Read the small print! I booked in a hurry while heading out on holiday a few months ago and assumed (stupidly) that it was pay on arrival like every other booking.com reservation I have made. It turned out it wasn't; I received an email a couple of days later when on holiday threatening me with cancellation of the room if I didn't pay. I didn't have access to my bank on holiday so emailed straight back asking if I could call them back when I got home. I received an email FOUR DAYS later stating that the £60 rate had expired so they had amended my booking to a £150 rate, which would be taken at the hotel instead. Booking.com was clear that the room was non refundable so, devastated, I felt I had to go with that.
Feeling that it was my fault, I stayed at the hotel yesterday and paid the full amount, but asked to speak with the manager after settling up to let her know how upset I was that no one had got back to me before the rate had expired to let me know what might happen. All I was looking for was an apology, nothing more, I had already taken responsibility for my mistake and paid. The manager then spent FIFTEEN MINUTES telling me that I had read the email wrong, and that by them amending the booking I could have cancelled without penalty at any time, shown by the part where they said 'no money would be taken before the stay'. At no point in the email did they say that I could cancel, but she kept telling me that it was 'obvious' what it meant! The first rule of the service industry is that, if the guest doesn't understand your intent, you didn't explain it well enough, not that they got it wrong! Maybe she understood, with several years of experience in the industry, that amending the rate meant that all previous conditions such as 'non-refundable' were cancelled, but the email to me did not say that. It just said that the money would not be taken before the stay.
Room was clean and large, staff were friendly.