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Rome and Venice problem: what would you do?

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Jan 5th, 2010, 11:55 AM
  #1
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Rome and Venice problem: what would you do?

I am looking for advice for a client, but I don't want to overstep Fodors rules on advertising. Most of the people who know me know that I have a travel-related business (not a TA), but my business information isn't ever mentioned on Fodors.

I am not sure what to do with a client situation, or how to tell him to proceed. This is a regular client. He was taking his fourth trip using some of my services, and had booked prepaid reservations at two very expensive hotels in both Venice and Rome. The reservations were discounted at 10%, and are both nonrefundable.

He lost his job.

Because I feel sorry for him, I wrote to the hotels, asking them to reconsider their no refund policies, or even to offer to refund him a partial amount if they were able to resell the rooms. The trip was to be in June, so it would be possible to resell the rooms, I suppose.

Things I've been thinking about doing for him, or telling him to do:

Try to advertise the rooms as available at a discounted price, through friends, Craig's list or something like that. Too public a forum would probably be illegal. But I don't know if the hotels would let people of other names use the rooms. Why not? They are paid for.

I have what I think is a working relationship with the hotel he was using in Rome, and I was thinking of asking them if they would transfer some of the payed funds to another time frame when I could use them, then I would give my client the money upon using the room. I have no idea if that is even reasonable.

I hope no one flames me, as I'm just trying to help this guy. He could have purchased insurance, but I don't even know if there is trip insurance for losing your job. I would love some feedback. Thanks.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 12:09 PM
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Hi, I always thought that hotels didn't penalise you if you cancelled your booking that far in advance? I know last time we were heading to Italy I cancelled a couple of bookings when I found a different place that I preferred. We weren't charged anything.

You are very kind to be so concerned for him.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 01:17 PM
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Steps to take:
Advise the hotels of the situation.

Ask the hotels if the name on the reservation can be changed. (It would be pretty rough if the name cannot be changed – what happens if a name change happens on account of marriage, divorce or whatever?)

If the names can be changed, then sell the reservations on eBay or elsewhere. There might be a problem with this, as it could easily look like a scam.

Alternately, request that the bookings be cancelled and refunded, less a reasonable discount of say one night’s room cost at each hotel.

I’m no expert on Fodor’s forum rules, but I’d not see a problem in stating that “My client has been in this situation, and has elected to sell this accommodation on eBay”. Others may have different opinions.

A pretty horrible situation for your client.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 01:40 PM
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Peter, it is awful, isn't it?

He wanted to stay in very upscale hotels, and thus opted for the 10% discount for prepaying for non refundable rooms. What a mess.

cathies: that is the problem: that the discounted price is for a reservation that can't be canceled. I sometimes see these deals, and hesitate to take them, although I've been tempted.

I have written to ask about changing the name on the reservations.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 01:51 PM
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I don't think you should assume the costs of his situation onto your account. He knew the reservations were non-refundable when he booked them. I'm not being cold, but had I gone through an agent to book such rooms, and the agent had told me the conditions of the deal, I would not expect the agent to hold me harmless when I lost my job. If you do decide you want the rooms, book travel insurance for yourself!

I once booked top-of-the-line accommodations, pre-paid, in Venice and Lago di Garda. I got hospitalized en route and couldn't possibly keep the reservations. The hotel owners were humanly sorry for my illness, but they had to eat and put kids through college too!

If you and your client can find a way to resell the accommodations, great. I have seen travelers on Fodor's offering up Last Supper reservations they couldn't use. I'm not sure Fodor's policies preclude you providing an e-mail to people who might be interested in staying in these hotels. I'll be the first to ask, out of sheer curiousity: What hotels are we talking about, for what dates in June?

But if that doesn't work, the money is already gone, and your client has bigger worries than whether the perhaps few thousand he already paid months ago can be clawed back. Both of you should just let it go. Everybody lived up to their adult-made agreements here.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 02:07 PM
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I wouldn't want someone else to use my room under my name/reservation - couldn't there be potential for additional expenses to be charged to me, say for excessive phone calls, damage to room, and so on? I presume the room is booked with a credit card number.

I think the very first thing to do is find out what the Trip Insurance covers (and doesn't).
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Jan 5th, 2010, 02:08 PM
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OTOH, if he has to spend the money anyway, why doesn't he just go? Sure, he'll have to pinch pennies on other stuff, if he is out of work he will have to do that anyway. In today's job market most, if not all, job searching is done on line. He could submit his resumes from Venice just as easily as from his home town.

I know about this stuff, having a stepson who has been looking for a job for a year and a half.

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Jan 5th, 2010, 02:15 PM
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What a nice person you are!

OP said the client hadn't purchased trip insurance. Just to let you know there is "cancel for any reason" (including job loss) trip insurance. I purchased it. Comes at a 50% of normal premium cost.

I think you talk to the hotels and see if they would be willing to refund some/all money if they can rebook the rooms by a certain date. I wouldn't do anything w/o checking with the hotels first.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 02:52 PM
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Personally, I would not buy a room listed on ebay or Craigslist for resale - I want to deal directly with the hotel first, and a reputable booking agent second.

