Q: I booked a room at the DoubleTree hotel in Vancouver, Wash., through Hotwire, for our children’s and grandchildren’s stay over Thanksgiving.
We received a confirmation of the reservation for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights for a total of $272. We had no further communication with Hotwire.
When our children arrived at 10 p.m. with their kids – 7-month-old twins and a 2-year-old – they were told that the reservation had been canceled by Hotwire.
I didn’t get any message or email from Hotwire saying that it was canceling my reservation. The kids were all stranded at the DoubleTree. That was frustrating and embarrassing.
I called the customer-service line three times that night. None of the representatives knew why the reservation had been canceled. They just said that they would call us back. But they never did.
This was horrible customer service, and our children were stranded. We had to pay a much higher rate for a new reservation at the DoubleTree. I’d like a full refund from Hotwire in the amount of $272, the amount we reserved the hotel for.
Meldra Driscoll, Vancouver, Wash.
A: Hotwire shouldn’t have canceled your hotel reservation. And if it did, it should have at least told you about it, so you could make alternate plans. And even if it didn’t tell you, Hotwire shouldn’t be able to keep your money.
So how did you get yourself cornered like this? Well, Hotwire’s discounted “Hot Rates” rooms are completely nonrefundable. I checked with Hotwire, and it says your initial booking was flagged by its fraud department, which means that your card was charged but the reservation was on “hold” pending a verification.
“There are a variety of things that can cause a booking to be flagged with fraud,” a Hotwire spokeswoman told me. “In this instance, there were several reasons, including an unregistered cellphone number.”
Hotwire’s fraud team tried to contact you to validate the transaction, but according to its records, the phone number associated with the booking did not have voice mail set up.
“Based on this, the transaction was canceled and refunded as fraud protection for the credit card holder,” the Hotwire rep told me, adding that the company was “very sorry” for what happened.
So why didn’t the refund show up on your account? Refunds can take time to process. Although yours was made on Nov. 25, it might not have shown up on your account until a few weeks later, which is why you might have believed Hotwire was actually keeping your money.
How could you have prevented this? According to Hotwire, it would have been as simple as setting up your voice mail. But I’m not sure if that would have prevented it. Fine-tuning Hotwire’s fraud-detection algorithm might be another way to make sure your kids don’t end up homeless on Thanksgiving.
Hotwire also could have tried to find a room for your family when you were turned away. Good thing there was still room at the DoubleTree for them.
Email Christopher Elliott at firstname.lastname@example.org.