Derik and I have stayed at a lot of hotels over the past two years. Add the ones from the years before that and I’ll be counting for half the day. We’ve had quite a bit of success booking killer deals and fancy places; like the time we booked the Ramada for $40 bucks in Seoul ($230 dollar value) and ended up getting upgraded into a freaking suite with a full kitchen, two bedrooms, two baths, and a living room. However this is not always the case. Sometimes hotels up and bite you, and they bite hard. The worst part? You’re usually on vacation in an unfamiliar place, and don’t have time to deal with a horrid place to stay.
You see that picture above? That is not the bed from the Boracay Beach House in we stayed in for approximately 4 hours in Boracay, Philippines (just to be clear). Little did we know that our hastily found Boracay Beach House hotel room was going to: a. be infested by fist sized cockroaches, and b. have a mattress covered in blood stains. Let’s not even mention the fact that the bathroom had an uncovered window (no blinds or curtains) conveniently at eye level. But wait, you’re probably wanting me to back up a bit. Blood stains? Yep. And not the kind you want to think about either. I have a pretty good idea how they got there, but to say so on this blog would probably make a person or two lose their lunch.
Unfortunately we found the problems a little too late in the night (aka 1:00am in the morning), and we ended up laying on our beach towels as we waited the sleepless night away. First thing in the morning we packed up our bags quicker than we would have if the hotel had been on fire. We battled two of those gigantic cockroaches who had laid claim to our shoes and bathroom supplies, snapped a couple pictures of their huge dead bodies, and headed out for the reception area, where we were met with a sour face and rolling eyes. Apparently this stuff happens a lot at this hotel -go figure. We tried not to be insensitive; I know the workers probably live in worse living conditions. All we wanted was our money back for the next 4 nights of stay and we would be on our way. We had booked through Agoda.com, and unfortunately they have a very strict refund policy.
However, if you’re faced in a situation like we were, here’s some steps you can take to get your full refund back.
1. Document your complaint/poor living conditions with pictures. We all have smart phones, point and shoots, DSLRs, and camera bearing iPods. If you have to submit a claim to a big company like Agoda or Hotels.com, make sure you have proof of what’s wrong. Usually a company with a strict ‘no refund’ policy isn’t going to give you money back based solely on what you say- they want proof. Also, when you go up to the reception (especially in a foreign country), showing them the pictures will help with any language barrier miscommunication you may be having. They’ll know right away what’s wrong when they see a picture of a blood-stained mattress in the room you rented out.
2. Know exactly what you want the hotel/booking agency to do. Discuss with your travel partners (if you have any) what you’re wanting the hotel or booking agency to do for you. Knowing exactly what you want will help with your negotiation process. Trust me, they’re not going to want to give you all that money back right off the bat. Stay firm, stay confident, and don’t settle.
3. Ask to speak to the hotel manager. Odds are the poor front desk clerk doesn’t have any say in the matter and can’t approve anything until they speak to their boss. Avoid having to repeat your story a million times by asking for the MOD right away. This will show you’re serious about getting something done fast. Once the manager is called, they’ll also know that one of their customers ‘mean business’ and hopefully they will start thinking of a good business strategy themselves to help make you happy.
4. Call and email the booking agency multiple times. When you book online through a big company, you often pay that company for the hotel. The funds are usually not released to the hotel businesses until after your stay. Sometimes they don’t get paid for weeks after your stay! Don’t expect the hotel to refund you money on the spot, because they might not even have it yet. Call the booking agency and ask for a refund. Most likely you’ll be transferred multiple times and they’ll have to hang up on you to call the hotel and negotiate. Always make sure you write down the name of the person you talked to, and make sure each of these customer service agents have your name, number, email and any other way they can contact you back.
5. Use the social media pull. Our hotel in Boracay was really stubborn: the manager was lazy and wouldn’t even leave her office to come talk to us, the front desk clerk hardly spoke English, our internet connection was really bad to Skype Agoda, and we were staying in a hotel that wasn’t very busy. Odds were that our refund wasn’t happening. But then my husband got smart and showed the front desk clerk my social media pull. He told them I was a travel blogger and have over 10,000 followers (conveniently taking them to my stats page), and if we wanted to virtually shut down their business we could (isn’t it crazy how much pull the internet gives a customer?). Within minutes our issue was resolved and the money was on it’s way back to my account. You see, people don’t naturally realize how much power the internet gives us! Think about Trip Advisor; one really bad review turns you completely off from a place right? Craziness.
6. Be as nice as you can. That being said, try to be as nice as you can. I know we had to issue a threat to get what we felt like we deserved, but before that we talked to them in calm, quiet voices, understanding smiles, and patience. Raising your voice and stomping around does you no good, and will usually leave the person your hate is directed to flustered, angry, annoyed, and frustrated. Give them some time and patience to figure things out!
7. If you’ve gained anything out of the horrible ordeal, you’ve gained experience. We now know to take into every single customer review from the last 4 months on both Agoda and Trip Advisor into consideration when looking for hotels to book. Sure a cheap hotel feels better on the pocketbook, but is it worth the vacation getting ruined? We’ve learned the six steps above, not by reading it in some book, but by actually having to experience it ourselves; and here I am imparting our knowledge to hopefully help you in the future!
Last but not least remember cheaper isn’t always the best. Sure your pocketbook may have less of a hole in it, but is that better than having your vacation ruined by a crappy hotel room?
What would you do?