Owner can­cels rental af­ter book­ing er­ror

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Travel - By Christo­pher El­liott King Fea­tures

QEar­lier this year, my wife and I booked a va­ca­tion rental through TripAd­vi­sor. A few weeks later, we paid a $1,254 de­posit on a unit in a condo de­vel­op­ment on

Marco Is­land, Fla. The to­tal price for three weeks came to $4,284.

In Au­gust, more than six months be­fore our stay, we re­ceived an email from TripAd­vi­sor say­ing that the owner had can­celed our book­ing. “Can­cel­la­tions sim­ply shouldn’t hap­pen,” the com­pany added. “To make it up to you, you will re­ceive a full re­fund, and we’ll help you find a new rental fast.”

The owner told us he had dou­ble-booked the unit be­cause of an “er­ror” with the cal­en­dar. I emailed TripAd­vi­sor ex­press­ing my dis­ap­point­ment over the can­cel­la­tion. It had been four months since our book­ing. All the units that we would have liked were gone.

TripAd­vi­sor sent us two list­ings. One is in Naples and is not ac­cept­able. The other is too far from the wa­ter and like­wise is not ac­cept­able to us. I feel that TripAd­vi­sor should vet its prop­er­ties to en­sure that own­ers know how to man­age rentals of their condo units. There is no ex­cuse for wait­ing four months be­fore can­cel­ing our reser­va­tion. I would like to be com­pen­sated fairly by TripAd­vi­sor.

— Marvin Her­man, Dela­van, Wis.

A: I’m sorry about your va­ca­tion rental. You booked that unit in Marco Is­land more than a year be­fore you ar­rived, only to have the rug pulled out from un­der you a few months later.

I think TripAd­vi­sor could have done more to help you.

But did it have to? Ac­tu­ally, no. TripAd­vi­sor’s va­ca­tion-rental site, FlipKey, doesn’t ad­dress an owner can­cel­la­tion on its web­site. Here’s what it has to say about a book­ing that has been can­celed: “Need to find an­other hol­i­day rental? Con­tact our Reser­va­tions team who can help you find an al­ter­na­tive place to stay.” I guess that means the owner — and TripAd­vi­sor — is off the hook.

What does FlipKey mean by “help you find an al­ter­na­tive place to stay”? Will it just as­sist you with find­ing a dif­fer­ent va­ca­tion rental? Will it find a com­pa­ra­ble place at the same price? How hard will it try? What if the rate is higher — will it of­fer you a credit?

“Home­owner-ini­ti­ated can­cel­la­tions on our sites are ex­tremely rare,” a TripAd­vi­sor spokes­woman told me. “And we take them very se­ri­ously.”

In your case, the home­owner “failed to re­solve an is­sue sync­ing his cal­en­dar avail­abil­ity on the site, and ul­ti­mately can­celed your book­ing,” ac­cord­ing to the spokes­woman. I list the ex­ec­u­tive con­tacts for TripAd­vi­sor on my con­sumer-ad­vo­cacy site: www.el­liott.org/com­pany -con­tacts/tripad­vi­sor/. You could have ap­pealed your case to one of them. I asked TripAd­vi­sor to take an­other look at your case.

“We want ev­ery trav­eler to have ex­cel­lent ex­pe­ri­ences with us, and we were very concerned to hear of Marvin’s sit­u­a­tion,” a TripAd­vi­sor spokes­woman told me. “The trav­el­ers re­ceived a full re­fund for their book­ing, our cus­tomer care team worked with Marvin to re­view al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions, and we of­fered an ad­di­tional mone­tary ges­ture of good­will.” 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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