Travel Troubleshooter: What is hotel to gain with 'no'?

07/22/2012 12:00 AM

07/20/2012 12:25 PM

Q: I booked a trip a few weeks back to Regent Palms in the Turks and Caicos through www.sniqueaway.com.

It didn't allow for any refunds or changes. The booking appears to be made through a company called Classic Vacations.

Last week, our dachshund had to have major surgery and we need to stay close to home for a few weeks.

I asked Classic Vacations if we could reschedule for an open date later in the summer. They said they contacted the hotel, which declined. I've contacted the hotel and the chain directly via email, but have gotten no response.

I got to thinking about the economics of this decision. While the hotel is within its rights to refuse my request, is it a good idea? There are numerous ways to improve customer yield at a hotel, particularly a higher-end resort. Once you add up food, beverage, spa, excursions, beach rentals and gift shop purchases, it could easily be a large amount.

By declining my request, their gain is marginal. Why would a customer forced to choose between caring for a sick dog and going on vacation consider that chain in the future?

– Allan Keiter, Atlanta

A: Excellent question.

First, let's be clear: You're not entitled to a refund or an exchange, at least according to SniqueAway's terms, which you agreed to when you booked the room.

Specifically, its rules say "All bookings are final and cannot be changed, refunded, exchanged, canceled, or transferred to another party."

But I thought you were entitled to an answer from the Regent Palms, if for no other reason than to reiterate its insistence that your room couldn't be changed. Rules are rules, but there's no excuse for giving a customer the cold shoulder.

By the way, I also agree with your point. When it comes to a luxury hotel like the Regent Palms, it stands to make as much money on you through food and beverage purchases or spa treatments then it did from your room rate, and maybe more. But it's risky. If it allows you to switch dates and your original room is unoccupied, it would have to be reasonably assured that you'd spend more money than the room rate on extras, in order to recoup its loss.

SniqueAway allowed you to change your reservation, no additional cost.

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