His SeaWorld vacation is sunk — where’s his refund?

This vacation is doomed - where's my money? / Photo by Gandalf Grey - Flickr
If you want to save a little money on your next SeaWorld vacation, booking it all in the same place might be a good move. That’s what Jim Strasbaugh thought when he found a two-day package at SeaWorld Orlando through SeaWorld Vacations.

He was wrong.

It took a personal tragedy to find out about some of the restrictive terms and conditions on his package that made it not such a good deal.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso. The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit Virtuoso.com.

“After spending the first half day in the park we returned to the hotel, only to find that there was a death in the family that day,” he says. “Needless to say we had to cut our vacation short. The hotel was very accommodating and checked us out in the morning to show that we only used one of our two night stay.”

Kudos to the DoubleTree on I-Drive for helping Strasbaugh in his time of need, by the way.

But then things came unraveled. There was still the matter of the unused all-day dining, the tickets, two premium “adventures” and the actual hotel refund, which would be up to SeaWorld Vacations, not the DoubleTree, to refund. I’ll let Strasbaugh explain what happened next.

At first they were very accommodating, refunding the additional monies we had paid for the premium adventures and said to get confirmation from the hotel that we had checked out. We said that would not be a problem and we would like to continue our stay at a later date and we would be happy to be issued vouchers for the unused portion of our vacation or refund what ever was easier for them.

They said they would most likely just refund the hotel but the additional day in the park as well as the all day dining would be lost. They stated that the additional day in the park had to be used with in the week and the all-day dining would not be honored.

After speaking to a supervisor, we were later issued a voucher for the additional day to be used within a year.

Bear in mind that package deals are highly restrictive, and even if you buy these items a la carte, they still can’t be used any which way.

Five days later, after not hearing from SeaWorld Vacations about the hotel refund I called them.

The vacation specialist knew nothing of the request for hotel voucher or refund. She wrote an email to the hotel department for follow up.

The hotel department did call back one week after our vacation ended and said since no voucher could be issued for hotel stay we would receive a refund for the second night of the hotel.

By this time, Stasbaugh had become frustrated. All of the same people who, after he had to cancel his vacation under dreadful circumstances — circumstances that were beyond his control — seemed to be turning their back on him.

He called SeaWorld Vacations to demand an immediate refund, but it refused. When he mentioned contacting a lawyer and a consumer advocate, he says a representative hung up on him.

I’m sure that according to the rules, SeaWorld is correct — he forfeited the rest of his vacation when he flew home.

Some of you might be thinking that he should have bought travel insurance. I’m not sure if that would have covered him. It depends who died and under what circumstances. For example, if it’s a distant cousin who suffered from a mental disorder, then he might have some trouble with a claim. Many policies exclude pre-existing medical conditions and also mental illnesses. What’s more, they only cover deaths of close family members or business partners.

I asked Strasbaugh to start a paper trail. Here’s SeaWorld’s final “no.”

After reviewing this situation again, I am sorry to say that I am unable to honor your request and refund you another portion of your Vacation Package. The All Day Dining Deal is a promotional component in the package you purchased, and I am happy to offer you park admission at SeaWorld, per my previous email. Also, I would like to confirm that a refund of $84.38 has been processed yesterday on your behalf, for one night you did not spend at the hotel.

So SeaWorld finally pulled through with the promised room-night refund, but said “no” to the rest. That’s a bittersweet resolution, and not what Strasbaugh was hoping for.

“It really upsets me that I really am not asking them for anything more than to be allowed to finish the little vacation that we started,” he says. “They are very much taking the stance that they are doing us favor by even doing what they have done.”

Actually, knowing what I do about the other vacation components, I think SeaWorld Vacations has gone above and beyond what it was required to. Could it have done more? Sure. Did it have to? No.

97 thoughts on “His SeaWorld vacation is sunk — where’s his refund?

