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La Lanterne in Sarlat notifies us its cancelling our stay, then refuses to refund our deposit

Scheduled a trip to the Dordogne.

In January 2000, made reservations for 5 nights at La Lanterne in Sarlat in mid-September. At their request, sent 100 euros through paypal as a deposit.

Contacted by them a few days ago. Asked us if we were still planning on coming. Said we intend to if its possible, but we are still in the wait and see mode.

Only then do they inform us that, some time ago, they made the decision to shut down their B & B entirely for the season. So they asked knowing that they could not accommodate us And they did not promptly notify us of the decision not to accommodate us.

I asked, politely, for a refund of our deposit. Their response--you can have a credit for your deposit against a future stay, but only in the next two years. And you should feel lucky that we are offering that.

I respond--you cancelled, not me. I respectfully insist that you refund my deposit.

They are now ignoring my e-mails.

Be warned.

Posted by
184 posts

January 2000? I hope that is a typo.
Don't know what the French or EU laws have to say on this but they may not be legally required to refund. And because they offered a credit for a future stay you may not have anything coming as far as a monetary refund. What does the fine print on your confirmation say about deposit refunds? You could try PayPal to see if they can help you. If you used a credit card then try them also.

Posted by
711 posts

I recently cancelled a bunch of reservations for September and I did have two places that had required deposits that informed me that the French law has changed due to the COVID situation and they are now allowed to hold onto your deposit for up to 18 months as a credit and after 18 months they have to return it, so there is light at the end of the tunnel. They are taking a terrible beating and I am will to let it go that way to help them stay afloat. Interestingly one of them also said that if I use the credit and book directly with them they will give me a 15% discount.

I have been booking through opting for free cancellation up to 3 days before arrival and have never had the type of problems you are facing That option costs a few bucks extra but it has worked extremely well both this year and last year when I did a fair sized change in plans due to the Brexit uncertainties. Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans and spending a few bucks on guaranteed flexibility is a bargain in the end.

Posted by
3389 posts

I wouldn’t have much confidence that a future stay reservation will be fulfilled.

Posted by
120 posts

This whole situation is unprecedented. No one in the chain of the reservation process is really at fault. Their refund policies were established based on normal circumstances.

Some of us just aren't going to get our money back because it's gone. It doesn't hurt to ask, but just don't be surprised when the answer is no.

We all will lose something in this crisis.

Posted by
1308 posts

I think their reply is rude and condescending and unfortunate. But if their position is legal (and it sounds like it is), I don't think it is unreasonable to ask you (nicely) to understand that they are unable to provide a cash refund at this time, but after 18 months, if you are unable to use the credit toward a future stay, please let them know and they will provide a refund at that time.

I've tried, perhaps clumsily, to make this point before on this forum, and many people, it seems, have not agreed with my position about this, but it bears repeating. If a hotel or tour company is forced to declare bankruptcy and/or go out of business due to the pandemic, the upside to some people getting their money back is offset by the loss of charming hotels and excellent tour opportunities, plus all the people who accepted credits now losing their money altogether. It's kind of like if there were a run on the banks.

Rick Steves' refund policy (for which he has no alternative, since the law in Washington state is clear about requiring it) will not, we all hope, force him into bankruptcy. But his business now has essentially zero revenue in 2020. He may survive thanks to his deep pockets. But how many travel-related businesses won't? And how will that bode for those of us who hope to get back to traveling in 2021 and beyond?

Being patient and understanding might just help our favorite and beloved travel businesses survive. No one like to lose money in this way, especially to a business that seems to be as unpleasant about it as this place you posted about, Matt. But as Ladyvet27 pointed out, we will all lose something in this crisis. I just hope we don't come out of this crisis with a dearth of great travel opportunities because we were too anxious to get our money back.

Posted by
2814 posts

if their position is legal (and it sounds like it is),

I'm not sure how it can be legal. They took a reservation, and a deposit, then cancelled. And refused to give a refund. Yes, Covid-19 is an extraordinary occurrence, but that doesn't necessarily negate standard contract law. And they certainly could have handled it better.

Posted by
478 posts

Robert- are you attempting to apply French law or the law of the OP’s state? The hotel is in France. French law applies, not US.
Many EU countries have passed special Covid legislation regarding deposits and vouchers. France is one of those countries.

Posted by
446 posts

I have commitment issues, so I usually book rooms at a very slightly higher rate without having to make a deposit. This year, it worked out well for me. Both my Paris hotels cancelled before I did, and there was nothing to refund. That is, it worked out well except that I didn't get to go to France this year.

