Q: I booked a vacation rental in Paris through Vrbo. Vrbo charged $863 to my credit card. A day later, the owner contacted me, saying the house was not available. He said that we should have contacted him before booking. A day later, he canceled the reservation through Vrbo. We ended up staying somewhere else.
After many emails and text messages, I received a $665 refund almost two months later. I asked the owner to pay the $198 difference. He refused, because we did not contact him before booking. He said the $665 refund was all the money he received from Vrbo.
In my view, it is very unfair that I didn’t receive a full refund. I did not cancel the reservation — the owner did. Can you help me get the rest of my refund, please? — Gerard Frank Sollman, Driebergen, Netherlands
A: Well, you’re entitled to a full and fast refund, of course. But before I get to that, let me note a big change in this column. I’ve seen so many new international cases lately, thanks to the Travel Troubleshooter’s expanding online reach. It’s a privilege to help a reader from the Netherlands. (It’s a first!)
First, the part of you having to contact the owner beforehand — that’s nonsense. Vrbo lists available vacation rental inventory. If the system says it’s available, and if you can make the booking, you should have a booking.
I can’t stand it when people make up their own rules. It’s people like that who give the travel industry a bad name — and people like you a bad vacation.
If an owner cancels, don’t just accept it. Contact Vrbo and let them know that the owner canceled. The company will either find a way of getting the owner to honor the reservation or book you in a comparable property at the same rate. Vrbo’s “Book With Confidence” guarantee applies if your reservation has been canceled less than 30 days from your stay and you are unable to locate a similar property available during the same period.
You decided to take the refund, assuming that you would get all of your money back. But then the property owner decided to remove his home from Vrbo. That means Vrbo is essentially out of the picture. The owner sent a refund directly to your bank, minus the booking fee Vrbo charged you. Do you see the problem? The owner would lose money if he sent you $198. The money you want is with Vrbo, but the property no longer exists, according to the vacation rental site. Very confusing.
Someone at Vrbo should have been able to review your case and figure out how to process a refund. I know because I’ve invoked Vrbo’s “Book With Confidence” guarantee twice in the past. In one case, the owner decided to sell a condo in Oahu before my scheduled stay. In another, an electrical problem with an apartment in Lisbon left my family without heat in January. When you run into complicated issues like this, Vrbo has a team of experienced agents who can help.
I think a brief, polite email sent to one of the Vrbo executives I list on my site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/homeaway-com/ might have done the trick. I contacted Vrbo and asked it to take another look at your case. “We’ve looked into Mr. Sollman’s case and confirmed that he will be refunded,” a representative told me.
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.
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