Making A Booking Mistake On Priceline.com Not As Disastrous As I Expected

Is booking your travel through third-party sites always a complicated nightmare that precludes refunds and makes your life difficult? No! Not always. Sometimes it saves you money and isn’t the headache you imagine it to be. Tony learned that the making an error on Priceline wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

I’m writing you not with a customer service nightmare, but more as a warning to fellow travelers and to provide hope to people who have a moment of mental mishap when booking through Priceline.com.

Being fans of Shatner and myself being a trekkie at heart, my wife and I decided to book a hotel room through Priceline.com for the last night of our honeymoon. We wanted something nice but didn’t want to shell out a couple hundred for a room at a 4-star hotel so we named our own price of $89. With taxes and fees and the optional travel insurance (yeah, I know), it came out to $114. I went ahead, entered my information and they accepted my bid at the Crowne Plaza Universal Orlando. Great, job well done. We got a great deal considering the best rate through their website is $124 before taxes, etc. I’m looking over the confirmation, getting ready to print it out and I notice a problem, and a big one at that. I booked it for the day we’re scheduled to leave. In my defense, nowhere on the booking confirmation page does it actually say when you bid on the room or for how much, just blanks to fill in your personal info, credit card number and a couple of check boxes to opt out of their marketing. A recap of the order info would be helpful. Maybe a little too helpful, if you ask me. Fears of wasting $114 on a useless, non-refundable, unchangeable, iron-clad, carved in stone hotel reservation were reeling through my head. My wife remained strangely calm.

My first instinct was to call the hotel but because we booked through a third party, they couldn’t do anything with it. I called Priceline’s 800 number and, after entering my trip info into their automated system and navigating their phone tree which was surprisingly easy, I was talking to a real person. Her accent was a little heavy but she at least seemed like she was from the same continent. I explained the situation to her and, much to my surprise, she offered me some hope. She could not change the reservation but she could cancel the reservation and, if I rebooked, I would receive a refund for the original purchase minus a $25 cancellation fee and the $5 trip insurance. $30 to fix my mistake on an unchangeable reservation seemed reasonable. I’m sure this is tucked away somewhere in their terms and conditions, but the bullet points they give you upon booking get the point across for the vast majority of bookings.

I went ahead and canceled the reservation. This is where it gets slightly confusing. While I’m on the phone with her, I get the email saying I will get a refund of $0.00. She says this is normal because I have not rebooked yet and I just need to follow the instructions in the cancellation email. I go ahead and rebook for the correct night, leaving everything else identical to the original order, this time triple checking everything. The system accepts my bid and I receive a confirmation from the same hotel. I call their 800 number back and enter the confirmation from my original reservation along with the rest of the info it asks for and then it finally processes my refund of $84. Disaster averted.