Caleb Short makes a reservation through Travelocity for a three-night stay at the Solstice Hotel in Erie, Pa. When he checks in, he finds the property in the midst of renovation work that makes him feel that it’s an unfit place to stay. Hotel management promises him a refund, then reneges. Travelocity refuses to help. Can we?
Question: I recently checked in the Solstice Hotel in Erie, Pa., and found it was under complete renovation.
After getting upstairs to my room, I called Travelocity because I felt the hotel was not fit to stay in. There was drywall dust coating everything and boards with nails lying in hallways.
After much back and forth, Travelocity told me the front desk couldn’t do anything because no manager was there and to call back the next day. The following day I called the front desk myself and spoke with the manager, who told me I needed to email their corporate office since their official policy was no refunds. — Caleb Short, Brownstown, Mich.
Answer: No one likes unpleasant surprises, especially when checking in for the night at a hotel. You did the right things — immediately contacting Travelocity and then talking to the hotel manager the next day. Based on what the manager said, you wrote a polite email to the hotel’s corporate office, which is also located there in Erie:
I am currently staying at your hotel. My roommate and I are both having breathing issues. It was not disclosed online that your hotel is under complete renovation. I am willing to pay for the first night. I would simply like the next two canceled and be allowed to find a new hotel.
That seemed to work. Here is the reply that came about two hours later from Kirsten Olowinski, who has the title of General Manager of the Solstice by Chase Hotel Group:
I just spoke with our manager, she believes that the conditions are unfit given the lobbies (sic) condition. You may go ahead and leave today. We will contact the travel site you booked through to issue a refund and we will issue one to their card as well for two of the three nights.
So, you would think the problem was solved. Based on that email, you checked out of the Solstice and stayed elsewhere the other two nights. Of course, if it had been that easy, we wouldn’t be writing about this case.
One week later you received the following email from Travelocity:
We apologize for the delayed response. We have contacted the Hotel Manager/Devin, he advised us that they will not authorize any refund to be processed as the type of reservation booked is Non-refundable. He further checked the issue and verified that no complaint was raised regarding this concern. And as this is the Hotel’s policy, we are bound to the regulations set forth by the property.
You replied to the Travelocity representative, referring to your email from Kirsten Olowinski. But that didn’t help. The Travelocity representative apparently ignored the general manager’s refund approval and also ignored hotel manager Devin’s incorrect claim that no complaint had been raised. Instead, she replied with the same note as before, with no further explanation.
If the hotel manager says the policy is no refunds, Travelocity stops there. Too bad for the consumer.
Regular readers of this site probably aren’t too surprised at Travelocity’s response. Online travel agencies (OTAs) are notorious for leaving consumers hanging when there is a problem with a supplier.
Travelocity’s response is what you should expect if you read the company’s terms and conditions:
Supplier Rules And Restrictions
Since Travelocity is part of Expedia, you could have escalated the matter with a polite email to the Expedia contacts on our website. Instead, you contacted us.
One thing you should have done was use your mobile phone to take pictures of the conditions at the Solstice and include those with your complaint. It might have helped. We see consumers getting better and faster resolutions to their issues when they provide good photographic evidence.
Our advocate contacted both Olowinski at Solstice by Chase Hotel Group and Travelocity but got no response from either. We don’t know why Solstice went silent. I’m just speculating, but perhaps the company felt Travelocity had its back so it could ignore the problem.
You didn’t give up, taking the next step and disputing the charge with your credit card company. That worked. Here’s what you wrote to our advocate: “I actually finally got a refund within a few hours of my bank finally making some phone calls on my behalf. Both Travelocity and the Solstice Hotel emailed me a short time later telling me how hard they had been working to come to a resolution, which I found rather amusing given the runaround I had received.”
Your problem is solved, but it should not have taken the intervention of your bank to get the hotel or Travelocity to do the right thing. This case is a reminder that when you book through an OTA, you should be aware that you might not get much help if there is a problem with a supplier.
At a minimum, read the terms and conditions of both the OTA and the supplier and then think twice about paying in advance for reservations at a hotel with a nonrefundable rate.