Man Locked Out Of Hotel Room, Expedia Agrees To Completely Refund, Then Changes Mind

“A week ago, I had the opportunity to go to Chicago to teach a class. As I normally do, I booked the trip through I took one of their package deals – hotel, car, airfare. Since I had never been to Chicago before, I simply selected the first hotel that came up on their rankings for the suburb in which I was staying.

I arrived in Chicago, rented my car, and drove to the hotel, arriving about 1am. The clerk at the front desk informed me that the machine to make keys for the rooms was broken, but that he could let me into the room and I could get a key in the morning. This raised some suspicions, but it was 1am, I was tired, and had to work the next day, so I said fine…”

The next morning, the day clerk – who I later learned was the manager – said that the machine was still broken, and that I would be able to get a key that night.

As it happened, some family members happened to be visiting Chicago at the same time, so after work I went into town and hung out with them. Because of this, it was pretty late that night before I returned to my hotel. The clerk (the same one from the night before) said that now, not only could I not get a key, but in fact the entire floor on which I was staying was now locked, and he had no way to give me access to my room. He offered instead to let me sleep in a different room, which would of course give me a bed, but not access to my pajamas or toothbrush or anything of the kind.

Initially, because I was tired and because I was really just shocked that this could happen, I agreed. However, after getting to the second room, I started to think about it and got angry. Not knowing what exactly I could do, I contacted the local police. Fairly quickly, an officer arrived. He said that there was nothing criminal, so there wasn’t really anything he could do, but he did leave a stern message for the manager, hoping that a call from the police might convince him to come down to the hotel and let me in. That was to no avail, but the officer did tell me that they respond to 2-3 complaints about this hotel every week, and that it’s always folks like me who booked the hotel through Expedia, Hotwire, or a similar service. Honestly, he said, he couldn’t understand how those services could list hotels of this quality.

I then called Expedia, figuring that since I was technically their customer, not the hotel’s, that they might be willing to help. After playing the “let me speak to your supervisor” game, I was put on with a gentleman who initially said that he could only refund the cost of the last night (I was supposed to stay three nights, and this was 5am on the second night, but it was obvious that I would not be staying the third.) After some more arguing, he agreed to refund the entire cost of the hotel.

The third night went well, as I transferred to the Hyatt by the airport.

Fast forward a week and half. I checked my back account, and discovered that Expedia had not refunded anything, so I called them back. It was, believe it or not, like starting over. The woman I spoke with could clearly see the record of my calls from the week before (she quoted from it a few times), but continued to act as though this was all new to Expedia, and insisted that the best they could do would be to refund me the cost of the one night I did not stay in the hotel, and that they could only do that if the hotel confirmed that I did, in fact, check out early. They called the hotel, who said that I did not check out early. However, the hotel apparently said that they would actually have to confirm with the manager, who of course was not there. I then insisted on talking to a supervisor at Expedia, but was informed that it would be at least an hour and that they would call me back.

The one and only point in this entire experience where Expedia has done what they said they would is when they did, in fact, call back, a little over an hour later. At first, I was talking to the same woman, but fairly quickly insisted on actually talking to the supervisor. After a lot of calm talking and a lot of yelling and a whole lot of being put on hold, I was told that the only thing that Expedia was willing to offer me was a $100 refund and a $100 credit for future travel on their site. Now, I need to point out here that what I was asking for – a complete refund of the cost of the hotel – was only $166, and that Expedia has previously agreed to give me the refund in that amount. So after more yelling and more being on hold, I was told that Expedia was going to stick to that offer.

It’s also worth pointing out that since I changed jobs over a year ago, I have been traveling once or twice a month, and always booked through Expedia. I have already done 8 trips through them this year, and have never once called to complain about anything. When I tried to point out that not only was I up until now a loyal customer, but that I was also a frequent customer, the response I got – and I only wish I was kidding – was that my complaint was not very important to them. I made one final appeal, telling them that if I accepted this offer, then I would book one final trip on Expedia to use the $100 voucher, and I would make sure that the total cost of the trip was as close to $100 as possible, and that Expedia would forever loose me as a customer. It would essentially cost them $66 to keep me around. They repeated that they were unwilling to do this.