  1. The LW received a refund of his one hotel night, plus a voucher for the one-day at the park, which can be used anytime within the next year.  Which means the customer DID receive a refund for the unused portions of vacation.  He didn’t receive credit for the dining portion, because Sea World claims it’s a promotional item.  So what is the LW asking for exactly?

          1. Oh, you mean the “waa waa we’re taking our ball and going home” nonsense?

            It was beautiful. SWA sells a decent product. UA could learn a few things from them.

          2. You mean the in 3 years we are going to have competition so we’re going to fire 1300 people now as a result moment?

    1. He’s merely asking for what he fairly paid for. Nothing is ever free; you can bet there was some fee involved in the all-day dining “promotion” for sure. And dining there is not cheap by any means; they charge more for all food items than even Disney! I think Sea World was mighty unfair all the way around and I am ashamed of them.

      1. they covered all but the FREE dining they offered on this promo – YES, FREE!  To expect more is just another gimme pig! 

  2. I think SeaWorld did enough. Logistically, it may have been difficult for them to have arranged for one day of dining or whatever, although I’m sure they could’ve if they tried.

    I wonder if there wasn’t a second option? The OP pays separately for whatever s/he used that first day and then does the entire 2 days again as a voucher.

    Really, though, who takes out insurance on a 2 day trip to SeaWorld? The OP doesn’t mention transport so I’m assuming s/he drove and could easily re-do the trip another time.

    1. I bet SeaWorld would not havea problem selling them another “promotional” package that included the dining option. I sidedwiththe family because they, initially, we’re only asking to use what they had paid for another time. How many folks have we seen who requested more than that?

      1. But most of the promotional packages offer freebies to be enjoyed at only certain times – who knows if it would be available for the time he chooses next?  SINCE that was a free component, in essence, he already got what he paid for, and doesn’t deserve anything else.

      2. Hmmm. If it was a plane ticket, we wouldn’t except the airline to give him a voucher for another flight. That being said, I’m starting to come around. SeaWorld could probably easily have let him re-do Day 2. I think it all depends on who died as well. Extremely close family member? Re-do. Cousin twice removed? Sorry.

  3. Word to the wise.  It is almost never a good strategy to threaten to call your lawyer.  Anyone low enough on the totem pole to be scared by that threat doesn’t have the power to do anything.  Anyone with the power to do something isn’t going to be scared of the threat and more likely annoyed.

    In either event, you have seriously undermined any efforts to amicably resolve the dispute.  Many companies have a policy, if they hear the “L” word, to simply refer the matter to the legal department.

  4.  “They are very much taking the stance that they are doing us favor by even doing what they have done.” 

    Wow – the ignorance is astounding! I’m surprised he isn’t angry they aren’t bringing Shamu to him for the day!

  5. Why is this guy contacting you Chris?  He got his hotel refunded, he lost one day on the park pass and got a free day pass out of it, they refunded the packaged adventures, and all he is out is free dining that was included in his package?  Sea world and the hotel are very accommodating in this matter; Jim seems to be the unreasonable one.  They unbundled his package and refunded him all but the food, that is beyond fare.  This story puts SeaWorld in a good light and the customer in a bad light.

    1. AMEN!  He wants a refund for the freebie they gave him?  In essence, he already GOT what he paid for – but once again, it is still not enough!

  6. I voted yes. These package deals are often use ’em or lose ’em. 

    He received a refund on the hotel and that’s probably more than the restrictive contract of the package requires.

    Also…I noticed a story you did recently (Las Vegas guy whines about resort fees on extended res booked thru Hotwire) has been picked up by USA Today’s “traveler’s aide.” Weird? 


    1. Yes, I saw that too. I think the customer also contacted Linda Burbank. She’s an excellent advocate, but we try not to double up on cases. Had I know she’d been contacted, I would have backed off and let her handle it.

      1. IMO, it also means that the person is simply fishing around until they get the exact answer they want, and they won’t be happy with anything less than wasting as many peoples’ time as possible.

        1. I’m kind of waiting for the parents of the child kicked off the Alaska Airlines flight to show up here looking for help in getting something ridiculous like two free round trip first class tix.

