When Hurricane Matthew wipes out Joanne LeBlanc’s vacation at an Interval timeshare, Interval refuses to give her a refund for her deposit or allow her to reschedule her stay without making additional payments. Can we help LeBlanc resolve her dispute with Interval?
Question: My family purchased a Getaway Vacation from Interval International at Marriott’s Ocean Watch Villas at Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach, S.C. from Nov. 5 to Nov. 12 for $645. But after Hurricane Matthew made landfall in South Carolina on Oct. 8, Marriott’s Ocean Watch Villas announced that it was closed due to storm damage and that guests with reservations should call a hotline for updates. I did not receive any notification of the closing from Interval itself until Oct. 31, five days before our scheduled check-in date.
The hotline first notified me that the hotel would reopen on Oct. 21; on that date it stated that the damage was more extensive than originally determined and the hotel would not be fully open until the middle of November. Those guests who had a reservation booked through Interval International were instructed to call Interval directly.
I called Interval International on Oct. 21. After being placed on hold for an hour, Interval’s agents told me that since I did not purchase travel insurance, there was nothing they could do. The agents suggested that I pay an additional $189 for a certificate that would allow me to book another Getaway Vacation within one year. But because of work and family responsibilities, we would be unable to travel again within a year.
The agents refused my request to switch my family’s Getaway Vacation to a different resort in Myrtle Beach that was available, since we had a prepaid flight for four people and a rental car reservation. I then suggested that they either refund my $645 deposit or that they give me a credit of the deposit to use at some other time for a future Getaway, but they refused that suggestion as well.
I then called Marriott Vacation Club to ask for assistance. Marriott’s representatives explained that the Marriott’s Ocean Watch Villas had approximately 150 undamaged rooms that would be available by my travel date, but they could not guarantee my family a room. We would need to “show up” and the hotel staff would attempt to provide us with accommodations. They refused to accommodate us at another hotel.
Since we didn’t want to have to scramble to find other arrangements in case Marriott’s Ocean Watch Villas couldn’t provide us with a room, we made other arrangements. But neither Interval International nor Marriott’s Ocean Watch Villas will refund our deposit.
Given that the hurricane and resort closing was not our fault, it’s not fair for them to keep our money without accommodating us. Can you help us get it back? — Joanne LeBlanc, Vernon, Conn.
Answer: Wow. It literally blows when a natural disaster prevents you from taking a vacation. First Hurricane Matthew forced you to lose your hotel reservation; then neither company would work with you to find a solution to your problem. Unfortunately, hotel room availability is never guaranteed, even with prepaid reservations.
Interval International’s terms and conditions specifically indicate that Gateway fees are nonrefundable:
Getaway fees will not be refunded under any circumstances.
Getaway and Interval Options Confirmations may not be sold, bartered, or exchanged for other consideration. However, where the Member will not be occupying the confirmed Getaway resort accommodations or utilizing the Interval Options alternative vacation package, a Guest Certificate may be obtained in accordance with the terms set forth in Paragraphs 16 and 17 under General Exchange Procedures and Priorities.
You might have benefited from purchasing travel insurance. Alternatively, you might have escalated your complaint using our executive contact information for Interval International and Marriott. Instead, you contacted our advocacy team for assistance.
Although our advocates were prepared to reach out to Interval and Marriott on your behalf, you have notified us that Interval has issued you a travel voucher, good for two years, in response to a letter you sent the company. Although the voucher’s usability is limited to certain Interval locations, you are satisfied with this outcome.