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Wendell Mrugala makes a hotel reservation through Orbitz. But when he contacts the online agency to confirm his room, he's told there's no reservation. Mrugala makes another reservation, but is surprised when he learns the first reservation has gone through. Is there any hope for a refund?

Q: We're having a hotel reservation problem, and can't seem to get any help. I hope you can do something for us.

I recently booked a hotel room in Singapore through Orbitz. I never received a confirmation online, and when I inquired about my reservation, I was told Orbitz had nothing listed under my email address. So I booked a hotel room through another travel agency.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered a $74 charge for the hotel on my next credit card statement. Orbitz has refused to refund the money for the last 10 months. Can you help? -- Wendell Mrugala, St. Paul, Minn.

A: If Orbitz didn't have a reservation for you, then it shouldn't have charged you.

But did Orbitz make a reservation? Yes, because you were charged for a room. So what went wrong?

I checked with the online agency, and according to both of your accounts, your reservation was retrieved using your email address. When you filled in your email address, Orbitz says you mistyped it.

That might explain why Orbitz couldn't find your reservation when you contacted it. It was looking for the wrong email address.

But I think there's plenty of blame to go around. Why couldn't Orbitz retrieve your reservation by name or phone number? I think the representative you spoke with should have made more of an effort to find your hotel room instead of telling you that it didn't exist.

There are a few things you could have done differently, too. Obviously, you should have typed in your information more carefully. When you're self-booking -- acting as your own travel agent -- it's important to double- and triple-check names, dates and addresses.

Most online agencies give you the option of either making a one-time reservation or creating a user profile, where you register and provide a username and password. Taking that extra step would allow you to retrieve your reservation online at any time.

Finally, when there's a question about a possible charge, it's important to monitor your credit card regularly. Don't wait for your monthly statement. Log on to your account within 24 hours and check to see if you've been billed. That way, if you've been charged, you can try to fix the problem as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to resolve an issue like this.

I contacted Orbitz, and it offered a $74 credit toward a future purchase.

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 celliott@ngs.org.

(c) 2008 Christopher Elliott Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.