Q: I need your help with a Vrbo deposit refund. I booked a house in Mallow, Ireland, through the vacation rental site earlier this year. I paid $306, the first half of my deposit. Two days later, within the refund period, I canceled my rental.
Vrbo charged my credit card a day after I canceled. According to Vrbo, I was entitled to 100 percent of my refund.
The owner claims Vrbo hasn’t given him the deposit. I’ve called Vrbo three times. Each time they say they will get back with me in three days and that they will give me back my deposit. I never heard back.
Vrbo now claims it isn’t responsible for the initial payment — the owner is. Both the owner and Vrbo claim that neither of them has the deposit. I did notice that Vrbo changed its policy from giving the owner the initial deposit payment to keeping it until the customer stays. This change happened on the same day I canceled. I wonder if there was a computer glitch?
My deposit is now in limbo. Please help! — Linda Sattler, Ann Arbor, Mich.
A: You should have your Vrbo deposit refund by now. I’m sorry you don’t.
The terms of your rental are in your confirmation. In your case, you booked your vacation rental more than three months before your arrival. (Vrbo’s refund policies range from “relaxed” to “strict.” Payments may be nonrefundable or fully refundable, depending on your host.)
Initially, it looked like your theory about the computer glitch might be true. Perhaps Vrbo lost your deposit while it was changing policies. But I reviewed the paper trail between you and Vrbo, and it looks as if that’s not the case. Vrbo maintained that the host had your deposit.
You spent a lot of time on the phone to get this Vrbo deposit refund sorted out. I always recommend creating a paper trail between you and the company, by which I mean, put everything in writing instead of calling. You can find all the Vrbo executives on my consumer advocacy site.
I asked Vrbo about your case. A representative apologized for your “negative experience.” Vrbo’s records suggest you didn’t book your rental through its site. (Your records say otherwise.)
“This appears to be the result of a marketplace transaction between this consumer and the owner or manager of an individual vacation home,” she added.
In other words, Vrbo definitely doesn’t have your money. Interestingly, the rental you booked in Ireland has vanished from Vrbo. The owner removed it from the platform. A few days later, however, you received a note from Vrbo informing you that it had submitted a request to its accounting department to process a “concession payment” equal to your deposit.
Lesson learned: When you’re booking through an online vacation rental site, always, always pay through the site. If an owner tries to lure you into an offline transaction, you’re not protected.