Travel agent backs resort that broadsided customer with mandatory “under 25″ fee, until …

If you’re under 25, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise when you check into the Oasis Cancun, a pyramid-like, all-inclusive resort on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula: a mandatory “under 25″ fee of $54. And they don’t take “no” for an answer. When Ryan Plaxsun, 24, recently checked into the hotel, he was told to pony up the cash — or leave.

But Plaxsun thought he’d already paid for his whole stay when his online travel agency, Orbitz, took $1,100 out of his account for the airfare-inclusive vacation package. So he protested.

I asked to speak to a manager and they said they did not have one there. Then I asked them to show me this fee on their Web site, and they couldn’t.

After that I asked to use a phone to call Orbitz, and they also refused, saying that their phones do not make outgoing calls.

They told me if I did not pay the additional fees they would not give me my room and the fee had to be paid upfront. I was able to get a receipt for this, after some more arguing.

A hotel without a manager? No prior disclosure? A phone that doesn’t make outgoing calls? Hmmm.

Here’s what the hotel gave him.

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I suggested Plaxsun ask Orbitz for a refund of the $54, since the price should have been included in his stay. So he did.

Orbitz said the $54 is not refundable because it is a hotel policy — even though the fee isn’t listed on the hotel Web site or Orbitz. I asked if Orbitz could refund their booking fee, but they wouldn’t do that, either.

I was hard-pressed to find any mention of this fee anywhere as of late yesterday. I decided to contact Orbitz on Plaxsun’s behalf. I heard back from the online agency almost immediately.

We reviewed our Web site and there is no information made available to customers in regards to a under age fee being collected at check in at this property. As you know, we often rely on the hotels to provide this sort of information to us in advance.

In addition to offering an apology to this customer, we will refund the customer the $54 to the credit card on file and advise him via e-mail of the refund.

We are also updating our hotel market manager in this location so that the company can follow up on getting the listing for this hotel updated.

Good call.

Surprise “mandatory” fees at a resort are a huge issue for travelers, and as the economy heads south, I would expect to see these extras multiply. Travel agents — and particularly online travel agents — need to be careful that they disclose every possible surcharge when they’re selling a package billed as “all-inclusive.” Fine print buried a dozen clicks into its terms of service isn’t going to cut it.

If Plaxsun had known about the $54 charge before he booked, Orbitz would have been correct to deny a refund. It did right by its customer by giving him his money back. Eventually.

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