By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
Tribune Media Services
updated 5/27/2008 9:45:27 AM ET 2008-05-27T13:45:27

Q: I recently reserved a hotel room through, which offers hotel and parking packages near airports. Or so I thought. When I tried to check in at the Ramada Limited in Santa Clara, Calif., I discovered they had no reservation in my name.

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I left my car at the long-term parking lot at the San Jose airport and phoned Ramada to see if I could get this sorted out, but they had no record of my reservation and couldn’t help me.

That proved to be a costly mistake. I paid $180 for parking, and ParkSleepFly charged a $13 deposit and $5 transaction fee for a hotel I never got to stay in.

I called to find out what happened, and a representative refunded $18 and promised to contact Ramada for me. That was more than two months ago. I think owes me the difference between the potential cost of the motel and the cost of parking. Don’t you?
— Sandra Ferguson, Santa Cruz, Calif.

A: Maybe. If sent your reservation to Ramada and received a confirmation from the hotel, then it would have done all it could. But if it never reserved your room, then yes, a simple refund of your reservation fee wouldn’t cut it.

This is one of the most common — and easily preventable — hotel snafus. With all due respect to and other online travel agencies, your hotel confirmation isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Reservations get lost between a Web site and a hotel, for a variety of reasons.

Phoning the Ramada Limited a day before your arrival would have given a chance to fix this before you had to pay a $180 bill. But it also makes sense to double-check everything before you leave. I mean, you call your airline to confirm your flight. Why not dial the hotel, just to be safe?

Once you arrived at the hotel and learned you had no reservation, you might have considered hanging out for a while and politely asking for a manager. I realize you were about to catch a flight, and were probably worried about finding a Plan B for parking, but if you had a printout of your confirmation from, and could have spoken with a supervisor, it’s possible that this could have been straightened out quickly.

I contacted on your behalf to find out what went wrong. You received a personal apology from the company’s president, Tom Lombardi, who admitted that the “dropped the ball” on your reservation. “We have no explanation as to why the reservation did not make it to the Ramada,” he said. “All the other ones since we have been working with them were received and honored.” offered to pay for your next stay at the Ramada in Santa Clara, or any other hotel it features at the San Jose airport.

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 Network. E-mail him at

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


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