COVID-19 and Curtailing Travel: Razelle M from Hotels.com helped us save over $345
March 8, 2020
COVID-19 is here. There is a cruiseship docked off the coast of Oakland with several infected persons and in our area there was 1 case at a local AT&T store. Dr. Plastic Picker worked at the CDC offices during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the early 2000s, but the CDC today is not what it used to be. Messages are coming down from public health, but this lone pediatrician out on the blogsphere is skeptical of our public health leadership and I work as a front-line pediatrician at a large HMO now. I have some infectious disease chops as I did some heavy lifting to stop a Measles case last summer. During that case, I had to panic as Measles is highly infectious and unvaccinated infants were at risk. COVID-19 I am not as panicked since it is spread through contact, and I wash my hands. Also I am a pediatrician and my patients are not the ones at increased risk of death. But we have grandparents with underlying medical conditions so we do want to keep them safe.
Just like I think everyone should all pick up their own litter and maybe an extra 3-10 pieces on the beach, I can’t wait for the federal government or the CDC to mandate things. When I saw the plastic pollution along our beach, I went to the beach and I pick up trash and it makes me feel like I’m doing my part. Now that COVID-19 is here, I know that we all need to practice “social distancing” and I am not waiting until public health tells us to do so. We know how this will spread, by people fanning out to different locations from epicenters. Some travel is necessary. Most is not. The Spanish Flu moved slow throughout the world via train mostly. COVID-19 can spread fast. But our family will not contribute to this spread.
Mr. Plastic Picker’s parents live with us, and they have cancelled their trip to Korea and New York and Colorado. I never liked that they were flying so much anyway, so now environmental actions dovetail with public health actions. They will stay home and garden, read their books and take walks around our beautiful neighborhood. The kids have spring break this week, and we were going to go on a more environmentally friendly trip and drive to the Grand Canyon. But even that does not seem prudent as we want to set a good example. There were no directives from public health but Mr. Plastic Picker and I knew the right thing to do was try to cancel. But we already had paid $1000 in mid-priced hotel rooms via hotels.com. Money is always a factor as there are some sunk cost in the vacation already.
So this is my fun story of how I connected with Razelle M. who works for Hotels.com. She helped me save at least $345 on our prepaid hotels in the Grand Canyon, and hopefully more as we await word on our Las Vegas hotels. She said another refund of $500 was highly likely from The Polo Towers in Las Vegas. And in turn, I felt the good karma in the world and donated money to the Rainforest Trust in her honor to save 1,142 acres of Marine Protected Area off the Ivory Coast.
I initially tried to contact hotels.com via phone but could not find a phone number. I then tried to call the individual hotels and their numbers were not obvious and was disheartened when the listed numbers directed me to useless messages. So I setttled in and decided to try their chatbox option. I clicked on several of their options. I know initially it was likely an algorithm I was reaching and not as real person. I became frustrated and then just typed in the following, and here is our beautiful exchange.
Me. I am a pediatrician in southern california and have not been exposed to COVID 19 yet but there has been some cases in my clnic area. Would it be possible to get a refund for our next 5 day bookings? I think if we could get a refund we would opt not to travel and it would be safer for everyone?
Is there any special consideration due to COVID 19?
Hotels.com: We are experiencing high demand due to the Coronavirus. Wait times may be longer than normal. If your travel is not in the next 10 days please visit our Customer Support Pages for the latest updates and options. Further information can be found by visiting your airline or local government websites.
Help is on the way! An agent will say hello in a few seconds.
Razelle M: Hello there. We’re sorry to hear that we need to cancel this booking but let me help you with this.
Me: I wanted to see if there is any special consideration due to COVID 19. Several back and forth exchanges about confirmation numbers.
Razelle M: Don’t worry. We’ll call them on your behalf and raise the reason for cancelation.
Me: Thank you so much! I told my husband you are real people behind the chat box. (Mr. Plastic Picker and I were sitting at the kitchen table trying to figure out travel plans at that point.”
Razelle M: No problem and yes, we are real people whose goal is to resolve our valued customers’ concerns with the best that we can give.
Me: Thank you affirming my belief in my fellow humans, and that you are not a Russian-bot. :)” (I typed this because Mr. Plastic Picker had said that she wasn’t a real person when I mentioned how nice she sounded. When I typed it and pressed sent, he said “don’t type that!” I replied, “well I already did!” And then I typed some additional thank you texts to her and some pithy comments about my skeptical husband).
Razelle M: No biggie. I’m calling the hotel now.
Speaking with them now.
Thanks for waiting. We’re unable to reach the hotel since it’s already outside their approval hours. Our best option now since its already the check-in date, we can cancel with normal policy applies then we’ll transfer the case to negotiate the refund. Same goes with the second hotel, our partner said that we need to cancel the booking first before we can contact the hotel and get the refund.
Rest assured that we are the experts in this kind of case. We have a high possibility to get a refund once the booking was already canceled.
Some back and forth between Mr. Plastic Picker and myself.
Me: Okay. I discussed with my husband and we’d like to go ahead and do that. It seems prudent since a lot of the cases are in southern california and we don’t want to spread things god forbid we have it.
Please let them know that we would like to stay in their hotels later when we are able to rebook hopefully when this is all over , maybe summer. Maybe that way they may approve refund and it is the truth.
What do I do now? Just wait to get an email later? My email is XX
Razelle M: Noted on that. I will make sure that I’ll include that on my notes.
Please stay on the chat as we continue the process.
Razelle M.Thank you.
Still processing. Please bear with me.
Me: No worries. I also blog at https://www.drplasticpicker.com – its an environmental blog. I’m really popular on instagram at @drplasticpicker Will definitely give you guys a shout out and thanks for your help today.
Razelle M:Oh! Sounds great! Thank you very much.
It’s my pleasure to help a popular person today.
If you would give me few minutes more, our partner is already calling the hotel to get a refund.
Me: Thank you! I’m only popular because I’m a pediatrician who picks up ocean plastic along the beach and blogs about it. Not sure why people love that concept. But appreciate your help and I want to support good businesses. My blog is nonmonetized.
Razelle M: How amazing! I salute you for that. I hope that there are more people out there like you.
We’re still calling the hotel to get a refund. Please bear with us.
I’m back with the GREAT NEWS!
For the second hotel at Yavapai Lodge – Inside the Park, we got the hotel’s approval to process the full refund now!
Shall we go ahead and process the refund?
Me: I want to really thank you for everyone. I truly believe in karma and goodness. I am grateful for any refund but defnitely even the 2nd full refund is amazing. I am going to donate through our blog $100 in your honor to the Rainforest Trust the Peruvian rainforest and preserve 50 acres of amazon rainforest. I will put it in my next blog post. Thank you thank you. And I hope you have wonderful evening.
And then my friend Razelle M. ended up chat session. I’m sure she was super busy with people all over trying to get through. But this morning I awoke and wanted to finish this post before I headed to the beach to pick up a bag of plastic. We will stay in our hometown this week and practice “social distancing” to try to help slow the spread of COVID-19. And I thank Razelle M from hotels.com for making that decision easier for at least getting us $345 refunded and hopefully another $500 later. But I feel so grateful to her and hotels.com that we saved 1142 acres of Marine Protected Area via the Rainforest Trust – because we are all connected via the oceans but hopefully won’t be connected via COVID-19 if we all just stay home.
Here is another post on COVID-19 https://drplasticpicker.com/covid-19-the-health-care-system-will-only-work-if-we-all-think-of-ourselves-as-essential/