Booking.com PayAtHotel Scam

This post is about my ordeal that I had to endure when I booked through a hotel with booking.com Here’s a detailed summary of the Booking.com payathotel scam.

While planning my Europe trip, I  decided to stay in Paris for an extra day and hence proceeded to compare several hotel booking websites for the same.Given the limited time available and shorter budget, I was left with some options through Booking.com.  I finally zeroed in on Novotel Suites. However, this had only a “Pay At Hotel Option”, with no pre-payment options. (Pre-payment usually has its own advantages, which includes discounts, a confirmed booking no matter what and of course, no surprise charges on your card at a later date).

So, without many options left, I went ahead with a “Pay At Hotel” option in Novotel for a night for roughly 110 Euros/ night/room inclusive of breakfast. The hotel had a no cancellation policy.  I should have seen the signs, but again with very limited options, I went ahead with it. I somehow felt comfortable with the “Novotel” brand name and hoped they would extend my courtesy for being an Accor Hotel Loyalty member for quite a while.

Suspicious Payment Process in Booking.com

I was asked to enter my debit card info, which included the 16 digit number, expiry date and the CVV no. They didn’t take me to the “I-Pin / OTP” page, which is a RBI mandate. But instead simply saved the details and displayed the message “Thanks, your booking has been confirmed. Please pay 220 Euros (for 2 rooms) directly at the hotel. There’s no requirement for you to call or email to confirm the same”. Within a minute I noticed a debit of 73 INR (roughly 1Euro) in my card. The same was credited/reversed in a few minutes as well. It was actually surprising that Booking.com was able to debit an amount from my account without even asking for my IPIN or OTP). So I felt they indeed validated my card.

Exchange Rate Fluctuation

During the time between my booking and the actual date, I kept checking the booking and observed that the rate in INR kept varying day by day as and when the Euro exchange rate changed. Day 1, it showed 14,000INR (for 200 Eur). Day 3 it showed 14,600 , Day 4 was 14,500  and so forth. I realized I could be at a great disadvantage if the exchange rate keeps increasing against my favour. This is prevented if I had simply done a pre-payment.

Issue during Check-In

On 6th of April I reached Paris and went straight to the hotel around 6-7 PM. Without battling an eyelid, I was told by the reception staff that my booking was cancelled. This was quite shocking to me, given that I was told about a cancellation on the day of my check-in, without any pre-information. Added to this, this was a new city in a foreign country with an entire family beside me  and certainly added to a little bit of pressure. I argued saying, date of check-in and it should have been very much valid.

The hotel’s reply “We tried to charge your card earlier and it got declined, so we cancelled it”. No, they didn’t bother to call the customer, they didn’t bother to wait for the customer to arrive at the hotel to clarify nor wait till end of day before they could cancel my card.  Though after much convincing, they said they had rooms available and allotted me the same.

Terrible support from Booking.com

So I wrote to Booking.com, detailing my issue. I got a reply stating that they were not even aware of the cancellation and it was generated automatically. Apparently, they have a system that cancels a booking if they don’t turn up by just 6PM . This was unacceptable by any standards. Their second mail stated, “We can’t help you further and I should have checked my card and confirmed to the hotel”, though it was Pay by Cash to hotel method . Technically ,I didn’t have any necessity to reconfirm my booking nor recheck my active card.

An email was sent at 5 PM the same day from booking.com to immediately update my credit card , when I was actually on a flight with no internet/mobile access.

The screenshots for the conversation thread that happened from start to end:

booking.com pay at hotel scam
Confirmation email
booking.com payathotel scam
Second confirmation
Automatic cancellation email without confirmation
Booking.com not aware of Cancellation ?
Flat refusal to help from Booking.com

One more instance for a friend in Hong Kong through Booking.com

A friend books a hotel through Booking.com, goes to Hong Kong with family. Upon check-in, they demand the entire money upfront for the two days stay. Full payment is usually done at checkout, and this came at a big shock. The head of the family was due to arrive later in the evening with the money, while my friend had limited cash to manage for a day. His Indian card failed to debit in the hotel, hotel denied travellers card as well. He was denied a room, quite inhumanely. He had to walk several streets to find an ATM, that actually accepted his card and finally settled cash to the hotel.

 

Why you shouldn’t book through Booking.com?

  • They are least helpful when it comes to solving an issue and had the nerve to tell me, “we can’t help you any further”
  • They cancelled a room booking without any confirmation from my side and that too , on the day of check-in itself.
  • Their “Pay at hotel” option is linked to exchange rate and it can be at your disadvantage if the rate goes up by the day.
  • Despite a “Pay at hotel” option, the hotel tries to charge you any day prior and cancels if they are unable to debit. This is again done without confirmation from the guest
  • Unlike a prepayment booking, their system or the hotel can cancel you at any given time without any confirmation.
  • Even when mailed in detail, their reply was terrible and support is quite pathetic.
  • Even without a One time password or internet password, they were able to debit and credit 1 euro from my debit card account ( which can be a big security threat in my opinion)
  • Unlike Makemytrip or Cleartrip, they are not customer friendly, to just pick up the phone and get it resolved in a minute
  • In this case, Novotel plays an equally guilty role in their rude service,non-responsive support.

So strongly urge my readers, from my extensive travelling experience, never to use booking.com for hotels. More importantly, DO NOT GO FOR PAY AT HOTEL option in any site!

6 Comments

  1. I feel like this is a very narrowed view.. I am sorry that this happened to you and it really sucks. However, things like this can also happen on Airbnb, Agoda or wherever. Best way to prevent it, book through hotels directly or go there, but that's not alsways possible. I booked through booking.com at least 50 times and I had 2-3 bad experiences with charges, extra unannounced fees and cancellation. This is still a good quote I believe. I have more problems with using for example airbnb. Anyways, it's sad that you don't look at the times you made a normal/good experience and just see this one negative experience (and the one from your friend). In my point of view it's a rush judgement…

    1. Hi Nate
      I tend to share all my good experiences in my social media pages as well as my travel blog here
      As you might see, i have written a few hotel reviews as well with some positive experiences
      In this case it wasn't a negative review but more of an awareness post about issues with pay at hotel scheme, plus how booking.com just refused to help even when I requested them.. Hence i felt like blogging about the same

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