Can this trip be saved? Left high and dry by my resort

By | September 12th, 2011

Club Med Sandpiper Bay is an all-inclusive resort near Port St. Lucie, Fla. — the perfect place to escape the cold December weather in Washington without having to spend hours on a plane. At least that’s what Jane Winfrey thought.

Back in April, she made a deposit for the week of Dec. 2 to 10 at hotel. But in late August, she received an apologetic call from Club Med representative. There was a problem with her reservation.

They were very sorry, but the entire Sandpiper has been reserved by a single client for Dec. 7 to 14 and they were therefore canceling the last three nights of our vacation, as well as everyone else’s reservations.

We’ve seen this kind of thing before.

Related: The smarter consumer: When to sue a company — and when to shame it.

The customer service agent outlined Winfrey’s options.

• Shorten their vacation by three nights.

• Visit another Club Med within the US for the same price.

• Cancel their entire vacation and receive a refund.

As compensation, Club Med offered a $100 credit per person, which could not be used toward to cover accommodations. (It could be cashed in for airport transfers or gift-shop purchases.)

Club Med also offered to reimburse Winfrey up to $200 for her airline change fees. But it wouldn’t cover any fare increases that resulted from its cancellation.

That doesn’t sit right with her.

To us, $200 to spend in the Club Med boutique just doesn’t cut it. I would have hoped the Sandpiper Club Med would preempt our complaint with a more gracious and generous offer.

I suggested that she send a brief, polite email to Club Med, letting it know she was disappointed and telling it exactly what it could do to make things right. Incidentally, I agree with her that it’s bad form to cancel a hotel reservation just because you have a better offer.

Club Med didn’t respond to her email in writing, apparently reluctant to have a written record of its offer. Instead, a representative phoned Winfrey again.

Their response was that the policy is firm – no other recompense. I feel it would have been more fair to offer a discount for the room charges on the nights which had to be changed – or to at least allow the credit to go toward room charges.

Also, $100 is somewhat paltry considering the cause of all this is that the whole club is being rented out for a week.

People with their own airline tickets will really be out of pocket. If they cancel their stay they are stuck with the tickets. If they alter their tickets’ dates to fit with the Club’s changes they will be reimbursed only for airline change fees, not any increase in fares. If a family bought airline tickets a few months ago and now must rebook them I would imagine the fares would be several hundred dollars higher.

Club Med shouldn’t have kicked Winfrey out of its resort for three days. If it did, it should have ensured she had alternate and comparable accommodations at no additional cost.

Having received two firm “nos” to her suggestion that it cover all of her costs, I’m not sure my inquiry would change the answer. If it did, then Club Med would be forced to extend the same offer to all of the guests displaced in December, which could cost it a bundle.

I’m not afraid to try, though.

(Photo: htt p2007/Flickr)

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.