Booking.com falsely advertised hotel room as “free cancellation”, won’t refund $380 charge

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Dec 26, 2018
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#23
I don't think anyone on this forum means for you to feel like you need to defend choices you made in booking. The great thing about this website and forum is that, if you read it regularly, you can learn a great deal about strategies to make travel go more smoothly by hearing people's accounts of when it didn't. Among the many stories posted here, there is a consistent pattern related to OTAs like Expedia, booking.com, etc. When issues arise related to cancellations, refunds, changes, errors in booking, confusion over terms, whatever - including an OTA as an intermediary is rarely helpful and almost always introduces a huge complication in sorting out the problem. Yes, these companies are popular, and no doubt many people use them for successful trips and never think twice about it. Again, the issue is just when something goes wrong which, if you travel often enough, will eventually occur. Many of us (non-20 and 30 year olds) who travel constantly sometimes use these sites as search engines if we're not sure where to book, but after finding appealing options go to that hotel, airline, etc and deal directly with them. It adds an extra step but can save a lot of headache.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#26
Looking at the Terms & Conditions on the hotel site, it says that cancellation 72hours prior to check-in has a $25 fee, less than 72 hours is 50% of rate (which is their required deposit amount).
Thanks for finding that. So besides Booking and they’re problem- the cancelation policy and the price were a lot lower if OP had booked through the B and B instead of Booking.

If there was ever a story showing using an OTA isn’t the cheapest at price you can get- this is it. Our OP wouldn’t have lost anything by booking direct and canceling when she did.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#27
I’m not sure how to respond...Every 20 or 30 something year old I know books flights and hotels through Expedia, booking.com or some other similar website — not one of my peers books directly anymore. So, knowing now what I know — that booking.com falsely advertises free cancellation — would I have not used them? Of course not. And I will never use them again. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are a popular company — you should feel comfortable knowing they won’t scam you; other companies do similar things, like your ability to cancel within 24 hours on Expedia, so this (false) offer was not out of the realm of possibilities.

I’m not sure why I need to defend my choice to use booking.com...I’m looking for help and guidance on how to get this known company to follow through on their refund. Can anyone help me with this? Thanks in advance
It doesn't matter what "everyone else does". You don't have to defend yourself; it's too late, they have your money. We're trying to explain the rules of booking travel on the internet. When it comes to booking travel, the online booking services do a good job MOST of the time. But when the wheels come off, you're the loser. They spend millions on slick advertising to lull everyone into thinking that they're a "travel agent". This forum consists of travellers in a wide age range ... and most of us have extensive experience booking travel. We see the perils of using these services every day, week in and week out. We hear from people who have used an online service successfully for years ... then one day they're out $400 (or worse, much worse) and very little chance of rescuing the situation. So that's why we get on our soap boxes with great regularity! You are facing a long, uphill battle to get your money back. We like to let people know how to avoid trouble like this.

Using our guidance, you'll hopefully get your money back. But it will take a great deal of effort and a long time. Their modus operandi is to wait for you to get tired and go away. Good luck, and please let us know the outcome.
 
May 7, 2019
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#28
I’m not sure what happened with our OP, and I hope he is able to get relief. But I successfully availed myself of booking.com’s free cancellation options three times over the holidays.

Just prior to the holidays, I booked three hotels through booking.com and selected the free cancellation option for each. The reasons are complicated, and anyway not material to my point here, but it then became necessary for me to cancel each. I was able to successfully cancel each reservation, without charge, and found it very easy to do that on my smartphone.

By the way, I did make a fourth reservation over the holidays through Booking.com (choosing the same free cancellation option), ended up completing my reservation and very much enjoyed the stay at the reserved hotel.

So I think something funky happened with our OP’s booking. Because Booking.com does offer a legitimate, straightforward free cancellation option for many of its hotel choices.
 
May 7, 2019
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#29
I’m not sure what happened with our OP, and I hope he is able to get relief. But I successfully availed myself of booking.com’s free cancellation options three times over the holidays.

Just prior to the holidays, I booked three hotels through booking.com and selected the free cancellation option for each. The reasons are complicated, and anyway not material to my point here, but it then became necessary for me to cancel each. I was able to successfully cancel each reservation, without charge, and found it very easy to do that on my smartphone.

By the way, I did make a fourth reservation over the holidays through Booking.com (choosing the same free cancellation option), ended up completing my reservation and very much enjoyed the stay at the reserved hotel.

So I think something funky happened with our OP’s booking. Because Booking.com does offer a legitimate, straightforward free cancellation option for many of its hotel choices.
I would add that the free cancellation option is a choice you always need to select and is always priced a bit higher than the nonrefundable options. I wonder if our OP mistakenly chose the wrong option without realizing he’d done that.
 
