Can this trip be saved? “It feels like we are being ripped off”

Heather Lockridge and her husband thought they would be checking into the honeymoon suite at the Ocean Maya Royal in Cancun, an all-inclusive beachfront resort described as the embodiment of “exotic serenity.” After all, it was their honeymoon.

Instead, they were greeted with some bad news when they arrived: The suites were all occupied and they’d be downgraded into a smaller ocean view room. And serenity? Forget it. Trying to recover the cost difference between the suite and their room was anything but easy.

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“It feels like we are being ripped off,” she told me. (Please see an update from Apple Vacations at the end of this post.)

But is she? That’s the question I have to answer before I get involved. Maybe you can help.

Let’s hear from Lockridge first. The honeymoon in question had been booked through Apple Vacations. After she and her husband checked into the hotel and discovered their downgrade, a hotel representative told the couple not to worry. Once they returned, they could contact their travel agent for a refund.

When we got back home we called our travel agent and she told us there was a $200 difference per person for the Honeymoon Suite vs the Ocean View room.

Six weeks later we were notified that we would receive $200 back in travel vouchers only valid outside of the United States and $175 back into our account.

Related: In today’s edition of What’s your problem?, I solve a double-billing problem by a gas station. But was it a fair resolution?

But the vouchers didn’t do the Lockridges any good, because they had no plans to travel outside the United States.

They got back to us and said they would only give us $322 in cash if we refused the vouchers.

I contacted Apple’s customer service myself and waited another six weeks and got a response that they felt they had been fair and would not change their previous decision.

By Lockridge’s estimate, Apple owes her $78 — a small amount, she admits, “but I feel that they should have gone above and beyond considering we had paid for something we didn’t get and that it wasn’t our fault in the whole matter.”

She asks, “Am I being ridiculous in my thinking?”

Well, not really. This was your honeymoon, after all, which is one of the most important vacations of your life. You deserve to have everything perfect and to get exactly what you paid for.

I checked the room types at the hotel as listed on the Apple Vacations site. Unfortunately, the honeymoon suite isn’t included, so I can’t really tell what Lockridge was deprived of. I asked her, and she said the only thing she really missed was the in-room hot tub. Not that it really matters.

I think this should have been addressed in real time. The hotel representative’s advice to wait until the couple retured to the States was about as wrong as it could be. If Lockridge wanted a room with a hot tub, I think the hotel might have been able to figure something out instead of punting to Apple Vacations.

No, $75 isn’t worth turning this into a federal case. But what is noteworthy is the way in which the hotel and Apple Vacations strung Lockridge along for weeks, when she was obviously unhappy. Is that customer service? Do you really think she’ll be recommending the services of Apple Vacations to a friend or relative? I wouldn’t count on it.

The Maya Royal and Apple Vacations should have jumped into action when they learned of this bride’s disappointment. Lockridge shouldn’t have waited until she got home to address this. But I’m not really sure if my involvement would be able to fix the unhappiness with her accommodations on her honeymoon.

Update (4:25 p.m.): Apple has looked into this case. Here’s its response:

Ms. Lockridge and her fiance booked a trip through TCU Travel and traveled 6/12/11 – 6/19/11. Unfortunately (as you are aware), they did not receive the Honeymoon Suite she booked at the Ocean Maya and they received an Ocean View instead.

Apple Vacations Customer Care received an email from their TCU Travel agent, Wanda, in July explaining the room category issue and asking for difference to be refunded.

Customer Care contacted the hotel, and on 8/16 received approval from the Ocean Maya to refund the couple the difference between the Honeymoon Suite they booked and the Ocean View they received.

In August, an email went to Wanda from Customer Care explaining that a $322 refund had been issued to the credit card on file (belonging to Ms. Lockridge) and that we apologized for falling short of any expectations, etc. The refund was applied on 8/23/11, 34 working days from receipt of travel agents request.

Customer Care then received an email directly from Ms. Lockridge also dated August 23 in which she explains the travel agent (TCU Travel) offered “$200 of the $375” refund in vouchers. It would seem Ms. Lockridge pax was unaware at this point that Apple Vacations had refunded $322 to her credit card.

Apple Vacations is also unclear as to where any mention of vouchers came from and can only assume these may have been travel agency issued as no offer for any vouchers came from Apple Vacations.

A follow up letter was sent directly to Ms. Lockridge from Customer Care assuring her that $322, the correct refund amount, had been refunded to her Visa card.

Apple Vacations has never offered this customer a part cash/part voucher refund. Further, I believe this situation has been further exacerbated by the travel agent who may have initially, and incorrectly, advised the Ms. Lockridge the difference in the room rates was $200 pp for the week.

Apple Vacations never quoted a difference of $200 per person, has double checked the amount due and is confident the $322 is the correct amount (the only difference in the room category was the jacuzzi tub in the honeymoon suite).

Many thanks to Apple for its speedy review of this case.

(Photo: Ni colas Karim/Flickr)

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