Booking.com and, Hotel Joli Florence
full payment taken but room cancelled
This is a review of our holiday at Hotel Joli in Florence. Please help me decide if the following is an honest mistake by Hotel Joli and/or Booking.com or, in the birthplace of Niccolo Macchiavelli and the hometown of the Medicis, a carefully constructed, well-orchestrated con-trick based on collusion, misrepresentation and deliberate, disingenuous ambiguity and prevarication to double hotel revenue and/or Booking.com commissions.
If you have had or heard of similar experiences and are of the view that it is please do publicise this as widely as possible to save other victims falling prey to these cynical travel industry practices.
The key elements are:
• Booking.com ‘non-refundable room’ Booking Conditions: ‘If you cancel, modify or for a no show the full price of the reservation becomes payable.’
• Is it reasonable to assume this means you do not get any of your money back if you cancel your booking, if you do not show up at all, or if you want to change some detail?
• No definition of ‘no show’ or ‘modify’ on Booking.com website.
• The hotel claims they did not receive your email to say your flight was cancelled but you have paid for an alternative flight and will arrive the second day of your booking. They did acknowledge your previous email saying your flight was delayed; both emails were from same sender to same recipient email addresses.
• Booking.con send email & ask you to reply by pressing one of two buttons:
“I stayed at the hotel” or “I did not stay at the hotel”: Is this deliberately ambiguous – neither is appropriate – you did not stay at the hotel the first night, but you do not want to cancel; you want the remaining nights of your reservation. If you reply “I did not stay at the hotel”, find out what happenes next.
• While awaiting your replacement flight on what should have been the second day of your holiday, Booking.com send an email to say: “Your reservation has been cancelled as a no-show by the property”. Is this an honest mistake, or the key to doubling revenues and commissions? The Booking Conditions clearly state “the full price of the reservation becomes payable”. No problem. Take full payment and we are on our way to stay in the rooms we booked.
• Hotel Joli has cancelled our rooms despite our keeping them fully informed. It could all be an error though and they seem apologetic and are offering “to host you for free the last night from the 20th until the 21st July.
• You telephone Hotel Joli. The owner, Chiara confirms she has let out your room to someone else but assures you she will let you stay at Hotel Joli the last night of your reservation at no charge. She even offers free breakfasts the following two mornings because the hotel she has found you a replacement room in does not provide breakfast.
• You go to Hotel Joli where Chiara is so friendly and effusive in her apologies. She must charge you for the night when it was a ‘no show’ but she will not charge for the two nights she cancelled and relet your room and you can stay the last night “free”..and there’s two free breakfasts! You believe her, like a fool, and your anger is assuaged by her sincerity and friendly generosity; she even hugs you both!
• Imagine our shock when we are able to check our bank statement on arrival back in the UK to find Hotel Joli has taken payment for all four nights.
• Prolonged email correspondence to establish this must be a mistake and to seek a refund ends with Chiara at Hotel Joli curtly dismissing our protestations with: “Yes it’s correct. Because is a NO SHOW”. She passes the blame to Booking.com and suggests we take it up with them.
• Further prolonged email exchanges end with Booking.com turning to referring to us having made a “change request”. Either our pleas for a refund have been lost in translation or this is an alternative ploy to counter our argument that a ‘no-show’ on the first night cannot justify both taking full payment and cancelling our room and reletting it. Booking.com alleges the Hotel Joli did not receive our ‘change request’ (Hotel Joli alleged they did not receive our email saying we could not arrive the first night but would arrive the next day). They ‘explain’: “as the change was not made, the reservation stood to arrive on the 17th. When this passed the property charges the no show fee of 420 EUR as the reservation was a non refundable policy.” But why did Hotel Joli take our money AND CANCEL OUR ROOM?
• The most offensive part of this email is where Booking.com explain how Hotel Joli’s repeated assurances that we could stay there the last night FOR FREE can be consistent with money having been taken from our bank account FOR THE FREE NIGHT. Booking.con explain that Hotel Joli “was within their right to charge...the additional night that you stayed with them on the 20th” (the night we had booked to stay, but our room cancelled and payment taken), “They chose to waive the latter as a gesture of goodwill to you”.
In other words Booking.com and Hotel Joli have interpreted the offer of a FREE NIGHT’S STAY as NOT HAVING TO PAY FOR THE SAME ROOM TWICE!
My wife booked a four night stay in Florence via Booking.con. We received confirmation of the booking and we had flights booked from Gatwick on Easyjet.
