Sunday, December 21, 2014

Life, Life, Love

Travel Troubleshooter: Prebooked hotel closes without warning

Question: I'm scheduled to stay at a Ramada Inn next weekend, which I booked through Priceline earlier this year. I called today to confirm my reservation, and I found out that the hotel closed a few weeks ago.

Priceline never contacted me about this, and when I contacted the company today, the best answer I got was that I might know something by the end of this week. I have to check in the day after that.

I called the Ramada call center, and I was told that it didn't have an answer for what was going to happen with the prepaid reservations for this hotel, either. What should I do?

- Angela Newby,
Fort Worth, Texas
Answer: Priceline should have informed you about the hotel's closure at least a week before your stay and offered comparable accommodations. But before I get to Priceline and Ramada, may I just say how impressed I am that you called the hotel more than a week before your arrival to confirm your stay? Nice work.

I always recommend that you call at least 24 hours before you're scheduled to check in. A week is even better, and it allowed you to fix this before it turned into the kind of problem that would have left you homeless.

When a hotel closes, it typically notifies customers either by phone or e-mail. It also tells travel agents about the shuttered property. In this particular case, Ramada closed the hotel without telling Priceline, according to Priceline.

"Had we known, we would have reached out to Ms. Newby," a Priceline spokesman told me.

It's not entirely clear to me whether your type of reservation created the problem. You prepaid for your room via Priceline's opaque option, which means you don't find out the name of the hotel you'll be staying at until you've paid for it (Priceline promises steep discounts in exchange).

When Ramada and Priceline found out about your reservation, they should have acted immediately to find you a replacement room. I'm not sure if waiting a week was a reasonable request. I list executive contacts for Ramada (http://elliott.org/contacts/ramada-worldwide/) and for Priceline (http://elliott.org/contacts/priceline/) on my site.

But time was short, so I decided to get involved. I contacted Priceline on your behalf.

"We have found her another hotel in the area and upgraded her to a three-star property, vs. the 2.5-star property she had booked, at no extra charge," a company spokesman told me.

Have a great stay, and enjoy the extra amenities!


chris@elliott.org. Christopher Elliott is the author of "How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle)" (National Geographic). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the cofounder of the Consumer

Travel Alliance.

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