Is this enough compensation? Funny money for a fat-finger rate

by Christopher Elliott on May 31, 2011

Bob Slattery booked a room at La Maltese Estate Villa, a hotel that exudes the ambience of a privileged “members only” private club in Santorini, Greece. The rate? An unbelievable $110 per night, snagged through the site Vacationist.com.

Too good to be true, right? Right.

It shouldn’t have been, though. A few weeks before his trip, he received a call from Vacationist.

She informed me that the dates I had picked — May 25 to 29 — should have been blocked out on their site when I booked the room.

She offered me two other hotels currently available on Vacationist that don’t compare to La Maltese.

What would you ask for, considering the circumstances?

Slattery says he was careful to check the La Maltese website before he booked the room with Vacationist. The Superior Double Room with a Caldera View room was available on the hotel website when he booked it with Vacationist. But it was priced at 340 Euro a night.

When I read that, I thought: Uh-oh, not another fat-finger rate.

Oh yes.

Slattery contacted both Vacationist and the property, and he did some more digging. He found the room he booked was available on Venere.com and several other sites.

Also, almost every date in May is available on the Vacationist site except my dates and the Friday and Saturday before. Interestingly, the room price on Vacationist is $322 per night now instead of the $110 I paid.

My best guess is that someone loaded the wrong price at Vacationist and instead of honoring my reservation and taking the hit on the difference they decided to cancel my reservation.

Slattery is disappointed, and rightfully so. The terms on Vacationist say purchases are nonrefundable and no cancellations or notifications are allowed.

“I guess that only applies if the customer has to change something,” he told me. “Not when they have to.”

Vacationist responded to his inquiry with the following email:

I regret the misinformation you received. The incorrect rates were loaded into the system and when noticed was updated. As a customer service gesture, the Vacationist agent refunded your ticket and submitted $100 credit into your Vacationist account. Please email me after your next purchase and I will have it credited to you.

That’s a decent gesture, but is it enough?

I can see both sides. The hotel would be on the hook for several hundred dollars if it honored the rate. Offering the rebook Slattery in a different hotel and crediting him $100 seems like it’s meeting him halfway.

On the other hand, had Slattery decided he made a mistake and wanted to cancel, then Vacationist wouldn’t have been so understanding, and neither would his credit card, which would have almost certainly sided with the only travel agency in a dispute.

I might side with Vacationist if Slattery were one of those fat-finger trolls who hangs our on FlyerTalk and intentionally books zero fares, but there’s no evidence of that. He found this deal, fair and square.

Is a $100 credit enough?

Update: Vacationist responds:

At Vacationist, our member’s satisfaction is our first priority. We sincerely apologize for the experience this customer had with booking a hotel stay using our service.

We did make a mistake in loading our specially allocated inventory and rates on the site, and we’re sorry that this caused any inconvenience. Unfortunately the dates this particular customer chose were considered “black-out dates” and were never available to Vacationist. We immediately corrected the problem once we detected it, and informed the traveler as to why his dates were not available, and apologized directly to him.

Our Vacationist team has worked with this individual to not only assist with offering other hotels as options, but also offer him credit towards any Vacationist package. In addition, we worked with other luxury hotels in the area to secure these dates at the same rate and with an equal room grade for the customer so that the caliber of the booking would remain whole. Unfortunately, the customer chose not to take advantage of these offers, and we issued a full refund plus a credit on file.

We worked with each and every customer affected by this rate confusion honoring all bookings at the posted rated and absorbing the difference ourselves.

We value all of our customers and work diligently to ensure we provide great value and great service to each and every member of Vacationist. Despite our policy of no refunds, changes or cancellations, we work with customers every single day to resolve these types of issues when we’re able to ensure a pleasant travel experience.

(Photo: She lby PDX/Flickr Creative Commons)

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  • John

    Once Vacationist ran the credit card and accepted payment, they should have accepted their error and moved on. Its not like Target can show up at my house and insist I pay more for the lamp they sold me three weeks ago because they had it marked with the wrong price. Once the transaction is completed, the business must accept the error and move on

  • SV

    Nowhere near sufficient compensation and I think people would be wise to steer clear of both of these businesses.  I have extensive travel experience in Greece and the unfortunate truth is that Greek hotel operators – even the operators of theoretically very high end propertites – will bounce you if they think they can get just a couple of euros more out of someone else.  It’s happened to me countless times and there are now several properties I will never again do business with and go out of my way to badmouth to others.  

  • Karen

    I will not use this company to book travel.  Obviously the cost of honoring their commitment to the customer was not important enough.  Bad move!  You will not get the chance to do this to me. 

  • SoBeSparky

    Sorry, no cancellations, no refunds.  Give Bob the room or find equal accommodations.

    Another reservation service which plays heads we win, tales you lose.  They should be sued in small claims court.

  • AKFlyer

    Yes, this is a violation of US contract law.  If you do business in this country you have to follow the rules.  I would take the business to small claims court for the difference between the rate they offered (and accepted, once the credit card was charged) and the rate the customer had to pay for similar accommodations, plus reasonable charges for time and effort, filing fees etc.

  • WFDoran

    Vacationist is totallly wrong They should honor the original rate they posted . As you  said if Slattery made a mistake they would have held his feet to the fire . I will never consider using Vacationist  

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