Travel Troubleshooter: A long fight to get $55 returned

03/31/2013 12:00 AM

03/29/2013 2:07 PM

We booked a 10-day vacation package in Cancún, Mexico, through Hotels.com that included airfare, hotel and a rental car. Taxes were included in the price of the rental car.

When we arrived at the Hertz rental counter, we were told there was an additional tax of about $55. I paid the additional tax at checkout, expecting to be reimbursed from Hotels.com.

I've written two emails to Hotels.com, but both have gone unanswered. When I called the company, a representative told me the $55 charge was a "deposit" that would be returned to me. But a call to Hertz confirmed it was a tax and no refund was due.

I have booked 12 to 15 rooms through Hotels.com, had good service and would consider myself a good customer. That's why I can't understand why it would ignore my email and lie to me over the phone.

There is not a lot of money at stake here, but I would at least like to receive a reply as to why I am not being reimbursed.

– Wayne Enquist, Fergus Falls, Minn.

If Hotels.com said taxes on your rental car were included, then they should have been included, of course. You sent me a copy of your confirmation, and sure enough, they were.

When your itinerary doesn't match reality, one of your options is taking the matter up with your online agency when you return. But it isn't your only choice, nor should it be your first one.

When Hertz asked you to fork over another $55, you should have phoned Hotels.com. At the very least it could have made a notation in your record, so that when you followed up after returning to the United States, it would know about the problem.

But ideally, someone at Hotels.com could have made a quick call to Hertz and sorted this out before you returned the rental car. Remember, you probably had 10 days before the $55 charge was applied to your credit card – that's plenty of time to get this sorted out.

Sending a brief, polite email to Hotels.com once you returned was a good idea, and I have no idea why it didn't respond. Normally, when you send an email through their websites, companies such as Hotels.com send an automatic response and assign your query a tracking number. If you don't receive either, it's a safe assumption that the company didn't receive your email.

I'm not surprised by the subsequent phone problems. For what it's worth, I don't think the Hotels. com representative was lying to you. He probably had no idea what the $55 was for, or was confused. But the bottom line is, the $55 was yours.

If Hotels.com continued ignoring you, I think you might have taken up this case with your credit card. A competent bank would have found a good reason to reverse the charge.

I contacted Hotels.com on your behalf, and it refunded the taxes and fees that should have been included in the price of your vacation.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or email him at chris@elliott.org.

Editor's Choice Videos

 

Join the Discussion

The Sacramento Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service