So that’s what customers are worth to Expedia. If you have a legitimate complaint about the quality of a hotel that they list – and a complaint backed up by the local police, no less – you will be told that your complaint just isn’t important to them. They will throw you a bone to shut you up, but nothing more. By the way, I have attempted to post a review of this hotel on their site three times over the last week, explaining the exact quality of this place, and they have three times refused to post the review, so if you go to the site and search for the Mt. Prospect Hotel in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, you will see that Expedia gives it two stars, but that there are no customer reviews. Given what the police said, I suspect that there have in fact been many customer reviews of this place, but there are none that Expedia is willing to post.

My opinion about customer service is this. Companies are run by human beings, and thus will make mistakes. That’s not really a problem. But good companies, companies that are worth spending our money with, are those that when customers come to them with problems, they are willing to make it right. Expedia believes that customer complaints are unimportant.


What can we say, Expedia?

• Recognize that being expect to pay for a room you’re locked out of with all your stuff inside is pretty bad.
• Don’t do business with a hotel that police say gets complaints 2-3 times a week from your customers.
• You can’t promise a customer something, and then take it away, if you expect him to stick around.

(Photo: Maulleigh)


Edit Your Comment

  1. yahonza says:

    Very suspicious that there are no expedia customer reviews. Has he attempted to post this review?

  2. whereismyrobot says:

    I don’t know if this is possible because you booked through Expedia and your company, but the manager and night auditor may have been trying to pocket the money. I used to work in a hotel and the managers were pretty shady.

    The fact that you came in late may have made them think that you would leave early the next day. They are, sadly, known as “booty rooms.”

  3. j-o-h-n says:

    Call Credit Card Company.

  4. voltronguy says:

    I want to applaud Rob on the best response to customer non-service I have seen on Consumerist in a while.

    Granted his experience wasn’t as horrible as some others (in particular, using airlines), but he reacted like a reasonable person. He didn’t go crazy with wild accusations, conspiracy theories, law suits, etc. I particularly love his point about it would only cost Expedia $66 to keep a customer and they blew it!

  5. palegreenstars says:

    I work in a hotel, and I cannot see how this would ever, EVER happen. If a customer has a bad stay, we are happy to discount their bill. I can’t even imagine what incentives we’d give someone if this happened.

  6. amypop says:

    Whenever I’m checking out hotel deals on Expedia or Travelocity — I always have TripAdvisor open in another browser and read the reviews of the hotels. Might be one extra step, but could have saved Rob a lot of headaches as the reviews of the Mt. Prospect Hotel are just as bad as his experience.

  7. Shadowman615 says:

    Wait, hold on — they were essentially offering *more* than $166 and he refused it? Unless he planned on never traveling again, why not just take the $100 cash + $100 in credit? That doesn’t sound that shabby, certainly not like a 15% coupon or some BS like that.

  8. agalagarag says:

    Well, the worst part about this is that not only were you locked out of your hotel, you were in Mount Prospect. So, I would ask Expedia for, say, double your money back or something.

    Seriously, though, if you’re coming back into Chicago on business and not staying downtown (i.e. doing all your actual business outside the city) then stay around Rosemont if flying into O’Hare. Easy access to L to downtown, rental cars, airport, and interstates. Most are big-name high rise type motels right off the highway. There’s a lot of cheap motels on Mannheim Rd. around the airport. While I haven’t stayed in any of them (I live here) they look like the kind of places that I’d bring someone to for a few hours, if I was cheating on my girlfriend with them.

  9. bpotterr says:

    What Expedia did was unconscionable, but frankly I wouldn’t have booked a hotel that was rated 2 Stars in the first place.

  10. surfphoto says:

    If you ever have time please post your experience on I’ve found this site to be a great resource for finding hotels in cities I’m unfamiliar with. I’ve never been disappointed after booking based on the comments I’ve found there.

  11. Brilluminati says:

    I agree. I recently stayed for a week in Miami. I went through Expedia (as I always do) to see what’s in the area and to check reviews.

    Per the nudging (nagging) of my girlfriend, I checked tripadvisor and got a totally different, in depth type of review than Expedia users.

    Granted, some of the claims are a bit nit-picky, but it really helped me from making a bad decision.

    Some hotels that are on Expedia for 4-5 stars actually are 3-4 stars on Tripadvisor.

    my .02

  12. justinph says:

    While this stinks, I wonder what kind of hotel were you staying in that cost only $166 for multiple nights?

    I guess the rule applies, you get what you pay for. I can’t think of this happening at a more “known” hotel chain. There at least you can call a central customer service place or send an email to the CEO…

  13. HeySuburbia says:

    Not that there’s any excuse for this at all, but the fact that the total was $166 for three nights in a hotel near Chicago should have probably given away the fact that this was a pretty bad place to stay.

  14. not_seth_brundle says:

    Wow, where to begin?

    I hate to blame the victim, but you are kind of asking for it when you simply log into Expedia and pick the first hotel that comes up in their results without doing any research whatsoever.

    Two seconds at would have revealed some terrible ratings and three fairly detailed reviews of problems at this hotel.

    Also, 8 trips through Expedia in 6 months probably does not rank you among their most frequent travelers, especially if you average under $200/trip. That is really not very heavy-duty traveling. It doesn’t excuse their rudeness, but I can’t really see them bending over backwards to keep you.

  15. mopar_man says:


    There’s a hotel I always stay at in a Chicago suburb that’s 2 stars. I’ve never had a problem and it’s a nice hotel. I’m sure, like this instance, there are crappy 2 star hotels though. FWIW, I always book through Hotwire. Their rates seem to be cheaper than everybody else.

  16. uricmu says:

    It’s interesting that Expedia does not use ratings from tripadvisor, which is run by it’s parent company IACI, but rather use their own rating system. Perhaps so they can filter and cull and so on.

    I guess the regular rule stands: try to see how much something would cost on expedia/orbits/, and then call the hotel for a pricematch.

  17. banned says:

    I think what they offered was completely fair. You may technically be an expedia customer but you are in fact a hotel customer first. Take the offer, and call that hotel manager and ask for $66.00 compensation, you may just get it, and in the end, profit! For someone who admittedly uses expedia all the time, turning down $100.00 in credit for $66.00 cash is being unreasonable at this point. Really if they wanted to, they could have offered nothing, and if I was their CSR, I’da’ told you to take it up with the hotel first.

  18. Amry says:

    It’s not unheard of in the customer service world to ask abusive, rude customers to leave the store/stop doing business with the company. If the “whole lot of yelling” involved behavior like this, I’m guessing this is why Expedia wanted him to go his own way.

  19. shoegazer says:

    Another vote for TripAdvisor here. Not only does this give you honest reviews (and sometimes, even photos of the rooms without the airbrushed, “brochure lighting” look); some of the reviewers also leave useful tips on discounts, freebies and events. I stayed in the Renaissance Prague and was able to get access to the executive lounges thanks to a tip from another customer.

  20. shoegazer says:

    Oh and is there any executive number / email hack for Expedia? It sounds like this guy needs a senior management massage, as his complaint was reasonable and he went through the proper channels without any success.

  21. jburland says:

    You have a contract with the hotel, not Expedia. Expedia acts as a distribution channel.
    You should have laid a formal complaint with the hotel and you can still do that.
    In writing, stating what you what and why. If it’s a brand, make sure the regional VP knows too.