Due to fly to Pisa afternoon of 17th July.
Problems began when, due to an Air Canada flight suffering a burst tyre and the runway at Gatwick being put out of commission, some 20 flights, including ours were at first delayed then cancelled.
• Kavita emailed Hotel Joli to advise our arrival is delayed.
• Francesca at Hotel Joli acknowledges email saying “It’s ok”.
• Easyjet flight to Pisa then cancelled
• 17 July – Kavita emails Hotel Joli to say our flight is cancelled and we will not be able to arrive on 17th.
• 18th July – Kavita emails hotel to say we have an alternative flight and will arrive after 6pm.
• Booking.con send email asking Kavita to reply by pressing one of two buttons:
“I stayed at the hotel” or “I did not stay at the hotel”
• 18th July – Booking.con emails Kavita to say Hotel Joli has cancelled our entire booking.
• 18th July – James telephones Hotel Joli – speaks to Chiara (owner/manager) who claims the Kavita’s email re flight cancellation had gone into their ‘spam’ email folder (despite same sender and recipient addresses being used that had already been acknowledged by Francesa at Hotel Joli).
• Chiara is very apologetic – pretends it has been a mix-up – arranges two nights’ accommodation at another hotel – assures us we will only be charged for the night we did not arrive and can stay last night at Hotel Joli “free”. So – we only have to pay Hotel Joli for one night – the one we missed.
• We stay at Hotel Fiorita for two nights and pay them.
• We stay one night at Hotel Joli – which Chiara reassured us is “FREE”.
• After arrival back in UK, Kavita discovers the full 420Euros has been taken by Hotel Joli – i.e. for all four nights.
• Emails back and forth between Kavita & Chiara at Hotel Joli; Chiara claims she is within her rights to take 4 nights’ payment because Booking.con confirmed it is a ‘no-show’. (This is the why the Booking.con email only allows two options that are not applicable to many situations).
• We reply to point out payment was taken for 4 nights whereas Chiara told us only one’s night’s payment would be taken and the last night would be free.
• Chiara replies that we have to discuss this with Booking.com since they cancelled the booking.
• Extended email exchanges with Booking.com end with them saying this was a ‘No show’ which means the hotel can take full payment. They explain that the offer of the last night of our booking being “free” is that we would not have to pay TWICE for it. In other words, this counted as a separate booking but Hotel Joli is so generous they would only take payment once.
We fully understood that as a ‘non-refundable’ booking, if WE cancelled or wanted to change to another hotel, we would have to pay in full for this booking. Nowhere on the Booking .CON website is the phrase “no-show” clearly defined. We accept that if we do not show up, we have to pay for the night we missed. No reasonable traveller would agree that a hotel can take full payment and cancel your entire reservation because a flight cancellation delayed arrival 24 hours.
Non-refundable and ‘no-show’ do NOT mean that Booking.com and/or Hotel Joli can cancel the whole of our booking, re-let the rooms to double their money and commission and then claim they are doing us a favour giving us one night ‘free’ – which actually means not charging us TWICE.
The key to the con is to trick customers into replying with one of only two options, neither of which are applicable to a delayed arrive and allowing the ambiguity to be interpreted as an admission by the customer that they did not show up at the property at all. It is essential that the hotel tries to claim the customer did communicate with them – except that here we have Francesca’s email acknowledging our first email with later email using the same sender/recipient – which fatally undermines Hotel Joli’s feeble attempt to use the ‘spam folder’ get out.
The hotel pretends not to have received our communication informing them our flight is cancelled. They tell Booking.com they have a ‘no-show’. Booking.con tricks the customer into replying they did not show up. This enables Booking.con to authorise the hotel to cancel the whole reservation and take full payment, re-let the room so they double their commission and when a customer complains they pretend to mitigate the offence by conning the customer into believing they will not be charged for the nights that the hotel has given their room to someone else and they can stay free of charge for one night. Only later, and only through persistent emailing, does it eventually become clear that “free” means nothing of the sort. It only means you will not be charged a second time for what you have already paid for.
Booking.con have again now replied to blame Hotel Joli and to say that Hotel is refusing to refund any money in accordance with their terms and conditions. There are NO terms and conditions on their website. There is NO reference at all to permission to cancel your reservation after taking full payment on the Hotel Joli page of Booking.con. We receive no warning in our booking confirmation. Either Hotel Joli or Booking.CON or both are committing fraud. Hotel Joli places all the blame on Booking.CON and Booking.CON places all...well, you can guess. We are referring this to the SFO.
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