Q: I booked a Vrbo rental in Philadelphia for a birthday party with my friends. The code for getting into the rental was incorrect. I contacted the property manager multiple times on three different platforms and did not get a reply. I ended up staying somewhere else.
I would like a full refund and for this property manager to be off of Vrbo and Airbnb. They had poor communication and blocked me when I asked for a refund. Can you help me get my $588 back?
— Charysma Adams, Philadelphia
A: This is a strange case that took me a while to untangle. But the bottom line is, you should have had been given access to your rental when you showed up.
Let’s start with your rental, which advertises itself as the perfect place for groups and small events such as game nights, birthday gatherings and sleepovers. So, it’s not as if you showed up with your friends, and the owner decided not to rent to you. Instead, it appears you tried to contact the owner numerous times on the evening of your check-in for a one-night stay. The owner didn’t respond until the following morning.
Further complicating your problem, for some reason, the owner processed your payment outside the Vrbo system. Even though Vrbo returned its fees quickly, the owner did not — and then blocked you.
Vrbo offers a “book with confidence guarantee” that protects you against fraud or if the owner wrongfully withholds your damage deposit. If you couldn’t get into your property, Vrbo should have helped you book a new reservation for your birthday party.
I reviewed the correspondence among you, the owner and Vrbo. It looks like you followed all the correct procedures and tried to resolve this with both parties as soon as you discovered the problem. I’m troubled that the owner tried to block you when you asked for a refund. But the real issue was that the owner processed your payment outside of the Vrbo system. As I read Vrbo’s terms, that means you aren’t protected by its book with confidence guarantee.
You might have tried reaching out to one of Vrbo’s executives. I list their names, numbers and email addresses on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/vrbo-customer-service-contacts.
I contacted Vrbo on your behalf. A representative agreed with me that yours was a “complex” case. The company offered a full refund as a goodwill gesture.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or email@example.com.