Sandra Ferguson makes a reservation at a San Jose, Calif., hotel through ParkSleepFly.com (www.parksleepfly.com). But when she tries to check in, the hotel has never heard of her. Does ParkSleepFly.com owe her a refund for the $180 she has to spend for long-term parking?
Q: I recently reserved a hotel room through ParkSleepFly.com, 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.
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 ParkSleepFly.com 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 ParkSleepFly.com 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 ParkSleepFly.com 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 ParkSleepFly.com and other online travel agencies, your hotel confirmation isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Reservations get lost between a website and a hotel, for a variety of reasons.
Phoning the Ramada Limited a day before your arrival would have given ParkSleepFly.com 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 ParkSleepFly.com, and could have spoken with a supervisor, it's possible that this could have been straightened out quickly.
I contacted ParkSleepFly.com 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 ParkSleepFly.com "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."
ParkSleepFly.com 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 email@example.com.
(c) 2008 Christopher Elliott Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.