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Booking a non-refundable Hotel may be more risky than you realize.

About a week ago I noticed that I had messed up a hotel booking. I'm flying out of Chicago on Oct 9th and arriving in Paris Oct 10th, but for some reason I had booked 4 nights starting on Oct 9th instead of 4 nights starting Oct 10th. The room was a non-refundable, but I didn't panic too much. I thought, "If I get charged for the 9th, well, that's the cost of my mistake. I'll contact the hotel, tell them I'll be a day late and see if I can extend the stay by one more night." I called the Hotel at multiple times of the day & night but no one ever answered the phone. I contacted hotels.com and they too couldn't get an answer. They did send an e-mail to the hotel & said this would resolve the problem. At this point I did start to panic a bit. I thought, "What if I arrive on the 10th and the hotel has canceled my room because I was No Show on the 9th? And, if the hotel doesn't answer the phone why would they respond to an e-mail? If I arrive in Paris and my room is gone it's going to be a mess." Multiple calls to hotels.com as the days marched by really didn't help much. One of the phone operators told me they were limited in what they could do & that a different part of the organization would have to escalate the issue & that gave the hotel a 72 hr grace period. I found out later that escalation was just hotels.com doing what they were already doing. At one point there was a ray of hope. One of the operators decided to google the hotel and see if they had another number. They found another number called & were told by the Hotel to call back the next day when a manager would be there. The next day I found out that the operator had called a hotel in Paris called au Pacific instead of Hotel Pacific. I wasn't going to name the booking site & hotel, but while composing this wordy post I got an e-mail from hotels.com telling me the hotel charge is being applied, so I figure why protect them? What's also sad is that I actually used the United Hotels website to make the booking. Turns out it's "powered" by hotels.com

Posted by
7049 posts

So you're dealing with hotel that's unreachable by phone or e-mail, or one that doesn't provide the correct contact info to a third party booking service. The hotel has no website presence at all except through third parties so it's unclear what the accurate contact info is and who vets it. That's really the issue here. I assume that, even though there was some mix-up on Hotels.com's part, they at least gave it a try. No hotel should be that hard to reach, it doesn't matter what platform you use to book the room: website, by phone, or third party.

I think you made the right call about trying to get in touch with the hotel about the first night...it's unclear what would happen if you just didn't show up. I'm sure you're aware that the ratings for the hotel are only "fair", so adjust your expectations accordingly.

Posted by
5687 posts

I have made many prepaid hotel reservations in the past. I think it is worth doing if you are saving a significant amount of money - but not if you are saving only a few Euros. (E.g. Priceline or Hotwire - I've saved probably 50% of more numerous times.) Yes, you have to be very careful with your dates. I don't think I've ever made a mistake, but I am paranoid about it and am super careful when booking. I've booked with Hotels.com only a few times. They partner with other websites too including Tripadvisor. I booked a non-refundable room in May through Tripadvisor (great price!) and they were partnering with Hotels.com (which I did realize at the time).

I would be worried about staying at any hotel where the front desk doesn't answer the phone, at least during their daytime hours, accounting for the time difference. (Did you call mid-morning or late-afternoon their time? That's when I would probably call - when guests are checking out or checking in.) I'd also be worried about a hotel that doesn't respond to email messages, at least if I know it's not a big chain where I'm emailing the corporate info email account or something.

Posted by
6345 posts

I inadvertently booked a non-refundable room for next spring. I thought I was being so careful. I tried to book directly with the hotel, via email, but they sent me to their website. On the website the "non-refundable rate" was highlighted, and I thought I was very careful to not choose that option.

After I discovered what I had done, I went back to the website to see where I had gone wrong; all the options showed "non-refundable rate." I did email the hotel, pleading carelessness and confusion, and owning my mistake. They said they would allow me to change the dates if need be, as long as I do it within 14 days of our current reservation.

That's fair; the only thing I'm still kicking myself for is that if I were to need to make a change, it would be to cancel the first night. That's no longer an option.

Lesson learned. Man, I'm getting tired of learning lessons!

