Why won’t RIU extend my hotel voucher?

Guido Akster/Shutterstock
When Dave Mootz checked into the RIU Playacar two years ago, he was greeted by trucks and construction workers where there should have been a quiet beach. The area was undergoing a much-needed beach restoration project — during his much-needed Mexico vacation.

Mootz was unhappy with the view and the incessant noise. So he complained to RIU, and after a lengthy back-and-forth, the hotel agreed to send him a two-night voucher, valid between Aug. 1, 2010 and Aug. 30, 2011. That made him a little more happy, but not by much. He’d asked for a partial refund, arguing that he couldn’t return to Mexico until 2013.

“They said just hold on to the voucher and explain that when making a reservation,” he says.

Unfortunately, he didn’t get RIU’s promise in writing. So you can probably guess what comes next, right? Here’s the response he got from RIU when he tried to make a reservation with his long-expired voucher.

Regretfully we inform you that your voucher is no longer valid. Complimentary stay vouchers are valid for one year only and can be extended only for 6 more months after the regular expiration date.

We deeply apologize for the inconvenience that this may cause you and shall you need further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Mootz wants me to ask RIU to extend the voucher for two reasons. First, because a hotel representative assured him he could use it, and that has to count for something. And second, because he agreed to a lesser compensation — a voucher instead of a refund — and in doing so, believed he was doing the hotel a favor. The least they could do now is return that favor by being a little bit flexible.

“I want to be able to use the voucher and have RIU show me that they actually care if I stay at their properties in the future,” he says.

I’m a little conflicted about this case. RIU wasn’t responsible for the beach restoration; it was a federal project. Had RIU been remodeling its rooms during that time, it would be another issue. It reached a generous compromised with Mootz, giving him a one-year voucher and then extending it for another six months.

Still, Mootz specifically said he couldn’t get back to Mexico until next year, and was told that wouldn’t be a problem. It’s a shame he didn’t get that in writing, because if he did, he’d have a confirmed reservation for his next vacation by now.

I don’t know if I should take up this case.

Should I mediate Dave Mootz's case with RIU?

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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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  • Mary Ramsey

    “It’s a shame he didn’t get that in writing”

    exactly. As a customer service worker i have been in that position; angry customer, asking why I can’t just do what is right and fair. And of course I say what ever i have to, to get him off the phone. It counts for NOTHING.

    OP can say “name” told me! she gave me her word! but all the hotel has to say is “name” has since been fired for her incompetence. end of story.

  • Mark

    They were going to give him 2 free nights anyway. This doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Give the guy his 2 nights and maybe he’ll spend enough, and recommend the place enough, to make it worth your while and more. And if he turns out to be the high-maintenance type who is never satisfied, at least you will know you made your best effort.

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

    “I want to have RIU show me that they actually care if I stay at their properties in the future”.

    That’s probably the crux. Has he ever stayed in a Riu property before? Or since? If it’s taking 3 years to get back to the property, I’m guessing he’s not considered an influential guest. There’s a reason they limit the voucher. A $100 room 3 years ago might be worth a whole lot more now. It probably would’ve been better for him to have simply asked Riu to comp him a nice meal / show / upgrade while he was there the first time, instead of taking a voucher he knew he probably couldn’t use.

    And what’s with “he believed he was doing the hotel a favor”? I was kind of with him until I got to the part where the renovation wasn’t performed by the hotel. So they in fact, owe him nothing. What’s the expression about a bird in the hand?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I have to disagree. Not everything is a sophisticated travelers and he shouldn’t be punished because of that. If the hotel really made the promise, they should honor it. Otherwise the hotel is reaping a windfall because if his naivete. The equities favor the OP

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The beach renovation is a grey area for me. It really depends on whether the hotel/resort advertises its proximity to the beach and effectively gets a premium either in revenue or occupancy because of the beach. In that case its effectively an amenity. If they have foreknowledge that its closed thet should have disclosed that fact.

  • backprop

    You don’t have to be a “sophisticated traveler” to know that a verbal “promise” – and this gives OP every benefit of the doubt assuming that said “promise” was actually made – does not carry the same weight as the piece of paper in your hand.

  • $16635417

    Why have an expiration date and then, as policy, allow an extension? Seems like they should just make their vouchers good for a year and a half, with no extensions permitted and clearly state that.

  • EdB

    A verbal promise is not worth the paper it isn’t written on. If someone tells you there will be an exception to a written policy, you had damn well better get that in writing too. This doesn’t apply just to travel, but to any form of business or life.

  • sdir

    Agreed, but a lot of folks probably don’t call to get an extension on their expired voucher. In which case the hotel wins, because they won’t have to redeem it.

  • john4868

    Sorry but I don’t buy either argument from the OP …
    1. “The hotel representative assured me…” Really? You thought that they would extend a hotel credit for 3 years and 2 years past the expiration date? Expiration dates are there for a reason. If someone says they are going to waive what’s in black and white either get it in writing and signed or record it.
    2. “I agreed to lesser compensation…” The OP is assuming that he would have gotten a refund instead. I really doubt that the hotel would have given him one. After all, the failure wasn’t on their part but on the part of a public works project. I don’t see them giving him a cash refund for that under any circumstance.

    The OP received a voucher with an expiration date and failed to use it before it expired. I really don’t see anything to mediate here.

  • rn74

    “Name” is still an agent of the property. Incompetent or not, they are still accountable. Still, it’s always best to have it in writing.

  • SoBeSparky

    Mootz believes everything he hears? He is out of luck. “They” said this and that.

    You are right Christopher. The hotel was more than generous to begin with. This guy wanted a refund from a private hotel for a governmental action off hotel property? Then he wants this voucher to last three years. A single word for this guy, freeloader.

  • http://www.eyeonannapolis.net/ John Frenaye

    RIU has six properties in the relative immediate vicinity. I am surprised that if he had made a stink about it, they did not walk him to one of their other properties.

    The government is well aware of the importance of tourism, so I have to assume this was not done in prime time. I am sure there was availability at their other properties.

  • DChamp56

    Once again, I’ll say it. If I pay for my resort in vouchers, then you may reimburse me in vouchers. If I pay in cash, REFUND ME IN CASH! How hard is that to understand?

  • User921394932

    Don’t take it, its his fault.

  • Alan Gore

    My basic rule: if I’m offered a voucher as the answer to a problem, I’m being blown off.

  • MarkKelling

    And I will say it again — this WAS NOT A REFUND.

    This was a “sorry you didn’t enjoy your stay as much as you hoped” situation. The hotel gave him something to shut him up. There was no refund of anything.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Oookay, @Christopher Elliott. Are you trying to make a point with the poll today: “Who’s crazier: airlines or passengers?” The point being that your polls REALLY don’t have to have anything to do with the story? Or is it just an experiment to see who’s crazy enough to vote (56 votes so far as of this post) on an unrelated poll?

    Just wondering . . .

  • Nikki

    1) Should have gotten that promise in writing.
    2) The renovations were not the hotel’s fault. – like someone else has already said – the hotel doesn’t really owe him anything.

    I wouldn’t take it… there doesn’t seem to be much to mediate here. I mean, what exactly are you mediating anyway, a voucher that’s expired?… yeeeeeeeah, good luck with that one…

  • EdB

    I think I must be crazier. I could have sworn the poll question this morning was if Chris should mediate this one or not. Not sure when it changed.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Copied and pasted from site just now (9 a.m. CST):

    I don’t know if I should take up this case.

    Who’s crazier?



  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Oops. That’s tomorrow’s poll. I coded something wrong — my apologies. I need more coffee.

  • john4868

    I was right on Friday!!!

  • EdB

    I know it was the correct one earlier. It changed sometime in the past few hours.

  • Hotel Casa Mariposa

    Hey Chris, This is an interesting and unfortunate case of something causing a guest grief that is beyond the control of the hotel (similar to an extended electric power outage I suppose). My feeling is, the hotel should have warned guests about the problem in advance, knowing there would be guest discomfort. Having said that, the hotel “appears” to have done its best by offering a voucher and an extension. Given that RIU is a big chain, it’s probably the best they could do. But, these are the problems guests face when going to a large hotel….there is much bureacracy….in a small hotel Like Casa Mariposa, we probably would have honored the guest’s request because we can be more flexible in such things. If the guest can give the hotel a definite return date, and the hotel has availability, it might go a long way to further the hotel’s reputation as caring for the folks who spend hard-earned money there.

  • Galfchursa

    This seems like thinly veiled spam and appears as an advertisement for the hotel. Since I just got into this I left it for others to make the final decision.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Wow, so you lie to customers on a regular basis? Is this your company’s SOP?

  • TonyA_says

    Yes it was correct as of 7AM EST.

  • William_Leeper

    Depends on the state law governing too. Here in Arkansas, a verbal contract has more weight than a written one. The consumer DOES NOT have to prove the existence of the verbal contract, the company that entered into it must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that such verbal agreement DID NOT exist, and that is hard for any business to prove.

  • TonyA_says

    As far as I know virtually all contracts are VERBAL since they are expressed in WORDS. I think you are referring to ORAL contracts since it was not written down. :-)

    Clarification: There are also IMPLIED contracts. I do not know how that pertains to booking a room at a resort hotel or a room certificate.

  • William_Leeper

    Yes, that was the intent; however, contracts, leases, and other legalities are set out in our state constitution, and it actually uses the term verbal, of course it was also (for the most part) written in 1836.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I don’t think it has anything to do with being a sophisticated “traveler”. I think it has to do with being a marginally sophisticated “human”. And anyone above the age of 10 should know that when it comes to matters of money, get it in writing.

    Do you believe that travel is the only situation in which oral contracts would be problematic when there is a written one?

    I have a friend who wanted to learn to scuba dive. She went to a scuba shop and bought hundreds of dollars of brand new dive gear. She told the shop owner she wasn’t even sure she’d like diving…and he promised her that if she didn’t like it, she could bring her equipment back for a full refund. She asked him about the signs all over the store, and printed on her receipt, that said that once the gear got wet it was no longer returnable. He said “never you mind – if you don’t like it, I’ll take care of you.”

    She took one class, in which they geared up and got in the pool…and hated it.

    When she tried to return the gear, the shop owner told her it was not returnable. Because it had gotten wet.

    She tried taking him to small claims court. Guess who won?

    You can argue till the cows come home that an oral contract is valid. But you can’t SEE an oral contract. You can’t prove it. It’s always going to be a he-said-she-said thing. And when you have a written contract saying something else, well…which one is more likely to be honored?

    Fair? No, of course not. Reality? Yes…with a capital R.

  • LeeAnneClark

    My point exactly.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Spam. Go find another way to advertise your hotel. We’re not buying it. Spam like this just muddies up the blog. I will now purposely AVOID your hotel.

  • TonyA_says

    Gee, even my multimillion Powerball ticket must be claimed no later than 1 year (6 months on other States).

  • flutiefan

    wow Mary, you give Customer Service workers a bad name.

  • TonyA_says

    Carver, how do you sell a beach resort in Cancun that is not on the beach? Problem was until sometime in 2010 there was no beach.
    Anyway here is an interesting article about how important the sand is and how it is handled the Mexican way :-)
    PS. the website has some really good stuff about sustainability of these beaches.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Had to do a little digging but found the reference. Before I got sidetracked on the poll question, I was going to post a comment on the article to the effect that a return trip to Mexico in 2013 was a moot point after December 21st of this year. At least I know that *one* person out there would find my proposed comment funny. :)

  • TonyA_says

    What do you mean warn the guests?

    Who was crazy enough to go to Cancun not knowing the Mexican Government was doing a major beach restoration project that started in 2009?

    That place LOST its beach due to hurricanes and erosion.


  • john4868

    Here’s the reference:

    Chris Elliott’s Monday Article … “My flight was delayed due to a thunderstorm and I missed my cruise.”
    Poll question: “Do you think travel insurance companies should cover the world ending on Friday?”

  • Bill___A

    Should have gotten moved to another resort right then.

