I was booked in at a Paris hotel … that had closed months ago


In February, I used Hotels.com to book a room for two nights at the Hotel Cambrai in Paris. I was required to pay the €180 cost up front and there was no refund if I cancelled. Shortly before my trip in August, I received emails from Hotels.com assuring me all was well and telling me to prepare for my trip. I arrived to find the hotel locked and steel shutters over the doors. On calling the number provided, all I got was a recorded message.

I returned two hours later and found the steel shutters partially raised. Inside, reception was bare and a man told me the hotel had closed down five months previously. I showed him my booking and he physically pushed me out of the door, telling me there had been a mistake and I would get a full refund. I began a long series of email exchanges in which Hotels.com insists it cannot offer a refund unless it talks to the hotel first … but it cannot get through as the hotel is not answering the phone. Worse, Hotel Cambrai is still available to book on the website. I have tried to post a review but it is being withheld. I cannot be the only person caught out.
IS, Colchester

This is the absurd consequence of customer services programmed to stick to a script rather than deploy intelligent thought. Hotels.com would doubtless still be trying to ring a non-existent hotel to authorise your refund if the press office hasn’t agreed to establish whether the place was still trading.

It’s instructive that you received two emails within hours of each other. One repeated that Hotels.com could not override the hotel’s “no refund policy”; the second, triggered by my intervention, promised to return your money along with a “gesture of goodwill”.

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“We are sorry that the customer had a bad experience,” it says. “The hotel is expected to notify us of its closure via a self-service function, which did not happen. We have now confirmed this hotel is closed, and no further bookings can be made.”

Asked if others in your situation would be refunded, it says it was “looking into” the matter.

Hotel Cambrai still appears on other booking platforms, but any date entered shows as “unavailable”.

Learning the hard way with easyJet

Last month I reported how easyJet had offered passengers a voucher incentive to cancel reservations on flights that were then cancelled by the airline a day after the application deadline. Those of us who had applied for the voucher were told we had forfeited the right to a refund instead.

Cynics might assume the move was deliberate to avoid costly pay outs for slashed flight schedules. EasyJet assured me the timings were purely coincidental and it was contacting all affected passengers to reimburse them.

Not only was that untrue, readers who called customer services in the light of this promise were told they could not be refunded. All those who contacted me were informed that their flights had been cancelled within hours of the deadline for requesting a voucher and that the voucher arrived weeks after they had been refused a refund.

The airline has now promised to reimburse these readers, although only a couple have been contacted so far and potentially thousands of others could be left out of pocket.

If you need help email Anna Tims at your.problems@observer.co.uk. Include an address and phone number. Submission and publication are subject to our terms and conditions



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