A “royal” complaint with the right resolution? Maybe not

When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, you get what happened to Paul and Cindy Bergeson on their 30th wedding anniversary trip to Mexico.

You get trouble.

The Bergesons checked in at The Royal Playa del Carmen on Jan. 15th. The Royal promises (I’m not making this up) an “an explosion of luxury around every corner, all provided in an atmosphere of casual elegance.”

An explosion is exactly what they ended up with, figuratively speaking. Because at the same time, 250 listeners of a Chicago-area rock station had descended on the same property to celebrate something called Cabin Fever Getaway.

“Our tranquil vacation was shattered,” says Cindy Bergeson. “The daily noise level and filth was unconscionable.”

She continues,

The resort was disgustingly dirty 24/7. The pool area, bars and lobby were constantly a pig sty. Everywhere, garbage cans overflowed.

Full dirty ashtrays were left everywhere and untouched for hours. Cigarette butts were left on the floor at the pool, lobby, bars and hallways for days!

At the pool, each and every morning, filth was left behind from the night before; dirty glasses, bottles, ashtrays, etc. Pool bathrooms were disgusting. Several potted plants at the pool were dead.

Every morning WIIL Rock and their “guests” were screaming and hollering while broadcasting back to the fans in Chicago. The same raucous behavior continued throughout the hotel each and every day.

Bergeson and her husband had no idea they would be sharing a luxury resort with a radio station and its listeners. They’d stayed at the Royal’s sister property in Cancun, Mexico, and had a great experience.

But not here. They checked out early.

Complaints to the resort yielded the following apology.

Thank you very much for your recent visit to THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen and for granting us with the privilege of serving you. Thank you as well for taking the time to send us your impressions and experience while hosted at our beautiful resort. We are truly sorry to read that your stay was not the exceptional experience that we always provide to all of our valuable guests.

We have carefully reviewed your report and comments and are sincerely sorry to read that you were inconvenienced by some of the guests hosted during your stay.

Kindly note that THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen aims to provide a relaxing luxurious environment for adults-only guests, also our resort is perfectly fitted to provide both a party atmosphere as well as a tranquil and peaceful ambience, as we understand the uniqueness of each of our valuable guests.

Also THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen is known for being an impeccable and well maintained resort that offers an exceptional service as our 5 stars standards dictate.

That being said, as a good will act and in an effort to regain your faith in our resort and its services, we are pleased to offer a 03 nights complimentary stay in a Royal Junior Ocean View Suite for two adults at THE ROYAL Playa del Carmen.

Once again, thank you for your kind preference and we are looking forward to welcoming you back so we can provide you with a truly amazing holiday experience.

Bergeson is unhappy with that response. She’d rather have a full refund of the $2,198 she paid for her vacation.

She also believes the apology and offer are disingenuous, a fact quickly proven by reading the online reviews and doing some basic research about the WIIL group, which she says is never invited back to the same hotel again because it is so raucous. What’s more, it would be impractical for her and her husband to return to Mexico for a three-night stay at the same hotel, a fact probably known to the hotel.

The Bergesons appealed to the Royal. Their “final” answer? A polite no.

We have carefully reviewed all the information provided and are sorry to read that you feel you were inconvenienced during your stay at our beautiful resort.

Nevertheless, please note that hotel’s daily operations nor service quality was ever compromised, as our objective is to provide exceptional service to each and every valuable guest, respecting their uniqueness and individuality.

The ROYAL Playa del Carmen is extensively known for its luxurious and pleasant environment as well as for its cleanliness and professional staff.

That’s disappointing, but not surprising. WIIL’s money is just as green as the Bergesons, and the hotel was probably just as taken aback by the behavior of some of its guests as this couple.

I think this problem might have been better addressed after the first night, when the Bergesons were kept up until 2 a.m. while guests partied at the pool. Had they complained immediately, the Royal may have been able to walk them to a quieter hotel, or maybe just offered them a room far from the crowds.

But based on their own account, it appears they waited until they had enough, and then left without giving the hotel a chance to address its shortcomings.

If nothing else, this is a cautionary tale to anyone visiting a popular warm-weather destination at high season. Ask about any groups or conventions coming at the same time. What you learn may affect your choice in accommodations.

Did the Royal Playa del Carmen offer the Bergesons enough compensation?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    If you leave and then complain – can’t say they’d be taken too seriously.

  • dourdan

    does $2,198 include the airfare? i do not think any hotel would ever reimburse someone’s airfare.

    was her stay 3 days? if so then “3 nights complimentary stay” is reasonable.

  • bodega3

    I bet this vacation was very disappointing all the way around. How did they book this trip? If this was my client, they would have been given a local number to call the tour company or to call me and they would have been taken care of right away. The time, as Chris correctly mentioned, is to deal with a problem right away and give the resort a chance to make things better. The hotel, after the fact, is offering a complimentary stay, which is very common in the industry, so they can give the guest another chance at a good experience. The OP made the decision to buy a package and to walk away before allowing the hotel to take some action, so they can take the offer or leave it. A refund should be expected.

  • Bill___A

    They should have complained immediately. The hotel responses are canned and unreasonable. I surely wouldn’t want to return to a place that didn’t ensure I had a peaceful stay.

  • DavidYoung2

    Not only that, you don’t give the hotel a chance to rectify the problem. Once you walk, you’ve basically said “I’m through.” To then go back and ask for a full refund is ridiculous if you haven’t given the hotel a chance to fix things first. The offer by the hotel is fair and reasonable assuming they vacated three days early and the room offered is of the same class they booked or higher.

  • Blackadar

    I don’t think either side is in the right here, but we don’t have all the facts. They stayed at least some nights, but checked out early. How early? 1 day? 5 days? How many nights did they stay? Where did they stay after they checked out? It’s one thing if they stayed two days and left 3 days early. It’s another if they stayed 5 days and checked out 1 day early. And how did the OP get to the $2,200 figure? Does that include airfare? Meals?

    I’m leaning towards a partial refund solution here, but without all the facts it’s impossible to make an informed recommendation.

  • EdB

    ” our resort is perfectly fitted to provide both a party atmosphere as well as a tranquil and peaceful ambience”

    I doubt it is perfectly fitted to provide both at the same time.

    “I think this problem might have been better addressed after the first night, when the Bergesons were kept up until 2 a.m. while guests partied at the pool.”

    All the hotels I have ever stayed at, granted they were in the US and not Mexico, had hours for the pool use to prevent just this type of situation. If there was restricted hours, the hotel should have done something without having a guest complain. Given the OP’s description of how the property was maintained during the visit, it sounds like most of the clean staff left during the WIIL visit because they knew what was going to happen.

  • http://twitter.com/johntbaker John Baker

    In general, I don’t think a refund is appropriate unless the vendor is given an opportunity to fix the problems and after a reasonable amount of time, fails to do so. According to the narrative, the OP never gave the property the chance to fix the problem. This is a little like hating your dinner but you don’t send it back, eat the whole thing and then refuse to pay for it. As far as if it was enough, I can’t be sure since the article doesn’t get into the details like the number of days they were there etc. If the “do over” is for the number of nights for their first stay or more than the number of nights for their first stay, I’d say its enough.

  • wageslave

    Asking for a full refund? In my book this speaks volumes to the credibility of the OP. I think this case should go straight to the circular file.

  • Bettina

    As someone who used to work in five star hotels, I can only say the complaints should have

    a) started to happen after the first night.

    b) should have been accompanied by copious photos of all the things noticed, especially the filth and dead plants

    c) should have gone also to headoffice, not just the hotel

    Then, the hotel could have:

    a) offered them to go to a sister property (even if it is not in the resort town they wanted, they could have had a quiet and relaxing stay)


    b) accommodation far away from the raucous guests and maybe spa vouchers, restaurant vouchers etc to maybe make up for any further inconvenience

    and if neither offer was made, then headoffice could have been informed accordingly for a further appeal.

    However, after the guest leave, such a complaint is always hard to follow up without proof, and there is nothing the chain can do, apart from refunding the guests, to ensure they still have a nice stay.

    It looks like the couple showed no proof of the filth (photos), since none was mentioned, and if they had been, the sentence regarding the “standards” of the hotel would not have come up.

    I would try to follow this up with headoffice of the chain and maybe ask for a voucher to any hotel of the chain and could be use as a part payment for a future holiday.

    But other than that, I can only say that leaving without giving the property at the local level first a possibility to adress the issue and then complaining afterward is not really the way to get the best service regarding a complaint.

  • Cam

    She got three nights.

    Suck it up and move on.

  • Nikki

    I completely agree. If I have a guest trying to complain to me (at checkout) about noise and other various issues with the hotel,, and they stayed for more than one night – – – sorry, but it’s out of my hands. We (at the front desk) should have received a complaint or inquiry the MOMENT it happened, not 3-4 nights later… we have to be given a chance to fix what’s wrong. And the chain’s corporate office (Wyndham, in my case) will back us up 100% on that.

  • Chris

    While I understand the hotel’s POV on the situation, why would the guests take a free 3 day stay at the hotel that was crap to begin with? Not to mention that the “free” 3 day stay would cost them air fare plus other expenses. Not really a great resolution if it were me in this situation

  • chris

    Cameron would you want to stay another 3 nights at a place that gave you a horrible experience to begin with? Plust spend airfare for me from Philly it would cost me over $1500 in airfare for a “free” 3night stay

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=49501562 Laura J Crary

    Whenever I have had a problem in any hotel, with noise, bad smells, dirt, what-have-you, I have spoken to management immediately. The idea of waiting for something to change, as if by magic, then complaining after the fact, seems to me to be not only unreasonable, but unrealistic. While the hotel could have done more to ensure that the raucous guests were contained, and that the clean-up was performed in a more timely fashion, the hotel staff were probably being run ragged by the 250 rowdies, and could not be expected also to be mindreading at the same time.

  • sffilk

    Sounds to me like they should contact the radio station and put on the air on the show of the personalities who organized this trip the truth about how the people who went with these personalities ruined their vacation. Maybe that might get a point across?

  • emanon256

    This may shock some of you, but I voted NO. I am a strong believer that when a hotel is hosting an event that will dynamically change the atmosphere of the property they need to notify all other gusts in advance so that they can change their plans if necessary. If people are going to a luxury tranquil resort, and its hosting an “MTV Beach Party” type event, it is going to disrupt the gusts that are not going for the 24/7 party atmosphere. In this case, I really think the hotel should offer them a partial refund if they were not notified in advance, though I am not in favor of a full refund since they did stay there. The OP did not get the service they paid for, and it is impractical to expect them to come back for 3 nights. Am also curious who gave the hotel a 5 star rating as they claim. I can’t find anything about their Mobil (Forbes) or AAA ratings.

    I stayed at a beach resort recently only to find out that the beach was reserved for a private party, and half of the pool area was also reserved for the same party. So it often took hours to get a chair by the pool and I had to walk to the public beach. I complained to the manager and they explained that a large family offered a great deal of money to have the beach reserved and a large section of the poor reserved so they could come and go and not be disturbed or have to wait. She said they asked for these areas to be made private over a year in advance and paid a full year in advance. She said she knows it looks bad as that area is often unoccupied, and she realizes it is an inconvenience, but she said the amount of money they offered was too good to pass up and as a business-person she hopes I understand that this was such a business opportunity she could not say no. I explained that this should have been disclosed in advance of the cancellation period as I go to a beach resort to use the beach, and if it were off-limits, I would have stayed elsewhere. As it was spring break in a beach town, there was no where to walk me, every decent beach hotel was at 100% occupancy. They agreed to comp all of our breakfasts and refunded 60% of the full price of our stay in cash. I thought this was more than fair, but I think when hotels have these special conditions they need to notify all guests in advance.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Probably not. If people have cabin fever, the remedy isn’t to go somewhere to quietly read a book. It’s to party. The radio station knew what they were doing. Unfortunately, it impacted the OP. Kind of like what you’d expect if you vacationed in FL during Spring Break…

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Yeah. What’s to stop them from taking the 3 nights and then paying for a hotel elsewhere to complete their vacation? Why is everyone assuming that they have to go home after the 3 nights are up? If lemon –> lemonade

  • emanon256

    Very good questions. I am also curious if they were at all refunded for the days they did not stay? Also, I hope they spoke to the hotel before leaving. Wouldn’t the hotel have at least asked why they are checking out early? I too am in favor of a partial refund.

