Hanalei Bay

When A Travel Deal Is Too Good To Be True

We love travel deals too. We recently wrote about trying to line up a Home Exchange in NYC. With no leads so far we jumped on an offer we found for $69 a night at the posh High Line Hotel through Booking.Com. We felt pretty secure with the reservation given that it was through Priceline’s brand, perhaps the largest of the online travel agencies. What happened next wasn’t expected.

When A Deal Is Too Good To Be True

We received an email from booking.com indicating they would not honor the reservation at the price we purchased it for. They stated it was not the intention of the hotel to offer the reservation at such a low price. It was a mistake. Unless we offered to increase the rate to a supposedly “discounted” $459 per night (which was in fact not a deal and much higher than we’d seen for other nights) they planned to cancel the reservation. We were disappointed that Booking stated the correct rate for that night is $619 whereas their website now says it is $449.

Note: based on your suggestions, we’ve been on hold with Booking.Com for the past 30 minutes and so far nothing. We’ll let you know later what happens. Mahalo!

How to Protect Yourself on Too Good Travel Deals

First, we did not make airline reservations immediately and decided to just wait and see what happened. If we had made air reservations, it would have been done using a paid hold capability such as we’ve written about before. This is something not covered by Trip Insurance. Further, it took six days for Booking.Com to notify us of the situation which was dangerously long inasmuch as travel holds usually only work for up to one week.

Has This Ever Happened To You?

Have you ever purchased an amazing travel deal only to have it cancelled later by the airline or hotel? We would enjoy hearing your take on this.


10 thoughts on “When A Travel Deal Is Too Good To Be True”

  1. The reason they would not honour the price is because most booking engines take about 30% off the rate that they publish. If the going rate was really over $600, you can imagine what a cut the hotel would have taken at $65 per night. Why would a hotel agree to that? Because booking engines make it easy for people to find the right accommodation at the right price, but it is not a friendly little bite of their business to suffer. That being said, hotels & any other accommodation will have built-in to their budgets allowances for discounts and freebies. Someone somewhere should have honoured that rate and booking, and then fixed it immediately online to prevent further customer issues. It was not the customer’s fault and now the hotel and Booking.com have sullied their reputation. This isn’t the first time either! It was well within your right to demand that they honour it, but now you’ve published your experience as buyer beware and that will cost them a lot more in the end. My advice, I always book direct through a hotel. It means extra time researching to find the right place but I know that every penny will go directly to the company and the service I will receive in return will be great.

  2. Small claims court.
    file in the locality where you were standing or where you live and they have to come to you.
    If they do not show, in most cases-judgement is automatically for you.

    In California filing fees are 50-75$ and take about 10 minutes.

    If you win and dont want to deal with collection, there are about 100,000 agencies out there happy to take a 50% cut of the judgment in exchange for the headache.

    And your claim does not have to limited to actual money lost, it can include a reasonable amount for PITA and possible collection fees..

    small claims has 2 levels-up to $5,000 for one fee and up to $9,999 for another fee.

  3. Wow, I finally resolved our hotel bill just yesterday. Booking.com had a certain price on a Hotel in California for two rooms with two queen beds, totaling 5 adults and 1 kid. I booked it, stayed there, and at the end received a bill that was around $200.00 more than the price I was given on Booking.com. I asked the front desk where the extra charges came from and they had no answer. They told me to call the next day and talk to accounting. After several phone calls I finally reached a person who said, that booking.com had a certain price per night and that it didn’t include the extra costs per adult and that’s where the extra charge came from. Long story, kind of short, she refunded us the money they had charged at check out. There was nothing on the contract with Booking.com which said there was a higher charge for more than two adults per room. That was the first and last time I will use Booking.com!!!

  4. Happened to me several years ago. Got a great deal at Caesars in Vegas, then got an email that it was a mistake. Seems like Priceline should have to cover the mistake but they wouldn’t budge. Just reinforces, “If it sounds too good to be true………….”

  5. A couple of years ago we were returning to Oregon from Hawaii. Oregon was in the midst of a snow storm. Our shuttle from Portland south had been cancelled while we were over the Pacific. I booked a hotel at the Portland Airport through hotels.com while the plane was waiting for a gate. After we claimed baggage, we called hotel for a pickup at the airport. They refused to honor the booking because due to the snow, they were booking rooms at a much higher rate. Price gouging. We ended up booking a hotel across town and the next day took Amtrak south. Hotels.com did refund the visa charge, eventually, and gave us $120 credit voucher.

  6. I believe that legally, they have to honor their advertised rate. This is the case in California.

    1. Hi Lori,

      That’s interesting. It probably isn’t worth pursuing for us but was a good reminder to be careful, which is the point we are sharing.


      1. Hi Beat of Hawaii,

        I understand if you have already replied, however I would request to have the reservation upheld as it was advertised at that price. It is VERY bad customer service in any industry to advertise (even through a mistake) a discount and then not abide by the price after it was purchased.

        I will not be using http://www.booking.com in the future just because of this type of customer service. It makes me lose faith in their ability to honor a price and puts into question their trustworthiness.

        I am sorry that you had this experience but thanks for helping others learn. I hope that they realize these types of mistakes will cost them more in the long run if they renege on advertised prices.


        Going with Airbnb or Expedia next time

    2. Sorry to hear. Likely it is not cost effective or time effective to go after the hotel. I was recently scammed by a short term guest who booked thru one of the vacation sites and paid with their credit card like normal and the money changed hands, so I thought. well , a week after he was gone the vacation rental site and the credit card company both said that he filed a protest that his wife had use his card without his knowledge and that ‘he never signed any documents himself that would obilgate him to pay for his lodgings with us.
      Don’t ever, never expect any help from the vacation rental sites if you are the owner or the credit card companies. We filed a protestant they send us an eight page legal form in small print on legality of needing signatures. Don’t waste your money or time. Unfortunately it is part of any business.

      1. Hi Pete,

        Not the first time we have heard of this type of scam. Bed (and other) bugs too real or imagined too.


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