I recently reserved a room by phone at the Extended Stay America Providence Airport-West Warwick in Rhode Island through Hotels.com. I repeatedly asked if the rooms were nonsmoking and if it was OK to do a late check-in, and the answer to both questions was "yes."
When we arrived at the hotel at 11:45 p.m., the manager on duty said we had reservations for two smoking rooms, and one of them had only one double bed. I explained to the hotel manager that that was not what I had booked through Hotels.com, but she said that was the type of reservation they had received, that she only had three rooms left, and all of them were smoking rooms. What's more, she could not give us a refund because the bookings were made through Hotels.com.
We called Hotels.com, but a representative insisted we had been given the rooms we requested. After some back and forth and us explaining that these weren't the rooms we asked for, Hotels.com agreed to give us a $40 voucher and a 10 percent discount on our rooms.
We decided to use the room. We could barely sleep because the smell remained so strong. Both my sister's grandson and I spent the dawn hours throwing up. It would've been better for all of us just to sleep in the car than spend $191 for two rooms where we couldn't sleep and got sick. I hope you can help me in some way.
— Zoraida Fernandez, Hackettstown, N.J.
A Extended Stay should have handed you the keys to two nonsmoking rooms with two double beds in each one. If it didn't, or couldn't, then Hotels.com should have found you a comparable room at another hotel.
What went wrong here? Everything.
You reserved a room by calling an online travel agency. But you are better off conducting that kind of transaction online, making a mistake less likely. For example, you can tell offshore reservations agents that you want a nonsmoking room, but they may misunderstand you and reserve a smoking room. That probably is what happened to you.
You could have contacted the hotel directly to make sure your reservation was in order. That is particularly important when you have special needs, such as a nonsmoking room, bed type or a late check-in. I wouldn't accept your online travel agent's assurances that everything is OK. Get it straight from the hotel.
Of course, the hotel should have had the correct rooms ready when you checked in late in the evening, as promised. When it didn't, the hotel or Hotels.com should have sent you to a property where you didn't have to spend the night throwing up.
The $40 voucher and discount was not enough. I would have left the hotel and disputed the charge on my credit card.
A look at Hotels.com's terms and conditions on its site confirms that the company normally doesn't guarantee any special requests such as the ones you made. Either the representative to whom you spoke wasn't clear about that or misunderstood your question.
I contacted Hotels.com on your behalf. In addition to the voucher and discount, you were offered an apology and an $89 refund for the room with a single bed. A representative also said Hotels.com would review its policies regarding room availability at its properties.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler
magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun