Tracy Noble-Ford wanted to spoil her family with a dream start to 2019.
But after booking and pre-paying for a luxury suite at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland through online site Expedia, she arrived on January 2 to find no such booking had been made under her name.
More than two hours on the phone to Expedia and multiple attempted calls to the owner followed. According to Ms Noble-Ford, the Heritage Hotel said the room she thought she reserved had “nothing to do with them”.
The Heritage Hotel told 1 NEWS the unit is a privately-owned residence and not part of the Heritage Hotel room inventory. It said the tenant in the unit has elected to let his room out independently.
After having to pay for one night at a discounted rate, Expedia moved Ms Noble-Forde and her family into another accommodation, covering additional costs.
It was at this point she started wondering how things had gone so wrong.
Bank statements show she initially paid for eight nights and four people, facts supported on an Expedia confirmation email. The same email also mentions that the room only had one king-sized bed, something Ms Noble-Ford wanted to upgrade by clicking "message hotel".
Unbeknown to her at the time, however, the interaction was not with the Heritage Hotel but instead with "Central City Luxurious Heritage Studio" - and behind that, the man she alleges stole her money.
In a copy of the exchanged messages revealed to 1 NEWS, Ms Noble-Ford asks why only one bed is listed when she had booked for four guests.
The seller answers with his bank account details and comments “simply pay $100 on top of the booking amount for your two additional guests”. She sent confirmation of doing so before he thanked her and asked, “What bank are you with, not sure I’ll see it this weekend.”
On January 2, when Ms Noble-Ford was on her way to the Heritage Hotel, she sent the owner another message: “What’s happening with our keys? You said you’d meet us at the hotel. Please confirm…”
He responded a day later, apologising for the “disappointment upon arrival” and claiming to have reallocated the booking. After Ms Noble-Forde questioned what that meant, there was no further communication.
When 1 NEWS attempted to contact the owner, the mobile number he used for letting out the property went directly to voicemail.
Online reviews of the property tell similar stories, with others recounting having to move into alternative accommodations at short notice.
One comment from December 4, 2018, reads: “We couldn’t stay here because our booking had disappeared.”
Another review on January 6, 2019, during the same period that Ms Noble-Ford and her family were meant to be staying in the room, states: “I could not access it. The owner cashed the money through a transfer to his account. I had to change location and still have not been reimbursed. A big scam.”
After 1 NEWS inquiries, Expedia said the apartment is being removed from its platform and customers are no longer able to make bookings with the supplier of that apartment. Ms Noble-Forde has also been refunded for the booking.
Police confirmed they have received a complaint but declined to discuss the incident in detail, citing current inquiries into the case.
"Police have liaised with the complainant and advised her to make a complaint to Expedia," a spokesperson said.
- By Aaron Dahmen