Hey, what happened to my hotel refund?


When Barbara Kaplan checks out of her hotel after suffering an apparent allergic reaction, a manager promises her a refund. So where’s the money?

Question: Would you help me with a dilemma, please? I recently booked a trip to Seattle through Expedia. My accommodations were at the Marriott’s Renaissance Seattle Hotel.

On my first night, when I turned on the heat, I felt as if I was getting bitten all over. In fact, I had red welts on my face and back.

The next morning, I told an assistant manager that I could no longer stay there. Apparently, he knew of the heating unit’s problem — it was full of pollen that affected hyperallergic people. He was very apologetic and helpful at the time, and he said he would cancel my full reservation. He explained that Expedia deferred to the hotel in these types of decisions.

However, when I received my credit card bill, the charge of $989 for my four-day stay was listed on it. The hotel claims that it sent a full refund to Expedia, but Expedia hasn’t refunded my account. Could you assist me in removing all charges from my bill? — Barbara Kaplan, Swarthmore, Pa.

Answer: Yes and no. You’re entitled to a partial refund if the hotel told you that it would give you one. A review of the Renaissance’s restrictions suggests that you could have canceled your reservation up to a day before your arrival. Otherwise, you would be charged for the first night as a penalty.

You waited until the morning after to take this up with a manager. I’m not sure I would have been that patient. The best time to address a consumer grievance is at the moment it happens — when you can show a hotel employee the red welts that are keeping you awake. The Renaissance might have been able to offer you a different room, or perhaps even a room at another Marriott hotel in the area, in order to make your stay more comfortable.

If the hotel refunded Expedia directly instead of sending the money back to your card, there would have been a little lag time. But how much? It all depends; however, it’s not that unusual to wait two to three billing cycles for the money to appear.

But as a practical matter, Expedia should send you the money as soon as it gets it. If it doesn’t, you could contact the hotel (which you did) and the online travel agency. A written request probably would work best. I list the name, emails and phone numbers of Expedia’s executives on my site.

I contacted Expedia on your behalf, and it refunded your room rate, minus $247 for the first night you spent at the Renaissance.

When the assistant manager told you he would cancel your “full” reservation, he meant that he would cancel the entire remaining reservation. Had you notified the hotel of your health issues sooner, and checked out before the morning, I might have been able to push for a refund of the entire amount, particularly if a hotel representative had offered you all of your money back. But the partial refund is enough to close this case.

Did Barbara Kaplan deserve a refund?

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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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  • emanon256

    The anti smoke spray IMO is just a bad as the smoke itself. Both give me a very bad sore throat.

  • lvswhippets

    To me DNR means “Do not resuscitate” Not applicable in this event. Thank goodness.

  • VoR61

    From merckmanuals(.)com: Allergic reactions (hypersensitivity reactions) are inappropriate responses of the immune system to a normally harmless substance.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Uh oh, you mentioned “chocolate”. I guess that word sets off a reaction among certain hypersensitive people (see a post on Wednesday’s article).

  • TonyA_says

    Re: The presence of the pollen
    What levels do you consider not normal?

  • TonyA_says

    hypercocollergic. It’s not Latin :-)

  • TonyA_says

    Can bed bugs do the same thing to her?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Theobroma cacao is the botanical name for the tree that produces chocolate. So, I’ll accept hypercocollergic as another of today’s made up words, now that you’ve broughten it up.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    That was the absolute first thing I thought of when I saw red, itchy welts, but the OP did say that turning on the heater is what started the reaction. She didn’t mention being in bed when the welts developed.

  • TonyA_says

    Oh, you broughten chocolates to Chris’ home instead of Fedexing it?

  • TonyA_says

    Reading the article again, I don’t think she contacted Expedia until CE wrote Expedia.
    I could be wrong, but unless you ask Expedia for your money back, it will be more than happy to keep it.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Sadly, it’s still too warm. Even for suburban Connecticut. :)

  • Rebecca

    Agreed. One thing I have learned is to book directly. It almost always costs the same or less, and is much less likely to cause a problem. And it seems the company (airlines, hotels, whatever) is generally more responsive.

  • emanon256

    Now I need chocolate, and I don’t have any with me.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    In this case, the semantics of “allergic” don’t matter. She reported the problem the first morning, I’m not sure how anyone could be expected to vacate the room in the middle of the night. I do not understand why she wasn’t just moved to a room with a properly functioning HVAC. The manager’s refund offer should have been in writing. The refund is technically fair, but Renaissance should have stepped up and charged her maybe half the room rate for the one night she spent, avoiding the bad PR.

  • Travelnut

    Around here it’s cedar fever. Our cars turn yellow in the springtime for a couple of months. I’m blessedly allergy-free, but most people suffer a lot.

  • emanon256

    I stand on line because everyone else is standing on line :)

  • emanon256

    Stupid Hazelnuts!

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott


  • Jeanne_in_NE


  • TonyA_says

    Makes delicious nociolla gelato (to die for). yum yum,

  • emanon256

    I like eating them, I just hate allergies in the winter.

  • TonyA_says

    See’s Chocolate ships with ice packs.

  • TonyA_says

    Same thing in Japan. After WW2 they reforested with cypress and bang! Now you see millions of Japanese with masks on.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I agree with you guys that we are not getting the whole story.

    It is hard for me to believe that the manager will tell a guest that the HVAC unit is full of pollen, we know about it, etc. but we gave you a sub-standard room.