May 16, 2018
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#30
This shows that there is the option of free cancellation but what does the screen say after you choose that option but before you paid/confirmed it? Unfortunately, this screen shot does not prove you chose the free cancellation option, maybe you have another screen shot that shows that option being your choice?
This is a good point! This has happened to me with Booking.com, which I needed to use because it was high season in the area I was visiting and the inns and hotels told me that the only rooms they had left were on Booking.com.

I limited my search to places with free cancelation and so Booking.com only showed search results that had that feature. I took a screenshot of my search and of the individual page with my hotel selection. But when I went to book the hotel with free cancelation, my confirmation email said it was non-refundable. I was surprised and so went to duplicate my actions and sure enough, the screen where you finalize the reservation did say "non-refundable." I had clicked too fast, relying on the prior pages.

I called Booking.com customer service and explained what had happened. I told the rep that the search was limited to free cancelation, and that I then chose a hotel that also said free cancelation label. I had a screenshot of each and, if I recall correctly, I emailed it to the rep. I explained that it hadn't occurred to me that the terms could change on the final checkout page, but I now see that indeed they must have. I asked the rep to see if he could duplicate the problem on his end, and he did.

I told him that while I know I did make the error in not reading the final page carefully, but it was a mistake anyone could make after a free cancelation search and a free cancelation page for the hotel. I said that no one would imagine that it would change to non-refundable on the final page. He agreed with me and got a supervisor to reverse the charge. I thanked him a lot and sent Booking.com a note praising his kindness and good customer service.

Since this happened to me, I've slowed down on reserving anything until I am sure that it is the same as the prior screen.
 
May 7, 2019
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#31
This is a good point! This has happened to me with Booking.com, which I needed to use because it was high season in the area I was visiting and the inns and hotels told me that the only rooms they had left were on Booking.com.

I limited my search to places with free cancelation and so Booking.com only showed search results that had that feature. I took a screenshot of my search and of the individual page with my hotel selection. But when I went to book the hotel with free cancelation, my confirmation email said it was non-refundable. I was surprised and so went to duplicate my actions and sure enough, the screen where you finalize the reservation did say "non-refundable." I had clicked too fast, relying on the prior pages.

I called Booking.com customer service and explained what had happened. I told the rep that the search was limited to free cancelation, and that I then chose a hotel that also said free cancelation label. I had a screenshot of each and, if I recall correctly, I emailed it to the rep. I explained that it hadn't occurred to me that the terms could change on the final checkout page, but I now see that indeed they must have. I asked the rep to see if he could duplicate the problem on his end, and he did.

I told him that while I know I did make the error in not reading the final page carefully, but it was a mistake anyone could make after a free cancelation search and a free cancelation page for the hotel. I said that no one would imagine that it would change to non-refundable on the final page. He agreed with me and got a supervisor to reverse the charge. I thanked him a lot and sent Booking.com a note praising his kindness and good customer service.

Since this happened to me, I've slowed down on reserving anything until I am sure that it is the same as the prior screen.
I think the issue is that Booking.com labels a number of the hotels on its search-results page as “free cancellation,” but when you choose the hotel only certain of the reservation options (always a bit higher priced) offer free cancellation. So, yes, you need to be careful in booking to insure that the reservation you actually make specifically recites that it includes free cancellation.

You cannot assume that the option you choose includes free cancellation simply because the words “free cancellation” were included in the hotel description on the search-results page. The reservation option you select must itself recite that it includes “free cancellation”. Hope that makes sense.

Anyway, I booked three reservations this way over the holidays on Booking.com and was able to easily cancel all three on my smartphone, without charge.
 
Likes: VoR61
Jan 3, 2020
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#32
Good news, everyone -- I FINALLY heard back from Booking.com via a phone call from the customer service rep who emailed me originally when I had written to the higher ups. Apparently my emails did not reach him and they all came in at once? In any case, he explained what the process would be: I could cancel my reservation for this weekend with him on the phone, then
 
Jan 3, 2020
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#33
Good news, everyone -- I FINALLY heard back from Booking.com via a phone call from the customer service rep who emailed me originally when I had written to the higher ups. Apparently my emails did not reach him and they all came in at once? In any case, he explained what the process would be: I could cancel my reservation for this weekend with him on the phone, then
SHOOT, it all cut off. Long story short, I received a credit to my booking.com account and have submitted a transfer to my credit card, since I will NOT be doing business with them ever again, even in the form of a credit to their business. I will hopefully have the money on my card soon.

I also explained to him how many hours I spent trying to resolve this ridiculous situation. I still find it infuriating that it happened and that when I called customer service, they refused to help me with it and said their was nothing they could do. It seems that my emails to the higher ups worked.

Thank you, all. I will report back when I have the money on my credit card!