Help! My vacation package is missing a hotel
Tourists walk along the beach at Cozumel, an island off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula which took a direct hit from Hurricane Wilma less than a month ago November 20, 2005. Unlike nearby Cancun, whose high-rise resorts are nearly all shut for repairs after their beaches were sucked away by Hurricane Wilma last month, many of Cozumel's hotels are open. Its best white sand beaches - which are natural rather than man-made like Cancun's - remain intact. REUTERS/Victor Ruiz - RTR1BED0 (Victor Ruiz / Reuters / November 20, 2005)
Q: I recently booked a vacation package in Cozumel, Mexico, through Priceline. I called the hotel's customer service line yesterday to ask a question, at which point I was informed that the hotel was closed for construction and would remain closed until next year.
I tried to politely tell them that I booked a package, not a flight and hotel separately, and that there would be no point in my going there if I could not stay where I needed. The hotel I'd booked is all-inclusive and has good prices. It also caters to scuba divers by having a private pier with boat pickups, etc. I am also, as a young woman, traveling alone and on a budget, and only felt comfortable at that hotel because I have stayed there in the past.
Please help me. I would really appreciate anything you can do. -- Amber, Washington
A: Priceline should have contacted you when the hotel announced it was closing for renovations and offered you a comparable package. But ultimately, since Priceline sold you the package, it's responsible for ensuring you can actually use all the components of the trip as advertised.
It's not clear why that didn't happen, but to be fair to Priceline, it has to track tens of thousands of hotels in its system and then match each hotel to a reservation. Maybe your hotel didn't notify Priceline about the temporary closure. Maybe it did, but Priceline failed to find your reservation and then contact you.
As I review your file, I notice that you tried to resolve this problem by phone. That would have been the right way to fix this if you'd landed in Cozumel and found yourself hotel-less (thank goodness it didn't come to that) but when you still have a little time before your vacation, sending an email works best. Also, Priceline's records suggest you gave the company only two hours between contacting it and writing to me. I might have given the company a little more time.
Remember, there's no record of a phone conversation, but you can keep an email thread and forward it to a supervisor -- or to me. Priceline's email addresses follow the format firstname.lastname@example.org and you can find a list of its managers online at http://ir.priceline.com/management.cfm.
I also list the names of Priceline's executives on my site: http://elliott.org/contacts/priceline/.
Fortunately, none of that was necessary. In fact, apparently neither was I. By the time I contacted the company on your behalf, it had already agreed to process a full refund.
(Christopher Elliott is the author of "How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money and Hassle)" (National Geographic). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at email@example.com. Christopher Elliott receives a great deal of reader mail, which he answers as quickly as possible, but because of a backlog of cases, your story may not be published for several months.)
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