    When I have encountered problems (which have been few over the past 20 years) at a Marriott hotel (ranging from Fairfield Inns to a JW Marriott Resorts); they have fixed it; offered compensation (i.e. free meals, Marriott Rewards points; room upgrade; etc.).

    My wife has allergies and is sensitive to some cleaning agents, smoke, etc. If my wife has a reaction, we get a new rental car, hotel room, etc. at that moment. I don’t understand why the OP waited until the following morning to report the problem…I am sure that they would have moved her to another room…I would like to know if she had a reaction in a “good room”.

    The article didn’t state if she went to another hotel for the remaining three nights. If she didn’t then there is something else going on.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I have stayed at several Marriot hotels in the past 20 years (over 1,000 nights) and it has been my experience that the upper end brands (i.e. Marriott, Renaissance, JW Marriott Resorts, etc.) typically have ‘central’ air with the thermostat on the wall and the ACHeating vents in the ceilings. With the lower end brands (I.e. Fairfield Inns, Courtyard by Marriott, SpringHill Suites, etc.) typically will have an unit like in the post by emanon256…sometimes the control is on the unit and sometimes there is a thermostat on the wall.

    I can’t recall a ‘window unit (like the one emanon 256 posted) in a room that I have stayed at in the upper end brands. There are always exceptions. Sometimes a hotel will switch brands (i.e. Hilton to Marriott) so there could be differences when a hotel was built. The property started out as one brand and was switched during the construction. The franchisee didn’t follow the corporate details. Local construction codes.

    There could be something missing from the story.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    You don’t eat all of the steak then tell the waiterwaitress that the steak wasn’t cooked righttoughburntetc. then expect another steak or that steak on the house.
    The article didn’t state the time when she turned on the HVAC unit. If it was before she went to bed what would be the problem in changing rooms? Why stay in a room that is giving you problems? Even it was the middle of the night (i.e. 1 AM to 3 AM), she was up and she should have reported the problem to the front desk since she was having a problem.

    The article didn’t state it but I don’t think the OP asked for a refund of the first night, compensation (i.e. a partial refund) for the first night; asked for clarification on the refund (i.e. I am not going to be charge for any night? Is this correct?).

    If someone is giving me something (i.e. refund, partial credit, etc.), I ask for it in writing. If it can’t be put in writing then I will try to record the conversation with my iPhone. Without something written or verbal, it could be hard to collect.

  • John Baker

    If there was a cat in that room, you’re darn skippy I’m leaving in the middle of the night… Swollen eyes and all…

    If she could stay the night, it wasn’t that bad.

  • TonyA_says

    On a high-rise building like this one, it has hard to use those independent units. They will probably use central air (with zone controls) and a cooling tower somewhere in the building.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Upvote for the “darn skippy”.

  • TonyA_says

    DNR = Do Not Refund ?
    These rooms look fine to me :-) Maybe even beyond my price range unless someone else is paying (or paying with points).

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    She could have something for dinner that could have caused the reaction. Or could have been the room…I think that we are not getting the whole story.

  • emanon256

    If there was a cat and I tried to sleep I would wake up dead. Half an hour near a cat has put me in the ER.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    That is the reason why I have some issues in buying the part of the assistant manager telling the OP that the heating unit for that room is bad when it is central air (AC and Heat) which means several rooms will have the same issue.

  • William_Leeper

    I agree. I have had few problems from Marriott properties, and when I have, it has always been corrected ASAP. The one time it was not corrected, the maintenance guy came to my room (as we were leaving after 2 nights,) the window kept blowing open. He says “this should have been fixed the night it was reported.” He promptly asked me to come down to the front desk with him, and he TOLD the manager to comp my room.

    It was a minor inconvenience, not a big problem, and that has always been the standard I have seen with Marriott.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It’s used very incorrectly as the past tense of brought.

  • vacaygirl

    I often have to wonder what world you live in. Clearly not the world of travel litigation. These cases will never go nearly as far as your imagination.

  • MarkKelling

    I know, I was joking. Must be a regional thing since I don’t think I have ever heard it used.

    And brought is already the past tense. So what is the past tense of the past tense? :-)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I found an interested quote that I thought was appropriate to share.

    It is an axiom that personal attacks are the last resort of the wrong and weak-minded

    I hope you enjoyed the quote as much as I enjoyed it.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Lol. I meant past tense of bring. Good eye.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Awesome resource. But I couldn’t find hyperallergenic.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    You are 100+% correct about the question as to whether the assistant manager will conveniently forget about the conversation.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    My stomach hurts from laughing so hard.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Wake up dead??? So many jokes, so little space…

  • VoR61

    That’s because it’s not a legitimate term. Allergenic is a term related to products, while allergic is related to people. Thus a product can be hypoallergenic (or not likely to cause an allergic reaction). The AP meant to say that she has acute allergies to pollens, etc.

    Interesting study of the prefixes hypo and hyper …

  • Miami510

    Since the manager mentioned the hotel being aware of a pre-existing problem, a well-worded letter from an attorney threatening a demand for compensation in excess of the room cost would probably quickly result in a return of the cost of the overnight stay.

  • Pocahontas

    Whoa! thanks for the tip. I have heavy duty dust/mold allergies and lots of problems with the HVAC in most hotel rooms. Will check this out. Do you know if the standard pillows are non-feather?

  • JewelEyed

    I’ve only heard that on Not Another Teen Movie. Is that really a thing some places? lol