By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
Tribune Media Services
updated 10/25/2011 9:43:06 AM ET 2011-10-25T13:43:06
travel troubleshooter

Q: I booked a vacation package for three people to Hawaii through Priceline. The package cost $3,208 and included my flight, hotel and car. After making the reservation, I noticed a typographical error on one of the passengers names and seeing that I couldn't change this online, I called a customer representative.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

I was told that the ticket would be canceled and I was asked if I preferred to recreate the whole order or just part of it. I responded that it would probably be better for me to just recreate the whole order online, which I did.

This time, the total came to $3,213.

I now see that they only refunded the flights ($1,531) and after calling customer services and then complaining, they are saying that I was told I was only getting a refund for the flights.

If I had known this, I obviously would not have gone ahead and rebooked the flights with the hotel and car on top. I asked Priceline if their calls were recorded and was told they were but that this particular recording was not available to me at that time.
Ian Dennis, San Francisco

A: This could have been avoided if Priceline had just played back the call, in which it allegedly says that you were only getting a refund for the airline tickets. Wouldn't it be great if a corporation automatically emailed you an MP3 file of your conversation after you hung up? Maybe there ought to be a law.

But I digress. This is why you want to create a paper trail when you're dealing with any company. Priceline couldn't deny something that a representative wrote, so if you could show them an email in which they agree to refund the entire package (and by the way, $3,208 for a Hawaii package is a great deal) then you'd have a much stronger case.

When a company digs its heels in, your options are limited. You can dispute the charges on your credit card or appeal to someone at the executive level. But you had exhausted at least one of those (the appeal) and disputing the charge was complicated, because you still wanted to use the rest of the package.

I asked Priceline to look into this, and it sent me the same answer: no. It said you were told that only airfare would be refunded. I found this disappointing. I also concluded that Priceline had reviewed its phone conversation and determined everything happened exactly the way it says it happened.

But a few hours later, I received a call from Priceline. It had reviewed its records on your incident and now agreed with you. Priceline refunded your entire package.

© 2011 Christopher Elliott ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments