When Virginia Vail made a reservation at the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls last month through a website called National Park Reservations (NPR), she assumed the $252 room rate would be the price she actually paid.
She also thought she was dealing with the U.S. National Park Service (NPS), as the name of the website implied.
Turns out she was wrong on both counts, writes author Christopher Elliott on frommers.com.
National Park Reservations is a privately-owned company that charges a 10 percent non-refundable fee on all of its reservations.
Since Vail was booking a block of 10 rooms for her extended family, NPR sucked an additional $758 from her credit card.
“I should have read the terms more closely,” she says.
“I should have checked the online reviews.”
NPR is one of several travel businesses that aren’t what they appear to be.
Are they fraudulent?
Probably not, at least not in the legal sense.
But they sure are frustrating to deal with, writes Elliot.
Vail, for example, experienced some trouble completing her NPR reservation; in the end, she called the Yosemite Lodge directly to finish the transaction.
It didn’t matter to the company; it charged the 10 percent fee, even on the room tax.
When she asked for an explanation, NPR sent her a form letter.
“The fee is not refundable,” it said.
“You agreed to our terms and conditions, which explain our fee as we are a privately owned booking agency. Thank you.”
In travel, what you see isn’t always what you get. Yet another reason to always, always read the fine print.
Elliot is the author of “Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals” (Wiley), a manifesto for empowering consumers and encouraging corporate responsibility.
Elliot is also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers.
National Park Reservations
National Park Reservations is a reservation service providing lodging and activity reservations both inside as well as in the gateway communities of the United States National Parks.
National Park Reservations is not an authorized concessionaire of any National Park nor are they in any way affiliated with the National Park Service of the Federal Government.
National Park Reservations provides the ability for its customers to make reservations through a toll-free telephone number or by submitting an online request form.
For this service, National Park Reservations charges a 10 percent non-refundable reservation fee based on the total dollar amount of reservations made.
This reservation fee will is billed separately to your credit card under the memo “National Park Reservations”.
By using National Park Reservations, the customer authorizes National Park Reservations to charge their credit card the 10 percent non-refundable fee.
Phone: (866) 875-8456 (toll free) or (406) 862-8190 (outside the U.S.)
Make your choice, adventurous stranger.
Strike the bell and bide the danger.
Or wonder ’til it drives you mad,
What would have followed, if you had.
— C.S. Lewis, The Magicians Nephew