Missing a Hotel Cancellation Deadline — Reader Mistake Story

Jun 8, 2018

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Michael, who got tripped up by a time change while adjusting his travel plans. Here’s what he had to say:

While booking a family trip, I made a reservation through Agoda.com for the Blue Diamond Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Agoda advertised a “risk-free” cancellation policy, which said I would pay nothing if I canceled before April 23, but if I canceled within 14 days of the arrival date, I would be charged for the entire stay. I figured if I needed to change the booking, I would be able to do so before April 23 and not have to pay anything.

Accordingly, when my travel plans changed, I logged back onto Agoda on April 22 to cancel my booking. To my surprise, the website said that my reservation was no longer refundable, and I would be liable for the entire hotel stay. I immediately called Agoda, and they informed me that because it was already April 23 in Vietnam when I tried to initiate the cancellation request, I was no longer eligible. Despite my best efforts to secure a refund, Agoda has steadfastly refused, and the hotel has also been unwilling to waive the cancellation fee.

Some websites (like Hotels.com) specify which time zone applies to a cancellation deadline, but Agoda does not. It seems their unspoken rule is that the applicable time zone is that of the hotel being booked. While their policy is ambiguous, I could have avoided much hassle and the cancellation penalty by not waiting until the last minute to cancel the reservation. Next time, I’ll be more vigilant about deadlines and time differences, and I’ll leave plenty of room for error.

Michael’s takeaways here are both helpful. You should carefully note change and cancellation policies before you book a room, especially if your plans are uncertain. Even if you’re booking with a major hotel chain, keep in mind that individual properties may have their own policies that take precedence. If you do need to alter a reservation, try not to wait until the last minute; some policies are ambiguous, so giving yourself a buffer of a few days will help you avoid leaving your options open to interpretation.

I think the more critical lesson here is to pay close attention to details. Agoda actually does specify the time zone that applies to cancellations: on the first page you get to after selecting a room, you’ll see some green text at the bottom of the reservation summary that describes the cancellation deadline down to the minute. Clicking on that text will open a pop-up window with the booking conditions, which includes the relevant time zone offset from coordinated universal time (UTC +7 in Michael’s case). Another link lower on the page (this one in blue) brings you to the same information.

I’m not familiar with Agoda, so it’s possible that information was added recently, but more likely Michael just overlooked it. Not that we can blame him — there’s a lot of fine print in the world; reading every line of it isn’t pragmatic, and some rules really are ambiguous even if you do get down to the nitty gritty. If you’re ever unclear about a cancellation policy, take time to verify it (preferably in writing) before you buy.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Michael for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Feature image by BraunS / Getty Images.

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