Hey, what hap­pened to my Vrbo de­posit re­fund?

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - TRAVEL - By Christo­pher El­liott

A: You should have your Vrbo de­posit re­fund by now. I’m sorry you don’t.

The terms of your rental are in your con­fir­ma­tion. In your case, you booked your va­ca­tion rental more than three months be­fore your ar­rival. (Vrbo’s re­fund poli­cies range from “re­laxed” to “strict.” Pay­ments may be non­re­fund­able or fully re­fund­able, de­pend­ing on your host.)

Ini­tially, it looked like your the­ory about the com­puter glitch might be true. Per­haps Vrbo lost your de­posit while it was chang­ing poli­cies. But I re­viewed the pa­per trail be­tween you and Vrbo, and it looks as if that’s not the case. Vrbo main­tained that the host had your de­posit.

You spent a lot of time on the phone to get this Vrbo de­posit re­fund sorted

I need your help with a Vrbo de­posit re­fund. I booked a house in Mal­low, Ire­land, through the va­ca­tion rental site ear­lier this year. I paid $306, the first half of my de­posit. Two days later, within the re­fund pe­riod, I can­celed my rental.

Vrbo charged my credit card a day af­ter I can­celed. Ac­cord­ing to Vrbo, I was en­ti­tled to 100% of my re­fund.

The owner claims Vrbo hasn’t given him the de­posit. I’ve called Vrbo three times. Each time they say they will get back with me in three days and that they will give me back my de­posit. I never hear back.

Vrbo now claims it isn’t re­spon­si­ble for the ini­tial pay­ment — the owner is. Both the owner and Vrbo claim that nei­ther of them has the de­posit. I did no­tice that Vrbo changed its pol­icy from giv­ing the owner the ini­tial de­posit pay­ment to keep­ing it un­til the cus­tomer stays. This change hap­pened on the same day I can­celed. I won­der if there was a com­puter glitch?

My de­posit is now in limbo. Please help! out. I al­ways rec­om­mend cre­at­ing a pa­per trail be­tween you and the com­pany, by which I mean, put ev­ery­thing in writ­ing in­stead of call­ing. You can find the in­for­ma­tion for all the Vrbo ex­ec­u­tives on my consumer ad­vo­cacy site.

I asked Vrbo about your case. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive apol­o­gized for your “neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.” Vrbo’s records sug­gest you didn’t book your rental through its site. (Your records say oth­er­wise.)

“This ap­pears to be the re­sult of a mar­ket­place trans­ac­tion be­tween this consumer and the owner or man­ager of an in­di­vid­ual va­ca­tion home,” she added.

In other words, Vrbo def­i­nitely doesn’t have your money. In­ter­est­ingly, the rental you booked in Ire­land has van­ished from

Vrbo. The owner re­moved it from the plat­form. A few days later, how­ever, you re­ceived a note from Vrbo in­form­ing you that it had sub­mit­ted a re­quest to its ac­count­ing de­part­ment to process a “con­ces­sion pay­ment” equal to your de­posit.

Les­son learned: When you’re book­ing through an on­line va­ca­tion rental site, al­ways, al­ways pay through the site. If an owner tries to lure you into an off­line trans­ac­tion, you’re not pro­tected.

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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