  • emanon256

    our resort is perfectly fitted to provide both a party atmosphere as well as a tranquil and peaceful ambience

    I laughed at that one too, and then though of the Berlin wall.

    I stayed at a “Royal” property once in Cancun and it had two pools between the three buildings. One pool was the “PARTY!” pool, and the other was the tranquil pool. The party pool had a DJ and they were handing out rum and cokes all day and it was quite loud. The other pool was quiet and relaxing. This was also a huge mega resort. It was also a poorly maintained, poor quality, property. It was very inexpensive to stay there, and other than the fact that it was on the beach, it felt like a cheep motel. It also had some of the worst food I have ever eaten. They tried to cater to American tourists. Sadly, most of the American tourists were an embarrassment to America, but that’s another story.

    What my original point was going to be, was that even the party pool had pool hours, and closed at 10pm I believe.

  • http://twitter.com/StuMorCanada Stuart Morcombe

    Large Groups (even polite ones) can have a negative effect on other guests. If you pop over to youtube and search chicago cabin fever – the video clips of the event would certainly not convey luxurious attitude portrayed by the resort

  • emanon256

    I have an odd question for you. I was at a hotel once and the guests in the room next door were having a loud party. I asked them to keep it down and they called me an old man and slammed the door. So I called the front desk who sent up security and after hearing some yelling and noises it got silent. I am not sure what happened, I assume the gusts were removed. I went to bed and was thankful for the silence.

    After checking out, the hotel GM sent me a personal e-mail apologizing for the noise, and indicating they are giving me 5,000 Marriott Points for the inconvenience. I was most confused as the guests caused the problem, and the hotel handled it very quickly and very well. The hotel did nothing wrong, and everything right. Why would they give me anything?

  • MarkKelling

    They gave you something because they want you to feel you are a valued customer and to make sure you know they understood your issue and took it seriously. This kind of issue is not what Marriott wants you to have as your memory of your stay.

    Not saying every hotel not giving something equivalent doesn’t take complaints seriously.

  • Chasmosaur

    I agree with you, and I think it was good of the resort to comp and refund you.

    What I’m astounded at is the party that did this. If you want a private beach and pool experience and are willing to throw that much cash at it, I’m sure there are plenty of private houses or really high end resorts that offer that level of exclusivity.

  • pauletteb

    I had the misfortune of being in Bermuda years back when the government and hotels hosted Spring Break activities. I had stayed at Elbow Beach several times prior, and the situation was a shock, with broken glass in the pool area every morning from glasses thrown off the balconies and generally horrid behavior from “kids” who weren’t much younger than I. Bad weather had caused some of the government-sponsored beach parties (free food and booze) to be canceled, and the college crowd were restless, hungry, and alcohol-less, since most of them couldn’t afford to drink or eat at Bermuda prices. During the hotel’s weekly Rum Swizzle party, these troglodytes pushed their way in, grabbed every drink off the trays, and swarmed the hors’ dourves like locusts. Hotel management finally kicked them out and replenished the trays for the rest of us. I’m very glad that Bermuda is out of the Spring Break business.

  • emanon256

    That shocked me too. I understand paying more to get more. Like paying more for a suite, or paying more for concierge lounge access, or paying more for first class. But paying more so others can have less really bothers me, as does the fact that the hotel allowed it.

    My guess, and its only a geuss, is that this family wanted the service of this particular hotel, but didn’t want to share it. This was a 5 Diamond high end beach resort that already offers a level of exclusivity. And my perception is that this was some large family reunion, there were probably 40-50 people in this group. If they had a private house on the beach they would not have full service restaurants, a spa, and full service food and drink delivery by the pool and on the beach. Again, my guess is they wanted excluive access to the bach with the services so they could always sit together, and exclusive access to the pool so they could always sit together. In my opinion, they should have simply purchased the whole hotel for the week if that is what they wanted.

    I am still shocked, but got such a good deal I am no longer complaining.

  • http://www.talestoldfromtheroad.com/ Dick Jordan

    If things were as bad as Ms. Bergeson says, then the hotel staff would have been aware of it and she wouldn’t have had to prove anything. And the hotel should have immediately evicted the radio station event hosts and guests or, failing that, given a full refund and a complimentary future stay to every other guest. But that didn’t happen, so perhaps the situation wasn’t as bad as she makes out, or the hotel knows only how to create bad will or not goodwill.

  • Diane D

    I agree. When I have a complaint I address it while its still happening in order to get results or at least have it visible as I complain.
    I also have had issues with nasty hotels and addresses them immediately, checked-in to another hotel and was always refunded for my night as well as a portion for the last minute hotel booking.

  • Chasmosaur

    Rude, rude, rude. But yeah – if this family was willing to throw a crap load of money, then the hotel should have insisted they book the entire facility. It was good management saw your arguments clearly.

  • JenniferFinger

    Looks like the poll is right down the middle. I agree that right when it’s going on is the best time to speak up, but on the other hand, giving other guests advance warning that the hotel has been mostly rented out to really raucous guests who are going to party a lot would have been good customer service too-especially if the other guests can’t be “walked” to another property in the area or their stay can’t be rescheduled. So my feelings are mixed.

  • http://upgrd.com/roadmoretraveled MeanMeosh

    THIS x1000. She also lost all credibility with me with her (predictable) demand for a full refund. If she complained early enough, maybe a night or two and some meals comped or a walk to a sister property, but a full refund is over the top.

    I might also add, while not directly related to the complaint itself, this smells like someone who expects the exact same level of comfort, amenities, etc. as a typical U.S. resort while vacationing overseas (what clued me in was the complaint about “dead plants” – I doubt that had anything to do with the party crowd). You just aren’t going to see the same standards for upkeep, cleanliness, etc. in Mexico or the Caribbean as you would here at home. That doesn’t necessarily make this resort bad, but it always amazes me the exacting standards people have while vacationing in a developing country.

  • Louise

    It’s not a matter of compensation now. The first day (or night) they should have insisted on being moved to another hotel (at the Royal Whatsit’s expense), or just left on their own. Better to lose money than to suffer. And blast them on Trip Advisor and elsewhere.

  • Deb Kelly

    I stayed at this resort in April of 2011 and went back to visit in October 2011….this hotel is not “crap”. We enjoyed our stay very much despite the fact that a few loud people drank way too much “all inclusive” booze throughout the day. What we experienced was a very hard working staff and an impeccably clean resort, inside and out. The staff even washed down the outdoor tile walkways every morning and evening.
    So while I sympathize with the OP having to deal with a large rowdy group, I question her “claim” that the resort was filthy.

    The resort is so spread out that she could have asked to have her room changed to the newer section where the “quiet” pool is located.

    It really irks me when people don’t give the resort management an opportunity to fix the problem while they’re there. What good is coming home and complaining after the fact? I guess they figure they’ll get a full refund, who knows.

    I think the resort’s offer of 3 free nights is very generous considering this person didn’t give them an opportunity to fix the issues at the time they supposedly occurred.

  • Lindabator

    If they do their best to re-accommodate someone, why blast them????

  • y_p_w

    Private beach huh?

    At least in many states in the US (California and Hawaii for example) beaches are always considered public property open to all people. You’d never see anyone try to “reserve” a beach area or else one could literally call the cops to regain access.

  • Adam_The_Man

    Scam! The hotel can’t have it both ways. They are trying to cater two two crowds and charge them both to visit.

    “also our resort is perfectly fitted to provide both a party atmosphere as well as a tranquil and peaceful ambience”

    A party atmosphere and tranquility/peace can never occupy the same place unless the partiers are also on a lot of drugs. And that’s not the correct way to spell ambiance.

  • Ian Parrish

    Very good advice. The one time I had a big problem with noisy neighbors in a hotel (a Hilton), I followed it up immediately with a call to the front desk. They sent security up, and things improved markedly for a few hours. At 3 AM, they got wild again, and I went down to the front desk. They immediately handed me the key to a new room, apologized profusely, and told me just to not worry about my bags and go sleep in the new room. The manager wrote me a very polite e-mail afterward with some Hilton points, which I alas, never managed to use.

