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Got tricked by 3rd party hotel site

Hi all,
I did a dumb thing recently and thought I'd pass along what happened, so that maybe you won't fall for this.
I was booking a RS recommended hotel in Lyon and thought I was booking directly with the hotel.
Well it was late and I should have been paying better attention.
I get the confirmation and the cost was per night and not the entire stay, on top of that an added $400 in fees and taxes.
I immediately cancelled. Well this was just the beginning.
It turned out that I had booked through a 3rd Party site ( that looked identical to the actual hotel website (or so they say)
I called and they told me that they could not refund because it's non refundable.... So much for what I thought I read, Now I don't have proof. I called the hotel and they tell me that they cannot do anything because it's a 3rd party site, and they have received no payment from them. I had to persist. This had over $1400 on my CC now. After 2 weeks of calls and emails the hotel tells me they were in contact with the reservation company and they authorized a free cancellation. Hmmm
Well the next day i emailed the 3rd party and they replied and confirmed that they were refunding the money. It showed up on my CC 2 days later. Whew.
I still believe that I was booking through the hotels site, but no way to prove it, so I will not mention the hotel's name. The 3rd party reservation company is which it think goes by other names. Looking it up it seems that people have been spoofed this way through what many thought were legit sites like
Usually when I book in Europe I use the hotel website, or more often I make arrangements via email and then call with the CC#
This time I was not careful and I almost payed dearly for it.
Be careful out there. look at the web address even when you think you are on the right site.
If there is a timer to complete the transaction, that could be a flag. Don't fall for it.

Off to France in a few weeks and glad I got this cleared up!

Posted by
12719 posts

Wow, I know you are an experienced traveler and I'm glad you posted this caveat. I think most of the hotel websites I use do go to some kind of central platform but I just looked and it's https:// www. secure-hotel-booking com/smart/+ the name of the hotel and then it adds official site. (added some spaces in there so it would not be a hot link)

I've heard of clone hotel websites that send you to just the kind of 3rd party you are talking about. I am SO glad you got on it right away and were able to wring a refund out of them.

Have fun in Paris!

Posted by
3249 posts

Glad you got it cleared up! I am always afraid I am going to do something like that if I am booking at night or tired or in a hurry. 😬 It could yet happen…..

Posted by
1258 posts

This is among the reasons that I stay with I have had good luck at the site and have reached Genius I level.

I feel that I can trust them.

Posted by
5935 posts

Thanks for sharing your story. The only time I ever booked a non-refundable pay-in-advance hotel was when I was tired and in a hurry. Never again!

I've also started taking screen shots of all internet transactions, after having been bait-and-switched on an Ebay purchase.

We learn as we go. Thanks again for your story.

Posted by
3480 posts

Thanks for sharing what happened to you. This is a really good reminder that there are dupe sites. Recently, on this forum someone posted about buying tickets from what they thought was the official British Air site only to find that it was not. I know that I have clicked on links that I thought were hotel sites only to find myself on third party sites. One has to really watch to be sure that you are clicking on the official website and not an ad because the ads load up first in the results.

Posted by
4071 posts

This is why we always book directly with the hotel. Never had one refuse to take a booking directly, and never had any problems. Not knocking anyone's choices; to each his/her own. We just can't see the advantage to dealing with a third party.

Posted by
4328 posts

A valuable lesson for everyone; even experienced travellers. I've tried to train myself to always check the URL before proceeding on a website. I've almost been tricked a few times.

Posted by
2678 posts

This is why we always book directly with the hotel

That’s the point. The OP thought he was booking with the hotel. Many of these third party sites will show up in a google search before the actual hotel so buyer beware!

Posted by
1604 posts

I never book anything at night, only in the morning or afternoon because I know the risk of getting sloppy is higher for me at night. Sounds like your diligence paid off. It's so important to pay attention to the website address no matter how the website looks.

