Have you ever used Priceline’s Express Deals feature? It tells you certain features of the hotel, like the neighborhood, star level and average price, but doesn’t tell you the actual hotel until after you book it. I’ve had good luck with it in the past, getting a 4-star hotel room for the price of a 2-star. But sometimes the deal seems too good to be true. And then suddenly you find yourself googling “How to cancel a non-refundable hotel on Priceline.”
Please learn from my mistake, friends.
The Express Deal hotel seemed like a steal — originally $188 a night, now $60. It had free WiFi, free breakfast and a gym. Sure, it was 2 1/2 stars, but a lot of decent hotels are. I compared the perks and price with hotels on the list view and deducted the mystery hotel was the Fairfield Inn — it had to be! It was in a perfect location, got stellar reviews, and for $60 a night would be an absolute steal. So I bit the bullet and booked the deal … only to find out the mystery hotel was not a Fairfield Inn. It was a Craphole Inn (not actual hotel name). A Craphole Inn that I was now going to be spending 6 nights in by myself in a few months because Priceline Express Deals are non-refundable and non-cancellable, no ifs, ands or buts. I stayed up late reading reviews, trying to assure myself that drug and prostitute solicitation doesn’t happen to every guest at Craphole Inn and I probably wouldn’t even notice the stench in the hallway and stains on the sheets. But once I saw a review mentioning bed bugs, it was the last straw. I could not spend 6 nights (or even one night) at Craphole Inn. I had to find a way to cancel the uncancelable.
I called up Priceline and tried the “I was tricked!” route first. Because I really was tricked — Craphole Inn would never go for $188, even during a special event in the city. Its average price is $70 or $80 a night, which makes the $60 deal understandable. When the trickery route wasn’t working I switched to the “woe is me” routine, explaining that I did not feel safe staying at Craphole Inn by myself and I never would have booked the deal if I knew this was the hotel I would get. “Sorry, Express Deals are non-refundable. There is absolutely nothing I can do. Sucks for you,” the Priceline guy said (I’m paraphrasing). I asked to speak to a senior representative. Surely he could sort me out. So I explained my situation again to him, using both the trickery and safety excuses, and was met with the same response — “Sucks for you. It’s not Priceline’s fault one of our listed hotels happens to be in Sketchy McSketchsville. Your reservation cannot be cancelled.”
And that’s when I used the tip I learned in my google search — the tip I should have used first.
“What if I call the hotel and they agree to cancel?” I felt like I was grasping at straws — why in the world would this strategy work? But apparently I had said the magic words.
“If you can get the hotel to agree to the cancellation and call us back with the person’s name you spoke to, MAYBE we can work something out.”
But what was I going to tell Craphole Inn? That I wanted to cancel my reservation because of the bad reviews and bad neighborhood? I dialed the hotel before I had a chance to chicken out.
“Hello, I would like to cancel my upcoming reservation, please.” I decided polite and straightforward was the best approach.
“No problem,” the woman replied. She was so nice I almost felt bad about calling her place of employment Craphole Inn. In 10 seconds she had my reservation cancelled. It was almost too easy — as if Craphole Inn was used to people trying to back out of Priceline Express Deal reservations. I took down her name and called Priceline back. The Priceline representative put me on hold while she called Craphole Inn to confirm my cancellation, and then just like that I got an email confirmation of my refund for my non-refunable booking. I had successfully cancelled the uncancellable.
So it’s possible, friends. I wouldn’t recommend it, because there’s always a chance the hotel won’t agree, but it turns out you CAN cancel a Priceline Express Deal.
Here’s my tip for booking Express Deals: Only book them in cities where you are familiar with all the hotels available and there are no Craphole Inns you wouldn’t want to be stuck with. Sometimes the Express Deal hotels are not listed in the List View (Craphole Inn wasn’t) so there may be more possible hotels in that area with that star rating and those amenities than you think. You’ll also notice that when a hotel is not a craphole, the Express Deal will list the guest rating. I should have noticed that was missing from Craphole Inn’s listing. That’s a clear sign to stay away, lest you spend an hour of your afternoon on the phone with Priceline begging to cancel a non-refundable booking.
TL; DR: Call the hotel first. Ask to cancel. If they agree, take down person’s name you spoke to. Call Priceline. Give them hotel person’s name. Wait while Priceline calls hotel to confirm cancellation. Be relieved you don’t have to stay at craphole.