Missing refund on Travelocity


Q: I booked a hotel through Travelocity in February. I entered my credit card number to hold my reservation and my credit card was billed.

I decided to go home two days early from my trip. When I checked out at the hotel, I got charged a rate that was $30 a night less than Travelocity’s price. On my credit card I saw a charge from the hotel, as I expected. I also saw a charge from Travelocity for two unused days, which I didn’t expect.

I couldn’t get through on the customer support number at Travelocity. The Web link they had sent me went nowhere. I was put on hold for anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours at a time.

I tried e-mailing the company multiple times, but received no reply. I tried disputing the charges on my credit card, but they were eventually reinstated.

Finally, after two months, I got a call from someone in the billing department who apologized for being so busy and promising to credit me for the unused nights. But two months have gone by – and still no refund.

No organization can be this incompetent. Is there anything you can do to help me get my money back?

— Patty Rosenberg

A: When you made your reservation through Travelocity, you thought you were putting your rooms on “hold” with your credit card.

But you thought wrong.

In fact, the booking you made was through Travelocity’s GoodBuy program. It’s a special rate that’s available when you pre-pay for your entire hotel stay. One of the conditions for getting these discounted rooms is that they are completely nonrefundable – something which is clearly disclosed at the time of purchase.

As far as I can tell, here’s what happened: Your card was charged once by the hotel, at a rate $30 lower than the Travelocity price. (You shouldn’t have seen that price, because it was basically the rate Travelocity paid to the hotel before its mark-up.) Then you were charged by Travelocity for two unused nights at the higher rate.

Then, somehow, both of the charges stayed on your credit card.

As always, no one here is blameless.

Travelocity should have called you back promptly, and not put you on hold for hours at a time and sent you e-mails with links that went nowhere. Someone should have taken the time to explain that your hotel room was nonrefundable instead of making empty promises.

Your hotel had no business billing you for the rooms, since it knew you had pre-paid for them. And it certainly had no business showing you a private rate between it and Travelocity. I can only speculate that someone inexperienced was checking you out of the hotel – someone who didn’t understand the kind of reservation you had.

(By the way, you too can qualify for a rate that’s $30 cheaper – if you’re willing to book hundreds of rooms at a time.)

Your credit-card company should have stepped in to help you. Obviously, you were billed for a hotel room you didn’t use. How hard is it to see something is wrong with those transactions? And how hard would it have been to research the claim and explain that the rooms were pre-paid?

You goofed, too. You should have carefully read the fine print when you booked your room. Travelocity advises that you make a printout of your hotel reservation, which includes the terms and conditions, so that you know what to expect. If you had taken the time to read the restrictions, you would have known what to do.

As a “goodwill gesture,” Travelocity refunded your credit card for $383.07, which covers the unused nights. I think that’s a fair resolution.

Next time, pay attention when you’re booking online. If you’re getting a low price, odds are there are strings attached.