Can­cel­la­tion trou­ble at the Madi­son LES Ho­tel

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - TRAVEL - By Christo­pher El­liott

QA: If your reser­va­tion was can­cellable 24 hours be­fore your ar­rival, then the Madi­son LES Ho­tel shouldn’t charge you. I re­viewed your reser­va­tion and, in­deed, it said what you said it said — how’s that for a tongue-twister? — so this should have been as easy as show­ing the ho­tel your con­fir­ma­tion and get­ting it to honor the agree­ment.

So what’s go­ing on? I see a few odd­i­ties. First, it ap­pears the ho­tel changed names be­tween the time you made your reser­va­tion and the time you con­tacted me. That’s not un­usual. Ho­tels chang­ing names — or “re­flag­gings,” as they’re called in the lodg­ing in­dus­try — hap­pen all the time.

Dur­ing a name change, ho­tels some­times switch reser­va­tions sys­tems, and de­tails of some reser­va­tions may get lost. I’m not sure if that hap­pened to you, but that may be one ex­pla­na­tion. Also, I no­ticed a no­ta­tion next to

I booked a room at Madi­son LES Ho­tel in New York. A month be­fore my stay, I changed my mind about stay­ing at the ho­tel.

I emailed the prop­erty, ask­ing to can­cel. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive re­sponded, say­ing that I had booked a “deeply dis­counted” rate, in­cur­ring a “one-night penalty if can­cel­la­tion is needed,” the rep­re­sen­ta­tive said.

I looked at their can­cel­la­tion pol­icy. It says can­cel­la­tion with­out charge is 24 hours be­fore ar­rival. “Please note, all non-re­fund­able reser­va­tions (room rate and all ap­pli­ca­ble taxes) will be charged on the day of book­ing. Ab­so­lutely no ex­cep­tions will be made to mod­ify or can­cel non-re­fund­able reser­va­tions,” it says.

I just want them to can­cel my reser­va­tion and not charge me for it. Can you help? your reser­va­tion that said “re­stricted.”

As you prob­a­bly know, ho­tels of­fer sev­eral types of rates, from com­pletely re­fund­able to non­re­fund­able. It looks like, while the terms be­low your reser­va­tion said one thing, the reser­va­tion might have been more re­stricted. That’s on the ho­tel, not you.

You kept a thor­ough pa­per trail of cor­re­spon­dence be­tween you and the ho­tel. It shows that while it promised you one thing, it seemed to de­liver an­other. I’m go­ing to write this off to a re­flag­ging con­fu­sion, not some sin­is­ter plot to keep your money. I’ve seen sin­is­ter plots; this isn’t one of them. When a ho­tel sends you the terms of its can­cel­la­tion in writ­ing, it needs to stick to those terms — just as trav­el­ers need to keep their end of the bar­gain.

You were well within your rights to can­cel and ask for a full re­fund. When I con­tacted the ho­tel on your be­half, the ho­tel in­sisted that it never meant to pocket your money. “We can­celed your reser­va­tion and never placed a charge on your card,” it said. “We are not sure why there is a dis­cus­sion re­gard­ing a can­celed reser­va­tion that had no penalty to you the booker.”

Full dis­clo­sure: You’re a fel­low jour­nal­ist, and be­fore ask­ing for my help, you gave the prop­erty a less than glow­ing re­view on­line. I prob­a­bly would have done the same thing. It looks as if the prop­erty de­cided to back down af­ter read­ing your re­view but didn’t tell you. No mat­ter. I’m happy the Madi­son LES Ho­tel won’t be charg­ing you.

Christo­pher El­liott is the om­buds­man for Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Trav­eler mag­a­zine and the au­thor of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Trav­eler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, el­liott.org, or email him at [email protected]­liott.org.

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