Posted by
3409 posts

This same thing just happened to my husband in August for a hotel stay in October. He thought he was at the hotels website and booked 4 nights in Zagreb. The website said hotelesplanade/ He thought he was on their reservation page. We didn’t get charged any extra fees, the price quoted was what we paid but he was angry. He called them, no cancellation allowed. He then called credit card company, no luck but they did say they had no complaints against them, he then called the hotel, same answer. It worked out for us but yes you have to really check.

A tip though for hotel websites. Most do not end in .com but in the abbreviation of their country, for example .hr (Croatia), .nl (The Netherlands) etc.

Posted by
1259 posts

I have an old friend who has been in the travel business for more than forty years. She handles all of my reservations through her travel agency.

Posted by
6204 posts

Thanks for taking the time to share this with us! I flubbed a reservation recently for a Hawaii condo - wrong date! And yep, that was done at 11pm. Luckily, we immediately notified them by phone & email, and it was cancelled for free the next day.

Have a great time in France!

Posted by
2335 posts

Thank you for posting your experience. I’m sorry you had to go through all that. I’m starting to make reservations for my Sept 2022 trip. This is a very good reminder to slow down and double check then triple check everything.

Posted by
4071 posts

Many of these third party sites will show up in a google search before the actual hotel so buyer beware!

Alan, that is very true and I'm not faulting the OP for being missdirected. What I meant to convey (but obviously didn't) was that we deal directly with the hotel via emails and / or telephone calls. That just seems to work best for us.

Posted by
22895 posts

You can be on the hotel's official web site, hit the reservation button and be taken to a third party reservation service. Many hotels, especially the smaller ones, use a reservation site to handle their reservations. Nothing illegal, under the table, scam, etc., wrong with that. It is too costly for a small hotel to maintain an in-house reservation system. And a timer to complete a transaction is not a red flag.

Posted by
2678 posts

You can be on the hotel's official web site, hit the reservation button and be taken to a third party reservation service.

Frank, there is a difference here. What the OP encountered was an online 3rd party reservation service, analogous to Expedia or (but a bit sneaky in trying to appear as if they are the hotel.) When you use those agencies they “own” the reservation. Usually if you have problems the hotel will tell you to go back to the agency you booked through. On the other hand, when you are really on the hotels website and click the reserve button you may encounter a program that the hotel subscribes to to handle booking. This is not a 3rd party reservation service. You are booking directly with the hotel.

Posted by
1 posts

I had a similar experience with I am an experienced traveler and an attorney. I just was not paying extra attention when I booked using These scammers use SEO to come up high in an online search and they create an impression that they are not a third party but rather the hotel brand that you are seeking to book. Because I was booking Chateau Eza, a small standalone property the slight awkwardness of the hotelvalues fake website that imitated Eza did not raise concerns. These people then charge you close to a third in processing fees and taxes and refuse to refund. I strongly urge other victims to warn consumers and report to FTC and other law enforcement and regulatory agencies. The principals behind and related sites are true criminals.

Posted by
140 posts

I had this happen to me once, for a hotel that I stay at in Vegas at least once a year for an event. The third party site was designed to look like the actual hotel website. Fortunately for me, I had gotten an excellent rate on a suite (we were gathering with friends post covid and really wanted a space to hang out that we knew was all vaccinated) so the added fees (not as high as yours) were still better than that room booked at the hotel. I was able to confirm with the hotel that it was a valid reservation, and we had a great time on our trip. But I’m now much more careful to make sure that I’m on the ACTUAL hotel website.

Posted by
4042 posts

Thanks for posting your experience. While I have not been snagged by this sort of issue , I would add that it has become more noticeable in the last year . Very often a link to what appears to be a hotel's direct site , turns out to be a third party . What is notable about this is that the third party website bears a close resemblance to the official one ( think about those letters that occasionally seem to come from a government agency , like the IRS , but on close inspection , do not ) . One issue seems to be a giveaway - the third party site might be only offering pay up front , non refundable rooms as opposed to the legitimate site which shows several options . I have noticed this issue in the past 7 months when booking rooms with Accor Hotels ( Paris , Munich ) and the Accor site is somewhat buried down the page on Google .