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Traveler refused refund from hacienda resort, and consumer advocate agrees

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Hacienda Santa Rosa gets good reviews, but it’s not for everyone. Photo: Courtesy

A little time with Google might have helped a disgruntled tourist who’s perhaps not cut out for roughing it in a luxury hacienda.

A consumer advocate has sided with Starwood and Hotels.com against a traveler who demanded a full refund once he arrived and discovered no decent selection of restaurants in rural Yucatán.

The customer-resolution hub Elliott, “a site that advocates for you,” couldn’t find grounds to give him his $2,500 back.

The traveler’s disappointment began when he arrived only to find the resort — about an hour outside Mérida — had its own restaurant as the only dining option nearby.

“Although our advocates reached out to Hotels.com on his behalf, his Mexican hotel ultimately told (him), ¡Adiós!

He did receive a Hotels.com refund of $200, which Elliott found generous considering the booking site did nothing wrong.

“Unfortunately, (the tourist) omitted some facts from his story — significant, relevant facts that affected our advocates’ ability to help him,” Elliott’s Jennifer Finger wrote. “His case is a warning that not liking the location of your hotel isn’t a reason to warrant a refund. And fudging the facts of your case will cause our advocates to dismiss it.”

The tourist had reserved two rooms at the Hacienda Santa Rosa, a Starwood property which bills itself as “a luxury collection hotel.” He paid $1,250 for each room, which is listed online for under $200 a night.

“When (the guest) and his party arrived at the hotel, they were dismayed to discover that it was ‘in the middle of nowhere, down miles of unpaved roads.’ Then, according to (the guest), they were shown to a room which smelled of urine. At this point, says (the guest), he called Hotels.com and informed its agent that he and his companions were leaving,” Finger wrote.

Hacienda Santa Rosa gets generally good reviews online. And their cancellation policy is stated clearly online: “Should you change or cancel this reservation for any reason, your payment will not be refunded.”

Plus, Hotels.com, where the guest booked the rooms himself, told Elliott’s advocacy team a different version of the story.

“We contacted the Hacienda Santa Rosa and the hotel stated you informed them you (the guest) would like to change your travel plans,” a Hotels.com representative replied. “The hotel staff informed you of the non-refundable nature of the reservation and your party then left the hotel, without ever being shown a room. … [We] requested a one-night penalty per room, instead of enforcing the non-refundable policy. Regrettably, the hotel did not agree to this request. As such, we would be unable to issue a refund in this instance.”

The guest told Elliott:

“To recap, we left because we felt isolated in a remote location far from any restaurant (other than the one offered by the hotel, which, based on what we saw of the place, we did not care to frequent) or other facility, and because of the bad smell in the room.”

But the travelers’ advocate disagreed. “Its goodwill gesture of $200 is, under the circumstances, generous, given that it didn’t owe (him) anything at all,” wrote Finger.

“[You] can’t override a non-refundable reservation because you didn’t like the location. … Your initial email said that you had booked two rooms, but only shown to one room. I took that to mean the hotel only had one room available to you. I don’t think that was a correct assumption now,” said Elliott’s executive director, Michelle Couch-Friedman.

Couch-Friedman also advised that “when you self-book a nonrefundable hotel it’s critical to make sure the location is acceptable before confirming.”

A simple check on Google maps would have been illuminating, for example.

Elliott’s poll indicated that 95 percent of readers sided with the consumer advocate against the unhappy traveler.

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