Hotel room gave partial refund after promising full refund
September 15, 2023 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I got bug bites after staying in a hotel room. The hotel manager promised me a full refund, but then issued only a partial refund for unused days because the pest control report was clean. I'm not sure whether my expectations are reasonable.

I booked a hotel room for 6 nights while on vacation. The hotel room itself smelled musty, but I didn't notice any signs of bed bugs myself. I always inspect upon arrival.

I started waking up each day with fresh bug bites that looked a lot like bedbug bites. I showed them to an entomologist friend, who agreed. I told the hotel manager on day 4 and showed him my bites. He offered to either move me to another room in the same hotel, or to refund my entire hotel stay so I could move to a different hotel. I chose the latter, as I couldn't stomach the idea of staying there any longer. The full refund allowed me to do so even though the new hotel was more expensive (it was still one of the least-expensive options I could find, and one of the few available last-minute). I confirmed with the manager several times that he would be refunding my entire stay.

I'm extremely cautious about bed bugs. I spent the rest of that day washing/drying my clothes on high heat, buying a thermometer to make sure my rental car got up to a high enough internal temp to kill off any eggs, etc. It was not a fun experience, but I didn't want to risk bringing bugs home or to the next hotel.

I moved to the new hotel and saw no more bug bites.

I called the manager to follow up. He said he'd refunded the full amount of the hotel stay to my card and it should show up in 1-2 days, he'd had the room sealed and had called pest control, and he'd follow up with me in 1-2 days about the pest control report.

I didn't hear back about the report, and I noticed he'd issued a partial refund for the 2 unused nights. I called him about it, and he said that since I stayed at the hotel, and the pest report showed no signs of bugs, it wasn't reasonable for me to expect a full refund. I said I understood, but he'd offered a full refund, he had never said anything about that full refund being contingent upon a clean pest report, and the full refund partly informed my decision to move to a new hotel. He suddenly got upset and obliquely accused me of making everything up. He said his boss would call me to discuss and he would email me a copy of the report, but it's been a couple days, and neither has happened.

My question is: Is it unreasonable of me to expect a full refund at this point? I totally understand where the hotel manager is coming from, since I did stay at the hotel, and the pest report was clean. However, he promised a full refund and then went back on his word; he said he'd processed a full refund but didn't; and I based a decision on his word. I don't have his promise in writing, though I did document everything on my own as it happened. I lost a half day of vacation dealing with this, though I'm not sure that's relevant.

Thank you everyone!
posted by aquamvidam to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
It is not unreasonable of you to expect it. If it is a chain, you can go over his head in order to get resolution.

I had a similar instance of getting bit and hearing that allegedly pest control found nothing. You have my sympathies.
posted by rednikki at 8:49 AM on September 15, 2023

Is this a credit card? If so, call up the manager one more time and say you'll dispute the charge unless he completes the promised refund immediately. However, two things:

You can't really tell whether a bite is a bedbug bite by looking at it.

There is no reason for you to believe or care about his report of what the supposed pest inspector supposedly said.
posted by fritley at 8:54 AM on September 15, 2023 [13 favorites]

Not unreasonable; you took action upon his promise of a full refund. He changed terms after the fact. You may well have acted differently if he'd said "we'll refund only if the bug report is positive". You did not agree to those terms.
posted by Dashy at 9:00 AM on September 15, 2023 [10 favorites]

I'd quit talking to the hotel and file a chargeback/dispute with your bank. Today, if possible. If not, do it when you return home.

Write down your complete recollection of all events beforehand and submit it to the card issuer when asked. You were bitten in their hotel, for crying out loud. There should be no question that you're entitled to a refund of your entire stay whether you used the room or not. Have your entomologist friend back you up on this as a witness if necessary.

