“When I walked into the room everything was covered with bugs” By Christopher Elliott | March 27, 2012 FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest If you don’t like bugs, you might want to skip this story. It comes to us by way of Allison Nawracaj, who recently flew to Jamaica for her honeymoon. But her week-long stay at Sandy Bay Resort in Negril was cut short when she says she found insects in her room. Lots of insects. “When I walked into the room everything was covered with bugs from head to toe,” she told me. “A lot of money was spent on this five-star property and I have traveled all over the Caribbean previously. I know what a room should look like, and shouldn’t.” Nawracaj phoned her travel agent immediately, and she and her husband were quickly offered a different hotel, “a hotel room that should look like what we originally requested,” she says. But there was just the matter of their refund. I contacted Sandals/Beaches immediately upon return and was told I would be refunded for the inconvenience. I have been going round and round in circles over this misery and just want to receive what I was told I would be. I have many pictures and emails of correspondence back and forth with them stating that I would be refunded a six-night, seven-day stay. Where is the refund? Oh, one more thing: Nawracaj’s honeymoon was almost a year ago. She contacted me last fall to see if I could help. Today, I’m writing about her case – finally. I asked her who had her money, and she said it appeared the money had been refunded, but that Delta Vacations was keeping it. “My travel agent contacted Delta and [it] stated that Beaches was responsible for refunding the money. Beaches refunded the money to Delta instead of to us, and neither Delta Vacations or Beaches will refund our money,” she told me. Aha. So Delta might be holding on to the money. This isn’t unusual. Companies may do that because they have their own set of refund policies, and if they are not met, they consider the money to be theirs. Highly dishonest. So I decided to ask Delta about this honeymoon gone wrong. It looked into the matter and issued a $392 refund, which represents the one-night cancellation fee Beaches would normally charge. “However, I never got the refund for my six unused nights that was promised/confirmed to me from Beaches,” she says. I can see how, from a resort’s point of view, this partial compensation might seem like enough. From a hotel’s perspective, when guest leaves on her first night at a hotel, it’s kind of impossible to resell the room. It’s lost revenue. Whatever Nawracaj thought she’d been promised, the reality of the situation is that a full refund would cost Beaches real money. Then there’s the issue of bugs. Insects in a room are gross. Insects in your honeymoon suite? Double your displeasure. But the reality is, the Caribbean is full of insects. As a cub reporter, I made the mistake of making a crack about the bugs in my hotel room, and I paid dearly for it. Long story. Anyway, if Nawracaj had really traveled to the Caribbean often, as she claims, she’d know that it’s crawling with bugs. (FYI, Florida is also infested with bugs, and I ought to know — I live there.) So if she’d wanted to escape the bugs, there were other places to honeymoon. Still, if Beaches had promised a refund, why not either credit her or at least tell her in writing why it won’t credit her. Nawracaj says this has gone beyond saving her honeymoon. She wants to get the word out about Beaches’ bugginess as a public service. The last thing I want is for this experience to happen to anyone else! The thing I am most upset about is first-time family vacationers that take their family to that resort and only end up with a bug-filled stay and terrible customer service. It’s not a cheap hotel that is $20 a night. Even if it was, there shouldn’t be bugs crawling all over the bedspread and the cleaning ladies squishing them between their fingers as they are talking with me. Of course, there might be another explanation: That Beaches has a little infestation problem, and could use a good exterminator. But if that’s the case, why not pay guests like Nawracaj off, and buy her silence? This isn’t a black-and-white case. Delta Vacations has refunded part of her honeymoon. Beaches is trying to protect itself from a total loss, it seems. It’s also unclear if Nawracaj and her husband gave Sandy Bay an opportunity to put them in an insect-free room, or if they just bolted — though you can understand why someone would check out in a hurry. Did Delta Vacations and Beaches offer Nawracaj enough compensation, or should a press the companies to refund her entire stay? (Photo: ilexxx/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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus Jeremy I don’t understand – she was moved to other accommodation; did Beaches pay for that? That makes a big difference in the judgement of this. If she received no value at all for the money, then of course she deserves a full refund – but if Beaches paid for her other accommodation (at a similar standard?), then it seems one night’s refund is fair, as compensation for the hassle of moving. Fly, Icarus, Fly Sounds like she just bolted. Also, is it just me or is Beaches continually featured here as serving up substandard rooms? I’d never leave a property without giving them a chance to make things right and especially would think long and hard about the repercussions. It sounds like her TA offered to secure her alternate accommodations but there’s nothing in the story about what would happen to her original reservation. She possibly assumed that she’d be refunded in full since she didn’t end up staying there. That’s an ill-advised assumption, IMO. She’ll probably get some sort of hotel credit, but I’d be pretty surprised if she got real cash back, especially after this much time has elapsed… Monica Lynn Kennedy If she’s got it in writing from the hotel saying she will get a full refund, than that is what she should get. Period. Pdoggs If they’ve said they will refund her entire stay and it sounds like she has it IN WRITING that they will then they should. It also sounds like they HAVE refunded all her money and Delta is keeping it. So it’s time to go toe to toe with Delta, maybe even Small Claims Court. Raven_Altosk I think a big part of this case hinges on “Did she give the property the opportunity to make things right?” I live in the south. We have bugs–some you could saddle up and ride. I’ve also visited exceptional properties in the Caribbean that have had bugs. When the issues was reported, the properties ALWAYS took care of the problem. That said, I’m always skeptical of Sandals/Beaches anyway. They are like the Carnival of vacation resorts. You’re not going to find luxury there, no matter what the deceiving TV ads tell you. And if she had an agent, why did she book through Delta Vacations? Wouldn’t a good agent steer their client away from an airline-based vacation? Knowing how bad airlines are at refunding legit flight problems…wouldn’t it be better to book direct? Course, I’m also confused…did Beaches/Sandals refund ALL the money to DV? And they are just holding it? Or does B/S still have all the money except the one night stay!??! emanon256 Are Beaches and Sandals owned by the same company? I never knew that. Maybe they should go by BS vacations :) What it sounds like to me is that Beaches/Sandals agreed to refund and then did refund the unused portion of her stay in full, and that package provider that her agent used got the refund and is keeping it. But then it stats to get a little muddy as to what actually happened. I think if the resort agreed to refund it and did, then why would the package provider have any right to keep it? I think they should be returning it to her. I am also curious why she contacted her agent about the bugs and not the hotel directly, but perhaps she did or her agent did because it sounds like the hotel agreed to refund her. But later on it’s hard to tell. I know that one time when I used Expedia (yes I know better now) I left due to an issue and the hotel agreed to refund me, but they actually refunded Expedia, and Expedia refused to give me the refund because their policy was no refunds, even though I negotiated a refund with the hotel. Since using a real agent, the only other time I have had a problem, the agent refunded me immediately and went after the money herself. Edit: If the new hotel was covered by her agent or the package provider, then she should get no refund, as she still got the service she paid for. BillCCC I don’t think that she is entitled to a full refund since it appears that she was provided accomodations during the trip. I thnk that the $392 is sufficient as long as she did not have to pay for the other hotel. TonyA_says If you want to spend some serious bucks on a honeymoon, then go to an Aman resort. Be prepared to pay A LOT MORE than $1K a night. It’s a favorite resort for the VERY RICH. You can even have a wedding there. http://www.amanresorts.com/amanpulo_weddings.aspx vmacd I’ve stayed all over the Caribbean and never encountered a problem like this. I was once bit by a spider in Jamaica and we had a cute little gecko in our room in Aruba, but never an infestation like this. They should compensate her. Rose Arnold Good questions. What she deserves depends on whether she received the other accommodations at no additional cost or had to pay again. And, by the way, I lived many years in south Florida (Key West and Miami). Yes, there are a lot of bugs and one finds the occasional palmettos in drawers and elsewhere but a room full of bugs in a quality hotel is shameful and easily remedied. I’m sure this is so in Jamaica also. l2y2 Any five start hotel worth its reputation, whether in Jamaica or Florida, would have spotless rooms. Bugs can be exterminated and kept away from sleeping and eating quarters. What she found was disgusting. I also have to ask the question, “did she have to pay for the other hotel she was moved to (which obviously met her expectations), or was it paid for using the money she already paid for the bug hotel? If she had no other out-of-pocket expense, then what she received for the first night was fair. If she had to pay for the new hotel, in addition to what she already paid, she is due a complete refund. Joe_D_Messina Did they actually double-pay for the second resort? Or did Beaches/Delta cover that out of what they’d already paid? (It says they were “offered” a different hotel, which would imply to me they weren’t charged again.) It seems odd she never specifically mentions a huge expense like double-paying, but it’d be stranger still if she was expecting her entire honeymoon to be free. And where are the photos so we can judge for ourselves how bad things were? IrishStubborn It sounds like the hotel did refund the money, just not to her, but to Delta Vacations, as that is who they had the contract with. I have no idea why Delta is keeping her money, but if the resort did as they said they would, what are her options regarding getting the money from Delta? Michael__K @JamesinPhnomPenh:disqus – “I’d never leave a property without giving them a chance to make things right” @Raven_Altosk:disqus “Did she give the property the opportunity to make things right?”” —– 1) If she contacted her travel agent, doesn’t the TA have some responsibility to explore that opportunity? (And to advocate for their client?) 2) Every time Chris writes up a case where a guest doesn’t run away from a problematic situation, we see lots of obligatory comments along the lines of “if it was that bad, [s]he shouldn’t have stayed/boarded [etc]. You can’t consume the product and then ask for a refund.” When they don’t stay, we see comments like the ones above. You will always be able to second guess the traveler from the comfort of your chair no matter what they do when they’re put in a tough spot that requires them to make an unexpected “fight or flight” decision. LeeAnneClark Christopher, you’re doing US a real disservice here by not making it clear if the client paid for the hotel she DID stay at, in addition to the one she DIDN’T. So which is it? Did she end up paying for both properties? In that case, CLEARLY she is entitled to a full refund. Period. And her TA bears some responsibility here for advising her to move and pay full price for the 2nd place, without making sure she wouldn’t continue to be charged for the 1st place. Did she end up paying only for the first property, and not the second? And she’s only asking for a refund as “compensation” for her buggy experience? In that case she deserves nothing, since she received appropriate accommodations. I’m pretty sure it’s the former (she’s been double-dipped), but a clarification would be helpful. And if that’s the case, GO AFTER THEM! It’s completely wrong for them to offer her an unlivable room, and then charge her for it even though she didn’t stay there. ExplorationTravMag This is a difficult question to answer w/o knowing whether or not they paid for the second hotel or if it was a move covered by the monies remunerated in the original reservation. bodega3 The OP booked their trip through a TA who got the arrangements through a tour company that has contracted rates for the rooms. The hotel would not credit the OP’s credit card as the money has to go back to the tour company since they are the agent on record. Now the OP did the correct thing. They contacted the TA who then contacts the tour company. Good tour companies have a 24/7 contact so we can assist clients when a problem comes up. The tour company then makes the other arrangements for the next room with the hotel or change of hotels and the financial difference. Each hotel contract is different, so we don’t know of cancellation penalities, if any, are part of this change in hotels. Usually a hotel will work with a guest to keep the money inhouse. But if the guests just wants out of that property, moving to another hotel could cost them a penalty with the remainder of the nights being applied to the cost of the new hotel stay. Then if the new hotel is higher or lower in cost, the credit card is either charged or credited. Life Lessons Military Wife She went about it the wrong way…why did she not bother to ask the resort to rectify the situation? They possibly could’ve upgraded her to a nicer suite elsewhere on the resort, or at a sister resort…who knows? They never gave her the chance. I think she went about it the wrong way and considering for that reason only, she did this to herself. I agree..bugs are everywhere down South and it’s possible just this one room had a problem, who knows? Did she also have documentation/pictures? I sure didn’t see any! Life Lessons Military Wife I mean she never gave THEM the chance! severnwatcher The bug problem might be as simple as the former guests left all the windows open – it IS the Carribean. With all the the ‘living outdoors’ influence, its hard to avoid some creatures. Roaches and bedbugs GROSS! Fleas, REALLY ANNOYING – all those are severe reasons to leave right away. Other types of bugs, I reserve judgment. Some folks want to be in the tropics/near nature in theory, but don’t like the reality… J Then why didn’t the hotel staff close the windows when they cleaned the room? Were the bugs hiding while housekeeping was in there, only to come out and play just before the guests arrived? jennj99738 The sole question I have is whether Ms. Nawracaj paid an additional sum for the replacement hotel she was provided. If she did not pay for the replacement accommodations, she is owed nothing except what she has already been paid, one night’s fee for the inconvenience of having to transfer to the new hotel. I think that’s even debatable but it was paid. If she wasn’t charged, she’s asking for a free honeymoon for her stated inconvenience. She is not entitled to a free honeymoon. Joe_D_Messina I’m leaning the opposite way and think she only paid once based on how she words things early in the article. First, it says they were “offered” a different hotel. That’s not the term I’d use if I had to find a new place and pay for it. Then, she says the refund was promised for the “inconvenience.” Again, that’s not how I’d phrase wanting a full refund for a service I paid for, never received, and then had to pay for a second time. (But having to swap hotels is an inconvenience and if Beaches had helped find the new accommodations it would have been an offer made to appease her.) Just my reading of it…it’d be nice to know for sure. Charles Owen What travel agent sends a honeymoon couple to a Beaches resort? That’s a family resort with lots of kids. What a horrible choice. I’m not surprised by the bugs. Kids drop food and that attracts them. I’m sure the resort is used to it and would have taken care of the bugs pretty quickly had they stayed there. Also, since when is Beaches 5 star? I think they should consider finding a different travel agent, maybe one who does not just farm the reservation out to Delta Vacations and who has actually been to the resorts and knows what a good honeymoon choice might be. There are lots of comparably priced resorts in Jamaica that are adult or couples-only and as nice or nicer than Beaches. Sadie_Cee I know the question has to do with the issue of the OP’s refund. However, I would like to know if the OP took pictures of the room that “was covered with bugs from head to toe.” If so, I would like to see these pictures before making any further comment. Rebecca The article clearly states that she took pictures and has corresponded by email with the Beaches/Sandals. We also don’t know if she requested they rectify the situation. It is possible they couldn’t get her in another room, get an exterminator for a few days, etc. Just because we don’t have this information doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the case. I don’t agree we should assume what you are claiming. We should find this information out before judging. Rebecca I agree. “Covered in bugs” is a relative term. LeeAnneClark You could be right – which is why I find this article so very frustrating. Either we’ve got a situation that I would consider out-and-out theft (the first property keeping her money when they didn’t provide the service), or we’ve got a whiner with an over-developed sense of entitlement. And we all know we’ve seen plenty of examples of both on this blog! If you’re right and she’s just asking for money for her “inconvenience”, then she deserves nothing. Another key piece of information would be if there is a price disparity between the two properties. If she only paid once, but ended up in a room that was worth less than the first place, then she would be entitled to a refund of the difference in value. But since we don’t know if she paid once or twice, we have no way of knowing if that is even applicable. Christoper – I know you are off gallivanting on a Disney cruise ;-), but when you get a moment, couldja satisfy our burning curiosity? Thanks! LeeAnneClark EXACTLY! I’m finding this article to be very frustrating. pauletteb I have a problem with her story, even more of a problem with her couching her desire to get back at the property in terms of so-called “public service.” I also have a problem with anyone using “$20 a night” as an example of a hotel rate . . . unless the last time she traveled was 1950. Warm climate = bugs; unless they’re cockroaches, get over it — or honeymoon in the Arctic. I can’t imagine what she would have done in Australia! pauletteb You’re right. And a room cannot “be covered from head to toe.” jennj99738 I got that from your post. ;) From reading the original article again, especially the first quote “refunded for the inconvenience,” I do believe the letter writer was not charged a second time and she thinks she’s entitled to a refund due to her inconvenience. No. 1000 times no. Chris Lutz My wife and I stayed at my aunt’s beautiful beach home in Emerald Isle, NC. We arrived late and opened the garage to a army of the biggest bugs we’d ever seen. We initially thought they were huge cockroaches that had stumbled upon something toxic because not only were they huge but when we turned on the lights they did not scurry away like a common roach. After a few frantic calls we learned that they were Palmetto Bugs. Lindabator Actually, Raven, vacations packages give the best overall pricing – she would have received both discounted airfare and any and all discounts with the hotel (and some they specially negotiate with Delta Vacations as well). AND bonus miles to boot. It is always better to book as a package than direct with Sandals/Beaches. My question here is – did Beaches refund Delta Vacations, and they then turn around and pay for the new hotel accommodations? That may in fact be the problem here. After all, someone has to pay for the new accommodations as well. I think we need more info here. Lindabator FAB choice! But not for everyone’s pocketbook, unfortunately. However, for the price she paid here, she had better choices. Too bad. Lindabator Yep – Beaches is the family side, Sandals the couples. Lindabator Depends on how the second hotel was paid for – she may have been refunded the difference between the two charges, and I don’t feel she is due more, as SOMEONE has to pay for the hotel she stayed at. TonyA_says I cannot believe people are paying that price for that place (in the Caribbean). It is so tacky, no class (IMO). Lindabator Making a lot of assumptions about the agent, when as one myself, I can state emphatically my clients don’t always go by my recommendations, and in fact, may choose something I specifically tell them I do NOT recommend! But other factors may be in play, such as someone else’s recommendation, cost, even something they see on TV or a website. They may come to us, and we may book them the best value for the trip, but that is not to say they will always follow our lead – and we cannot exactly make them, you know. Raven_Altosk Yes, but that means trusting an airline more than just for the cost of a plane ticket. And, given my issues with Delta…that would make me totally nervous. IGoEverywhere Even though they used a travel agent, was the agent knowledgable with bookings. When dealing with the Caribbean, I find that operators with local presence are superior than “airline” tour companies. I am also confused that they said that this was a 5 star property – Sandal prpperties are never rated by any tour company – it is just supposed to be a 5 star hotel? It’s not even close! I worry that Delta Dream Vacations did not respond immediately with a refund for their booking; they have a contract to provide a clean and safe property. Great agents work for the customer, rather than the all mighty commission. We have worked with tour companies all over the world that would have had this resolved in 2 hours, not 1 year. Choose your agent wisely, then ask how problems are resolved. Once you find that ASTA agent, you will be with them for all of you travel plans. Jeanne_in_NE Since the OP references the bedspread, perhaps the bedspread was covered “head to toe” and she conflated “room” and “bedspread”. Jeanne_in_NE Palmetto bugs ARE cockroaches, just a different Family (and therefore, genus and species). Another name for palmetto bugs? American cockroaches (as opposed to German cockroaches, which are the nasty evil things that scurry away when you turn on the light). Jeanne_in_NE Hey, Chris Elliott, when you have a few moments, I want to hear the “bugs in my hotel room” cub reporter story. After, of course, you answer all the other people who’ve asked about who paid for the replacement lodgings. Thanks. y_p_w Cool story. I remember being at a science museum on a recent visit to family. We all went together, and in the bug section they had a jar of live Madagascar hissing cockroaches. The one in my hand felt a little prickly, but was otherwise harmless. The others in my party didn’t want to get near them – especially my kid. bodega3 Raven, Delta Vacations is not run by the carrier. This is an independent company with permission to use the Delta name and book packages with contracts with the carrier. Same with UA Vacations, Southwest Vacations and some of the others. sdir I agree with your comments, yet I also think if Beaches promised a full refund for her entire stay, they should give it to her. It should never have taken a full year for a partial refund or have needed to involve Chris. It’s a shame so much time has passed, or I’d suggest she do a chargeback on her credit card. She claims she had their promise of a refund in writing, after all. John Frenaye I am with most others and would like to know if she paid additional at the time. My guess is no. First off, Beaches Sandy Bay is adjacent to Beaches Negril and there is reciprocity between the resorts. My guess is that they were re-accomodated at no charge to Beaches Negril as they are Beaches/Sandals brands. Now while Sandals and Beaches has been known to exaggerate, they have NEVER called Sandy Bay a 5 star resort. The amenities and inclusions are reduced and limited (hence the ability to play at the other resorts). From Beaches website on Sandy Bay: “If getting a great vacation value on a smaller, more intimate resort, with the world-class quality of Beaches Resorts and the tranquil, laid-back atmosphere of Negril’s famous seven-mile beach seems like paradise, Beaches Sandy Bay is for you.” “For those who seek a peaceful paradise at a great deal, Beaches Sandy Bay answers the call. Its location, architecture, lush gardens and, most of all, its laid-back atmosphere will make you feel instantly at home.” So they mention the buzz words for “cheap”–“vacation value” and “great deal”. And perhaps I am naive, but I cannot imagine a room covered in bugs (as described) outside of a Stephen King novel. And yes, Beaches is a family resort and not a favorite among honeymooners, but to each their own. I wonder what other resorts she has traveled to since she has traveled all over the Caribbean. To be honest, if someone is well traveled in the Caribbean, Beaches is probably not on the list–much less Sandy Bay–much less for a honeymoon. I looked at March pricing for 2013 to demonstrate the difference in the rates. Sandy Bay ranges from $3773 to $6451. Beaches Negril goes from $5061 to $17012 Raven_Altosk Given the bad rep the airlines have, you’d think they’d want to use a different name! LOL. I didn’t know that. Thanks. Jennifer As others have mentioned, the question is here, since she booked through DeltaVacations, did they take the money they had already collected from the client and apply it to a different resort while the client was in the destination? This is a very common practice of tour operators when clients have issues with a resort so deep they can’t stay at their originally selected resort. If this is the case, the client would would be entitled to a refund from Delta Vac. for the cost differential per night (if there was one), less any penalities charged by the original resort for the early check out. The refund has to come from the tour operator, because they are the ones who paid the resort, not the client. Really hard to judge this one without knowing if the client was out of pocket for the entire cost of the new hotel.