costs you anyway… it results in higher prices across the board so that companies recoup at least a little bit of the 25%+ commission they pay the OTAs. Figure it out. There are only rare cases when you actually save money using an OTA, and those cases are generally when buying a package. (But the OTAs are really good at making you believe you’re getting a great deal.) But when things go wrong, forget it. Is your precious vacation really worth the tiny savings? BOOK DIRECT AND STOP DEALING WITH EXPEDIA AND OTHER OTAs!

  • Cheri Head

    And one more point: If you use companies like Expedia to just do research, realize you are only seeing a subset of what’s available. As soon as you enter dates onto an OTA site to do your research (or even onto TripAdvisor), the results you see will ONLY be hotels, etc. that work with that OTA. Many wonderful properties, such as ours, do NOT work with these thieves. So you’re missing out on a great many opportunities. Best thing to do is start your research with TripAdvisor’s popularity ranking list (do NOT enter dates first). Just about every hotel available is listed there. Let your research take you from there, and when you decide to book, either BOOK DIRECT (especially good for small and midsized properties) or use a travel agent (especially good for larger properties). Do not give business to companies like Expedia. It will only hurt you and perpetuate their bad practices.

  • Annie M

    We are not newbies, we’ve been in business 13 years. And we learned a lesson when this happened to a client using a reputable supplier. Once burned, twice shy. It will never happen again.