Can this trip be saved? “It feels like we are being ripped off” By Christopher Elliott | October 17, 2011 FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest Heather Lockridge and her husband thought they would be checking into the honeymoon suite at the Ocean Maya Royal in Cancun, an all-inclusive beachfront resort described as the embodiment of “exotic serenity.” After all, it was their honeymoon. Instead, they were greeted with some bad news when they arrived: The suites were all occupied and they’d be downgraded into a smaller ocean view room. And serenity? Forget it. Trying to recover the cost difference between the suite and their room was anything but easy. “It feels like we are being ripped off,” she told me. (Please see an update from Apple Vacations at the end of this post.) But is she? That’s the question I have to answer before I get involved. Maybe you can help. Let’s hear from Lockridge first. The honeymoon in question had been booked through Apple Vacations. After she and her husband checked into the hotel and discovered their downgrade, a hotel representative told the couple not to worry. Once they returned, they could contact their travel agent for a refund. When we got back home we called our travel agent and she told us there was a $200 difference per person for the Honeymoon Suite vs the Ocean View room. Six weeks later we were notified that we would receive $200 back in travel vouchers only valid outside of the United States and $175 back into our account. Related: In today’s edition of What’s your problem?, I solve a double-billing problem by a gas station. But was it a fair resolution? But the vouchers didn’t do the Lockridges any good, because they had no plans to travel outside the United States. They got back to us and said they would only give us $322 in cash if we refused the vouchers. I contacted Apple’s customer service myself and waited another six weeks and got a response that they felt they had been fair and would not change their previous decision. By Lockridge’s estimate, Apple owes her $78 — a small amount, she admits, “but I feel that they should have gone above and beyond considering we had paid for something we didn’t get and that it wasn’t our fault in the whole matter.” She asks, “Am I being ridiculous in my thinking?” Well, not really. This was your honeymoon, after all, which is one of the most important vacations of your life. You deserve to have everything perfect and to get exactly what you paid for. I checked the room types at the hotel as listed on the Apple Vacations site. Unfortunately, the honeymoon suite isn’t included, so I can’t really tell what Lockridge was deprived of. I asked her, and she said the only thing she really missed was the in-room hot tub. Not that it really matters. I think this should have been addressed in real time. The hotel representative’s advice to wait until the couple retured to the States was about as wrong as it could be. If Lockridge wanted a room with a hot tub, I think the hotel might have been able to figure something out instead of punting to Apple Vacations. No, $75 isn’t worth turning this into a federal case. But what is noteworthy is the way in which the hotel and Apple Vacations strung Lockridge along for weeks, when she was obviously unhappy. Is that customer service? Do you really think she’ll be recommending the services of Apple Vacations to a friend or relative? I wouldn’t count on it. The Maya Royal and Apple Vacations should have jumped into action when they learned of this bride’s disappointment. Lockridge shouldn’t have waited until she got home to address this. But I’m not really sure if my involvement would be able to fix the unhappiness with her accommodations on her honeymoon. Update (4:25 p.m.): Apple has looked into this case. Here’s its response: Ms. Lockridge and her fiance booked a trip through TCU Travel and traveled 6/12/11 – 6/19/11. Unfortunately (as you are aware), they did not receive the Honeymoon Suite she booked at the Ocean Maya and they received an Ocean View instead. Apple Vacations Customer Care received an email from their TCU Travel agent, Wanda, in July explaining the room category issue and asking for difference to be refunded. Customer Care contacted the hotel, and on 8/16 received approval from the Ocean Maya to refund the couple the difference between the Honeymoon Suite they booked and the Ocean View they received. In August, an email went to Wanda from Customer Care explaining that a $322 refund had been issued to the credit card on file (belonging to Ms. Lockridge) and that we apologized for falling short of any expectations, etc. The refund was applied on 8/23/11, 34 working days from receipt of travel agents request. Customer Care then received an email directly from Ms. Lockridge also dated August 23 in which she explains the travel agent (TCU Travel) offered “$200 of the $375” refund in vouchers. It would seem Ms. Lockridge pax was unaware at this point that Apple Vacations had refunded $322 to her credit card. Apple Vacations is also unclear as to where any mention of vouchers came from and can only assume these may have been travel agency issued as no offer for any vouchers came from Apple Vacations. A follow up letter was sent directly to Ms. Lockridge from Customer Care assuring her that $322, the correct refund amount, had been refunded to her Visa card. Apple Vacations has never offered this customer a part cash/part voucher refund. Further, I believe this situation has been further exacerbated by the travel agent who may have initially, and incorrectly, advised the Ms. Lockridge the difference in the room rates was $200 pp for the week. Apple Vacations never quoted a difference of $200 per person, has double checked the amount due and is confident the $322 is the correct amount (the only difference in the room category was the jacuzzi tub in the honeymoon suite). Many thanks to Apple for its speedy review of this case. (Photo: Ni colas Karim/Flickr) FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest Christopher ElliottChristopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at email@example.com. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus Traveler If you do not deliver what was promised, that is fraud. The fact that the amount is small does not change the facts of the case. Apple owes her cash, not vouchers. sirwired Their refusal to refund the entire difference in cash is baffling. They paid cash, they didn’t get what they paid for, I don’t see in what universe they are not owed the cost difference back, in cash. A credit card dispute could also be tried; some banks treat the Credit Card waiting period for travel as starting on the travel date, not the original statement date like the law requires. I’d also write the AG’s office in the state Apple is based in and see if that helps prod them into action. Larry I’m always puzzled why anyone would choose an all-inclusive in Cancun on their honeymoon, but I digress. There are 2 companies here that she, nor I would ever do business anymore. Apple Vacations and any hotel owned by Ocean Maya. Crissy It’s only $75, but this is flat out wrong. Sometimes these things happen and a downgrade happens. I’m glad to hear she’s not saying this ruined her whole vacation. But if the downgrade happens then the couple needs to be compensated fairly and pay the rate of the room they stayed in. Absherlock This one is hands down for mediation. And if you fail to get complete restitution, this is one of the rare occasions I would suggest the OP taking Apple to court. They are clearly in the wrong (Ocean Maya may be in the wrong as well, but that’s Apple’s problem) and need to make good. Raven_Altosk It’s a small amount of money compared to the cases where people are out thousands, but this one deserves mediation. First off, if the suite she booked and paid for was not available, why didn’t the hotel do something in that instant? A resort credit, an offer to move to a different property with a comprobable suite? Something beyond, “Figure it out at home,” at least. Anyway…Apple Vacations seems to end up on here a lot. Probably not a good sign…and they really dropped the ball on this one… Raven_Altosk I’m still puzzled why people want to go Mexico. I live near the border and used to visit Mexico often, but right now, I advise people to AVOID Mexico. The country is a cesspool of corruption, drug cartels, and human trafficking. I live too close to it and know that a bunch of it never makes it to the national news. And don’t tell me Cancun is safe–it’s not. There were three kidnappings there last week. K. Although it’s only a small amount of $, your mediation will put Apple on notice that making customers wait weeks while they consider the case is unacceptable. She should get a cash refund, a bouquet of flowers, and a sincere apology. Oyiym I believe Oyiym Oops, that first one got off with just “I believe…” So here’s the rest: I believe you should not be mediating this one. The young couple had an option to call Apple Vacations right there on the spot, when they were told they will be downgraded, and seek assistance moving to another hotel where suites were available. Things happen during travel – every second of every minute of every day, there’s someone, somewhere being downgraded, bumped from a flight, missing a connection or not liking their hotel room. It’s just stuff we all need to deal with. That being said, it does not mean the couple is not within their rights to demand from Apple not just the $78, but also interest and reimbursement for the time and expenses they spent in dealing with the refund. Even if it means taking Apple Vacations to small claims court, they should not allow the company to just walk away with $78 of their money. Z44212 It’s not the amount, it’s the principle. The best way for this to have been handled is full price difference on the spot. Second would be a speedy resolution once home. Weeks of run-around warrant more than the minimum, in my opinion. Jim Zakany The couple won’t see another dime unless Chris steps in. Nor do travelers need to be assertive and savvy to keep from being defrauded. Businesses, of all types, have an explicit responsibility to deliver their agreements. The Lockridges could use this as an opportunity to see how small claims courts work and, perhaps, how to seize corporate assets. But I think they’d just rather get what’s owed to them. Sam Varshavchik I firmly believe that this is just a tip of the iceberg, that this is just one instance of an all too-common, and pervasive scam. Hotels and resorts routinely overbook, expecting to pocket a small fortune when people cancel, and if they don’t, they just bump down, or walk, whoever paid the least, completely make up the actual amount of any refund due, out of thin air, and then string them along, for as long as possible. After all, they’re in a no-lose situation — they already have the traveler’s money, and the worst possible outcome is them eventually coughing up a small refund. And if the traveler gets tired of dogging whoever scammed them, they just pocketed everything! The only way to fight it, I believe, is to play hard ball, and stay firm. From my viewpoint, the traveler bought a vacation package that included travel, and reservation for a certain type of a room, on certain dates. It’s a contract. End of story. Now, I should mention that I think it’s completely irrelevant whose fault it is. The hotel’s, or the travel agent’s. From the traveler’s perspective, they bought the package from a travel agent, that’s who they’ve entered into contract to. Now, getting back to the story, If the hotel was unable to provide them the room that they booked, ok, well, it’s a simple contractual matter. I’m fairly certain that, for whatever reason, the hotel just didn’t discover that they were overbooked five minutes before the traveler arrived. They must’ve known that for some time. And more than likely, they must’ve known that before the traveler actually began the trip. If they knew that they would not be able to provide the contractually obligated reservation, then the proper thing to do would’ve been, from my perspective, to inform the traveler. Since they’re unable to meet their contractual obligations, it goes without saying that the traveler would’ve been owed a full refund, and no trip. They may not’ve liked it, but that’s that. Whoever is on the hook, the travel agent, or the hotel — doesn’t matter who — could’ve also offered some good-will options, such as, perhaps, a change of dates, some other freebies, whatever. The traveler may not be happy, but, well, that’s that; the traveler gets a refund, or perhaps can take one of the other options, but solely at the traveler’s choice. But, if, for some reason, the unavailability of the room was not discovered until the traveler has already departed for the trip, that does not change, in any way, the fact that they’ve breached the contract, and the traveler is owed a full refund. Furthermore, the traveler is entitled to be compensated for their expenses, including their trip home. So, I believe that in such a situation, where upon arrival the hotel is unable to furnish the room that the traveler has reserved, the traveler is obviously entitled to a full refund, and a return trip, paid by whoever is responsible for the unavailability of the reserved room. Now, the traveler can certainly be offered some other options, such as a partial refund, or perhaps some other freebies; but they’re under no obligations to accept anything other than what they booked and paid for. If none of the options are deemed acceptable to the traveler, solely at the traveler’s discretion, they’re entitled to a full refund, and a paid return flight home. I believe that only if people began taking this hard line, would this kind of nonsense, in the travel and lodging industry, stop. Let me tell you a story. Some years ago my elderly parents also booked and paid for an all-inclusive vacation somewhere. I forget where. They too, upon arrival, were walked to another hotel, because the original resort was overbooked. They originally refused, and requested to be flown back home. The hotel/travel agent rep refused. They didn’t make a scene, but documented everything, such as a fact that they’re stuck thousands of miles from home, were refused what they purchased, and refused to be returned home. When they returned, I helped them dispute the entire trip. A credit card dispute. It was a very simple dispute: they did not get what they purchased on a credit card. End of story. They were under no obligation to accept any substitutes, nor mitigate their damages. They got their entire money back. I had to write some letters back and forth, it took a few attempts, but I got their money back from them. Initially the credit card company, or the travel agency that had to handle the chargeback (I forget who) was not very receptive to the dispute, but I also got the relevant federal regulatory bodies involved, because credit card protection is a law on a federal level, and consumers are entitled to receive what they charged on credit. Nobody has a right to charge your credit for one thing, turn around and give you something else, and throw you a few pennies as a token refund. The federal credit consumer protection laws do not require the consumer to mitigate damages or accept substitutes. They’re entitled to get what they charged, or their money back. And the credit card company is legally required to be on your side, and upon sufficient documentation, get your money back for you. The traveler should simply dispute the entire credit card charge. Goods/services were not as described/were not delivered. If they can document this, they’ll get their money back. Of course, it’s possible that they may not be able to provide sufficient documentation, but that’s another story. People should stop putting up with this nonsense. Only if they do, this kind of nonsense will stop. MikeZ As of me writing this, 26% actually said do not mediate? If there was ever any clear cut reason to mediate, this would be the one. They paid for one thing, was given another, and ALL they are asking for is a refund of the difference in price. They aren’t asking for emotional trauma funds, an entire future honeymoon booked for free, or anything besides what they are entitled to. Shame on Apple for not refunding the difference immediately upon notification of the problem. I suspect the difference will be refunded immediately, and if not, as others mentioned, this is an easily winnable small claims case. (plus reasonable fees incurred trying to collect the refunds based on time spent) ArizonaRoadWarrior Chris, it was unclear in the article…did they purchase the Apple Vacations package from a travel agent or directly from Apple Vacations? ArizonaRoadWarrior “Now, I should mention that I think it’s completely irrelevant whose fault it is. The hotel’s, or the travel agent’s.” There could be three parties: hotel; travel agent (if the couple purchased the package from a travel agent) and travel supplier (Apple Vacations). It was unclear in the article whether they purchased the Apple Vacations package from a travel agent or directly from Apple Vacations. If they purchased the Apple Vacations package from a travel agent, it was their travel agent that failed them. They should have called their travel agent who should have resolved the problem (i.e. called Apple and/or the hotel; found another hotel of equal or greater value; etc.) when the couple checked in. What is the purpose of buying a travel package from a travel agent who is not going to support you, be your advocate, resolve problems when encountered, etc? Marvin I voted no… and here’s why: It has nothing to do with justification. It has to do with time and resources. You’ve already done one thing; told your thousands of readers that Maya Royal and Apple Agency is NOT THE PLACE TO GO ON ANY VACATION. The second thing you should do is have a search block in your website that permits potential travelers to check out a hotel or agency. That would have a lasting and much more far-reaching effect. People in the travel agency would not want their names on the “bad actors” list and know they will loose future business if they don’t do the right thing. There might even be a link to the article that put them on the list if that is archived. You might become the “Consumer Reports” of the travel agency. Mark K I agree that the OP got nothing they expected and should be compensated. Is the difference in price between the suite they purchased and the room they got based on the same rate level or is the difference the (possibly) discounted package price for the suite and rack rate for the room they got? The price differential as stated does not seem to be enough. $200 a day sounds more accurate instead of only that much for the entire stay. $16635417 The OP’s quotes indicate a travel agent was involved in trying to resolve this. (I missed that the first time around.) I would assume they booked through that agent. Carver Its only fraud if it was intentional. Otherwise its a simple breach of contract Clare That’s what I was thinking too–it seems more likely that it’s $200 per person PER DAY, in which case the OP is owed much more at this point than just $78. Go get ’em, Chris! :-) Carver Clark Farrow II Your logic escapes me. You agree that the couple has been wronged and that they are entitled to compensation, but because they didn’t speak up at the resort Chris shouldn’t assist them. That they should go to small claims court? That just seems silly and unncesarily punative. Tom Brollini As Christopher knows I’m a firm believer in “payback”! Yes, go after Apple/whoever else needs it. They booked & paid for something they did not get. The most important thing is for all of us reading this, is to contact Apple & tell them their handling of this has convinced us to not use their services for travel! Also make sure to tell them that you will make sure to tell everyone that you know not to use them. Simple, direct & will cause them lots of pain & may help others in the future. We had a similar problem the the El Cid in Mazatlan. We had booked a 3 bedroom house on the golf course & it had had plumbing damage & was not available. What did El Cid do….they gave us (2 couples) each a great suite in the El Morro tower, free dinner (catered with lobster etc) & other stuff! Worth way more than the other place. Guess where we stay (mostly) when we go to Maz & who we talk up. Remember, reward good service & punish bad service. Only way to make a difference. As some of you know I take every chance to slam United (guess I get to do it here again lol). They screwed with me & I have cost them many thousands in business. Make it your mission to hurt companies that hurt you! Just a old Marine & one of my commandmants is “do unto others by a factor of 10, what they do to you”. May not always help but it sure makes you feel better. Also remember to support those business that are good to you, like “El Cid”. p.s. Don’t want to forget to plug American, since they extended my expired fare credit when they didn’t have to. Thanks American. ArizonaRoadWarrior Sometimes the travel providersupplier (in this case, Appple Vacations) can also be the travel agent for the same transaction. Sometimes the OPs don’t make that clear or the will call the tour operator the travel agent, etc. If the OP was dealing with a travel agent which was not Apple Vacations, why didn’t the OP call the travel agent or e-mail the travel agent about their problems? Carver Clark Farrow II Sam Some of what you state is true, some is not In on order Full refund of hotel charges: Absolutely. Anything legitimately refused should not be charged. Flight home: No. The legal term in consequential damages and a breaching party’s responsibility for consequential damages is very limited. Did your parents geta a flight home? Walking: Many properties will give you that night free is you are walked as well as pay transportation. James in Phnom Penh Uhhhh. Cuz it’s close? And cheap? And has nice beaches? Not everyone can afford to go to Barbados or a more idyllic place on holiday. And every country has SOMETHING bad about it! I’m sure lots more people were kidnapped in dozens of large cities. Were any of them tourists? Carver Clark Farrow II None of which helps the OP. I find the worse outcome is that the resort be allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains. The Op is left with judicial recourse which is a much greater drain in time and resources than Chris mediating, who will at least get a story for his troubles. Lets get this resolved informally so that we don’t have one more case in the system SoBeSparky Why not intervene? Well, caveat emptor. Unless you tell them NO firmly, immediately and in writing, then you have accepted what was explained/given/advised orally. Saavy travelers would have objected on day one, reduce the rate now or produce the room. Wait, see the assistant manager, and when he says no, write a personal handwritten note to the manager and ask for immediate delivery. A honeymoon does not give you a vacation from common sense and demanding your due. To accept at face value what “a hotel representative” (unnamed and unknown, I am sure) says was the fatal flaw. It is only fraud when they are called on it. They were not, and the lambs went to slaughter thinking “a hotel representative” passing it off to the travel agency, verbally no less, was the acceptable way to go. Consumers must exercise some common sense and object in writing, on the spot, to a person in authority, and ask for a written response with name and title. Anything else is too little and too late. Fishplate I’m confused. Chris, you said “I checked the room types at the hotel as listed on the Apple Vacations site. Unfortunately, the honeymoon suite isn’t included, so I can’t really tell what Lockridge was deprived of.” Neither can we. Did they book a honeymoon suite or not? If it’s not listed as a room type, is it possible to book it as such? If it was a specific booking for that suite, then absolutely, they deserve the difference, in cash. Mich Actually, Barbados can be affordable it all depends on the time of year you decide to travel. If you go in the off season airfare from JFK non-stop is about $350. Sue Waste of the courts time. It would cost way more in court costs and time and/or wages lost to take a $78 suit to court. Surely there is a more efficient way of getting Apple Vacations to do the right thing!! Brooklyn Yes, but the idea of including in Chris’s site a search window that would let you check on prior entries complaining about a hotel, rental car agency, airline, etc. is wonderful. It would make it easier to avoid those companies and would do more than anything else (except a really hefty lawsuit) to make them clean up their act. Chris, can you do it? Dave Lieberman Because the idea that you’re taking your life into your hands as soon as you step foot into Mexico is a myth perpetrated by alarmist hand-wringers. Funny, in any of the last two dozen times I’ve been to Tijuana in the last two years, not only has nothing untoward happened to me or anyone I know, but I found that the city is in the process of reinventing itself and confining the frat-boys-drinking-bad-beer clubs to Revolution Avenue while the rest of the city blossoms. Amazing, high-end food, cheap high-end spas, beaches, sophisticated bars, great museums, accessible music, craft beer, vineyard tours… too bad you’re missing it. You’re statistically more likely to be the victim of a crime in Washington, D.C. than in any of the major Mexican border cities (except Ciudad Juárez), and you’re more likely to be the victim of a crime in Los Angeles than in Cancún, yet we don’t tell people not to go to Washington or Los Angeles. Unless you’re rolling with guys with shaved heads in black SUVs with nicknames like “El Kilo”, you are not any likelier to have anything happen to you than you are in any other large city. Aaron This is one of the cases where I think the hotel and/or travel company owes more than just a refund. Mrs. Lockridge sounds like she is being extremely reasonable, but the fact is that had she known the honeymoon suite was booked, she may well have decided to stay at another hotel. At the very least, Apple owes her a cash refund. And in this case, I think a voucher for a free night or two wouldn’t be out of the question. Carmen There are lots of sites that can provide beaches in the US for reasonable costs. And more important, we can support our country by taking vacations in the US. Keep our money in the US and keep jobs in the US travel industry. I’m the one in our group that plans trips. Everyone knows we are going to US locations for the next few years, maybe longer. There is so much to see in the US that deciding to travel only in the US in not a hardship. Bodega First off, I voted yes and think Chris needs to take Apple to task on the refund. Apple has a voucher policy but this doesn’t fall within the change/cancel guidelines. I NEVER sell Apple because of their policy, but then I also don’t have clients that live in Apple’s charter areas that often drive clients to booking their packages. What bothers me is that Apple has Representatives at the resort so why wasn’t the Rep brought into this to handle the problem? Apple claims to be an ‘travel agent only’ tour company, but that has been found to be false. So I would be interested to know if the OP booked online and was contacted by Apple or if the OP actually booked with her own TA. There should have been no reason to call her ‘TA’ if Apple’s Rep was on site. As for not finding a category in a brochure or online in Apple’s website, this isn’t unusual. Many properties have more options to book than gets listed. Raven_Altosk I also advise staying away from Falcon Lake unless you want to end up dead because cartel members are too stupid to distinguish tourists on jetskis for drug rivals. No resolution has ever been found in that case. No body, no nothing. A woman is left to grieve her husband and not a single politician cares because lest they “offend” Mexico. Obama washed his hands of it, as did Rick the Worst Governor Ever Perry. djp If it wasnt intnetional then they should have refunded them on the spot. This assumes of course what they booked was a honeymoon suite and it shows such on their reservation. If they were told a honeymoon suite but it doesnt say that then Apple may be partly to blame. Mbods2002 Really good customer service would have been an apology, the difference in rooms paid back immediately, a voucher, for a few days free (even though they may not have had plans to go back, it would be a good faith gesture) AND some sort of special treatment (massage, dinner etc) on the house. “Absurd!” you say? Maybe, but all that would have definitely had this couple raving about the good customer service and recommending to everyone! As it is now, who in their right mind would book a honeymoon/vacation with this hotel and travel agency? Bodega Before you rip apart the travel agency, we need to know if the agency was actually Apple. Because this was booked through a tour operator, the refund needs to go back to them to forward to the client due to the contracted price which may not be known by the front desk. The customer service raves should have come due to the Apple Rep handling this. This is something that is ‘included’ in their package which needs to be addressed. Absherlock I disagree – this is exactly what the courts are there for, especially small claims. And if the OP won, she’d not only get her judgement, but also court costs (I don’t think you can get time or wages, though). Besides, filing a claim doesn’t necessarily mean going to court – Apple might just give her what she wants to be done with it all! Bodega The price the couple paid was a contracted rate. The normal refund process is to have the tour company, process it. Front desks many or many not even know what the actual price was. Michael I’d disagree here completely. If for some reason you wanted to take a vacation on a beachfront resort in Southern Florida, it would probably be 2-3x the cost of going to Cozumel/Cancun. Sam Varshavchik I disagree. The traveler did not purchase a round-trip flight, and a hotel stay, separately. The traveler made one purchase. A vacation package. They did not get what they purchased. The End. No other facts are relevant. Of course, it’s possible that the invoice/itinerary from the travel agent itemized what they paid for airfare and lodging separately. But I never heard of vacation packages being sold this way. All you get is one bill, the grand total that you pay for everything. Had they paid an itemized bill, the responsible party might have a defense for not reimbursing the airfare, but only the hotel. But, unless such itemization was produced ***beforehand*** they just can’t come up with numbers afterwards, and say that you paid $X, $X-10 of that was airfare, and you get a refund for $10. Doesn’t work this way. But, if they paid one bill, and they did not get what they paid, they are entitled to a refund. Yes, my parents got a full refund. Hotel and airfare. They got back every penny they paid, because they were walked and the hotel/travel reps were jerks. Why should’ve they paid for airfare to stay at a resort they did not want, and the on-site travel agency rep refused their request to be returned to the airport, and flown home? DChamp56 You know what, I’m sick of the “We’ll give you vouchers” answer! When I PAY you in vouchers, YOU CAN REIMBURSE ME IN VOUCHERS! Period. Tony A. I’ve never really understood why Consumer Protection laws have not caught up with the worsening practices of hotel booking sites and hotels themselves. Consider what is truly happening today. There is so many virtual marketers of the same rooms leading to a higher possibility of overbooking. Yet there very little help out there to compensate victims when they get hurt because of these practices. jennj99738 I’m confused by the monetary amounts. Lockridge says she is owed $78 total. She was offered $200 in vouchers plus $75 refund. That sounds OK to me. Then she says that if she refused the vouchers she would receive $322 in cash. In my world, $322 > $78. What am I missing? First, I thought she meant $200 difference PER NIGHT but then she said only $78. If she is owed more than $322, Chris should mediate but not if Apple has offered more than she paid. Dave Definitely mediate. The OP is owed a full refund for the difference in what was charged and what was delivered, period. And, as others have stated, vouchers are NEVER acceptable unless the customer says so. Note to those who say things like “savvy travelers know…” That’s true, but not everyone is a savvy traveler, even if they read columns like Chris’s religiously. Michael K The room rate difference was $200 per person (i.e. $400 total). The couple was offered a cash-only refund of just $322. 400 minus 322 = 78. [And that’s just for the difference between what they paid for and the value of what was actually received Some of us think something extra is warranted when the property reneges at the last moment on what it contractually committed to.] Sershev Apple needs to refund the full amount of the difference in the original form of payment and issue additional amount in form of the voucher as a good will gesture for the inconvenience. In the past I purchased all inclusive package from Apple and it wasn’t all inclusive. Apple at the time refused to issue any compensation. I think customer service at Apple vacations was always lacking. I do not recommend Apple to anyone. Carver of course, if we decide not to travel abroad “to keep jobs in the US travel industry”, what’s to stop tourists in other countries from doing the same, thus everyone gets screwed. Carver Actually, a small claims court is easily the most efficient means if the company simply refused to budge. Most do not allow attorneys. You get about 1-2 minutes to say your peace. Same for the other side. Judgment issued. Takes less than five minutes per case. And often its judicial officer isn’t even a judge. And you get your filing fee back if you prevail. Vivi Small claims courts are made specifically for just this sort of claim so no it wouldn’t be a waste of the court’s time. The real problem would be collection. If Apple is incorporated in another state than the OP and she files in her state, Apple could blow off paying the judgment. In fact, Apple could blow off paying the judgment even if they are both located in the same state. The OP would then have to pursue collection through liens or other means. Still I think she OP should collect the full amount either through mediation or small claims courts. They pay in full in cash, didn’t get what they contracted for and should be refunded, in cash, in full. Egyptianpride I have to wonder if you aren’t asking people to vote, and putting biases in their heads and words out in print before you get all the facts? You are taking the pax word for it…this is a guilty until proven innocent scenario, one that I hope does not come back to bite you sooner or later. Egyptianpride Raven, the idea is to comment on the article…not share your mis-guided political views…capiche? Egyptianpride What an excellent question! And very valuable information could be shared…what if it was the TA who misbooked, and not Apple or the hotel? What if it was the TA who promised the wrong refund, vouchers, etc? This is why I think Chris might go too far sometimes with his guilty until proven innocent game of who shall we trash today? Linda Bator I work as a travel agent, and find this is reprehensible. I would be working with my Apple sales rep, and my Consortium (we belong to Cruise Holidays) to see that they got a refund. They PAID for a category and were downgraded – NOT their fault, not the agency’s fault – squarely Apple’s problem. And since they will get a refund from the hotel (in cash) that is what the client should be getting. I have to say, they are not being very smart in this case — just wonder how LOUDLY their travel agent can complain on their behalf. :) Linda Bator True – but Apple should have stepped up to the plate and handled it IMMEDIATELY. It would have made a big difference for this couple. Michael K What was explained/given/advised orally was that the OP could expect a refund from their travel agent for the difference between what they paid and what they actually received. And that didn’t even happen!! They did NOT get a complete refund for the actual difference. Funny, when Chris posts stories where the traveler says “no” firmly and immediately (and complains about losing time from their vacation and getting nowhere as a result) quite a few commenters make dismissive comments to the effect “the OP should have made lemonade from the lemons.” Do you think the property didn’t know until the moment the OP showed up that their room wasn’t available? Some of us think the burden should be on the property to reach out to the customer and offer them options (including cancellation) as soon as they’re aware of this kind of possibility. They should not derive any benefit from choosing instead to stick the couple with a nasty surprise at check-in (possibly late at night, after a long journey). Linda Bator Actually, the tour operators keep a tight leash on “walking” or downgrading their guests. Most will drop a hotel with this problem after only a couple of occasions. Even so, it can still happen — it’s how they respond to the situation that determines how good a company they truly are. This doesn’t make them look so hot. Linda Bator If they never called their travel agent, how do you see that they failed them? Hard to fail when you never even know you’re in play! A travel agent can only assist if they know there’s a problem — I am a travel agent, and have said it before – I’m GOOD, not GOD. If I were truly PSYCHIC, then I’d be a billionaire by now! MY clients know to contact me IMMEDIATELY. And I wouldn’t have settled with Apple for anything less than a full refund, or a move to a better hotel, with an even better suite – on thier dime!!! Linda Bator TOUR OPERATOR not TRAVEL AGENT. You guys really need to distinguish the difference!!!! Bodega NO arugment from me, especially since their Rep was suppose to me on sight in the first place. Linda Bator Actually, it can very well be only $200 for the entire time — packages have discounted rates (bulk) that are a lot closer in pricing than going to the hotel directly. And we aren’t sure if this is for 5, 7 or more days? Bodega Have you ever used Small Claims? Just because a company or a person is told they have to pay, what happens if they don’t? It is up to the person filing to collect it if the person or company doesn’t pay up. I know this from first hand experince and have 7 more years to get the second party in the case to pay up. I stayed on the first party and got what was owed us. What a freaking joke! Linda Bator Unfortunately, airlines are a different ballgame. Just as many folks hate American as United, as Delta, as USAir, etc. Because its an “airline” mentality to provide minimal service. But yes, most hotels want to keep you happy and will make up the difference in any way they can. But so do most tour operators, and the client should have contacted Apple on the toll free number or called the travel agent immediately – the folks on the ground aren’t really set up to assist in major headaches — but calling the TA or TO would have given her the option to move, or gotten her something more from the hotel while she was there. So sorry when I hear things like this! Raven_Altosk And exactly where I am evoking political views? I believe I derided both parties on their inability to deal with the situation on Falcon Lake. Learn to read, pal. Linda Bator While I normally agree, there are a company’s terms & conditions, and at times it makes sense. (As a goodwill gesture when someone cancels within the penalty phase, and would normally lose everything). Now, in this case, it was due to a failure of the hotel (for whatever reason) to provide the necessary room type. And Apple WILL get the refund in cash back, so why even offer vouchers? RIDICULOUS!!! Bodega But Linda, we know that Apple does work directly with travelers in a sneaky, roundabout way, so we really need to know if Apple was the agent of record or if the honeymooners worked with an actual travel consultant of their choosing. Hotels hands are tied if guests don’t check out of their rooms. It happened to me a year ago and we didn’t get the room we booked. But the issue for me with Apple, is that they are suppose to have a Rep at all hotels who should have handled this. It is a part of their package that they have paid for. The rate is contractual and all moneies for a downgrade should be given back to the travelers, not in vouchers. My guess in the difference is the commission Apple made on that room. Carver Actually I hadn’t noticed that it was a single bill. That makes the analysis much more complicated. It would really depend on the contract 1. Does the contract guarantee certain levels of accomodations 2. Does the cotract specify what happens in case of non-peformance by one of more of the travel poviders For example, the contract could state specify that accomodations may be downgraded or that only a specific class of room is guaranteed, not a specific room. Carver How would that be different from Tripadvisor? Carver Absolutely not. Caveat Emptor is NOT the law of the US. Not every traveller is savvy but that doesn’t mean that they deserve to be screwed over. Christopher Elliott You mean like a watch list? EXCELLENT IDEA! Linda Bator Sadly, true. Carrie Charney For the record, when my son-in-law went to Tijuana on business, he and a colleague were talking in their hotel parking lot, when they suddenly heard “fireworks.” They ran into the hotel for cover and found out about the massacre on the property next door, with several dead. The next time he went, he had to spend several wasted hours being questioned by border police because his rental car had been used in a crime. SallyLu That is sort of the point of Chris’ site. He gets the Op’s side of the story, which in many cases is missing some vital info. If he isn’t sure how he should handle it, he may post a poll. After he decides to mediate, he’ll contact the company, who will in some cases come back with their own side of the story. But he doesn’t contact the other party for their side until he decides to mediate. Joe Farrell Gotta tell ya – looks the brick and mortar travel agent was the one that was adding to the problem by [apparently] confusing the issue. The undisputed facts are that this couple: Paid for something they did not get It took months [and even Apple admits to 34 days] to post a credit to an account that should have been posted before they even left Mexico. The arrived, the stated accommodation was not available, they got downgraded and they ended up sans hot tub for their stay. To me – someone else paid more and got the suite . .. or bribed someone – it is Mexico after all. Now, my issue is why these people needed to complain at all. The refund should haver been processed once they checked into a less expensive room – after all – if they arrived for the regular room and ended up upgrading to the Honeymoon Suite would they have been charged right away or would the company take 6 months to collect the add charge? This operation promised and did not deliver on someone’s honeymoon accommodations after they had the money for months apparently. It sounds like the property gave them the brush off and Apple really does not care. Now, Both the resort and Apple look like shltheels before however many people read this – and lose how much business in the future and get a black mark in their internet copybook. You only have so many of those before you are booking trips to flophouses in truly third world destinations to sex tourists from Japan and the Middle East. What would it have cost Apple to actually pay attention to what happens with its guests and ensure a seamless experience. What would it cost to have a local rep, paid almost nothing, to act as an ombudsman for its customers across Quintana Roo? You get this persons cell phone and they represent Apple or whomever and have the ability to be onsite for apple’s negotiating clout. If I run the company, in this case I tell the hotel you are splitting this one with me – we are going to refund the difference and then you and I are going to welcome this couple back for 6 nights to the Honeymoon Suite, same time of year, for 3 years. They have to get to Cancun but once there we take care of them. The FREE word of mouth advertising is worth 1000 times the savings by playing hide the ball for 2 months – but – thats me. . . . Dave Lieberman When did that happen? There was a point in 2008-2009 where it was unsafe to go to Tijuana. That is no longer the case… and I don’t see what a rental car has to do with the country of Mexico. I’ve been questioned by the U.S. Border Patrol on the way back but it doesn’t color my thoughts about the U.S. (beyond “what a pain in the patookus it is to get back in here”). I’ve been in Los Angeles’ Koreatown when there’s been a drive-by happening just up the road. It doesn’t make Koreatown a place to be avoided, or Los Angeles, or California, or the United States. It also has nothing to do with whether or not to go to Cancún, or Tuxtla Gutierrez, or San Miguel de Allende, or Jalapa, or Mexico City, or Culiacán… Dave Lieberman That has nothing to do with small claims—you’d have the same problem in any other court. Judgment collection is the responsibility of the debt holder, and there are plenty of ways to get it done—debtor’s examination, an order for garnishment, a writ of execution (or possession), a till tap on a business. The California court system has a great guide to it, and while it isn’t the same in every state, it’ll be similar enough that you can use it as a guide to ask the right questions in your state. http://www.courts.ca.gov/11190.htm Tom Brollini Just checked back to read the latest posts & the one thing NO ONE is saying is “contact Apple & tell them that due to this horrible customer service issue, we will not use Apple for our vacations”! As I posted previously, doing that & making sure you tell everybody you come in contact with that is considering traveling, “Apple sucks”! That kind of publicity really hurts. SoBeSparky My point is that consumers must assume responsibility for their actions. To nod your head when an oral recommendation by an unnamed person is made to talk to a different company later, then that is a clear unequivocal brush-off. It you were cheated at a store when the item broke and the store refuses to replace it, how would you react with the store says, “Don’t talk to us. Take it up with the manufacturer a few weeks from now.” Come on. We must exercise some clear common sense. Rafton45 Not sure how Apple promptly refunding the room category difference makes them the bad guy Tom? Could that be why no one is bashing Apple as you suggest? Tom Brollini Guess the fact that you didn’t read the post by Chris is why you said that! They, in fact, DID NOT, promptly pay. They waited weeks & paid a paltry sum. Get your facts straight before you put your foot in it. Tom Brollini Clicked the wrong reply button. Guess I did like dummy, acted before I was sure. Guess the fact that you didn’t read the post by Chris is why you said that!They, in fact, DID NOT, promptly pay. They waited weeks & paid a paltry sum.Get your facts straight before you put your foot in it. Bodega The ‘itinerary/invoice’ shows what you have booked. You are not dealing with the vendors, but the TO is and what the itinerary/invoice should show us the type of room booked, your flights and any other components, like transfers, tours, lei greeting, etc will also show. The terms and conditions are usually noted somewhere depending on if they are edocs or paper docs. There are hundreds of tour companies that sell a certain destination. You need to be choosing in the ones you pick as things happen and you want a good company standing behind what they put together and sell. I am still curious as to where the Rep was. A good TO