Q: I booked five tickets for a group of travelers through Expedia. One of the travelers’ last names was spelled incorrectly on the original ticket, and Expedia told me the only way to correct it was to cancel that ticket and purchase a new one, which the company did for me over the phone.
When we got to the airport, it turned out that Expedia had canceled the wrong ticket. I had to purchase a ticket for that person at the counter. That afternoon, I called Expedia and worked my way up to “Tier 3” customer support, where I was told I would be refunded for the ticket purchased at the airline counter.
I then received multiple e-mails saying: “You will be refunded.” But I never received the promised refund.
Two months later, I called Expedia again, and after two hours on the phone, was told again that I would be refunded within five business days. I even received an e-mail stating the refund amount, the card and my name.
After seven business days, I contacted Expedia again. The company responded and told me the refund had been processed and to check with my bank. I contacted my bank, and it told me that it had not received anything from Expedia.
That was eight weeks ago. I still have not received my refund. Expedia made a mistake, promised me a refund and has not delivered. Can you help me get my $1,640 back? – Victor Wilson, San Diego
A: Expedia should have canceled the right ticket. The one it changed was off by one number, which probably was an agent error. How do I know? All those e-mails from Expedia promising a refund. Companies usually don’t do that unless they have to.
You did the right thing by verifying the names on the tickets when you received them. But if you’d taken a minute to check on the correction – instead of waiting until you got to the airport – all this drama might have been avoided. That’s particularly important when you make a ticket change by phone. A lot can go wrong, and often does – even when the agent reads everything back.
Expedia, like all other online agencies, was created so that you can handle most transactions online. I’m not sure if a complex maneuver like a cancellation and rebooking would have been possible through its website, but certainly the original booking could have been made, and checked, at Expedia.com. Under the Department of Transportation’s 24-hour rule, you have a day to fix any errors.
Refunds can test your patience. Even though it takes an online agency only a fraction of a second to take the money from your credit card, it can take two to three billing cycles for your money to actually appear. That’s more than two months.
Still, something clearly had fallen between the cracks. A review of your paper trail – the correspondence between you and Expedia – suggests that the company had no idea why your refund was being delayed.
You could have escalated this problem to someone higher up at Expedia. I list all the Expedia executive contacts on my consumer-advocacy site: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia/.
I contacted Expedia on your behalf, and it processed a refund.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.