Posted by
199 posts

A couple of clarifications:

First, they apparently closed down their bed and breakfast for the year months ago. But didn't bother to let me know until last week.

When they wrote, they did not write to advise me that they had closed their bed and breakfast for the season. Instead, they asked me what our plans were. They were trying to trick me into saying I wasn't coming, so they could use that as an excuse to keep the deposit.

Only when I told them that we were still hoping to come did they admit they closed down their bed and breakfast entirely, and wouldn't serve us regardless.

Their position is that I am entitled to a credit should I choose to stay with them in the next two years. I don't ever intend to stay at a place with such underhanded proprietors, ever. But even without that consideration, it is unlikely that if my trip does not go off, I would by able to return within two years. That has to be true for 95% of their foreign visitors. And they know that, I am sure.

They are not willing to give a cash refund in any circumstances. Not today, not in 18 months, not ever.

I complained to Paypal. Paypal has a surprisingly clunky interface to communicate with them about disputes. I will let all know what happens.

Posted by
23592 posts

I appreciate it feels bad, but in the scheme of things you're getting off pretty light at €100.

Others here have lost much more.

Posted by
1573 posts

Lane has hit the right note in her comments that our charming businesses that make our stays so memorable are struggling to survive. No one expected this and I’m sure this B&B is in the same boat.

Travelguard would not refund my money for a trip to Italy in April but gave me an e-credit. I’m not happy about it but I accepted their decision.

As The Rolling Stones sing: you can’t always get what you want. But we can get what we need and that is hope. Hope that this virus is stopped and we will travel again! I tell myself every morning- I am one day closer to going on a trip, yay! I try not to focus on the small losses I have no control over.

Posted by
6811 posts

Yes, the way they did it was contrived. That they can't afford to refund is understandable.

You've run into a big cultural difference: the attitude that the customer is wrong to even ask and that they are doing you a favor with a voucher is typical "Old France" bureaucracy.

This is a side tourists usually don't run into.
However, the old-fashioned attitude is that the customer has to justify himself, or the citizen has to kowtow to a bureaucrat's interpretation. Returning products to stores is unheard of. Need a repair of defective appliances under guarantee, better go pray you'll really get help. We've had IT people from Orange yell at us and hang up on us. We watched an old attaché at our French consulate yell at every phone call he took. (Luckily he retired. ) Apologies--never happens.
This is more info than you wanted, but in short, either 1. forget about it and move on, or 2. Stay sweet, never threaten, thank these jerks for a voucher, but I doubt you'll get anywhere. Things just work differently from the US.

Unfortunately, unless we compile lists of all the hotels and tour groups not returning money, we will have forgotten what happened by the time we can travel again.
(FYI-I had a hotel in the Middle East offer me a two-month voucher. LOL Au-revoir to my $500.)

Posted by
1086 posts

A few posters here understand the law concerning reimbursements and for those who may not, here it is and yes it is in French. What is quite clear is that a business receiving deposits or prepayments for a vacation (subsequently cancelled due to Covid 19), must, within a period of 3 months, offer you one of these two options:

  1. Reschedule your stay for a later date and at the same cost to you.
  2. A credit for a period not to exceed 18 months at which time unused money is refunded.

Nothing else really matters and there is no point in complaining about how fairly or unfairly one feels he may have been treated. There are a lot of people from around the globe who have had French businesses hold deposits and prepayments.

However, there is a group who is contesting the validity of this law (vis-à-vis EU law) and the fact that a business can hold your money for up to 18 months. This latest information on the effort to have refunds issued much sooner was recently reported in The Connexion.

Apparently, there is a legal argument that cancellations subsequent to the effects of Covid, should be immediately refunded. Therefore, it is possible that many might be refunded much sooner than anticipated. We'll just have to wait and see.

Posted by
2814 posts

No one expected this and I’m sure this B&B is in the same boat.

Yes, but as some have said, the way they handled it was underhanded. I had 2 gite reservation with Gites de France, which I cancelled before I had to pay the balance. I assumed I'd lost the deposits (a couple of hundred euros), and didn't pursue anything with GDF. Then, a few weeks later, I got emails from GDF saying that I now have credits for the 2 deposits that are good for 18 months. I was pleased with the way it was handled, even if it apparently was required by the emergency French law.
I also had an AirBnB reservation in Quebec, which was to take the place of the France trip. Then the border was closed. The host emailed me to ask me to cancel the reservation. She didn't try to trick me into doing so to avoid losing the service fee (which I assume is why she wanted me to cancel, not her); she just asked. I did so, and got all my money back.