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Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Best not to wait to clear up a travel billing problem

Question: We booked a 10-day vacation package in Cancun, Mexico, through Hotels.com that included air, hotel and a rental car. Taxes were included in the price of the rental car.
When we arrived at the Hertz rental counter, we were told there was an additional tax of about $55. I paid the additional tax at checkout, expecting to be reimbursed by Hotels.com.
I've written two emails to Hotels.com, but both have gone unanswered. When I called the company, a representative told me the $55 charge was a "deposit" that would be returned to me. But a call to Hertz confirmed it was a tax and no refund was due.
I have booked 12 to 15 rooms through Hotels.com, had good service and would consider myself a good customer. That is why I can't understand why they would ignore my email and lie to me over the phone.
There is not a lot of money at stake here, but I would at least like to receive a reply as to why I am not being reimbursed.
Wayne Enquist, Fergus Falls, Minn.
Answer: If Hotels.com said taxes on your rental car were included, then they should have been included, of course. You sent me a copy of your confirmation, and sure enough, they were.
When your itinerary doesn't match reality, one of your options is taking the matter up with your online agency when you return. But it isn't your only choice, nor should it be your first one.
When Hertz asked you to fork over another $55, you should have phoned Hotels.com. At the very least they could have made a notation in your record, so that when you followed up after returning to the States, they'd know about the problem.
But ideally, someone at Hotels.com could have made a quick call to Hertz and sorted this out before you returned the rental car. Remember, you probably had 10 days before the $55 charge was applied to your credit card. That's plenty of time to get this sorted out.
Sending a brief, polite email to Hotels.com once you returned was a good idea, and I have no idea why it didn't respond. Normally, when you send an email through its website, companies like Hotels.com send an automatic response and assign your query a tracking number. If you don't receive either, then it's a safe assumption that the company didn't receive your email.
I'm not surprised by the subsequent phone problems. For what it's worth, I don't think the Hotels.com representative was lying to you. He probably had no idea what the $55 was for, or was confused. But the bottom line is, the $55 was yours.
If Hotels.com continued ignoring you, I think you might have taken up this case with your credit card. A competent bank would have found a good reason to reverse the charge.
I contacted Hotels.com on your behalf, and it refunded the taxes and fees that should have been included in the price of your vacation.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of "Scammed." Read more travel tips on his blog, www.elliott.org or email him at celliott@ngs.org.
© 2013 Christopher Elliott/ Tribune Media Services, Inc.
Story tags » Travel

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