Travel Troubleshooter: Up against a firm no-refund policy
The older children, before their removal, were homeschooled, so the dates of the trip were not an issue. With them in my care, they are now in public school.
When we realized the time frame would mean I would still have the children with me in March and they would miss a week of school, I called to cancel the reservation and was told there was no refund, even in extreme situations.
I have spoken to upper management and e-mailed the executive offices, but their response is that the policy states I am not allowed to change or cancel my reservation and will still be charged the full reservation amount.
- Tami Alloway,
Answer: I'm sorry to hear about your situation. As the father of three young children, I know how much work children can be, and you're a hero for taking care of your sister's kids.
The problem is, to some extent, the unbending refund policies of the hotel companies and Priceline, which are designed to protect their revenue.
Hotels feel they need to take a hard line because customers will make up any story to get them to refund a nonrefundable room. So it's likely no matter how convincing you tried to sound, the hotel and Priceline didn't believe you or thought your circumstance didn't rise to the level of refunding a nonrefundable reservation.
But I believe you. What's more, I think if the situation were reversed - if, say, the hotel couldn't honor its reservation because of a catastrophe or natural disaster - it would expect you to allow it to cancel your nonrefundable reservation without compensation.
In your case, you had already exhausted all of your appeals, and, technically, Priceline and Hawthorn were correct to keep your money. The most you could do was request another review of your case. I list Priceline's contacts on my consumer advocacy site: http://elliott.org/contacts/priceline/.
I asked Priceline to take another look at your reservation. It contacted the hotel on your behalf, which agreed to cancel your reservation without penalty. Good luck with the kids.
Christopher Elliott is author of "How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money and Hassle)" (National Geographic). He's also ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and cofounder of the Consumer Travel Alliance. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at email@example.com.