  22. doe3001 says:

    Well, 1)it is difficult to post a negative review about anything booked thorugh EXPEabout EXPEDIA mention that).2) EXPEDIA has a long tradition in changing their mind about refunds (in my case one supervisor agreed to compensate me for their mistake and finally they change their mind and even tried to scam me. I think the only thing to blame the customer here is not looking for EXPEDIA complaints in search engines before using EXPEDIA. You will be surprised.

  23. kracer22 says:

    I usually book through Hotwire, and usually for car rentals. They’re actually pretty good, one time I double booked by accident and they provided me with a full refund. A second time there was a snow storm on the same night I was to rent my car. I called them and they gave me a full refund on that. So no complaints here.

  24. OKH says:

    As an aside, don’t call the cops for this stuff. I’m sure they have better things to do.

  25. Hoss says:

    Can’t anyone write a concise letter anymore? There are parts of this that I can’t follow at all. Who transferred you to Hyatt? If it’s Expedia and they offered $100+$100 on top of that, seems like great compensation. And why are you expecting a credit to your bank account? I think you had one of those regrettable life experiences and you can’t let it go. Expedia did you right, particularly in an agency transaction.

  26. Geekybiker says:

    +12345 on the trip advisor thing. I never book a unfamiliar hotel without at least checking to see what it’s reviews are like. Most of the time they’ve been spot on. As for expedia, they should have found you another hotel to stay at when you called to complain. However their offer of $100 refund and $100 credit sounds more than reasonable. Id surprised there was nothing the cops could do about you being locked out of your room though.

  27. jamesdenver says:

    Should have used a credit card and disputed it.
    I did with the worst motel experience of my life and it’s easily refunded:


  28. bohemian says:

    Another props for trip advisor. I use them all the time when booking rooms to see what the real deal is. They also are a good source for things like where to eat or park other than the hotel.

    I won’t book anything under a 3 anywhere anymore. I’m not being a snob, just that there seems to be more consistency in hotel chains over a 3 star rating. That and if you plan ahead and do some research you can get 4 and 3.5 star rooms for the price of a dumpy hotel.

    Another good tool is or Both have list of the hotels in hotwire and priceline’s lists so you can figure out what hotel your bidding on.

  29. Helvetian says:

    I have always gotten amazing customer service from Expedia, the one time I had a problem, I was immediately awarded a $200 gift coupon. I would have GLADLY accepted the $100 refund and $100 coupon towards future use, since you travel so much. Also if you read the terms, you will see there is little that can be done. Run with the $200 and move on. I think he’s making a big deal out of nothing, all this for $66? Try Travelocity, they won’t refund a dime and insist you call the hotel. Now they have a new policy, but prior to that it was you’re on your own. Expedia is a great company, and I have been using them for at least 8 years.

  30. riskfreegambler says:

    It amazes me what some people will go through to get something for free. Honestly, what type of person would call the cops over being locked out of a hotel room?

    Also, here’s a tip for next time. People who work in call centers could care less whether or not you take your business elsewhere. They don’t own the company, they just answers calls. You leaving means one less greedy, irate customer to deal with.

  31. HotelGuy says:

    Take it from a hotel expert folks: Never, ever, ever book with a 3rd Party Web site such as Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity. For what they make up in convinence, they are taking from you in recourse. Hoteliers hate these Web sites, as they demand large discounts and they have little recourse in making things right because Expedia and the bunch don’t like to give money back for any reason.

    Do yourselves a favor and use these booking tips. All Web sites have a “best rate” or similar guarantee. This ensures you’ll get the best rate. This allows you to have recourse against the hotel and it’s corporate office should you have an issue. Booking separately may incur some more time, but is worth it in the end if there is an issue.

    Because you booked with a 3rd (or even 4th) party, you won’t get the same treatment from the hotel or the hotel brand when it comes to an issue. At the corporate level, and I’ve seen it happen, your complaint will be noted and you’ll be asked to contact the booking engine, because we can’t refund you money that you didn’t pay to us.

    It’s a sad, but true fact.

