Don’t overshoot your damages or you may end up with nothing

By anyone’s standards, Tre and Kimberly Chiem had a terrible experience at the Rockwater Secret Cove Resort in British Columbia, Canada.

But when the Chiems complained to the resort, they adopted two strategies that nearly guaranteed a negative response. First, they made negative posts on the Internet about their experience — before their case was resolved. Then they increased their request for compensation from the cost of one night’s stay to their entire fee.

And rather than providing the Chiems with the refund they requested, the resort made it clear that it is not interested in negotiating a positive resolution with the Chiems.

The Chiems had booked a two-night sojourn at the resort, 10 days prior to their arrival, to celebrate their 16th wedding anniversary, in one of the “tentside suites” overlooking the Malaspina Strait. According to Tre Chiem, they were expecting a “quiet, romantic stay.”

Unfortunately, the Chiems didn’t get it.

On the second night, a wedding took place at Rockwater. The resort closed its restaurant, and there was a lot of noise until 1 a.m. The Chiems had no escape from the announcements, loud music and partying and were unable to sleep. Although the resort normally requires that guests booking special events, such as weddings, do “full buyouts” — reserve all the accommodations — it did not do so in this case. The Chiems also state that when they made their booking, Rockwater did not notify them that the wedding was scheduled to occur during their stay.

The resort acknowledges that its service was lacking on the first night of the Chiems’ visit:

We do understand that on the night of your arrival, we should have communicated with you in a better manner about our concern that you may not arrive before our check-in deadline. Of course our intention at that time was to see if we needed to make other arrangements to ensure you were still able to get into your room. We have now changed our training to help our Guest Service Agents accomplish this in a better manner. The Guest Service Agent working that night has also been reprimanded for not offering you luggage or bellman service, and all other GSA agents were reminded to make sure they make this offer to all guests no matter when they are arriving.

A Rockwater employee offered the Chiems a voucher for a free one-night future stay, which Kimberly Chiem rejected:

I would like a full refund of one night’s stay.

When we left the resort we left the matter in your hands. You said you would discuss our issues with your management team and get back to us on Wednesday.

Instead of following up with us, a junior staff member sent us an email and made an offer for one night’s stay in the future if an equal night stay was made. At this point we cannot see why we would spend any more money at your resort so it does not compensate us at all.

I have already posted a message on my Facebook group (3,000-plus) families in north Vancouver and they have been appalled by your resort’s lack of interest in resolving our issues. In fact, one member sent me a message stating she experienced similar issues at Rockwater and her entire weekend stay was fully refunded. Another member said she considered Rockwater for her wedding but was told she had to book all the tents and was surprised the resort would take a booking during an event.

I expect to hear from you on Friday when you return.

Unfortunately for the Chiems, their aggressive attitude resulted in the following response from Rockwater’s manager:

When you left the resort I took down your information on this case and presented it to management. Right after management met and made a decision you were notified with our proportional and appropriate offer for a free night stay and I was assigned to personally look after your next reservation to ensure that there will be no wedding party taking place at that time. You have rejected the offer and we have therefore rescinded the same.

You have also admittedly, below, slandered [sic] the resort’s reputation to 3,000-plus families in our immediate area and in the social media. That, combined with your aggressive pursuit of your demand, has advanced this issue to [its] now being sent to the resort lawyers for review.

At this point the Chiems asked our advocates for help. They now want a full refund of their resort fares. But we’re not taking their case.

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We don’t think that the Chiems are entitled to have their stay fully comped. They chose to stay both nights instead of leaving. We might have been able to negotiate a refund of their fees for one night, but because lawyers are involved, there’s nothing we can do for the Chiems.

We’re writing about their experience to warn our readers not to post negative reviews about a company or threaten not to do business with it in the future while trying to resolve a customer service situation. Otherwise, like Rockwater, the company may stop negotiations — and we won’t be able to help.


Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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