Your card may also offer traveller's insurance for your problem as an automatic benefit of using the card at the hotel. I'd look into that as well.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:47 AM on September 15, 2023 [3 favorites]

If you dispute it, emphasize that he told you you were receiving a full refund. The credit card company cares more about the contract than the reasons (both help.)
posted by warriorqueen at 10:01 AM on September 15, 2023 [7 favorites]

Talk to the credit card company, but also demand a copy of the report.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:32 AM on September 15, 2023

Dispute the charge with your credit card company if they won't issue a full refund, but first email the hotel and tell them in writing that you were told you would receive a full refund by (date) and have only received a partial refund and will need the remainder credited to your card by (date one week from now) or you'll have to file a dispute. Just bare facts, expecting them to honor the agreement they made. Maybe I'm overly cautious, but I like to have as much proof of my effort to resolve a situation as possible before filing a dispute.
posted by Eyelash at 10:33 AM on September 15, 2023

I successfully disputed a credit card charge for a similar scenario (untenable hotel situation, refund I was promised never materialized) and suggest you do the same. Just a heads up though, my credit score dropped by about 150 points during the time the dispute was pending, about 2 months. Made a full recovery and I was not apartment hunting at the time so no regrets. YMMV.
posted by STFUDonnie at 11:01 AM on September 15, 2023

Note for next time, paper trail this stuff with emails! But you should pretty easily be able to get a refund.

An email from your bug expert friend, and photos of the bites, would probably help support your claim.

If they're not playing nice and you want the nuclear option, you can also tell them you'll leave online reviews that include photos of your bites.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 1:19 PM on September 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

or to refund my entire hotel stay so I could move to a different hotel.

the new hotel was more expensive

At the risk of being contrarian, your rationale seems to be that the hotel should give you a "full refund" for the days you had already stayed there as a punishment for the bites. It would be odd for the hotel to agree to such an arrangement, since they didn't believe they were at fault. I wonder if there may have been a basic misunderstanding in your discussions.

Frankly, you were entitled to be moved to a different room in the same hotel, but no more. Your idea that you should have received a "full refund" to enable you to move to a more expensive hotel, is overreaching.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:45 AM on September 16, 2023

My understanding is that OP didn't come up with the idea of a full refund, and might have accepted a partial refund at first. But instead the hotel manager promised a full refund repeatedly, and OP made their subsequent decisions based on that promise.
posted by trig at 12:55 AM on September 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

If this hotel is part of a large chain, try calling their main 800 number to speak directly with Customer Service. I've had much better luck dealing with them over local management when hotel stays have been...less than nice. If you are a member of the chain (Hilton, IPG, etc.), be aware that they may offer a crazy amount of points instead of cash.
posted by dancinglamb at 1:34 AM on September 17, 2023

Response by poster: Thank you all for your excellent advice and for your perspectives. To clarify - I do not believe there was miscommunication. The manager offered a full refund and confirmed that it would be provided with no mention of contingencies. He then stated he had already processed a full refund, though only a partial refund appeared on my statement a couple days later.

I will try to resolve this in the next few days before requesting a chargeback, and I'll try to notify the hotel of my intention. I think that, if I ran a business, I'd appreciate such a courtesy.

In case anyone is interested, or might find it helpful for the future, I'll try to report back here about the results.

Thank you all very much.
posted by aquamvidam at 10:33 AM on September 17, 2023

Just to be contrary to the contrarian response: hotels suck, hotel managers suck and bedbugs suck. And it is extremely common for a hotel that has a bug or other egregious problem to issue a refund for the whole stay … and even pay for another hotel for you themselves. At least, I’ve had them offer it in cases of overbooking. Never took them up on it since being on business travel it wouldn’t do me any good anyway.

File a chargeback immediately. I wouldn’t give the hotel any more chance now that they’ve weaseled on the matter.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 7:24 PM on September 19, 2023

Response by poster: An update: After explaining the issue in detail (with dates, times, email screenshots, and photos) to my CC company, I was issued a refund.
posted by aquamvidam at 11:03 AM on December 15, 2023

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