  32. synergy says:

    I’d call the cops for not getting my possessions. Technically it’s stealing. Not that I would’ve allowed to be given a room where I don’t have a key in the first place. O.o

  33. hadit says:

    I had a similar experience with Travelocity. We booked a hotel (Homestead Suites) for a weekend in December, during the bowl games. It was the only place that said there were King size beds and I even called the hotel to confirm before I booked with Travelocity. Never the less, when we arrived, they had us in a room with 2 Double size beds. My husband is 6’6″ and a big guy. We didn’t pay all this money upfront to be squished in 1 double bed or in 2 separate beds.

    I caught that the room type was different than what I payed for as we were checking into the hotel. We instantly started questioning what happened and the night clerk told us that Travelocity was offering a room that they didn’t even have available and it’s Travelocity’s problem. And, because of the bowl games, there weren’t any other types of rooms available.

    After several hours on the phone with Travelocity…they wouldn’t even call around to other hotels to make the issue right as they say they will in their guarantee statement. They told us there was nothing they could do until they talk to the manager to confirm the problem. At about 3am we had finally had enough and took the only room available hoping we could resolve the issue the next day. Long story short, we played phone tag with the Manager & Travelocity for several days. Travelocity promised to refund our money. They never did so I wrote a letter to my Credit Card company to contest the charges. They sent me a letter that said I had good reason and they started to deal with Travelocity. Travelocity would only refund 1/2 of our charge and wouldn’t have anything else to do with us or the Credit Card company. Needless to say, I learned my lesson and will never use Travelocity again!

  34. mconfoy says:

    What hotel is it before someone else tries to stay there?

  35. Michael says:


    I’ve heard bad things about Expedia; apparently, they were all true.

  36. ajorett says:

    Expedia is about the worst company I’ve delt with. I got a room with them for Valentines day about three years ago. Fancy suite, Champagne, hot tub – the works. The day that I told my girlfriend, they EMAILED – not called – to tell me I’d not only been switched from the Westin, but I had taken a drastic discount in quality of hotel. The room ended up being in a “budget” hotel, and I find out from the desk that it cost $88 less than the room I originally booked. Refund? NO. Customer support (after three steps in the call management ladder) gave me a 50 dollar credit to be used at So they made their profit, plus 88 dollars. I am amazed at things like this, I may as well have been stripped and beaten for my wallet.

  37. K-Bo says:

    I agreed with everyone who said that this is the hotels fault not expedia’s, right up to the point expedia wouldn’t allow negative posts. Up until that point I saw it as a bad apple they didn’t know about. But if they are covering up to sell more nights in that same hotel, that’s just wrong. And to those of you who say this is what you get when you stay in a 2 star hotel, what would you ecpect from a 1 star? Show up to find it burnt down and you are sleeping in a tent on the rubble? There are some things that by definition make it a hotel, no matter how few stars, and having a room you can stay in is one of those things. 2 Stars or not, you should be able to get into the room your stuff is in.

  38. factotum says:

    Never, EVER, trust the reviews of hotels/motels on these sites: Expedia, Howtire, Priceline, etc. Always look up the hotel on a 3rd-party site like

    I learned this the hard way after finding a “manager’s special” on expedia. When we arrived, everything was screwed up: lost reservation, put bleach instead of chlorine in the spa, a knife fight in the parking lot and a visit from the local police dept. twice to break it up.

  39. Helvetian says:

    Sometimes the real problem are people that expect Mandarin Oriental service and quality, at Holiday Inn pricing. If you stay at the nicer properties you won’t run into this. Now I understand it may not always be feasible, but a good rule is to stay with the big chains such as Marriott or Hilton. At least you have executive relations to contact if anything goes haywire. As an Expedia user for eight or so years, I never once had a problem and book all of my trips through them.

  40. akalish says:

    I would suggest reporting Expedia to the Better Business Bureau. That’s worked for me many times before with other companies.