A group of Australians who forked out a $2600 deposit for two luxury apartments on Booking.com were offered single beds in a shared hostel dormitory as a solution when their booking was suddenly cancelled.
Richard Blackburn was one of nine travellers who were due to stay in the apartments booked through Booking.com, one of the world’s biggest online accommodation booking sites, for a June wedding in Canada.
He told news.com.au a 50 per cent deposit was paid on March 10.
“It was unusual to be asked for such a big deposit – usually you can reserve accommodation without putting any money down – but we figured it would mean added security,” Mr Blackburn said.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case because the booking was cancelled on April 30 with no reason given other than they could no longer be accommodated.
Mr Blackburn explained Booking.com had offered to help find a suitable alternative and would look into refunding “any additional charges at the new place” after their stay.
He said it was assumed “additional charges” referred to an increase in cost when booking the new accommodation.
They were asked to call Booking.com so the team could assist them with re-booking and provide a “special rate”.
“Then the phone tag began,” he said. “Five interminably long phone calls later – four of which were disconnected after the operator said they were putting us on hold to talk to a supervisor – and we were told that together the ‘special rate’ and ‘refund’ added up to a big fat zero.
“They did provide alternative properties, though. One was more expensive and about an hour by public transport from the original property and the other was seven beds in a 10-bed hostel room, not exactly ideal for getting ready for a wedding.”
By this time, two immediate family members of the bride and groom had committed to accommodation elsewhere – unable to risk missing the wedding. The group was now looking for accommodation for seven.
Mr Blackburn’s group ended up finding their own accommodation and asked Booking.com to cover the difference in price as the cost per person had increased due to two of their party deciding to pull out during the ordeal. He said Booking.com declined to do so.
“Then came the clincher,” he said. “The $2600 deposit they paid on the now cancelled booking would take up to 30 days to be refunded.”
Mr Blackburn said if this was Booking.com policy and others were to find themselves in a similar situation, they may not receive their deposit back in time to use on a new booking.
Booking.com also requested a bank statement be provided in three different detailed ways.
“Next time we’ll bite the bullet and book a hotel room,” he said.
Mr Blackburn added another two groups travelling for the wedding had their bookings on Airbnb cancelled.
“Are property owners listing their properties on multiple booking sites and selling to the highest bidder? We couldn’t get a straightforward answer,” he said.
When contacted by news.com.au, Booking.com said the property that cancelled on Mr Blackburn had been delisted and it would refund the deposit “as a gesture of goodwill”.
“At Booking.com, our top priority is to facilitate smooth and enjoyable travel experiences. If a customer has questions or needs any kind of support, including with a refund, our customer service team is available 24/7 to assist further and advocate on their behalf,” a statement said.
“In this particular and rare instance, local government authorities have flagged to remove the property from Booking.com and have all future short-term reservations cancelled, as it has failed to comply with local legal requirements for short-term rental accommodation.
“This property has since been delisted on Booking.com.
“We will be refunding the deposit owed by the property as a gesture of goodwill and have since provided alternative stay options for the guest at no extra cost.”