Bernadette Cieslak’s spring break trip is washed out by the pandemic. But her all-inclusive hotel won’t give her a refund, and her online travel agent is powerless to help. Is her $844 lost forever?
Q: I booked a week at the Senses Riviera Maya by Artisan in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for spring break. The pandemic happened, and we had to cancel our vacation. I contacted Expedia and it helped me get a refund for my flights. But the hotel will not issue a refund. An Expedia representative said I should get a refund for the hotel, too. But the hotel will not give me my money back.
Interestingly, my brother had reservations at the same hotel. The hotel refunded him. I tried to dispute the charges on my credit card, but my bank sided with the hotel. Can you help me get my $844 back? — Bernadette Cieslak, Hamilton, Ohio
A: If the hotel refunded your brother, it should also have refunded you. Actually, it should have refunded anyone who had to cancel because of COVID-19. On the day you were supposed to fly, the State Department issued a “do not travel” advisory, urging Americans to stay home. You did the right thing by canceling. Most hotels offered a no-questions-asked refund after that, but some tried to keep their customers’ money. At a time like that, you can and should lean on your travel agent to help. But even Expedia was having some trouble persuading Senses Riviera Maya by Artisan to return your money.
Why did the hotel refund your brother but not you? The answer may lie in its current refund policy. It offers the ability to cancel on certain (more expensive) rates but not on all of them. It’s possible that your brother had booked a different rate, which the resort considered refundable. I like your idea of a credit card dispute and am sorry that didn’t work. A credit card dispute is typically the last resort for getting a refund. I’d say you were there. (By the way, I think it’s time for you to find a new credit card. Your bank is definitely not on your side.)
You could have reached out to an executive at Expedia. I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of Expedia’s customer service managers on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia-customer-service-contacts. The next time you make hotel reservations, I encourage you to pay attention to the cancellation terms. If you think you might have to call off your trip, consider a travel insurance policy that will cover your loss.
I contacted Expedia on your behalf. It reached out to the Senses Riviera Maya by Artisan. But the hotel still refused to return your money. Expedia refunded your $844.
If you need help with a coronavirus-related refund, please contact me. You can send details through my consumer advocacy site or email me at email@example.com.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Contact him at elliott.org/help or firstname.lastname@example.org.