Travel

Travel Troubleshooter

Am I owed anything for a canceled TripAdvisor vacation rental?

Q. Earlier this year, my wife and I booked a vacation rental through TripAdvisor. A few weeks later, we paid a $1,254 deposit on a unit in a condo development on Marco Island, Fla. The total price for three weeks came to $4,284.

In August, more than six months before our stay, we received an e-mail from TripAdvisor saying that the owner had canceled our booking. “Cancellations simply shouldn’t happen,” the company added. “To make it up to you, you will receive a full refund, and we’ll help you find a new rental fast.”

The owner told us he had double-booked the unit because of an “error” with the calendar. I e-mailed TripAdvisor expressing my disappointment over the cancellation. It had been four months since our booking. All the units that we would have liked were gone. It wasn’t likely that there would be a unit that we would like to rent as a substitute.

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TripAdvisor sent us two listings. One is in Naples and is not acceptable. The other is too far from water and likewise not acceptable to us.

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I feel that TripAdvisor should vet its properties to ensure that owners know how to manage rentals of their condo units by adequately keeping track of who is listing which of their properties. There is no excuse for waiting four months before canceling our reservation.

I would like to be compensated fairly by TripAdvisor for allowing its website to be used by negligent property owners who act in a way to diminish or outright ruin trips customers like us book. I suggest a $1,000 credit toward any future booking on TripAdvisor’s site. It is unfair that the company gets away clean on this.

MARVIN HERMAN, Delavan, Wis.

A. I’m sorry about your vacation rental. You booked that unit in Marco Island more than a year before you arrived, only to have the rug pulled out from under you a few months later. I think TripAdvisor could have done more to help you.

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But did it have to? Actually, no. TripAdvisor’s vacation-rental site, FlipKey, doesn’t address an owner cancellation on its website. Here’s what it has to say about a booking that has been canceled: “Need to find another holiday rental? Contact our Reservations team who can help you find an alternative place to stay.” I guess that means the owner — and TripAdvisor — is off the hook.

What does FlipKey mean by “help you find an alternative place to stay”? Will it just assist you with finding a different vacation rental? Will it find a comparable place at the same price? How hard will it try? What if the rate is higher — will it offer you a credit?

“Homeowner-initiated cancellations on our sites are extremely rare,” a TripAdvisor spokeswoman told me. “And we take them very seriously.” In your case, the homeowner “failed to resolve an issue syncing his calendar availability on the site, and ultimately canceled [your] booking,” according to the spokeswoman.

I list the executive contacts for TripAdvisor on my consumer-advocacy site: www.elliott.org/company-contacts/tripadvisor. You could have appealed your case to one of them. I asked TripAdvisor to take another look at your case.

“We want every traveler to have excellent experiences with us, and we were very concerned to hear of Marvin’s situation,” a TripAdvisor spokeswoman told me. “The travelers received a full refund for their booking, our customer care team worked with Marvin to review alternative accommodation options, and we offered an additional monetary gesture of good will.”

Christopher Elliott can be reached at chris@elliott.org.