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Seeking help with kayak.com / hotels.com dispute


Old Apr 6, 12, 2:56 pm
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Question Seeking help with kayak.com / hotels.com dispute

Hello everyone, this is my first post. I apologize if it is in the wrong place or otherwise inappropriate. I'm having a problem with kayak.com / hotels.com about a hotel I booked through their site, and am hoping some travelers savvier than I might be able to offer some advice.

First, though, a little introduction. I'm living in northern Saudi Arabia and teaching English here. I've used the opportunity to travel around the Middle East a bit, and have also traveled a fair amount in Asia. I like nice hotels (who doesn't?) and of course try to find online deals whenever possible.

I've always had pretty good luck with kayak.com for airfare, so I was hopeful when I used it to book a hotel for a trip to Riyadh this past January. The rate promised by kayak for a 4-star hotel was 60 SAR/night. Seemingly an exceptionally good deal, but I have gotten some amazing deals online before. Still, I wondered if either the hotel was not really as nice as advertised, or if some mistake had been made.

In fact, a mistake had been made. When I arrived at the hotel, I was told that if I wanted to stay at the hotel I would have to pay 550 SAR/night, instead, and that the hotel no longer even had a contract with kayak. I was mostly resigned to finding another hotel, but first I phoned kayak. On speakerphone at the front desk of the hotel, a kayak.com (hotels.com) agent told me to pay the 550 SAR/night the hotel was asking, and that kayak.com would reimburse me the difference.

I was of course quite happy with this arrangement, and for my week stay gladly paid the hotel the 3850 SAR (or $1027) they asked for. When I returned home, and contacted kayak.com / hotels.com again, they told me to send them the receipts and my bank statement and that everything would be taken care of. They told me I would be reimbursed for $945.80--the difference between the quoted rate and the rate I paid, plus the international transaction fees I paid.

That was more than three months ago. Every few weeks since then I call kayak to check in, and after re-telling this story a few more times to different agents, am told that the reimbursement has been approved by the "Refunds Department," and that I should be receiving it shortly. I have repeatedly asked to speak to someone in the "Refunds Department," and have been repeatedly told that I cannot do so.

I realize now that I should have gotten the promise for reimbursement in writing, but I doubt even that would have helped much. It seems that kayak is just stringing me along, hoping that eventually I will decide this effort is not worth anymore of my time. Given how many kayak.com / hotels.com staff I have interacted with so far, and how similar their behavior towards me has been, it seems that how I have been treated has more to do with company policy than with a few bad employees.

How I wish I had gone to another hotel!

So, that's my problem. Thanks for reading. I would be grateful for any advice, on how, or whether, to proceed. In any case, it's been therapeutic to tell my story!

Happy travels to you all.

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Old Apr 6, 12, 3:00 pm
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First, welcome to Flyertalk. Hope you stay around!

Did you pay with a bank cheque or credit card?

If by credit card, you could try to dispute the charge... even though several months later. Not sure of the protections you get internationally... but could get Kayak to respond.
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Old Apr 6, 12, 3:05 pm
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Hi wharvey,

Thanks for your quick reply! I paid with a VISA debit card. I spoke to someone at my bank (Wells Fargo), and they said that since I knew what amount my card was being charged for, there was nothing to dispute.

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Old Apr 6, 12, 5:06 pm
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Did you get names of the Kayak people you spoke with?
If so you could just call them daily so they would move on it. Squeaky wheel style. Go to the refunds dept and not through customer service and find out exactly when you can expect to be reimbursed.
Maybe you can email the President of Kayak or Head of Customer Service
and retell your story and hope they will resolve it.
Post your story on their facebook page. Sometimes that does the trick.
If you come stateside you could file in small claims court.
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Old Apr 7, 12, 5:52 pm
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couple of leads

Chairman of the board of Kayak
Terrell B. Jones
930 Tahoe Blvd Suite 802-390 Incline Village, NV 89451

CEO Steve Hafner
they guard his email and contact info pretty well but I found an email address through his Dartmouth Alumni

Good luck!
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Old Apr 8, 12, 2:53 am
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Well, first of all, you say "kayak.com / hotels.com" Which is it? They are two separate companies and you need to know which one you are dealing with.

Kayak.com is a search engine that sends you to other websites to complete your booking. Hotels.com is one of those sites. If Kayak sent you to hotels.com, then hotels.com is the site that did your booking, and they are the ones that you need to deal with.

You can also book hotels directly on Kayak, but for US hotels this is just a white label website for Travelocity. I'm not sure about the setup for Saudi Arabian hotels.

What exactly does your debit card statement say? Does it actually say Kayak?

I also suggest you start e-mailing or sending letters. It's very difficult to hold companies accountable for what they promise you over the phone, since there is no proof.
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Old Apr 9, 12, 1:57 pm
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Thanks, squeakr & cbn42, for your helpful advice and information. I will follow up, and report my results.

I think in this case Kayak is a "white label website" for hotels.com, because when I called kayak customer support (while I was at the hotel front desk), the staff person I spoke to gave me a hotels.com email address to send my bank statement etc. to. A connection between kayak and hotels.com was later confirmed by other staff I spoke to. I was assuming the two companies just shared management. So it seems I need to turn my attention to hotels.com.

The only money I paid was directly to the hotel, not to kayak or to hotels.com.

In terms of the proof of what was promised, kayak has admitted the accuracy of my account and said they would reimburse me. I'm sure they have a recording of my phone conversation with their staff person who told me to pay the hotel what they were asking. It is just getting them to cut the check that has been the problem.

Thanks again for the helpful guidance.

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Old Apr 11, 12, 12:09 am
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A corporate mish-mash of a problem - that's the problem with these websites. The have so many systems in place and departments to deal with that if something goes wrong, nobody knows how to resolve the problem efficiently or effectively.

I think the only way you'll get your money back is to collect all the evidence you have (email corespondance, receipts, etc.) and continue to contact them - obviously someone who can do something - for as long as it takes. Do not stop!

My only other tip is to use a smaller, more customer friendly agent next time.
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Old May 4, 12, 1:20 am
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Thumbs up Reporting back on the resolution of my problem

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to follow up and let everyone know how my problem was ultimately resolved. I took Squeakr's advice and contacted the CEO and Board Chairman of Kayak on April 16. The CEO, Steve Hafner, wrote back to me within an hour, promising that the matter would be looked into. I was emailed by another customer service rep (in thirty minutes) saying there would be a resolution within a business day. She emailed again a day later apologizing that the matter would actually take 72 hours, given that the "reservation was processed through an international booking partner."

I didn't hear anything for the next ten days, and was starting to worry, when I received an email from Travelscape (travelnow.com), with a cc to an expedia.com address, saying $914.52 was being refunded to my Visa. A day later (yesterday, May 3) the money appeared in my checking account.

Thanks to everyone for the very helpful feedback and advice. I got my refund and learned a lot about being a squeaky wheel, too.

Happy travels,
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