has a local office for issues such as these or provides a toll free, 24 hours number to call. Joe Reynolds At the resort, I think Lockridge should have established the difference in the cost of the two rooms on property and did they get a discount price for the honeymoon suite. Whatever it was they should have been awarded as a cash refund the difference between the two properties plus 10% for the dissappontment the Lockridges underwent. At least $440 refund. I have never heard of Apple Vacations, but I can assure you that this episode will hurt their bottom line if it is propagated across the internet which it should be. Bodega People like to criticise my industry, I will do the same for the justice system. If you win, the courts should have in place a way to get the loser to pay up. The way it is currently handled is wrong. Bodega Joe, the resort probably doesn’t even know what the couple paid for that room. It was a contracted rate and as such has to be handled through their sales office and the TO. No, this won’t hurt Apples bottom line. Online shoppers want cheap and Apple provides it with their charter flights. The couple got the money, so it worked out. Apple has been around for decades and will probably be around for a lot longer. BUT I won’t sell them for a lot of reasons. Scrapbooking Thanks for the post. I got a great idea for my next travel. Egyptianpride Apple like most tour operators probably has written in their contract somewhere that if you don’t seek help while in resort for the issue they will try to help after the fact but can not promise you anything…most tour operators work the same way cuz you didn’t give them an opprtunity to fix it at the time…. Geoff Hotels, like the airlines overbook their rooms. SURPRISE!!!! What is not mentioned id whether or not the clients contacted Wanda when the room was not available, did the hotel offer to move them when the room became available, did the Apple rep inside of the hotel (normally their is an Amstar desk that represents Apple) to see if they could move them. NEVER….NEVER….count on a refund when you get home; it will be a fight and it will be less that anticipated. Fix the problem there. Negotiate for a spa treatment, move rooms in a day or two, get some free sightseeing; all of these have worked for me. Carver I would be skeptical about the enforceability of such a clause. Attorneys draft all sort of nonsense for clients knowing that a majority of folks will either not know its unenforceable or have a strict, I signed it so thats the end of it philosopy Carver What about the business stepping up and taking responsibility for its actions? The equities are highly misaligned If someone is cheated, they should have the luxury of resolving the matter is whatever manner THEY feel most comfortable with, not as your or I might deal. One method of resolution is confrontation. Try that with an airline and see how far that gets you. Another may be to seek assistance. Over Labor Day weekend I booked a flight on a SINGLE itinerary. The flight was delayed, I missed my connecting flight. The GA refused to confirm me on the next flight. She would only put me on standby. I felt that this was completely unacceptable as it was AA’s fault, 100 percent. Rather than fight with her, I called customer service which immediately resolved the situation to my satisfaction. You may have the gravitas to confront the wrongdoer at the time and place. Not everyone has that same personality, and just because someone might be more timid (clearly not me) doesn’t mean that they should be subject to being cheated or defrauded. The only time it matters that you didn’t speak is is when it prevents the INNOCENT wrongdoers from remediating the problem, e.g. you got the wrong room type, your didn’t like you meal, etc. The INNOCENT wrongdoer deserved a chance to make it right. Mark S It sounds to me like everything was taken care of, but I don’t understand why it took so long and why the travel agent was saying some of the things she was saying. Not sure about the actual room if the hotel does not have a honeymoon suite I don’t know how the agent could book it. Guest It’s not baffling – the TA charged them $200 difference when there really wasn’t that amount. Guest Did I read this wrong or does it look like the TA inflated the price difference? Michael K So if the traveller cancels their trip after the cancellation deadline… and the company representative “accepts” the cancellation notice without any objection or any mention of cancellation penalties…. and later the company subsequently tries to enforce their cancellation policy after the fact… you would side with the traveller? [FYI, Chris posted a story like this recently (Jul 14 2011) and 83% sided with the company even though the OP at least had a somewhat legitimate reason for cancelling (a blizzard).] Bodega Your assumption with the tour companies that I have worked with is incorrect. A good company has a 24 hour toll free number or a local contact for problems while you are on the trip to assist. Apple has a Rep at their resorts, who doesn’t seem to have been utitlized, should be addressed. Bodega Please enlighten us with more detail to your observation? Jeanne_in_NE Chris, I’m still a little confused after reading the update. I believe Ms. Lockridge when she says that there was a voucher offer on the table, but Apple says they didn’t offer one. So, who DID offer vouchers? Apple or TCU Travel? Linda Bator Or just mistakenly assumed they would give them vouchers, as is the usual case – just not when they are at fault. Personalized Golf Towels Gosh I was getting so angry reading this! The money is not the issue! It was their HONEYMOON! Hopefully, once in a lifetime vacation! That is why people should stay away from the 3rd world for vacations like this… Santa Ana Golf Course The problem is, how can you prove it? Of course they went to a place where the hotel can just say “to hell with you!” What are you going to do, report them to the BBB? Screwed! Sould’ve saved and gone to Hawaii, USA! Tony A. I’ve got a nasty feeling about what possibly happened here. It’s got something to do with the love – hate relationship between the hotel and the aggregator/tour operator. Hotels “deal with the devil”. They “sell” their rooms at dirt cheap prices to aggregators/tour operators (at least 25-30% discount). But they also sell direct to the public (with or without discounts) or through a GDS with only 10% commission. Possibly they were able to sell the honeymoon room directly at a higher price. So when the OPs checked in they were downgraded. This is the reason I NEVER use an aggregator to book a room. You’re the first to get downgraded or walked. Some hoteliers will even tell you how they hate selling through aggregators when you talk to them. Guest The resort said the price difference was less than $200 but the TA charged them $200 difference for the upgrade.