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It's been a hard journey and you just want a hot shower and a comfy bed. When you approach the registration desk, the clerk utters, "I'm sorry, I can't find your reservation." Here are a few tips that will help you resolve the dreaded lost hotel reservation.
1. Take preventive measures
If you booked online, save your confirmation email, and carry the printout with you. It's also good to prepay one night with a credit card. This not only guarantees your reservation, but also helps the hotel resolve problems that arise — given that there's a record of the booking with, at the very least, your credit card company. You could also book through a travel agent. Because agents speak "travelese," they can often more readily resolve problems. They also have some clout: if a hotel doesn't keep them happy, the agent can take their business (often hundreds of customers) elsewhere. Finally, call and reconfirm your reservation a couple days in advance. Ask for an additional email confirmation. And if travel delays mean a later-than-expected arrival and check-in, let the hotel know.
2. Think solutions
Sometimes the problem is simply a data-entry error, and the solution is simply a matter of spelling your name for the clerk and asking him or her to check again. Also, be sure to present your booking confirmation paperwork and/or prepaid credit card receipt. Not so simple this time? Then ask about availability. Can the clerk get you into another on-site room, maybe even an upgraded one — say, a room with a premium view, a suite, or a room or suite on a floor with special, concierge services or other amenities? If not, can he or she book you into a sister property or even help you find nearby accommodations at a competitor? Is it possible to book nights at this, your first-choice hotel, later in your stay?
3. Adopt a polite approach
If the clerk seems unable or unwilling to help, politely ask whether there's someone else who can help — perhaps a reservations manager or a general manager. Before launching into the problem, thank each person in advance, addressing him or her by name. Explain the situation calmly, briefly and without drama or exaggeration (avoid phrases like "my vacation is ruined"). Write down who you spoke with, what was discussed, and the time and duration of the conversation. Detailed documentation of what transpired will come in handy later if you don't achieve resolution. Also, if you don't speak with the general manager, be sure to ask his or her name and write it down.
4. Turn misfortune into opportunity
Gently and politely ask whether it's possible to get a free room upgrade or a restaurant, spa or other credit to make up for the inconvenience of the lost reservation. If the hotel staff rebooks you at another hotel, inquire about being reimbursed for transportation expenses to get there and for any rate difference if the room is comparable to — but for some reason more costly than — the one you originally booked (again, having the confirmation paperwork is helpful). Finally, if you prepaid for some or all of your stay and end up in a lesser-quality room, be sure that you get a refund for the difference in the room rate, or even a lowered rate altogether.
5. Write it up
If there wasn't any resolution, use the notes you took at the hotel to lodge a formal complaint via the customer service section on the hotel website or via an email or letter — addressed to the general manager, if possible. You can also alert fellow travelers to your concerns about hospitality at the property on Twitter; Facebook; and Yahoo, TripAdvisor or other travel site forums. Conversely, if the situation was resolved — and resolved well — you could send the property a thank-you note or email and praise its customer service on social media.