Posted by
3752 posts

I am a touch confused. So perhaps you can clarify. Did you call a number you got from Hotels.com? Is it ultimately the correct number for Hotel Pacific, which I think the hotel for which you have a reservation. I guess I am trying to figure out if you and Hotels.com were calling the Hotel Pacific the entire time or is the number that were using a wrong number? I think that the helpful operator called the wrong hotel (Au Pacific), right? What do you mean by "the hotel charge is being applied"? Does that mean that Hotels.com finally got in touch with Hotel Pacific and you are going to have to pay for the room on the night of the 9th? If so, that is a bummer but I thought that that you did not mind that and took it as the cost of your mistake as long as the rest of your reservation was not canceled. By the way, if you have to pay for the night of the 9th, it is not entirely unexpected for a non-refundable reservation made through a 3rd-party site.

The troubles that you had with Hotels.com remind me that though I like the third party booking sites, they are often useless when problems arise. Twice, once with Expedia and once with Booking.com, I have had problems with reservations and both times it was the booking sites' fault and both times, they were awful although Expedia after a couple of hours on the phone on New Years Eve did finally credit the amount that I had paid. Booking.com took the view that I had to get the money back from the hotel and that still has not happened 4 years later. The 3rd-party sites are great for collecting data on available hotels and prices but they are not your advocates if something goes wrong.

In any event, for people looking for the answer to what happens if you show up late for a pre-paid reservation, generally, if you have prepaid for your room, it is guaranteed and the hotel must give you the category of room you paid for, even if you show up late. If the hotel does not have a room for you, then it has breached your contract and must provide you with a reasonable substitute at its cost. I once missed a flight to Rome and had prepaid lodging and did not have the ability to reach the hotel until when I landed in Rome one day later than planned. I went on ahead to the hotel and my rooms were ready and waiting.

Posted by
5697 posts

Maybe the key is -- these are booking sites, not so good for un-booking.
I have had success in cancelling refundable reservations with booking.com and hotels.com many times. Sometimes the convenience of comparing and booking an entire month of reservations in a three-hour marathon is worth the (possible) extra cost.

Posted by
4535 posts

You cannot cancel or get a refund for a non-refundable rate, no matter if booked through a 3rd party or the hotel website itself. Such rates are usually very attractive, but you run the risk of your own error, some issue that delays you, or having to cancel your trip altogether. I recommend travel insurance when booking hotels non-refundable.

You are wise to let the hotel know you won't arrive until a day later than your reservation, but I would think an email record would suffice as notification. It doesn't matter if they respond or not, you are simply notifying them.

Posted by
14580 posts

Those times I booked in Germany and Austria using booking.com, I take the non-refundable rate, if offered. The same with the using the hotel's website. I take the non-refundable rate. True that rate is more attractive and cheaper.

Posted by
3752 posts

Of course, I agree that non-refundable means non-refundable and the customer bears the loss if a mistake is made but what if the third party booking service makes the error? In my dispute with Expedia, they sent me a confirmation for a room for 4 people for New Years Eve night in Brooklyn, NY. I showed up with my husband and two children having paid over $400 for that room for one night only to have the hotel tell me that Expedia had made the reservation for 2 and they had no rooms that could sleep 4 people. Yikes, 2 of us were going to a NYE concert that was scheduled to start 2 hours after our arrival. It took over 2 hours for us to find a replacement room and get them to confirm that a refund would be issued. Expedia was no help with finding a replacement room but luckily about 2 hours after we first asked the hotel across the street had a cancellation and the very nice front desk person came to our initial hotel where we were camped out making calls trying to find a place to sleep for the night to let us know. On the plus side, the refund was issued on January 2nd. With Booking.com, we had a cancelable reservation and then changed our plans and received the confirmation but then the hotel charged our card when we did not show up. Booking.com was zero help because they said that they had not charged the card and we had to deal with the hotel to get a refund. Hotel said basically "so sad, too bad, you had to cancel 36 hours before arrival and did not so take it up with booking.com for having incorrect cancellation information in their description." And so we went for about two weeks until I finally contacted Amex and disputed the charge. So, yes both of these are unusual situations but problems do happen and when they do it would be great if the services had a plan for dealing with them.