    Being proactive can really go along way.

  • sffilk

    I would disagree with you. The last time I escaped “cabin fever,” I went a LONG way away from where I live, but I did NOT party. I did touristy things, but I did not do anything to impinge upon other vacationers’ fun. That is having respect for others.

  • Rose Y

    I voted yes. They should have complained the first night or after the first night. You don’t eat the whole steak and then complain about it not being cooked properly, and expect to not pay for it. They didn’t even give the resort a chance to fix the problems.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Hi sffilk:

    Sorry I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t referring to cabin fever in general, but the Cabin Fever Getaway the radio station was organizing. Surely, they weren’t going to load their listeners up to go on a quiet retreat. So complaining to the radio station probably wouldn’t have gotten the OP very far as they were billing it as a party where everyone should “get ready to ROCK”!

  • Deb Kelly

    I’ve stayed there….that’s a true fact. While we were there I counted 6 weddings during the week and we weren’t bothered by any of them. They have a newer section of rooms that is completely separate from the other area with it’s own “quiet” pool.

    It bothers me that she is giving this resort a bad name….it was full to capacity while we were there and it was kept immaculate day and night.

    She has buyers remorse and is trying to get a full refund when in reality she should have taken responsibility and had these issues resolved while she was there.

  • Deb Kelly

    Are you absolutely sure that you stayed at THE “Royal Cancun”? There are other resorts in Cancun with the word “royal” in their name but they don’t even come close to being in this resort’s class….there is a huge difference. The Royal Cancun and The Royal Playa del Carmen are part of the Real properties.

    We just came back from Cancun and I believe we saw the “Royal property” you’re speaking about….believe me it is NOT the same thing.

    The Royal Cancun priced out at $11k for the same 11 day time frame that we were going which was way above our budget so we stayed at the RIU Las Americas for half that price.

    The “Royals” owned by the Real group are very pricey and are adult only. They are also very well maintained and far from trashy.

  • emanon256

    It was just a Royal resort, not sure which one now, there are quite a few. They were all related and had a shuttle between all of the royal resorts. We did take the shuttle to The Royal Cancun one day and loved their pool. Their food was excluded from our package however. The Royal Sands food was also excluded. I only remember the names of those two because we decided they were the nicest in the royal group.

    ETA: They were about $950 a night when we were looking, but dropped to $250 a night during the off season which is when we went.

  • sffilk

    Ah. I can see where the misunderstanding was, and thank you for the clarification. Still, I’m sort of the impression that a public complaint by the parties to the radio station personalities, rather vocally, of course, might cause a slight case of conscience?

  • Deb Kelly

    Yes, the Royal Cancun and the Royal Playa del Carmen are top in that category which is probably why you couldn’t eat there. While we stayed at the one in Playa del Carmen we could use the facilities and restaurants at their sister property next door (Real Resorts) but they couldn’t eat at our restaurants.

    Also their’s wasn’t adult only.

    We paid just over $4000 to stay at the one in Playa and that was in April 2011 for 6 nights 2 people. It’s not cheap by any means but it was very very nice.

  • DCGirl

    On the other hand, sometimes when you complain to the management, absolutely nothing happens. My husband and I stayed at a Wyndham timeshare resort in Nashville, near the Opryland Hotel. We complained about excessive noise in the unit above us on more than one occasion during the week were there. It sounded like there was a marching brand staying above us that practiced until all hours of the night. The chandelier in the dining area of the condo actually swayed from the vibrations. Management did nothing. On our last night there, we went to the Opryland Hotel to have dinner and see the Christmas decorations, where we discovered that there was a convention of fitness instructors at the time. Apparently, we had a group of about 10 (two condos could be connected above us) practicing fitness routines for a competition every night until after midnight.

  • Cheryl Wahlheim

    anyone who travels anywhere during the entire month of March (Spring Break) is an idiot. I am sorry if this coincided with your anniversary but you should have known what was going on! We traveled for many years on Spring Break with our kids and always went to somewhere off the beaten path. The airports area always a nightmare during this time also. Sorry, I don’t have any sympathy for you guys.