When you're booking travel through a travel website, it means you're not paying the airline, hotel, or other provider directly. For this family it was very convenient until it cost hundreds of dollars in extra charges.
Joanna Gundelach of Benicia has fond memories of the family's vacation in Palm Springs.
"We laid out, relaxed, tanned, went up on the tram, had a nice time," said Gundelach.
She says booking was simple too. She went online to Hotels.com, reserved a room at the Ace Hotel, and paid the $598 room charges all at once.
"It was just convenient. When I decided to book, I didn't have to call anyone I just did it over the Internet," said Gundelach.
However, turns out things weren't quite so simple. Two months after Hotels.com charged Gundelach for the room at $598, Ace Hotel also charged her credit card $492 for the same room.
"I thought this is simple, they made a mistake. I'll call the hotel since it was Ace Hotel that charged me and I did, and they said 'No, we never got paid from Hotels.com,'" said Gundelach.
The hotel would not refund Gundelach's money, saying it never received payment from Hotels.com. However, the online booking site told Joanna it was Ace Hotel's mistake.
"They would be issuing me a credit. I would see it on my next statement. That did not happen," said Gundelach.
Joanna disputed the extra room charge on her credit card, but her bank said Ace Hotel had every right to charge her for the room. So what about getting her money back from Hotels.com? The bank said she missed the 60-day deadline to dispute that charge.
"I'm really upset at this point because now I've paid both charges," said Gundelach.
She said she kept calling the hotel, her bank, and Hotels.com, but could not get a refund.
"I said, 'OK, this is it. I'm really angry now and I'm going to call Channel 7 On Your side,'" said Gundelach.
She did contact us and we called Hotels.com asking why Gundelach was charged twice. The company said there was "...A rare miscommunication between the hotel and Hotels.com that resulted in the hotel not being paid."
The mix-up started when Gundelach canceled one day of the reservation and Hotels.com re-booked their room. After it was all sorted out, Hotels.com did reverse its charges on Gundelach's account and provided a $100 travel voucher on top of it.
"That was the first time that I actually contacted Channel 7 On Your Side and it was amazing," said Gundelach.
So how did the hotel get the money? When you stay at a hotel typically you must provide a credit card to cover any unpaid services, that's how they had Gundelach's number. So if you've paid for your room through a website or travel agent, make sure the hotel received that money before you check in or check out. Remember, credit card companies are not legally required to dispute charges that are more than 60 days old.