Couple's hotel cancellation slips through cracks, they get charged

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A Walnut Creek couple tried to book and cancel their hotel reservation through a website, but still got charged by the hotel.

If you're still making travel plans this summer, here's a word of caution from a Bay Area couple. They booked a hotel room and then canceled it, but got charged full price for the room anyway. How can you avoid that happening to you? 7 On Your Side investigates.

Sometimes the best laid plans still go wrong. A Walnut Creek couple planned a hotel stay months ahead of time. They didn't realize a mistake stayed on the books for all those months, and they couldn't undo it.

Richard Gall and his wife had a lovely time on a riverboat cruise in Germany.

"The theme was visiting towns with the Christmas markets," Richard said. They stopped at villages along the Main River. "Every town has town square lit up with shops."

After the long flight back to San Francisco, they stayed overnight at an airport hotel, then drove home to Walnut Creek. But that is where the trouble started.

The Galls used the service to book a room and parking space. Richard says his wife wanted to compare rates.

"She said make a reservation at Holiday Inn and also make one at another place and we'll see which one has the best rate," Richard said.

They chose the other hotel and told to cancel the room at Holiday Inn. However, after their trip, the Galls got a surprise on their credit card bill.

Richard said he was told, "'You didn't show up so we're charging you for the price of the room.'"

Holiday Inn said the couple never canceled the reservation, so they had to pay $150 for the room. Richard said no way.

"I went to the people that booked it and said, 'I need proof you canceled the reservation.' They sent me proof and I went to Holiday Inn with that," Richard said. said it faxed a cancellation notice to the hotel right after it was booked. It says an agent also called the front desk to cancel it.

Richard disputed the charge, but Holiday Inn told the credit card company, "The guest was a no-show and there was no cancellation notice received."

Richard contacted 7 On Your Side and we contacted Holiday Inn. The manager told us the same thing, that the hotel never got any notice. However, the manager decided to refund Richard's money after all.

A Holiday Inn spokesperson said, "The Holiday Inn San Francisco Airport, which is independently owned and operated, has stated that the hotel never received the cancellation. Therefore the reservation was not canceled. This issue has been resolved directly with the guest."

"I can't tell you how pleased I am that it worked," Richard said.

Holiday Inn blames the booking company and the booking company blames Holiday Inn. The lesson here is when you use an agency, confirm your reservations and cancellations directly with the merchant. That way you will know if something has slipped through the cracks.
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