NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Taking a vacation isn’t exactly cheap, so what recourse do consumers have when their hotel accommodations turn out to be less than satisfactory?
Needless to say, it depends on the cause of your dissatisfaction.
For instance, should you show up at a hotel only to have the receptionist tell you that they are overbooked and don’t have a place for you to sleep that night, then, yes, the hotel needs to do something to remedy the situation.
“Hotels are typically responsible for finding a suitable alternative,” says Victor Owens, vice president of Hotels.com. This means that if the hotel that botched the reservation touts a four- or five-star rating, you have every right to demand that they put you up in another luxury facility or offer other adequate compensation in the form of a refund, free nights at a future date or travel vouchers.
Now, let’s say you book a hotel online and arrive to crime scene tape, rodents or a police shoot out (hey, it happens). Can you cancel that reservation free of charge or is it simply a case of buyer beware?
Sadly, the law isn’t exactly on your side: Most hotels and travel search engines are careful to advertise cancellation policies on their websites and, according to Owens, the consumer is generally beholden to them once they book a room.
These policies will vary by establishment though, and while Lisa Fantino, an attorney and travel consultant for Wanderlust Women Travel, admits they have become more consumer-friendly over the years, many hotels typically require 24 hours’ notice for a guest to cancel without penalty. This means that those who show up, see bed bugs and decide to bolt to another hotel more often than not end up having to pay for their first night’s stay.
These policies are similar to the ones employed by airlines, which will also compensate you when they are responsible for an inconvenience, but charge a fee if you yourself elect to cancel for any reason. (See MainStreet’s Passenger Bill of Rights.)