  • Bill___A

    Business interruption insurance is meant for those situations where an outside operation (beach reconstruction) affects your business. It may not be the hotel’s fault, but it certainly isn’t the guests. However, the whole voucher and “can’t return to Mexico for years” thing is suspicious.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Anecdotal stories are meaningless. The point is that an oral contract is perfectly valid and equally enforceable as a written contract, unless there is contractual or statutory reason why it isn’t (e.g real estate, guarantees, etc.) . The question here is establishing the existence of the verbal contract as well as the metes and bounds.

    The reality is that people often don’t do through the motions of getting things in writing, especially when dealing with small amounts. Its easy to Monday morning quarterback and say, “he should have gotten it in writing,”

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Because it makes good PR. The guest feels good that he the hotel “bent” the rules for him.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Perhaps anyone who doesn’t follow Mexican beach resorts, i.e. anyone not in the business.

  • http://www.facebook.com/judyserie.nagy Judy Serie Nagy

    If he booked the hotel for a beach vacation and there was no beach, the hotel should have informed him AT THE TIME OF RESERVATION. They’re the party offering a beach vacation, so it’s up to them to describe the situation to the guest before he arrives. To stay silent about the construction is the same as selling a oceanfront room overlooking the parking lot. He should have been informed so he could make his own decision. He should have cut a deal with the hotel when he was there, a deal that he could live with, not a dumb 3-year extension of a voucher expiry.

  • Mary Ramsey

    no our SOP was to tell them “I don’t have the authority to do that, would you like to open a work order ticket, so your complaint will be sent up the chain of command”– which i guess would be the smarter thing for the customer to do (since there would be a paper trail.)

    But knowing that work order tickets take 1-2 months to respond to, they would instead yell at me or cry with a painful story of why they need their issue taken care of right away.

    And they would even be willing to hold for one of the 2 supervisors we had on the floor. (2 supervisors for 30 phone techs= insane wait time.)

    needless to say after getting a mountain of customer complaints when i followed company policy) and supervisor write ups (when i said tried to make a promise that could not be fulfilled- just to calm the caller down) i was so stressed i was having fainting spells.

    i am now working in a field where i can actually help people without having to lie about what i can/or don’t have the authority to do.

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

    “An oral contract is perfectly valid and equally enforceable as a written contract…”

    Where there are witnesses, proof / recordings, etc. then maybe. Then you’d have to argue whether the person providing the oral contract had the authority to do so. The difficulty of having these things makes them inferior to a written contract where the contract itself is the proof.

    Perhaps you’d like to try advocating for the OP and let us know how it goes?

    One man’s anecdotal stories are another man’s circumstantial evidence.

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

    Yes, but that’s assuming he made the reservation directly with the hotel. More than likely, most hotel reservations come from third-parties… So he would’ve needed to check the hotel website prior to booking…

  • LeeAnneClark

    Sure…except that…he should have gotten it in writing! DOH!

    Yup, people often do boneheadedly stupid things (also known as “don’t go through the motions of getting things in writing”). And Monday-morning quarterbacking is always fun. Doesn’t change the fact that NOT getting it in writing was boneheadedly stupid.

    How do I know it was boneheadedly stupid?

    Ask the dude if he’s able to use his voucher. What?? NO??

    Hmm…maybe he should have gotten in writing the unprovable, maybe-never-happened, he-said-she-said, mysterious “oral contract” whose existence was impossible to establish, huh?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Please tell us where you worked so that we can be sure NEVER to do business with any organization that treats its customers so horribly.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Or one WOMAN’S! ;-) And actually, the point of my anecdote was to illustrate with an actual example how a written contract is always going to take precedence over an unwitnessed “oral contract”. Anecdotes have value when they illustrate an important concept.

  • Extramail

    Exactly! I’ve never understood why a voucher is offered and can’t think of an instance when someone would accept one. If you are unhappy with the service why would you want to do business a second time with the vendor? Give me something of value right then and there because its obviously not worth the effort down the road.

  • technomage1

    I agree, nothing to mediate here.

  • Emanuel Levy

    Hey Hotel Casa Mariposa since you feel that a small hotel like yours could be more accommodating and the letter writer is looking for a 2013 vacation why don’t you offer to give him a free stay?