Last month, I used one of those popular online travel services to book a hotel for a weekend getaway. I was a little skeptical about booking online, but I was lucky that everything worked out – and I got a good deal! Unfortunately for Justin Smerchanski, things didn’t go as planned…and it cost him $6,200.
Smerchanski was traveling for work from Manitoba, Canada to Willmar, Minnesota, and used the booking site Expedia.ca to book his hotel room. He was in a bit of a rush, and booked a room at the Holiday Inn & Suites, which was listed at $207 for the night. It was a next-night reservation, so the price was a little higher, which Smerchanski anticipated. What he didn’t anticipate was the literal thousands of dollars in fees and taxes that were about to come his way.
Smerchanski printed his receipt, then saw there were $3,143.93 in “taxes and fees” and an additional $2,828.66 in “property fees.” His credit card was billed for $6,180.54.
“Obviously I thought it was a mistake, and right away I called Expedia,” Smerchanski said. “I ended up talking with them, trying to make my way up to someone who could tell me exactly what was wrong. I was kind of assured right away that this was obviously a mistake and they were going to have it cleared up.”
That didn’t happen, though. Instead, the Canadian man was tossed from department to department and given the runaround for days by the travel site.
“It just didn’t seem like they thought anything was wrong,” he said. “I go like, ‘Hey hold on a second here. Don’t you think something is off? This is a $6,200-a-night room in Willmar, Minn. This is out of this world.”
Smerchanski was getting frustrated. After talking to at least 12 different people, he’s starting to wonder if the issue will ever be solved.
“No one can give me a clear answer,” he said. “I basically just kept getting the same runaround, that they weren’t able to authorize a credit for that amount [for a refund]. I kept saying, ‘Why am I talking to them? Get me up to someone that can.’ It’s just one hold after another and one manager after another who can’t help you with anything. I’m starting to get the indication that they aren’t going to be clearing it up.”
Instead of trying to deal with Expedia, Smerchanski shifted his efforts to the credit card company. They’ve been trying to get in touch with the travel company on his behalf in order to get answers and a refund.
“I was told from the credit card company that they’ve never ever seen anything like this,” Smerchanski said.
Though they were silent about the controversy at first, Expedia did release a statement on Smerchanski’s case. They provided a full refund for his charge, as well as a $200 voucher.
“Our team has reviewed this case, and we have gone ahead and processed a refund for this customer in full. We are very sorry this issue occurred, and deeply regret this experience,” Expedia spokesperson Mary Zajac wrote in an email to CBC News. “In this particular instance, we do feel we could have resolved this issue in a quicker manner.”
Holiday Inn had some advice for customers who are looking to book hotel stays in the future.
“We encourage guests to book directly through our channels for greater control over their reservations,” wrote a spokesperson from InterContinental Hotels Group, which owns the Holiday Inn brand.
Smerchanski also has some advice for future travellers.
“It’s just insane,” he said. “Just to basically be given the runaround multiple times, without knowing for sure the answer, is very frustrating. Don’t be in a rush and make sure you read all the small print.”
In the end, Smerchanski didn’t even stay at the hotel room he booked because he was so upset about the charges. He made alternate accommodations.
“It was a Best Western. It was $155.”
[H/T: CBC News]