I was forced to buy a $20,000 diamond on my Royal Caribbean cruise. How do I return it?

During her recent Caribbean cruise, Kathy Hoffarth purchased a $16,000 diamond in Jamaica. At the next port, she exchanged it for a larger, more expensive one. Now that she is home she doesn’t want that diamond, either, and she wants her money back. But is that possible?

Hoffarth’s story is a study of what not to do while on vacation. Namely, making high-ticket, impulse purchases from merchants who soon will be thousands of miles away — making returns and negotiations difficult if not impossible.

During the cruise, Hoffarth was shopping for a unique diamond to celebrate her upcoming 50th wedding anniversary. At Diamonds International, she found what she thought was the perfect jewel to mark the occasion.

“We bought a ‘Crown of Light’ diamond for $16,200,” she remembers. “The Crown of Light is touted to be the most brilliant and sparkling diamond because of its 90 facets, and this is why we bought this special diamond.”

The problems began when she reboarded the ship and took a closer look at her new bauble in a different lighting. She was not pleased with what she saw.

“I noticed immediately after leaving the bright store lighting that it did not sparkle,” she recalled. “I contacted our Royal Caribbean Port Shopping guide, and he put us in touch with Diamonds International in Cozumel to help resolve this problem.”

A Port Shopping “guide” is an employee of Royal Media Partners who is dedicated to helping passengers navigate their port shopping experience with approved and trusted merchants within the “Port Folio.” Diamonds International is one such store.

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Hoffarth says after three hours of shopping at Diamonds International in Cozumel she was “forced” to exchange the Crown of Light for a much larger diamond. This one cost an additional $3,500.

“They were not going to let us leave unless we bought something else,” Hoffarth told me. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

Once she arrived home, she contacted Diamonds International (DI) and asked to return the gem and get a refund. They declined her request and pointed out that the contract that she signed specifically mentions that “buyer’s remorse” is not a valid reason for a return.

So Hoffarth settled in to read the terms of the bill of sale; something that she should have done before signing it. There, she found that the only valid reason for a return of a piece of jewelry is if it is appraised at a lower value within 30 days of purchase.

Hoffarth then took her diamond for an official independent appraisal and discovered that it exceeded the appraisal given to her by DI.

With that path to a refund a dead end, Hoffarth decided to approach her return from a different angle. She complained to DI that she should be given a refund based on the poor quality of the original diamond that she had purchased in Jamaica — The Crown of Light.

Diamonds International rejected this refund request, as well, citing that she had exchanged that diamond and was no longer in possession of it.

I asked if she had the Crown of Light appraised before she returned it. She had not.

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“You could just look at it and know that it was poor quality,” she told me.

If you are contesting a $20,000 purchase, you need proof — not a voiced opinion.

In response to Hoffarth’s ongoing complaints to the company and to the Better Business Bureau, Diamonds International offered that she could return the diamond that she does have and receive a DI store credit. But they reiterated that this is a goodwill gesture, and they stand firm with their assertions that she is simply having a case of buyer’s remorse.

Hoffarth believes this resolution is unfair, but she has decided to return the diamond and take the credit because “they have me over a barrel.” And she asked how she could have avoided this “trap” in the first place.

A contract can protect both sides of the customer/company equation.

In the case of the original diamond, Hoffarth had 30 days to have it independently appraised. If it did not appraise at the price she originally paid at DI, she would have qualified for a full refund. She did not do that. Instead she returned it to the DI store in Cozumel.

Her ongoing complaints about the original diamond to the Better Business Bureau, TripAdvisor and elsewhere are puzzling. DI took it back, no questions asked. The diamond that she does possess has been independently appraised at a higher value than she paid. And lastly, DI has agreed to allow her to return it and receive a store credit.

This appears to be a fair offer from DI, and we must regretfully dismiss this case because the contract does not support Hoffarth’s appeal for a refund.

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It is never wise to make such a significant purchase without having time to think it over. A few hours in a port of call is not the place to make these types of expensive and irreversible decisions. However, if this is something you decide to do, it is imperative to read all of the terms of the contract before you sign it — not after a dispute has begun.

We wish the Hoffarths a happy 50th anniversary, and we hope that she is able to pick out a substitute piece of jewelry that she will be pleased with.

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, consumer advocate, writer and photographer who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. She is Advocacy & Editorial Director at Elliott.org.

  • jah6

    1st World problems.

  • One correction – Port Shopping guides are not Royal Caribbean employees, but work for Royal Media Partners, who contract with both RCCI and the various vendors to act as herders of the cruisers. THeir compensation is based on the purchases the cruisers make.

  • Hanope

    1% of 1st world problems. Why would she be upset when the diamond appraised higher than her cost? And that it suddenly didn’t look as good while in the store is definitely an indication of buyers remorse

  • Alan Gore

    LW needs to be very very careful with that appraisal for “worth more than its original cost.” There are always two different appraisal values for jewelry. The real one is what a jeweler will buy the item for right now. What she probably got instead was a replacement value appraisal, always a much higher value, which is what she would have to pay to buy the same item locally. Replacement value appraisals are useful only for calculating what to insure jewlry for.

