You expect me to pay for what?

No one likes surprise charges, but this one takes the cake.

No wait, these folks didn’t get the cake, which is why they’re being charged.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Jessica Baker after she and her husband received a $75.90 bill for dinner from a bride and groom whose wedding reception they could not attend.
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A canceled wedding causes an existential crisis

Not every case that crosses my desk makes me question the very foundations of my consumer advocacy practice. But Sandy Neff’s did.

Neff reads my column in her local newspaper in Texas, and she turned to me for help with a recent hotel reservation.

“The first of the year my niece announced that her wedding was going to be on September 7th in Mill Valley, California, and suggested that anyone who would be attending should make his or her hotel reservations early,” she says.
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Should I fire my travel agent?


Question: My fiancée and I are planning our destination wedding in Jamaica this summer and are using a travel agent. We’re also using the travel agent for our honeymoon at a different resort on the island. We will be in Jamaica for two weeks. There are about 40 people booked at this time, with only a couple more to book. She has been going through Apple Vacations to help book the flights and hotels.

Our problems began back at the beginning of this year. Our agent had a couple of relatives pass away. We have tried to call and email the agent several times with little or no response. We even went to her house (she works from home) and talked with her in person, voicing our concern of the lack of communication.

We also have asked her, on a couple of occasions, to charge part of our stay to our credit card, she has not done this yet. We would like to space out the charges so we don’t get hit with it all at once.
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Does Sandals owe me anything for deleting my wedding photos?

This is one of the strangest cases I’ve come across in my two decades of fielding consumer complaints. It involves a honeymooning couple’s missing wedding photos, me, and another me.

Rachel Patrick’s destination wedding at Sandals La Toc Golf Resort & Spa in St. Lucia was flawless, except for one little item: her wedding photos, which were taken by a hotel photographer, were missing in action.
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Do they hate us?

When I lived in the Florida Keys, an area heavily dependent on tourism, I remember seeing a bumper sticker a time or two: “If it’s tourist season,” it asked, “why can’t we shoot them?”

The men officiating a sham wedding at Vilu Reef resort in the Maldives (video above) may have been asking themselves the same question. In the ceremony, conducted in the Dhivehi language for a Swiss couple, an officiator curses at the visitors and calls them infidels. (Warning: The clip contains explicit language.)

The Maldivian prime minister, Mohammed Nasheed, condemned the video and ordered the men responsible for the ceremony arrested.

Still, it makes you wonder if people hate us when we’re on vacation.
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“What can I do to get them to honor this rate?”

Everyone knows that hotel rates can fluctuate from day to day. But when Preston Moore tried to book a room at the JW Marriott Denver at Cherry Creek, he was surprised to find they wanted to raise his rate by $130 from one day to the next — a price he says he couldn’t afford.

Can Marriott do that?

Yes it can.
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Joe “the skunk” calls off wedding, but Delta Air Lines saves the day

It had all the makings of an unsolvable case. It involved a canceled wedding, nonrefundable tickets and an airline that refuses to answer my e-mails. But never say never.

Sandra Castiglia explains.

Last year, my daughter booked nonrefundable honeymoon flights for herself and her then-fiance on Delta Air Lines, putting the charges for both tickets on her own credit card. Not very smart of her.

Now, Joe a.k.a. “the skunk” has called off the wedding, and my daughter is not only heartbroken, but out some $450 for Joe’s ticket.

A very nice Delta agent split the two itineraries at my request, issuing a credit for a future flight for my daughter, less a $100 change fee, which we were happy to pay.

Joe’s ticket was a little more complicated. They tried to sell the ticket back to him. No luck.

They asked Delta to re-issue the ticket to Castiglia’s daughter, but it didn’t respond to her written request.

Could I help?

Well, yes and no.

Delta has refused to acknowledge my inquiries lately. I’ve tried to contact several people at the airline, but they seem to have gone into radio silence. I don’t know why. (If it’s an attempt to reduce the number of times I write about Delta, you can see how well that’s working.)

I suggested Castiglia send a brief, polite e-mail to a customer service manager at Delta.

While Delta doesn’t answer any of my e-mails — even its media relations department, which is supposed to field queries from journalists — its customer service executives promptly respond to inquiries from aggrieved passengers. I’m told that mentioning my name is often helpful.

It apparently was this time. Last week, I heard back from Castiglia.

I received a call from a Delta agent, who changed the name on the ticket, and gave her a credit for a future Delta flight. Keep up the good work!

Nice job, Delta. You waived one of your least flexible rules in order to help a jilted bride. Maybe you do have a heart.

If Delta wants to give me the cold shoulder, I’m fine with that. As long as it takes care of its customers.

Update (10:16 a.m.): Delta has responded. A spokeswoman acknowledged another e-mail that I had sent last week and suggested that I follow up to future inquiries with a call. “A phone call with an e-mail follow-up is always the best way to reach us,” she added.