I wasted $1,000 on fake jewelry during my cruise

Susan Parelman was enjoying a cruise vacation on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas when she disembarked in Cozumel, Mexico to do some shopping. Unfortunately, she felt she was “ripped off” at a jewelry store that she claimed was vetted by the cruise line and now she wants a refund.

The Florida native spent about $947 on a ring featuring a “fancy yellow emerald.” Once she returned home she decided it was a fake and wanted to return it. She attempted to contact the store by phone and email, but none of the contact information was correct.

Then she contacted her credit card company, Chase, which suggested that she obtain an appraisal from a local jeweler showing that the ring she got was not what she believed she had bought. Chase also denied her claim because she had not returned the ring and there was no proof of a billing error.

Parelman had received an “appraisal” from the store at the time of purchase that showed that her $947 purchase was worth $3,200. However, her local jeweler’s appraisal indicated that the ring was most likely worth $300. The appraisal also claimed “There is no such thing as a yellow emerald. It must be green to be an emerald.”

Nevertheless, an internet search for “yellow emerald” shows that the term is also used to describe golden beryl, which is a gem listed in her jeweler’s appraisal.

Parelman next contacted our advocates, who confirmed that she had not shopped at one of Royal Caribbean’s recommended shops in Cozumel.

Our advocates referred Parelman to the Federal Trade Commission’s article about disputing credit card charges.

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They also suggested that the only option Parelman may have is to take legal action against the company, but that it would require her to do so within the Mexican legal system.

To avoid the frustration Parelman experienced, cruisers should remember to carefully consider your purchases, since once you arrive home it can be impossible to get a refund or return the item. And don’t forget to make sure you’re shopping at one of your ship’s trusted vendors.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to file this as a Case Dismissed. I’m sorry we couldn’t have been more helpful.

Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    I’m shocked! shocked! That a jewelry store that catering to cruise ship passengers may not offer the ultimate in value for money !

  • Dan

    I’m quite pro-consumer but in these cases it’s hard for me to sympathize when people fail to take the most basic precautions. The LW was so blinded by the opportunity to purchase an item “valued” at $3,200 ring for only $947 that she failed to ask herself: “Is this too good to be true?”.

  • Kerr

    If she mailed the jewelry back to the store (certified mail), would Chase then honor the charge back?

  • Chris Johnson

    Perhaps there’s a local lawyer in Mexico that can handle this for her, but it doesn’t sound like it is worth the hassle to me.

  • finance_tony

    From reading many Cozumel forums, I think that cruise ship passengers think there’s some massive price inflation on jewels, gold, and silver in ‘developed’ nations that they can avoid simply by buying baubles in ‘developing’ countries. I think that’s probably the case with some medicines, but certainly not precious metals and gems. The senior forum folks are constantly having to dissuade folks from believing that there are huge values to be had next to the cruise pier in Cozumel or Ocho Rios.

  • finance_tony

    Things have a way of disappearing in the Mexican postal service, but perhaps a private courier could do so…

  • Kerr

    If FedEx (or UPS) could prove the shop received it, then the OP would no longer be responsible for it.

  • Dan

    If there was some confirmation of receipt then yes. But sending high value packages internationally to Mexico is never easy. MX customs can (and do) hold high value packages because import duties need to be paid, generally by the recipient. The store can refuse to pay the duty or simply refuse to take delivery of the shipment even if the shipper arranges to pay the duty themselves. Then the package would be stuck in customs until the shipper arranges to have it re-exported. My work has an office in MX and I ship stuff down there frequently. My saving grace is that we have a competent shipping department and they know how to jump through the hoops.

    The shipper could declare the item as low value but then they would not be covered by the correct amount of insurance.

  • Dan

    Especially parcels with a high declared value…

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    The lesson from this article is: When buying something of ‘value’ (i.e. above your threshold of “I can afford to lose this amount of money’) on vacation especially when you are traveling outside of your home country is RESEARCH. If you can’t research then don’t buy it if you can’t afford to lose the money (or a portion of the money) for the item.

  • Kerr

    Since it is worth less than $1,000, is that still high value?

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I agree with you that the OP failed to ask “why is this retailer selling this item at 29.6% of its appraised valueretail valueetc”?

  • Ward Chartier

    When some people go on vacation, they leave their common sense and critical thinking, if they have either, at home. Can’t expect the advocates at this website to be guardians against impulsive decisions. In truth, the staff here, to their substantial credit, are sometimes able to bail out the unwary.

  • Jim Zakany
  • SirWIred

    I wonder why she believed the shop had been vetted by the cruise line? They hand out big (useless) maps as you walk off the boat showing the list of “approved” shops. (Which still offer terrible deals, but do not generally actively defraud you.)

    I wonder if anybody’s actually gotten a good deal at those stores; it’s not like Mexico or the Caribbean (or similar shops in Alaska) have some magical pipeline of gemstones that cost less than they would in the US.

    And Chase was correct to deny the dispute; if you want your money back, requesting that the goods be returned is not an unreasonable requirement. The fact the seller of the goods is in another country is not Chase’s problem to solve, since she actively chose to make the purchase abroad.

  • LeeAnneClark

    HAHAHA!! I know, right?

  • LeeAnneClark

    I cannot for the life of me understand WHY people spend their cruise vacations shopping for jewelry at port stops. Where is the logic there? I mean, here you are in a beautiful tropical paradise, with gorgeous beaches, fruity rum drinks, spectacular scenery…and these people spend all day crowded into jewelry stores that they could visit at their mall back home.

    It makes no sense to me. But obviously these companies have done a great job of bamboozling people to believe that they are getting “better deals”.

    There are a bazillion ways to buy jewelry that don’t involve wasting your precious vacation time, for which you likely spent thousands of dollars, in crowded, air-conditioned jewelry stores.

    Sorry – no compassion here. Next time, rent a lounge chair on the beach, order a Mai Tai, and enjoy the view.

  • Annie M

    Or do what we do – don’t shop out of the country. I don’t trust ANY store that isn’t in my neighborhood that I can’t go back to if I find out I have a fake. Or that I can’t sue in court.

    Plus the rule of thumb in Mexico is NEVER EVER pay what they are asking. They expect you to bargain with them. You probably could have gotten that ring for exactly what it was worth if you said “Sorry, too much” and started walking out of the store.

  • Annie M

    Those stores “vetted” pay the ships to recommend them. That’s why they are recommended. Do you think the cruise ships recommend them for free?

  • C Schwartz

    If the shop does not pay the import taxes the package would sit in a warehouse. So the shop would have to agree to take it back and pay for it.

  • C Schwartz

    Since it is going to a business and is not a personal gift it would still be subject to VAT of 16% and possibly duty on top of that. And a package going to a jewelry store is not going to be mistaken for a gift.

  • C Schwartz

    Emeralds are a variation of beryl. Trace elements in the beryl are responsible for the color. So various trace elements in beryl can cause it to be green and those are called emeralds, other trace elements give beryl different colors — an aquamarine is a blue beryl, yellow beryl was called something else but it looks like marketing has made it a yellow emerald. But the stones are the from the same family.

    Precious stones are an area that one has to go to a trusted source. I have a friend that took the GIA course on grading gems, and hearing about the process made me swear off impulse purchases.

    People may go a little crazy buying jewelry on cruise ships for several reasons — passengers may think that the overhead is less so prices are lower, that they are not paying sales tax so it is a bargain.

    Unfortunately those store appraisals are often very inflated, usually there is a disclaimer that it is for insurance purposes only, not the fair market value.

  • C Schwartz

    USPS will not accept shipments of jewelry to Mexico.

  • C Schwartz

    I would think that cruise passengers may think that the lower rent and labor costs translate into savings and then not paying sales tax makes it a bargain.