  • redragtopstl

    Dang. If I were planning to drop $15 – 20K on a diamond, the LAST place I would buy one is on a cruise ship, or from someone recommended by an employee/contractor of same. A major purchase like that surely could’ve waited until the couple returned home and could be bought from a reputable jeweler.

    We’ve only taken 2 cruises in our lives (Alaska & Hawaii). In both cases there was a great deal of “steering” to certain merchants both on and off the ship. We knew better than to buy anything at those places, figuring prices would be jacked up and the ship employee was getting a cut of sales.

  • Lloyd Johnston

    “Forced to buy a 20k diamond?” I think not.

    The most expensive piece of jewellery I’ve ever purchased was about $350, and it was an engagement and wedding ring set (2 rings) and the $350 was the total price. That was 18 years ago, and my wife still wears and, more importantly, loves them.

    Heck $20,000 is more than I paid for both our cars combined.

    For kicks we went into a jewellery store while killing time one day and looked at what “2 months of salary” [which is by far less than $20,000] would have gotten us, and she hated every single choice. I can’t even imagine what a $20,000 diamond would look like.

  • Lloyd Johnston

    Exactly, we saw the “Port Shopping Talk” on the cruise TV channel on our first cruise and had a big chuckle over the hard selling that was going on. It was advertised on the ship as an extremely important session. Important for the shops at the ports, maybe.

    To me the only extremely important session on a cruise ship is the Muster Drill.

  • Lloyd Johnston

    Why wouldn’t the replacement value appraisal be what’s important? I’m much more likely to lose the jewellery in an insurable incident (and have to buy a replacement) than sell them back to a jeweller.

  • joycexyz

    Forced to buy??? Did they lock her in the store and refuse to let her go until she made the purchase? And on what basis did she decide that the first diamond was poor quality? Someone with the means to purchase such an expensive item and than has buyer’s remorse does not get my sympathy. BTW, we purchased a diamond ring at Diamonds International a number of years ago. It appraised (by a certified appraiser near home) at higher than the purchase price, and always gets compliments.

  • Donald Filiault

    If you don’t know how to play the game, don’t participate. Buying anything of value on a cruise, or off a cruise ship is foolish if you don’t know the true value of the item. I’ve seen watch sales on cruise ships where they tell you that $600 watches are 50% off. When I got home, I checked some of the online shopping sites and I found that the same watches were selling for $125.

  • cscasi

    Unless you want to trade it in on something of higher value later on and find that the value of your diamond in not what you thought it was because the jeweler will only give you credit for what they feel it is worth and then it has to be resold for more to make a profit.

  • ChelseaGirl

    “They were not going to let us leave unless we bought something else. I didn’t know what else to do.” Sorry, that’s BS. What did they do, hold a gun to her head? If she doesn’t want it, she can sell it.

  • Chris_In_NC

    “Hoffarth then took her diamond for an official independent appraisal and discovered that it exceeded the appraisal given to her by DI.”

    Am I missing something? She took it to an independent appraisal and it appraised beyond what she paid for the diamond. So, its not like she got “ripped off” per se, where she got a worthless stone. This makes me lose sympathy for the OP, and yes, it sounds like buyers remorse.

  • Bill___A

    I don’t understand why people do things like this. However, efforts to “fix” the problem seemed to make it worse. I think she would have been better off to keep the $20K diamond once she had paid for it. This is one of those problems which is very difficult or impossible to fix, so best not to create it in the first place. I”m not sure what someone is going to do with a $20,000 credit at a store in a foreign country.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    I love my jewelry, a leather bracelet purchased at El Bojero in Buenos Aies, and a ring made of bamboo in Colonial del Sacramento, never had to change my mind after I purchased them

  • Bill___A

    You never get what you paid for it. Guaranteed 80% loss pretty much.

  • greg watson

    I was in the jewellery business for 17 years. If the appraisal was for insurance purposes, it is probably inflated (resulting in a higher premium). If it was for resale to a dealer, it is at least 50 % (or more) less.
    Ridiculous to have wasted that money & have to do it again with the credit. It’s not a case of ‘what was she thinking?’, but, was she thinking ??

  • Annie M

    The story says Royal Media Partners.

  • Annie M

    This is simply buyers remorse. No one held a gun to her head to buy the diamond.

    Again, someone who refuses to accept their actions. She has no one to blame but herself.

  • Lloyd Johnston

    Okay, that’s where that value would be important, but I guess in my case, the replacement value is all I need to be worried about.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I don’t mind steering to buy the Hawaiin coffee or chocolate (after all, they need to make money too), but I agree that a 20K diamond is a different matter.

  • AMA

    “And she asked how she could have avoided this “trap” in the first place.” Uh, by not buying the diamond to begin with?

