Q: I’d like your opinion on an email we received yesterday about a lodging reservation in Brooklyn, New York, I made through Booking.com.
I made the reservation more than a month ago at Apartment Reggae Den, a vacation rental property. Yesterday, I received an email that Booking.com had the wrong rate posted on its website. The price wasn’t $46 a night, but $125 a night.
When Booking.com accepted my reservation, I stopped looking for other locations and now have few options in the area. I needed lodging. Booking.com seems to not allow any changes from the customer’s end regarding this reservation. What should I do?
Carrie Cleveland, Burnsville, Minnesota
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A: You want my opinion? I think Booking.com should honor its price.
Your dilemma is a little bit like a Chinese finger trap. Booking.com won’t let you cancel your reservation because the deadline for making a change has passed. At the same time, it’s almost tripled the price of your accommodations. That doesn’t seem fair.
This isn’t an obvious “fat-finger fare” – the kind where someone at the online agency makes a decimal-point error, giving away $400 hotel rooms for $40. I think $46 looked like a terrific price, and the Booking.com reservation was a contract for that room – a deal it should honor.
OK, some of you skeptics are probably thinking, “$46 in Brooklyn? Get outta here!” And in the past, I’ve taken a dim view of readers who take advantage of rate errors. If you’d made several reservations at that rate and told all of your friends to do the same thing, I might send this Booking.com price-error case to the “rejected” file. But this was just you, looking for a good deal on lodging in New York.
Your online travel agency should have worked with you to resolve this issue. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the Booking.com executives on my consumer-advocacy site.
I reviewed the paper trail between you and Booking.com. It turns out Booking.com would have allowed you to cancel this reservation, so you had the option of getting a full refund and finding alternate accommodations.
But was this a Booking.com price error? In fact, it wasn’t. The Reggae Den is responsible for entering the correct rate information on Booking.com, according to the booking site.
“It is not Booking.com that owns this property and therefore cannot honor any reservation that was made with an obvious error in rates,” a representative told you in an email. “You will not be able to find a one-bedroom apartment in any of the five boroughs for $46 per night. These rates are obviously wrong and therefore not binding.”
I wasn’t happy with that answer, so I contacted Booking.com on your behalf. It apologized to you and offered a $150 voucher good for a future booking, which you accepted. I hope you enjoy your stay in New York.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more at elliott.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.