    Prescription medicine (and some non prescription) is often cheaper because of government (ie single payer system) has negotiated lower costs — the prices are highly regulated and the issue of generics and patent protection. But that is another topic.

    Precious stones should not be bought on impulse in a foreign country.

  • SirWIred

    No, I did not think the process was free. Why would you think I did?

  • cscasi

    Certified mail has no indemnity; meaning if the package was lost, etc., it is not insured for any value. It is used just to get a signature saying it was received. The only way I would send something down there is through FedEX, DHL or UPS.
    Then, even if the store got it back, it did not ask her to send it back to them, so it probably would refuse refund the money. Buyer’s remorse is not a valid way to get one’s money back in this case.

  • Blamona

    On vacation, only buy if you absolutely love it, have to have it, and will probably never see it again. That way it has value to you.

  • IGoEverywhere

    Many of us that enjoy this sight are real live travel agents, not you are the agent using the web tools type agents. We are smarter than most travelers as we sell these destinations on a day to day basis. The only thing that you get from a cruise line is the name of stores that kick back to the line in cash or in kind. Where do all of these great prizes come from on the ships? Kick backs. When Jewels of the world was in San Juan, they paid each cruise ship, per ship, more than I make in a year to encourage the passengers come to their store.
    The old and experienced agents are not going to make a penny off of you by giving you names of reputable shops, but they are going to know, or have somebody that knows. 1000.00 ring in Cozumel; wrong place to buy that. If you use an agent, then you get more than the booking, you get lots of info.
    Good luck on the refund, but without an appraisal from Cozumel, I doubt that anything can be done.

  • personally would never buy jewelry on a trip. then again, I don’t buy jewelry almost ever! I’d rather spend my $ on travel (then you’re never disappointed ;)

  • greg watson

    almost everything you purchase on board a cruise ship………..or offshore on your day trips………..is very overpriced.,,,,,,,,,,,,,having worked with watches & jewellery for over 15 years…..& clothing for over 5 years……..I have seldom ( on 6 cruises ) seen any fantastic deals……….unless you find a competitive store or area.

  • Maxwell Smart

    it’s Mexico !!! They don’t have to give you your money back ever.

  • Carrie Livingston

    Still have to claim it for customs because I’m sure that the stores send the information to the US.

  • finance_tony

    The post was about sending the item back so that a credit card dispute could be filed, not sending it back and asking the merchant for a refund.

  • Éamon deValera

    Profeco, the Mexican consumer protection office, http://www.profeco.gob.mx/Servicios/quejas_denun.asp may prove helpful.

  • Barthel

    Buy locally. Then if you have a problem, it can be more easily resolved.

  • DChamp56

    As soon as I saw she purchased from a store NOT on the approved list, this whole story took on a new twist.
    First, the cruise line name should not have been mentioned, as it gives the appearance of impropriety where there is none.
    Second, they tell you on every RCI ship, if you purchase from a non-approved store, you’re 100% on your own. Case dismissed.

  • DChamp56

    Yes, we’ve gotten good deals at the stores on the maps.
    We purchased an Alexandrite ring for our daughter, and it appraised by 2 companies here for around double what we paid for it.

  • joycexyz

    Do you really think she’d get her money back? And on what basis? She did get ripped off, but it’s her own fault. The vendor could refuse reimbursement on the basis of buyer’s remorse, or a no-refund policy. I doubt Chase would take her side.

  • joycexyz

    What would be the basis for the credit card dispute? She apparently impulse-bought an overpriced item. The term “yellow emerald” is used for a different type of beryl than green emerald, so the merchant was not lying. And appraisals should never be done by the merchant or someone he recommends. Was there a guarantee? I doubt it. And the store, it turns out, was not on the cruise line’s recommended list. Chalk it up to experience.
    Hey, it’s Mexico! Have you seen the street vendors selling “gold” chains?

  • finance_tony

    Yea, I don’t think he has a valid CC dispute. I was just clarifying the intent of the question being replied to; it wasn’t about a merchant accepting a return (they likely won’t).

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