Posted by
1825 posts

If you are booking in advance why use any of the third party sites...how much did you save by not booking directly with the hotel?

Posted by
2788 posts

In going to Europe for 14 of the last 16years, I do research different web sites to find the best prices but when I am ready to book a hotel room I ALWAYS book directly with the hotel. This has saved me problems several times. If I do not get a reply from the hotel, I call them during their working hours. If I get no reply or no one answers the phone after repeated tries, I look elsewhere.

Posted by
3270 posts

Yet another reason not to use hotels.com.

The only time I used hotels.com, we showed up at the hotel with a print-out of the confirmation, but the hotel had no record of our reservation. The front desk staff took only a few minutes to find a us a better room for less money than the room we thought we had booked through hotels.com. I tried to post this information about my experience online, but hotels.com rejected my review.

Earlier this year I mistakenly booked a non-refundable rate on a hotel's website, and this was cleared up with a phone call to the hotel.

Posted by
1 posts

I have used Hotels.com online probably a couple dozen times with no issues (other than not getting reward credit for one stay, but it was corrected) although they don’t get good reviews elsewhere. My experience has been very good, but I always keep the memory of those reviews in the back of my head. However, most of the issues people reported in reviews had more to do with human error such as accidentally booking the wrong date or failing to notice that they did not receive a confirmation. I always assume NON-REFUNDABLE means just that (buyer beware), and I go back and double and triple check my dates, and even take a screenshot before I finalize (not sure that would really help but I’m just detail-oriented). With the third party sites, your booking transaction is with them, not the hotel direct. However, when I booked a trip to five European countries this year, for some reason I decided to use the Travelocity website instead, same kind of deal. Before I would finalize, I checked various reviews, and to minimize risk of the unforeseen, I did not select anything that was non-refundable. We were pleasantly surprised that the hotels were all pretty nice and there were no glitches. I even emailed one with a question and got a quick response. In the U.S. I almost always choose the non-refundable option but would NOT out of country. I do believe when using hotels.com you have to sometimes search for the hotel’s direct local number vs the 800 number and the website’s number.

Posted by
32228 posts

This is one reason I always prefer to book directly with the hotel rather than using a booking agency. With that method, I have reliable contact information to get in touch with them if necessary.

As your reservation was non-refundable, you'll probably have to absorb the cost of the first night and pay for another night at the end.

Posted by
12172 posts

I will say the only problem I've ever had with a reservation is when I've used a third party site like Hotels.com or Booking.com. My cell phone service is now with Ultra Mobile. It allows me to call 60 countries (land lines) free so I can call a hotel directly and discuss a booking. The last time I used a third party sight was for a short trip to San Diego in August. I made the reservation a couple of months in advance. A couple of days before flying to SD, I noticed something on my reservation that said parking was free but I needed to reserve a space. I called the hotel directly and they didn't have my booking (that I had already paid for). I called Booking.com who worked out something with the hotel that required me to change rooms in the middle of my 5 night stay. I arrived and the room they offered me wasn't what it was supposed to be, (and wasn't adequate), so I called some family friends and stayed there for two nights until the hotel had the right room.

I had similar with a last minute one night booking in Paris last year. I used tripadvisor, booked a room and then got to the hotel and they didn't have the reservation. They had a room but it was a gem (not in the good sense). Funny souvenir (French for memory) but not a great night.

Is it the booking sight's fault? Is it the hotel's fault? I can't say but I can say the only problem I have is when I use these sights.

Posted by
2528 posts

It’s always a trade-off as to booking rooms that are non-refundable. My preference is to book rooms directly without advance payment and can be cancelled a few days before arrival. If the cost is much cheaper to pay in advance and/or book through a third party I do so. It always seems odd that when a great rate is found via a third party site, hotels do not always match it. Oh well, surely Hotel owners are so much more savvy than myself.