By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
Tribune Media Services
updated 12/28/2006 10:58:02 AM ET 2006-12-28T15:58:02
THE TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER

Q: I recently prepaid for two hotel rooms at the Holiday Inn Express in Statesville, N.C., through Travelocity. As a frequent traveler, I trust the quality and service of the Holiday Inn Express brand.

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But when we arrived in Statesville, there was no Holiday Inn Express. The hotel had been re-flagged as an Econo Lodge. If Travelocity had bothered to tell me about the change, I would have gone elsewhere.

I prepaid close to $100 per night for the rooms and the hotel had rooms posted at $39 a night and was not full. The quality of the property was nowhere near what Travelocity showed on its Web site. It was a dump.

I have contacted Travelocity customer service several times and, to date, have received nothing but the runaround. I asked for a total refund and have received absolutely no reply. I’m truly disgusted by Travelocity’s complete disregard of the situation.

I would appreciate anything you could do to help me.
— Bill Wright, Hayesville, Ohio

A: Econo Lodge and Holiday Inn Express isn’t the same thing. Not by a long shot.

Econo Lodge defines itself as a low-priced hotel chain for “those traveling on a budget.” Holiday Inn Express is a mid-scale hotel brand with additional amenities, such as fitness centers, in-room data ports and unlimited local calls, according to the company.

Bottom line: the re-flagged hotel was a downgrade. You should have been told about the change and either offered a refund or had your rate adjusted based on the change.

So why weren’t you? I checked with Travelocity, and it says it wasn’t notified of the reflagging. If your hotel had told the online agency about its brand switch, then Travelocity might have done something about it.

I’m a little bit skeptical of that explanation. While I don’t doubt that Travelocity didn’t get word of the rebranding, I wonder why, with all that cutting-edge technology at its disposal, the online agency couldn’t catch something like this.

When a hotel changes its name or goes out of business, shouldn’t someone at Travelocity be paying attention?

The online agency’s records indicate that you waited until after your stay in Statesville to contact it. I would have phoned the company when you arrived at the new Econo Lodge and asked it to address your problem. By accepting a room at the hotel, you limited Travelocity’s options in resolving your complaint.

Travelocity says it promptly responded to your first e-mail, apologizing for the lack of notification and asking you what kind of compensation you wanted. According to the company, you didn’t reply.

Travelocity has sent you a voucher for $150 off your next hotel purchase.

Christopher Elliot is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. E-mail him at chris@elliott.org, or troubleshoot your trip through his Web site, http://www.csr.elliott.org

© 2006 Christopher Elliott ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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