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Vacation Rental Robbery in Cook Islands

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Bee

Sep 22, 2015
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49
Having just seen Mr. Elliott's article in USA Today on the hazards of vacation rentals, I'm wondering if one of this site's advocates could assist me in obtaining a refund from the owners of a luxury rental in the Cook Islands called Pae Moana.

I was robbed on my first night at the very costly private beach house--a crime facilitated by the negligence of the property's manager, who left a spare key outside, and told a number of local people about it, despite the neighborhood being well-known for home invasions and robberies against tourists. Despite the property manager's admission to the police (and to us) that she had done this, the owners have steadfastly refused to refund any of the NZ$3,500 I paid in advance by bank transfer (they do not accept credit cards) for the week's rental. You can verify my account of the crime, as well as the property manager's admission, from the police reports, which I have uploaded here.

The owners of Pae Moana have maintained their refusal to refund my payment despite a personal phone call and letter from the Cook Islands' director of tourism, to whom I appealed after the robbery. He was horrified by both the negligence of the property manager and the disregard shown by the owners of Pae Moana for their guests' safety. When the owners rebuffed this request, I retained a local lawyer in Rarotonga to press them for a refund. The owners were again unmoved, knowing that in order to fight them, I would have to do so in a Rarotonga court. I live in Denmark.

To make matters even worse, the owners have denigrated me and my family to everyone who would listen--including our lawyer and the Cook Islands tourism official--for being somehow at fault for the robbery, and for being "foolish" in our unwillingness to continue staying in the house after the crime. So in return for one night, the owners of Pae Moana pocketed approximately US$2,200, and promptly relisted the house as available to rent starting the day we left!

The home invasion occurred at 4am on the morning of Tuesday, July 14th. We had just arrived the previous morning at 8am, exhausted and jet-lagged. An unknown person or persons came in through one of the house doors, then walked all the way back into the bedroom where I was sleeping with my 5-year-old son in the bunk above me. The intruder(s) woke me, stole my very costly tablet phone, and ran off before I could catch sight of anyone. Although all the doors and windows were locked and double-checked before we went to sleep (I'm a city girl, and am doubly vigilant as a woman traveling with a small child), there were no signs of forced entry.

The intruder must have entered with a key. When the property manager eventually showed up later that morning, she admitted in front of the police officer that she (the property manager) often left a spare key on the patio atop the grill; this was known, she said, to the gardener for the property, as well as the transport company that dropped off and picked up visitors to the house, as well as to other people. During our statements to the police, the property manager went outside to check the grill. When she returned, she said that the grill cover had been pulled back and the spare key was no longer there.

For my safety, and that of my 5-year-old son, I vacated the premises immediately after giving my report to the police. We went to a resort across the island with 24/7 security. Of course that also meant I paid double for that week in Rarotonga. My son and I were genuinely traumatized by the experience: it ruined the remainder of our 12 days in the islands, and has given us both ongoing nightmares over the subsequent two months. My son still asks all the time whether the "bad guys" who robbed us in Rarotonga are coming back, and whether they can get into our apartment in Copenhagen. I may have to take him to a child psychiatrist to deal with this.

Meanwhile, the owners of Pae Moana have been unbelievably contemptuous of us and unwilling to accept any responsibility for making it so easy for the house to be robbed. Their consistent motif to us, and to the tourism official from the Cook Islands--as he relayed his conversation with them--has been "why should WE have to pay?" They seem not to understand the concept of responsibility for the safety of one's guests, or even the basic notion of taking common-sense precautions against theft. Formally, they invoke the Pae Moana cancellation policy as their justification, even though the policy (which I have copied below) clearly pertains to people who have booked and then do not show up or try to cancel their booking prior to arrival. Fleeing the scene of a crime is an entirely different matter.

By the way, after talking with the owners of Pae Moana, the property manager changed the story she told to us and the police, claiming that when she got home later on the morning of July 14th, she found the spare key that she had earlier said had been left atop the grill. Quite a coincidence. Of course, there is no independent verification of her claim. The owners paid to change the locks on the house the following day—a strange move if, as they claimed, all the original keys were accounted for and no intruder could have used one to enter Pae Moana.

During the rest of our week in Rarotonga, I mentioned this robbery to many local people I encountered--both those in the hospitality industry and others. I learned some interesting things:
* That home invasions are quite common on the island, and particularly in the neighborhood where Pae Moana is located.
* That in consequence, everyone who has a high-end property has an alarm system installed--and local people know which houses are alarmed, and which are not.
* That local practice and culture puts particular emphasis on the care and protection of guests, making the owners' refusal to refund my payment not just a violation of standards one would encounter in Europe or North America, but a violation of the local norms. When I described our experience to local property managers and hoteliers, every single one said they would have refunded our money immediately, and were shocked by the refusal to do so by Pae Moana's owners.The owners of Pae Moana live in New Zealand and thus are not much influenced by local opinion of their actions.

Having tried every means to resolve this myself, both formal and informal, I have no recourse now but to turn to advisers like you for help. I would very much appreciate your advice or intervention.

Appendix--Pae Moana cancellation policy

ONCE A BOOKING IS CONFIRMED THE FOLLOWING CANCELLATION POLICY WILL APPLY
Outside 30 days prior to expected arrival date – no charge
Between 30-15 days prior to arrival; 50% of the total accommodation will be charged.
Between 14 days or less prior to arrival will incur a 100% cancellation fee
Subject only to refund for any nights resold
No shows are payable in full
 
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Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
You have me stumped on this one. It's too bad you didn't know all this before you booked because I would imagine that you wouldn't have dreamed of vacationing there.

Perhaps one of the lawyers that post here will read this and have some suggestions.
 
Aug 29, 2015
606
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North Kingstown, Rhode Island
I can sympathize and empathize with the trauma that you and your son have suffered. However I think I would have stayed in the rental house if all the locks were changed (with all keys accounted for) and then I would have used this as a "teachable moment" for my five-year-old to minimize the lasting effects of the robbery on his psyche. Tourists are targets at any resort, anywhere in the world. Unfortunately you're not the first, nor will you be the last, renter to be victimized this way. Yes, leaving a key outside was stupid and the owner's response after you vacated the premises was beyond unsympathetic but I'm sensing some cultural differences here. If, as you say, you have a lawyer involved then I think you're doing about as much as you can do. What is his/her advice? If you can't receive redress through the NZ judicial system then I would suggest that you just keep in mind that at some time in the future you'll remember the time you were robbed in New Zealand as a life-changing experience and move on. That's what my son-in-law has done after being held up at gunpoint in front of the Hard Rock Café in St. Thomas some years ago. At least you never caught sight of anyone and you don't have the imprint of the criminals' faces imprinted in your memory. God bless and good luck.
 
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I noticed this place has 13 5 star reviews on trip adviser. Did you try to post a review noting your concern on there? Might get the owners attention. At the very least, it will let future renters that research it know of the past problem.
 
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Aug 28, 2015
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I am so glad you are safe. The owner has no right to keep your money if he leaves a spare key outside, let alone in an area where home invasions are common. I see you aren't asking for your property loss, just the cost of the week, which you had to pay again, somewhere else. Did you book this through flip key? I notice there is a peace of mind guarantee. While theft is excluded, I think the fact that the owners keep a key outside the door could be construed as a material misrepresentation of the property. Is this how you booked? If you meet the other criteria, I would start here. Then on to the credit card...
 

Bee

Sep 22, 2015
12
0
3
49
You have me stumped on this one. It's too bad you didn't know all this before you booked because I would imagine that you wouldn't have dreamed of vacationing there.

Perhaps one of the lawyers that post here will read this and have some suggestions.
You're absolutely correct. This strikes me me as a case where my only hope is international publicity that might affect bookings at Pae Moana. Is there a way to escalate this to the attention of Mr. Elliott? I did try writing to him personally, but just received a form response urging me to post in a forum.
I see you posted this experience in a bunch of places. Did you do tripadvisor? I didn't see it.
I have posted to TripAdvisor, but the review may never appear, because the owners can block it! Formally, all reviews in the "Vacation Rentals" category must be confirmed as legitimate by the owners of the property in question. So while I've written and tried to post my review, it will not be visible on TripAdvisor until and unless the owners confirm that I actually rented the house. I have to provide my name, ostensibly so that the vacation property owners can confirm or deny that I signed a lease with them. In this case, as soon as the owners of Pae Moana see my name, they will immediately know that I was the person who was robbed; then, they can simply deny to TripAdvisor that I ever rented the house, and therefore prevent my review from being posted for public viewing.

As someone else mentioned, Pae Moana has only 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor: I now wonder if that is the creation of the property owners, who apparently have the power to quash any negative comments from guests through this system designed to prevent fraudulent reviews.

If this is the case, does anyone on this site know of how I might contact TripAdvisor to prove that I did indeed rent Pae Moana? Of course I have the lease agreement, bank transfer receipts and confirmation emails to document this claim. Finding a way to contact an actual human being at TripAdvisor, though? That may take divine intervention!
I can sympathize and empathize with the trauma that you and your son have suffered. However I think I would have stayed in the rental house if all the locks were changed (with all keys accounted for) and then I would have used this as a "teachable moment" for my five-year-old to minimize the lasting effects of the robbery on his psyche. Tourists are targets at any resort, anywhere in the world. Unfortunately you're not the first, nor will you be the last, renter to be victimized this way. Yes, leaving a key outside was stupid and the owner's response after you vacated the premises was beyond unsympathetic but I'm sensing some cultural differences here. If, as you say, you have a lawyer involved then I think you're doing about as much as you can do. What is his/her advice? If you can't receive redress through the NZ judicial system then I would suggest that you just keep in mind that at some time in the future you'll remember the time you were robbed in New Zealand as a life-changing experience and move on. That's what my son-in-law has done after being held up at gunpoint in front of the Hard Rock Café in St. Thomas some years ago. At least you never caught sight of anyone and you don't have the imprint of the criminals' faces imprinted in your memory. God bless and good luck.
I noticed this place has 13 5 star reviews on trip adviser. Did you try to post a review noting your concern on there? Might get the owners attention. At the very least, it will let future renters that research it know of the past problem.
 

Bee

Sep 22, 2015
12
0
3
49
I am so glad you are safe. The owner has no right to keep your money if he leaves a spare key outside, let alone in an area where home invasions are common. I see you aren't asking for your property loss, just the cost of the week, which you had to pay again, somewhere else. Did you book this through flip key? I notice there is a peace of mind guarantee. While theft is excluded, I think the fact that the owners keep a key outside the door could be construed as a material misrepresentation of the property. Is this how you booked? If you meet the other criteria, I would start here. Then on to the credit card...
Thank you for your kind words, and I too am very glad that my family and I are safe. After being woken by the intruder in the bedroom, I had a split second to think about what to do before s/he ran off: I considered whether to fight, and therefore wake my son, or be quiet, allowing myself to be beaten or raped, in hopes that my son would sleep through it and therefore spare him the trauma.

Having to think about those kind of choices is traumatic in itself. It's one reason I find the advice of George, above, so distasteful: you don't hang around a crime scene on the theory that lightning doesn't strike twice, and who would want to get back into the bed where they contemplated the merits of allowing themselves to be raped or otherwise injured?

By the way, regarding your suggestions:

1) I agree with your interpretation of the law, but the Cook Islands lawyer representing me does not.
2) There was no credit card; as I mentioned in the post, Pae Moana does not accept them--only bank transfers are accepted as payment. Lesson learned on my part.
 

Bee

Sep 22, 2015
12
0
3
49
I can sympathize and empathize with the trauma that you and your son have suffered. However I think I would have stayed in the rental house if all the locks were changed (with all keys accounted for) and then I would have used this as a "teachable moment" for my five-year-old to minimize the lasting effects of the robbery on his psyche. Tourists are targets at any resort, anywhere in the world. Unfortunately you're not the first, nor will you be the last, renter to be victimized this way. Yes, leaving a key outside was stupid and the owner's response after you vacated the premises was beyond unsympathetic but I'm sensing some cultural differences here. If, as you say, you have a lawyer involved then I think you're doing about as much as you can do. What is his/her advice? If you can't receive redress through the NZ judicial system then I would suggest that you just keep in mind that at some time in the future you'll remember the time you were robbed in New Zealand as a life-changing experience and move on. That's what my son-in-law has done after being held up at gunpoint in front of the Hard Rock Café in St. Thomas some years ago. At least you never caught sight of anyone and you don't have the imprint of the criminals' faces imprinted in your memory. God bless and good luck.
Dear George,
The legal jurisdiction for this case is that of the Cook Islands, where the crime took place, not New Zealand, where the owners of Pae Moana live. Therefore, I retained a lawyer in the Cook Islands. As I mentioned, the owners have rebuffed the lawyer's attempts to resolve the case; they can do so with impunity, because they know that to fight them I would have to return physically to the Rarotonga to appear in court. So would they, but that means a 3-hour flight for them, and they have a place to stay; it's about 24 hours worth of flight time for me, and I of course I would have to pay resort-level prices to find accommodation. This effectively makes the owners of Pae Moana lawsuit-proof.

Thank you for your sympathy, but I must respectfully disagree with your advice. I'd like to respond specifically to your points about:
  • "cultural differences"
    Did you mean that it was a cultural difference to leave a spare key outside, or to refuse us a refund after the robbery? Neither is consistent with Cook Islands culture, according to the local Rarotongans with whom I spoke after we left Pae Moana. This included dozens of people, from people sharing a picnic table with my family at a barbecue, to people in the hospitality industry
    Because of the well-known crime problem, the news that the property manager left out a spare key was greeted with disbelief and expressions of "who DOES that?" It was seen as asking for trouble--which it was.
    Regarding the owners' refusal to refund my payment, the local Rarotongan culture puts great emphasis on the care and protection of guests. There is even a Cook Islands Maori term for this obligation, which is reproduced in many of the publications of the country's tourist administration.
    The ongoing importance of the obligations to guests in Cook Islands culture was reinforced by the conversations with local people I had after the robbery. They were absolutely horrified by the response of Pae Moana's owners: local custom and culture would have dictated that we be refunded the full amount of payment for our stay, and looked after carefully for the remainder of our time on the island.

  • your son-in-law's experience in St. Thomas
    First of all, I'm glad to hear that hold up did not end in a shooting. Thank heavens you still have your son-in-law.
    While it must have been absolutely terrifying to have a gun pointed at him, your son-in-law had two major advantages over us. First, from what you've said, he was alone in being at risk: meaning that however he decided to react, he alone would face the consequences. His actions wouldn't put his child or elderly mother at risk.
    Second, in being able to see his attacker face-to-face, your son-in-law could assess what the attacker wanted, and assess what level of risk the attacker posed. Meaning, your son-in-law could hear whether the gunman was demanding his wallet, or saying "the voices in my head tell me to eat your liver;" he could also gauge whether the gunman was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, which would affect how predicable the attacker's behavior would be, and how amenable the attacker would be to reason.
    If you're dealing with someone who just wants your wallet, it's usually sufficient to hand over your wallet. If, in contrast, you're attacked by someone who's mentally ill and/or under the influence, you need to respond differently: just giving them your wallet may not make them go away.
    In our case, having not seen the intruder, we had no idea what kind of person (or persons) we were up against. Did the person have a weapon? Was the person unstable or on drugs? Was it a kid? We had no idea what kind of risk we faced going forward.
    I could have rolled the dice, on the theory that the intruder was just a harmless kid. But what if I were wrong? There was no way to know, and the consequences would fall not only on me but on my mother and child. It would have been reckless and cruel to take that risk. No amount of money savings would have made that worthwhile.

  • staying in the house and creating a "teachable moment"

    The standard advice from law enforcement officials is that one should NEVER return to hotel or vacation house that has been robbed. There's a good reason for that: the first robbery attempt not only gives the thief (or thieves) an opportunity to grab your stuff, but it also offers a chance to gather crucial information that can make future robbery attempts more effective--and more lucrative. Seeing the layout of the house from the inside, getting a good look at the inhabitants to assess the likelihood that they could fight back, and seeing what goods there are to be stolen--all very valuable information that can be used again (and again).
    In our case, the thieves found a house with three doors, all equipped with flimsy locks, no alarm system, and a party of three that posed a threat to no one: a woman with a small child, along with a grandmother in her 70s. The thieves also found a house full of stuff to steal, most of which they didn't get because they woke me up too soon in their run through the house. What they saw, but didn't have time to take, was my purse (full of cash for our trip--there is no safe in the house), jewelry and other things that could be picked up on a quick return trip.
    Even with a change of locks, we would have been sitting ducks for a return trip by the robbers. If they had simply broken through the glass doors to the beach, no one would have noticed, and nothing could have been done to stop them. Plus, because the robber(s) stole my phone, the robber(s) had my name, address and all personal information--making me a ripe target for retaliation since I called the police.
    That's why I first tried to get us off the island entirely: there was no way to know how crazy, vindictive or dangerous the thief (or thieves) were, and it wasn't just my safety at stake, but that of my child and my elderly mother. When it was clear that we couldn't afford to get on a flight away from Rarotonga, we did the next best thing, which was to go to a hotel with 24/7 security--and even then we were looking over our shoulders and jumping at the slightest noise.
    Our difference of opinion here may be in part down to gender: by your user name, I gather that you are male, and your example also involved a male (your son-in-law). While not all women would respond as my mother and I did, I believe that many would. The threat of rape is ever-present, and while I'm aware that men too can be raped, the threat alone will go a long way to terrorize many women--particularly when there would be a child present to watch the whole thing.
    A 5-year-old does not have the emotional maturity to engage in the kind of "teachable moment" you suggest. I am a teacher myself, in addition to being a mother, and what I can tell you from my professional and personal experience is that children at that age can be deeply traumatized by seeing their primary caregivers endangered--it puts their own survival at risk, and such early trauma can lead to lifelong psychological problems. It was absolutely not worth taking the chance that we would be targeted again, and it would have been cruel to force my child back into a setting where he had been terrified.

Thank you again for your good wishes,
Bee
 
Last edited:

Bee

Sep 22, 2015
12
0
3
49
I noticed this place has 13 5 star reviews on trip adviser. Did you try to post a review noting your concern on there? Might get the owners attention. At the very least, it will let future renters that research it know of the past problem.
Yes, I did. Please see my more detailed reply below to AAKG, in which I explain why that review is not publicly visible now, and why it may never be. I'd appreciate any ideas you might have on how to respond if TripAdvisor does not publish the review.
 

Bee

Sep 22, 2015
12
0
3
49
First and foremost, count your blessings that you are and your family are safe and unharmed physically. The other outcome could have been deadly.
Yes--thank you for understanding. I hope George, who commented below that my family and I should have stayed at Pae Moana after the robbery, notes your remark.
 
Aug 28, 2015
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Yes, I did. Please see my more detailed reply below to AAKG, in which I explain why that review is not publicly visible now, and why it may never be. I'd appreciate any ideas you might have on how to respond if TripAdvisor does not publish the review.
The reason this property has all 5-star reviews is most likely because every guest who stayed loved the house. They did not get robbed and had no reason to leave less than 5-stars. Reviews are not being blocked.
Trip Advisor Vacation Rentals are reached through FlipKey =
Customer service phone is 1-877-FLIPKEY.
They can also be reached for support via email : https://www.tripadvisor.com/GeneralSupport-a_category.40
Your review will NEVER get posted. The reason is not due to lack of owner verification. The reason your review will not be posted is:
"TripAdvisor will not publish reviews written in an attempt to obtain money."
The reason you are writing your review is to obtain a refund....in addition to warning future guests.
I went back into my history ( as a Vacation Rental Owner who lists on FlipKey and TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals )...in order to re-confirm the review acceptance process. What I found is that the information you provided about the review process is not accurate.
This is the review process from the owner's side:
TripAdvisor <members@e.tripadvisor.com>
Please confirm this reviewer stayed at your rental
Hello,

XXXXXX has left a review fort Vacation Rental XXXXXX in Charleston for a stay that began on January 2015.

Please confirm within five days whether this person was one of your guests.
  1. Sign in to your FlipKey account
  2. Confirm whether this person stayed in your rental.
After you confirm the reviewer as a guest, the review will appear on your FlipKey listing and your TripAdvisor page, if you have one. However, if you don’t verify this reviewer, the review goes live automatically in five days.
 
Last edited:
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Aug 28, 2015
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Thank you for your kind words, and I too am very glad that my family and I are safe. After being woken by the intruder in the bedroom, I had a split second to think about what to do before s/he ran off: I considered whether to fight, and therefore wake my son, or be quiet, allowing myself to be beaten or raped, in hopes that my son would sleep through it and therefore spare him the trauma.

Having to think about those kind of choices is traumatic in itself. It's one reason I find the advice of George, above, so distasteful: you don't hang around a crime scene on the theory that lightning doesn't strike twice, and who would want to get back into the bed where they contemplated the merits of allowing themselves to be raped or otherwise injured?

By the way, regarding your suggestions:

1) I agree with your interpretation of the law, but the Cook Islands lawyer representing me does not.
2) There was no credit card; as I mentioned in the post, Pae Moana does not accept them--only bank transfers are accepted as payment. Lesson learned on my part.
I am sorry I missed some of the details. I didn't realize you were home. So scary. I can't even imagine. I definitely would have left as well. I know nothing about the law in Cook Islands, but what does your lawyer advise? I am sure he can also be helpful with the local custom and the best way to negotiate over there as well. I imagine a totally different approach is necessary, than how we would go about it in the states.
 

Bee

Sep 22, 2015
12
0
3
49
The reason this property has all 5-star reviews is most likely because every guest who stayed loved the house. They did not get robbed and had no reason to leave less than 5-stars. Reviews are not being blocked.
Trip Advisor Vacation Rentals are reached through FlipKey =
Customer service phone is 1-877-FLIPKEY.
They can also be reached for support via email : https://www.tripadvisor.com/GeneralSupport-a_category.40
Your review will NEVER get posted. The reason is not due to lack of owner verification. The reason your review will not be posted is:
"TripAdvisor will not publish reviews written in an attempt to obtain money."
The reason you are writing your review is to obtain a refund....in addition to warning future guests.
The reason this property has all 5-star reviews is most likely because every guest who stayed loved the house. They did not get robbed and had no reason to leave less than 5-stars. Reviews are not being blocked.
Trip Advisor Vacation Rentals are reached through FlipKey =
Customer service phone is 1-877-FLIPKEY.
They can also be reached for support via email : https://www.tripadvisor.com/GeneralSupport-a_category.40
Your review will NEVER get posted. The reason is not due to lack of owner verification. The reason your review will not be posted is:
"TripAdvisor will not publish reviews written in an attempt to obtain money."
The reason you are writing your review is to obtain a refund....in addition to warning future guests.
I went back into my history ( as a Vacation Rental Owner who lists on FlipKey and TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals )...in order to re-confirm the review acceptance process. What I found is that the information you provided about the review process is not accurate.
This is the review process from the owner's side:
TripAdvisor <members@e.tripadvisor.com>
Please confirm this reviewer stayed at your rental
Hello,

XXXXXX has left a review fort Vacation Rental XXXXXX in Charleston for a stay that began on January 2015.

Please confirm within five days whether this person was one of your guests.


    • Sign in to your FlipKey account
    • Confirm whether this person stayed in your rental.
After you confirm the reviewer as a guest, the review will appear on your FlipKey listing and your TripAdvisor page, if you have one. However, if you don’t verify this reviewer, the review goes live automatically in five days.


I went back into my history ( as a Vacation Rental Owner who lists on FlipKey and TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals )...in order to re-confirm the review acceptance process. What I found is that the information you provided about the review process is not accurate.
This is the review process from the owner's side:
TripAdvisor <members@e.tripadvisor.com>
Please confirm this reviewer stayed at your rental
Hello,

XXXXXX has left a review fort Vacation Rental XXXXXX in Charleston for a stay that began on January 2015.

Please confirm within five days whether this person was one of your guests.
  1. Sign in to your FlipKey account
  2. Confirm whether this person stayed in your rental.
After you confirm the reviewer as a guest, the review will appear on your FlipKey listing and your TripAdvisor page, if you have one. However, if you don’t verify this reviewer, the review goes live automatically in five days.

Dear LaurieB,
Thank you sincerely for the valuable information about the TripAdvisor verification process from the owner's side, and for the contact phone number.

However, I am puzzled by your claim about the TripAdvisor policy on reviews requesting a refund. That policy is stated in just one sentence, but you purposely truncated it to remove the most relevant part. I quote the full text here, with the crucial part in bold:

TripAdvisor will not publish reviews written in an attempt to obtain money or services from a property owner, in exchange for withholding or offering to remove a negative review.
Can you point out where in my post I stated or implied that I would withhold or remove my review of Pae Moana in exchange for obtaining money?

By the way, TripAdvisor posts reviews demanding a refund all the time. Such reviews are easy to spot, since most of them have "refund" in the title. Here are just the first four that popped up in my search:
"Want a refund"
"I want a refund"
"I want a refund!!"
"I want a refund"

I think you get the picture.

As to your claim that my account of the owner review process is "inaccurate," what I described matches the instructions you posted: property owners are asked to verify that the reviewer really did rent the vacation property.

The only thing you have added to this account of the verification process is of marginal relevance: that reviews not confirmed within 5 days will post automatically. For this to be of any concern here, you would have to believe that the owners of Pae Moana would ignore my review. Since doing so would be harmful to business at Pae Moana, it seems extraordinarily unlikely that the owners would allow this happen. And as I wrote in the post to which you responded:

...as soon as the owners of Pae Moana see my name, they will immediately know that I was the person who was robbed; then, they can simply deny to TripAdvisor that I ever rented the house, and therefore prevent my review from being posted for public viewing.
Are you saying that owners cannot deny that a reviewer rented from them? That would seem to defeat the purpose of this verification process.

Thank you for your responses to my post--I appreciate your concern and desire to help.


Bee
 
Aug 28, 2015
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I am just telling you how your approach is going to Play itself out.
I do not think that FlipKey / Trip Advisor will post your review with your refund demands included( it is considered to be akin to blackmail ), and yes I truncated the sentence. I still think they will hold back your review.
Just call their customer service or send an email... I provided the contact info to you.
Also yes I gave you details about the owner verification process from the other side. This is not "marginal" information. An owner can accelerate the posting of a review, by verifying a guest, but an owner can not stop a review. A review will post in 5 days after they process it ...even if it is not verified by the owner.....as long as the review meets their guidelines.
If it turns out that your presence is challenged by the owner, and there are any questions about that, then these can easily be cleared up through their customer service.
I am not the judge and jury of the review process. I am just giving you my experience and guidance. Visible anger is bursting through every sentence, and so I am pretty sure that with you are going to exceed review guidelines in one way or another. They are not going to allow you to attack an entire island.
Final Suggestion: If you respond to customer service with the same attitude as you responded to me, you will surely get nowhere.
 
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Bee

Sep 22, 2015
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I think you are feeling that I am opposing you; I am not I can assure you of that. I am just telling you how this might play out ( i think ) . They will not post your review with refund demands and yes I truncated but i still think they will hold back the review. Just call them or email... I provided the contact info you were seeking to assist you . Also yes I gave you details about the owner verification process. We can accelarate the posting of a verified review, but not stop a review. It posts in 5 days after they process it. If it turns out that there are any questions about your presence at the rental these can be cleared up through customer service. I am not the judge and jury. I am just giving you my experience and guidance. I am reading your anger, and I am guessing there will be places where you are going to exceed review guidelines. Let us know!
Dear LaurieB,
We might have a crossed wire here, thanks to the magic of internet communication. I truly did appreciate the information you shared, as well as your initial response (the one that said "count your blessings").

Could you clear up one thing for me? When TripAdvisor asks you, as the vacation rental owner, to verify whether a reviewer has really rented your place, do you have the option to say "no"?

My only point was that if this option exists--which it seems is logically required to prevent reviewer fraud--the owners of Pae Moana have every motivation to choose it. They won't see my review text, but they will see my name, and they know that however I write the review, the facts of the story reflect very badly on them.

The owners denying that I rented their vacation house would put up a significant hurdle to publication of my review, and might make it impossible as a practical matter. This is because--if I understand the process correctly, and I may not-- the burden would be on me to convince TripAdvisor that I really did rent Pae Moana.

That could mean weeks of effort: first to find the right person at TripAdvisor to deal with this matter, then submitting all the documents proving that I really did rent Pae Moana, then waiting for TripAdvisor to make a decision.

I imagine many dissatisfied renters in this situation would just give up. I'm pretty tired of fighting this myself.

If it is possible to game the vacation rental review system in the way I describe, that would make it very easy for the owners of Pae Moana to "stack the deck" in their favor on TripAdvisor. All they would have to do is click "no" on the reviewer verification form, and they're done, right? If I'm missing something here, please do set me straight.

I really hope I'm wrong about this, but the owners' strategy all along has been a "war of attrition"--which involves wearing down and waiting out the "enemy." For example, they know I could sue them, but they're relying on the likelihood that I will not be willing to spend the time and effort to come to Rarotonga, as would be required to pursue such a lawsuit.

So for them to throw up as many obstacles as possible to my posting a negative review on a widely-read travel website--in hopes that I would just give up and fold--would be totally in keeping with their behavior throughout the past few months.

That's the source of my concern, and I hope that contributes in some way to clarifying my intentions in raising this point about the TripAdvisor process. Again, I appreciate your shedding light on the owner's side of things.

Regarding your suspicion that my review won't meet TripAdvisor's standards, I can only say that what I've written is measured and factual, and that I've never had a review rejected by TripAdvisor in the past. That's after posting dozens of TripAdvisor reviews, including about 15 percent that came with a one- or two-star rating: those were quite critical, but were posted without issue. As I read the reviewer guidelines, my text on Pae Moana is well within the site's boundaries. Anyway, we'll see.

Many thanks again for reading and responding to my posts (really!), and all the best,

Bee
 
Aug 28, 2015
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Dear LaurieB,
We might have a crossed wire here, thanks to the magic of internet communication. I truly did appreciate the information you shared, as well as your initial response (the one that said "count your blessings").

Could you clear up one thing for me? When TripAdvisor asks you, as the vacation rental owner, to verify whether a reviewer has really rented your place, do you have the option to say "no"?

My only point was that if this option exists--which it seems is logically required to prevent reviewer fraud--the owners of Pae Moana have every motivation to choose it. They won't see my review text, but they will see my name, and they know that however I write the review, the facts of the story reflect very badly on them.

The owners denying that I rented their vacation house would put up a significant hurdle to publication of my review, and might make it impossible as a practical matter. This is because--if I understand the process correctly, and I may not-- the burden would be on me to convince TripAdvisor that I really did rent Pae Moana.

That could mean weeks of effort: first to find the right person at TripAdvisor to deal with this matter, then submitting all the documents proving that I really did rent Pae Moana, then waiting for TripAdvisor to make a decision.

I imagine many dissatisfied renters in this situation would just give up. I'm pretty tired of fighting this myself.

If it is possible to game the vacation rental review system in the way I describe, that would make it very easy for the owners of Pae Moana to "stack the deck" in their favor on TripAdvisor. All they would have to do is click "no" on the reviewer verification form, and they're done, right? If I'm missing something here, please do set me straight.

I really hope I'm wrong about this, but the owners' strategy all along has been a "war of attrition"--which involves wearing down and waiting out the "enemy." For example, they know I could sue them, but they're relying on the likelihood that I will not be willing to spend the time and effort to come to Rarotonga, as would be required to pursue such a lawsuit.

So for them to throw up as many obstacles as possible to my posting a negative review on a widely-read travel website--in hopes that I would just give up and fold--would be totally in keeping with their behavior throughout the past few months.

That's the source of my concern, and I hope that contributes in some way to clarifying my intentions in raising this point about the TripAdvisor process. Again, I appreciate your shedding light on the owner's side of things.

Regarding your suspicion that my review won't meet TripAdvisor's standards, I can only say that what I've written is measured and factual, and that I've never had a review rejected by TripAdvisor in the past. That's after posting dozens of TripAdvisor reviews, including about 15 percent that came with a one- or two-star rating: those were quite critical, but were posted without issue. As I read the reviewer guidelines, my text on Pae Moana is well within the site's boundaries. Anyway, we'll see.

Many thanks again for reading and responding to my posts (really!), and all the best,

Bee
We are definitely criss-crossing replies here. NO owner can stop a review. Pick up the phone and call TripAdvisor. It takes 10 seconds to prove you were there. This is not a mountain of an obstacle.
Negative reviews are posted all the time.
Your review may be "measured and factual" but it still needs to meet every standard for a Vacation Rental review to get approved.
By the way, I actually do understand your being totally traumatized. I would be too. Too bad you could not move forward after you changed to a hotel with 24/7 security.
 

Bee

Sep 22, 2015
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We are definitely criss-crossing replies here. NO owner can stop a review. Pick up the phone and call TripAdvisor. It takes 10 seconds to prove you were there. This is not a mountain of an obstacle.
Negative reviews are posted all the time.
Your review may be "measured and factual" but it still needs to meet every standard for a Vacation Rental review to get approved.
By the way, I actually do understand your being totally traumatized. I would be too. Too bad you could not move forward after you changed to a hotel with 24/7 security.
Dear LaurieB,
Yes, negative reviews are posted all the time--I have posted some of them myself, as I explained above. ; )

But none of those reviews involved this owner verification step, which seems to be unique to vacation rentals. I do hope that you are right about resolving the problem if Pae Moana's owners deny that I rented from them.

As for my review, we are in agreement that reviews must meet all the guidelines. That's why I wrote:
As I read the reviewer guidelines, my text on Pae Moana is well within the site's boundaries.​

Finally, as for being unable to "move forward," that's precisely what it means to be traumatized, as opposed to upset, annoyed or disappointed. Trauma doesn't go away when the immediate danger is past. I'm not using the term casually, I'm using it clinically. Had I been alone, I might have been able to shake off the robbery more readily. But being woken each night by my son's screaming nightmares about intruders, followed by his daytime questions about whether the "bad guys" were coming back, made it impossible to leave this behind.
All the best to you,
Bee
 
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