  • Lee

    They weren’t going to allow them to leave unless they bought something else? IF that were true, calling the police sounds like a good idea if being held against one’s will – Somehow I think something crucial is missing from this part of the story….

    I find it curious she was still not happy even after getting a higher appraisal than what she paid. Probably she really just didn’t like the stone/setting? The whole case is curious but definitely a good reminder re: buying big purchases away from home AND not reading terms and conditions of the purchase (which is the case for any purchase)

  • Altosk

    If the OP wanted to avoid this “trap,” she should not
    be buying large ticket items abroad, much less spend money at places the cruise line gets cash/commissions
    from to direct them to her stores. She should’ve taken that $20K and
    bought something stateside or taken another trip with it.

    I just don’t get people who fall for the art auctions and jewelry on cruises.

  • James Dworak

    Her money was burning a hole in her purse….

  • Carol Molloy

    Very sad that she is diasappointed with her diamond. She can send it to me, so she doesn’t have to look at it anymore. It’s the least I can do to help her out.

  • Lloyd Johnston

    I think the story was corrected after publication. Pretty sure I saw the guides originally listed as RCL employees.

  • SierraRose 49

    What a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that?

  • jsn55

    This is the BEST story of all! This poor woman was victimized by the cruise line and the retailer. She had no choice but to buy an even more expensive diamond if she didn’t want to miss dinner on the ship. The poor thing should sue for the cost of her therapy to recover from this heinous incident. I’d love to hear from the husband.

  • James

    Quite a few comments on how ignorant the complainant was — and a disturbing number of posters who seem to think it is OK to steal from the rich.

  • DChamp56

    There’s no way on Earth this lady was a victim!
    Nobody, and I do mean NOBODY forced her to buy the first or the second ring.
    I’ve dealt with DI for many years, in many locations, and never felt forced to buy anything.
    Yes, DI does sell great things, many that will most likely be appraised higher in the US. This was a complete case of buyers remorse, plain and simple.
    ps, if she wanted sparkle, she should have bought a Hearts on Fire diamond.

  • Lindabator

    this was NOT on the cruise ship, but at port with Diamonds International, which is located throughout the various Caribbean/Mexican ports of call – they are a legit company, and sell nice pieces, but these are still a big ticket item, and you should be sure of what you wish to buy BEFORE you go — if you know you are looking for a Brazilian 2 carat emerald, price out here first – then you know what to expect

  • Lindabator

    they do NOT steer you towards that – they merely give you a list of approved shops, which gives you recourse in case of a legitimate problem – buy as this clearly shows, buyer’s remorse does not count

  • Lindabator

    thank you – she judged it by the light on board the ship – which is crummy by most standards. this was definitely buyer’s remorse – blaming everyone else for a bad decision is not the answer. She got something more valuable than what she paid – call it a day

  • Lindabator

    not on a diamond – it still has value — frankly, can always get it reset and that might make her happy, too

  • Lindabator

    that is besides the point – the point is changing your mind afterwards is not the answer – know what you are buying BEFORE you go.

  • Lindabator

    or by knowing what she was buying before hand — do your shopping at home before travelling

  • Lindabator

    some people DO have more money, DO like purchasing big ticket items, and can do so — not for you to judge. the only ting out of whack here is her failing to do due diligence prior to such a large purchase

  • Lindabator

    purchasing jewelry overseas is not a trap — there are a lot of reputable dealers out there, and frankly, knowing in advance what you wish to purchase could have made this much simpler for her. I knew I would be purchasing a Byzantine style set in Santorini, and did a lot of research before going – and getting a fair deal on the prices I wanted – which are definitely nicer than what I can get at home, and priced nicely as well

  • Lindabator

    DI did not STEAL from her – she bought a very expensive item, and now regrets the purchase – PERIOD!

  • AAGK

    Anyone who has insured a piece of jewelry at the appraisal value and later sold it for half as much knows that the appraisal is no indicator of its resale value. It only indicates the amount of insurance reimbursement. This presumes that the a person only spends 20k on something they actually want. This woman bought an item and had buyer’s remorse once the credit card bill arrived. She had an opportunity to return the cheaper diamond and instead doubled down. It’s obvious why you couldn’t help her. Large spontaneous purchases should only be made by folks who can afford the price/regret hangover.

  • Lindabator

    exactly – and it sounds like she did not know what to expect from the purchase at all, and probably regretted it after she walked out MUCH too late. My mother has 2 lovely rings (and expensive as well) for DI, and my best friend, sister and I all have several pieces from here – no complaints, and they have all increased in value over the years. OF course, we did due diligence beforehand and were prepared to make a purchase of a certain price point, so were not disappointed

  • SierraRose 49

    It’s not OK to steal from anyone, rich or poor. But no one stole anything from this woman. She wanted a diamond. But instead of going to a local jeweler, she bought one in another country, returned it in yet another country, and bought a second diamond. She has serious regrets, does not want to admit she made a mistake and wants her $$$ back. We all have made bonehead decisions. And lived to regret them. But also hopefully lived to learn from them.

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