When it comes to renting a car, it’s easy to get confused about your insurance needs. But it’s also easily avoidable — if you know what to look for.
Lynn Friedman’s daughter, Emma, became violently ill during her family vacation to Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun. When she returned to the States, she was hospitalized for five days. The diagnosis: acute food poisoning.
“Based on the timing and the test results, the doctors are convinced that she was poisoned at the resort,” says Friedman.
She wants a refund for her vacation from either her travel agent, tour operator or the resort. But so far, her efforts have come up short.
“No one will claim responsibility,” she says.
Friedman wants me to help. But as I review the details of her case, I’m not sure who to ask for relief — or even where to start. And that’s where you come in, dear readers. Please tell me what to do with this one.
The visit, which happened in April, was supposed to be a relaxing family vacation. But shortly after their arrival, Emma started to feel sick.
“We knew Emma was ill on the trip,” explains Friedman. “But we did not understand the cause.”
Emma had her own room, and wanted to give her family space to enjoy their much-needed vacation. Friedman says, in retrospect, her daughter was probably more ill than they suspected.
“She simply carried on and told us she didn’t feel like eating. Only on the plane home was it clear that she was very ill. I took her to the doctor our first day back home,” she says.
The doctors back in the States said she had Salmonella. That’s no tummy ache — more than 400 people die of Salmonella every year.
Friedman says she’s certain the resort is to blame, because the family only ate at the hotel.
For the last six weeks, I have devoted hours of my time and much emotional energy emailing and faxing two managers at Secrets Maroma, a supervisor at Apple Vacations, and two individuals (the travel agent and the owner of the company) at Travel House of Barrington.
I have sent medical records (including the test results and diagnosis, dates of hospitalization, etc.) and impassioned letters.
My daughter has been suffering terribly, we have spent a huge amount of time and a great deal of money because of someone else’s inappropriate behavior, and we cannot seem to receive the compensation we believe we deserve.
It is so unjust to poison someone and get off scot-free.
Friedman’s demand is simple: She wants her $5,753 back, which represents the entire amount she spent on her all-inclusive vacation package.
She believes the hotel is trying to throw her case out on a technicality.
In my distress, I accidentally told the hotel that Emma was poisoned at our first meal at the resort; I later corrected that error and told them that she was poisoned at the hotel on our first full day there. They used that understandable error as the excuse to throw out our LEGITIMATE case.
So far, her travel agency has asked her to fill out a medical claim form, but Friedman says she already has medical insurance. She just wants her money back.
I get a fair number of tainted food cases, and the problem is conclusively proving the poisoning happened at a restaurant, hotel or on a cruise ship. In defense of the hotel, the incubation period for Salmonella is 24 to 48 hours, so Emma might have been infected from another source.
I’m not sure if Friedman’s travel agent or tour operator are responsible for this vacation gone wrong in any way, other than that they might have recommended the hotel and helped her make the reservation.
Also, refunding the entire vacation seems like a tall order. After all, the family flew to their destination, enjoyed the accommodations and at least some of the food at the resort.
Should Maroma Beach refund everything, or just part of the vacation? What responsibility, if any, should the agency and tour operator bear?
Is Friedman owed anything for the Salmonella episode, or should she just chalk this up to an expensive, and exceedingly painful, lesson learned about watching what you eat when you’re traveling abroad?
I don’t know. This is one of the more difficult cases to cross my desk in recent memory.
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CSA Travel Protection’s Web site promises that its policyholders can “travel with confidence,” so when Norma Tarrow’s flight from New York to San Francisco was canceled after the recent Asiana Airlines crash landing, she felt protected, she says.
But she wasn’t, at least not in the way she thought. When she filed a claim for the $565 she had to pay for a new flight when her trip was interrupted, her insurance company turned her down, saying that the flight cancellation wasn’t a “covered reason” under her policy.
Her request didn’t seem unreasonable to Tarrow. She was in a wheelchair recovering from surgery when the aviation disaster left her stranded in a JFK terminal. Her airline told her that the soonest it could fly her home was two days later, so she asked her son to book a ticket to San Jose on another airline. If ever there were a time to invoke insurance, it was then.
“They weaseled out of paying a claim,” says Tarrow, a retired college professor who lives in San Mateo, Calif.
Jenny Tran discovers a mysterious $260 charge on her credit card and discovers she’s been charged for optional car rental insurance she never wanted, or needed. Can she get a refund?
Question: I recently rented a car from Avis in Houston with a friend. A few weeks after we returned the car, I discovered a $260 charge for optional insurance that we never asked for. I need your help getting a refund.
Here are the details. We had pre-paid for the car using Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” service, which covers the entire cost of the rental. When we got to the counter, my friend offered them his debit card — it’s all he was carrying — and an agent said they needed a credit card.
So I gave them my card. Before I handed it over, I asked if it’d be charged. The agent said “no.”
After coming home from the trip, I found out I was charged $260 and wonder where this amount was coming from. We looked at the paperwork from Avis, and that’s when I saw his signature to accept the optional insurance. I asked him if he knew he signed for it and he said “no.”
If you’re a frequent flier, maybe you’ve already been roughed up by an airline, rhetorically speaking. I try to stay away from planes myself. I fly very infrequently and I book airline tickets even less.
When I have a choice in domestic airlines, I prefer to fly on JetBlue or Southwest. They’re just my kind of carriers.
It’s a personal choice.
But this afternoon, as I was booking a seat from Orlando to Washington, and after getting through what seemed like a dozen irritating “upsell” screens, JetBlue showed me this: