By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
Tribune Media Services
updated 10/11/2007 11:38:42 AM ET 2007-10-11T15:38:42
TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER

Q: I’m having a problem with a hotel honoring a room price. I tried to book three nights at the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik in Croatia, but for some reason the site wouldn’t accept my dates. So I phoned Hilton’s toll-free number, and was offered a rate of 181 euros a night. They never asked me how many people were staying in the room.

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Hilton e-mailed me a confirmation and I prepaid the entire three-night stay for the room by credit card. Then I realized that I needed to add another night to my stay for the night before our return flight, so I called back. I was told that I could get an extra night at the same rate. They didn’t send an e-mail confirmation this time.

When my credit card statement arrived, I was surprised to see that the charges from Hilton were more than $260 higher than what they had originally quoted. I tried to call and e-mail Hilton, but the best explanation they could offer was that there was a “different rate” for two people in the room. That didn’t make any sense, because I had always known and planned to travel with my husband. There had been no mention of a “double” rate, and my reservation indicates nothing about number of people in the room.

Why are they not honoring my confirmation and verbal agreement to the rate for our stay? — Sheri Siegel, San Francisco

A: I can think of several reasons why you were charged more for your room than you expected. None of them are valid.

Clever computer programs that set room rates according to demand manage hotel reservations. Maybe the fourth day of your stay fell on a holiday or weekend, and the price of your room went up. But if that happened, a phone agent should have told you about the upgraded price.

It’s also possible that the hotel has a different rate when a room is shared. Some resorts in Europe do that. But if that were true, then the hotel would need to disclose the information when you called. I couldn’t find any evidence of a special double-occupancy policy on the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik Web site, and an online search for its room rates found that they were quoted for two.

A third possibility is that the phone agency misunderstood what you were saying or just typed your reservation wrong, maybe booking you in a bigger class of room. But if that had happened, Hilton would have been able to fix it easily.

You could have prevented this misunderstanding by asking for a new confirmation to be e-mailed to you instead of relying on the word of a phone agent. If you’d had a confirmation with your room rate, you could have easily adjusted your credit card charge. And if that didn’t work, you could have initiated a successful credit card dispute.

Also, consider using a travel agent next time. You’ll get a good rate — maybe even better than the one you find online — and peace of mind that you’re getting exactly what you asked for.

I contacted Hilton on your behalf. A hotel representative apologized to you for the misunderstanding. You were told that the hotel charges a different rate for two guests, which is why your bill was higher. Still, since that wasn’t clearly disclosed when you booked your room, Hilton will honor the 181 euro rate and has even upgraded your room.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the host of “What You Get For The Money: Vacations,” on the Fine Living TV Network. E-mail him at celliott@ngs. org.

© 2007 Christopher Elliott ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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