I'd be cautious about trying to juggle too many things at once. What happens if you list rooms on Craigslist, then find out that in fact the hotel has been able to rebook?

If you ask the hotel to re-sell the rooms then let them have a crack at it first. That sounds like by far the cleanest solution.

Sounds like a tough situation all around.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 04:05 PM
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June 19 and 20 at the Palazzo San Angelo in Venice, executive or whatever type room is a step above standard, and June 21 for 5 nights at the Hotel Nazionale Montecitorio with executive rooms facing the Parliament piazza.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 04:31 PM
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I wouldn't try to sell the rooms. Too many potential problems IMO.

I wouldn't consider 10% discount, prepaid, nonrefundable = great deal. Although I feel sorry for anyone who loses his/her job, let's consider the numbers here. If the daily rate at the "very expensive hotels" is, say, $700 and the trip is, say, 10 days, the discounted hotel budget is $6,300. Your client apparently didn't blink at forking over $6,300 more than six months in advance. (Insuring the trip probably would have cost at least the amount of the hotel discount.) Considering these numbers, I would think this is a person who could afford to take this trip with or without a current job.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 05:12 PM
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Something doesn't add up here. The non-refundable at the Nazionale Montecitorio *today* is a 40% discount on the standard rate, so the client who booked months ago presumably got at least that high a discount.

I don't think any hotel would budge on refunding on a rate discounted by 40%, nor do I think it would be unreasonable for them to refuse.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 05:48 PM
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Zerlina, I'm not sure what his discount was. I thought it was about 10%, but in any case I am not making the story up.

If someone prepaid me for a service that I was to perform in 6 months, even at a hugely discounted rate, and then had to cancel because of job loss, I would give as much of a refund that I thought was fair to me. I wouldn't necessarily feel that it was a moral or ethical choice to keep all their money.

I'm not saying that I think the hotels are unreasonable to refuse; he did make the deal. I'm not saying he was smart to do this. I don't know how much money he was making, I just know that he spent a fortune, maybe or maybe not unwisely, on this trip.

Jean, you may think he could afford these losses. I personally have no idea, but I can only judge by the guy's reaction to the job loss. He seems desperate to get some of his money back. Who am I to say what he can afford?

6 airline tickets, 7 nights in expensive hotels, 2 rooms each night. I'm thinking it amounts to about 14,000 US, which in my world is a hard hit for anyone to take.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 05:55 PM
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Strange how these conversations go.

A guy has a problem.

Someone asks for advice on his behalf.

Some decent advice is given.

Then the “he should have known better, he should have had insurance, should’a, could’a, would’a” comments kick in.

Inevitable, I suppose.

I’m just waiting for someone to chime in with “Why did he want to go to Rome anyway. He should have booked for Naples”.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 06:02 PM
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You're right. We don't know what he can afford. But if I was contemplating spending in the neighborhood of $14,000, I'd be buying trip insurance before looking for nonrefundable discounts. With 6 people, anything can go wrong. I feel bad for him, but not that bad. Cold? Perhaps.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 06:49 PM
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Jean - sort of have to agree... while I feel a little bad for him, if he was going to blow $14k in a week, I'd hope he has the financial means to weather a job loss and still take the vacation. Seems a little iffy to me.

Tuscan - bravo for trying to help out. I know you feel bad and would like to help, but definitely don't take it as too much of a personal quest. One call or email to each hotel would be nice... beyond that, give some advice to your client and let them try to figure it out. It's their lesson to learn, not yours.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 07:18 PM
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I agree with astein12. You are very kind to try to help this man, and he, hopefully, will appreciate your efforts--no matter the results. That being said, the deed is done and should serve as a cautionary tale to all of us in these uncertain economic times.

When you have done all you can do, let it go and try not to feel terrible. After all, as a businessman, he surely understands that a deal is a deal.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 07:34 PM
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Did your client ask for your help? Maybe he has a plan of his own in mind.

If I were him and I had already paid for everything, I'd just go on the d*mn trip...In for a pence, in for a pound or whatever that saying is.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 09:31 PM
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It sounds as if he booked the reservations himself. Why wouldn't he contact the hotels directly?
I think that he is out of luck. This happens to people all of the time who book non-refundable items with no insurance. People lose jobs, get sick, etc. I don't think that you will find the hotels to be very sympathetic.
Legally, I don't think that you can "sell" these rooms on Craigslist or ebay. The booking is a contract between the hotels and the booking party. There is no "right" to assign your room to someone else. He has a right to occupy the room but not to sell it off, just as you can't sell an airline ticket or frequent flyer miles.
If he has traveled several times before than he certainly knew the risks.
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Jan 6th, 2010, 06:29 AM
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Cold or not, a deal's a deal. That's the risk one takes when one jumps on a prepaid non-refundable discounted rate.

I would use this as a learning experience to share with future clients - you know, the "poop happens" warning.
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