          I would LOVE to give them an earful.

          1. Actually, they did contact me. I have asked the airline about their situation, but it’s more complicated than the stories that have already been published. I may write something about it soon, so sharpen your pencils.

          2. Wife, 1-yr old son and mother-in-law in FIRST CLASS cabin while the father and cranky 3 year old son on the back of the plane. Something does not smell right.

          3. If I were him, I would be cranky, too. Maybe the 3 year old wanted to seat in First Class with the Mom.

          4. I read several sources and am enjoying the comments on msnbc.msn.com 

            When you publish your story, I guarantee you will have lots and lots of traffic and/or comments to the site. 

            I already know how I’m voting.  Question:  Hunger Games Contestant – Yes or No?   

            Bwah ha ha ha ha!!

          5. What about the elderly couple put off the Seabourn cruise because the wife didn’t feel like attending the safety drill?  HAHA!

          6. A very expensive cruise indeed.

            I’m not sure if it’s only me. I have several very old relatives (including my folks). I seem to sense a slight tone of (positive) acceptance of death from very old people. Maybe that’s why she didn’t care to put on a floater and do the drill (besides it’s tiring for repeat cruisers).

          7. Actually, Seabourn went above and beyond for them – not only did they pay the change fees on the airfare to get them back home, they refunded the cruise portion not used.  VERY good of them.  Sad thing is, they offered her a chance to make up the drill, and she STILL refused to do so.  Can’t really blame the cruise line on that one – did NO ONE hear of the Concordia?  🙂

          8. No Win for a 1st class cruise ship – Seabourne. I read the old (90 and 84) couple were  on the second leg of a three-leg (back-to-back-to-back) cruise It must have been very painful to kick out an old couple.

            Linda, I look at it another way. What if real old people don’t care to be rescued and would like to risk going down with the ship? Maybe as long as they were together, they didn’t care. Has anyone considered that folks live much longer now and that things we ask younger people to do, do not fit them?

            The fact that they sailed after Concordia (or Azamara Quest) probably meant they could care less about accidents. Thousands of New Yorkers take the Staten Island and NJ ferries daily. Don’t know if anyone cares about having a drill.

            Maybe I’m just crazy. But I think we need to give real old people what they wish for if they are not hurting anyone else.

          9. I think that’s a slippery slope. Now old people don’t have to wear seat belts?  It’s a bad precedent to allow certain people to be excluded because that opens the floodgates for everyone. We’d be asking cabin attendants checking cabins during the drill to make an assessment of a passenger’s will to live? LOL… Since they were on multiple cruises, just thought they couldn’t be bothered. So wrong!

          10. But their families would be the first in line to sue!  Same coverages, same rules for all.  Sorry!

          11. Another moment of people being stupid. Gah! I really don’t think they deserved any sort of refund.

          12. I guess I give him some credit for at least trying to calm the kid down and everything. Far too often the parent(s) simply don’t bother.

            But swapping with the mother or grandmother should’ve probably been tried pretty early on.

  7. I think he is quite lucky to get some items refunded. I certainly wouldn’t quibble over being out of pocket for a few things, not sure why hotels, resorts, airlines etc should have to absorb costs due to the personal circumstances of their customers. DOn’t think the vacation company or hotel are liable here for anymore than they already gave back.

  8. Let me understand this… He leaves a non-refundable vacation due to no fault of the vacation company. They refund or give replacement vouchers for the majority of the lost costs and he’s not happy.

    Feel a little entitled?

      1. This is how I interpret it from the article:
        Call #1 (Customer calls SeaWorld):
        Customer: Asked for refund of hotel, adventures, 1 day of park, and food. 
        SeaWorld: Refunded adventures, and told to get confirmation from hotel and it would mostly likely be refunded.  Told the rest could not be refunded.
        Customer: Supervisor please.
        SeaWorld Supervisor: We will also issue you a 1 day voucher good for a year.
        Call #2 (Customer calls SeaWorld 5 days later):
        Customer: Where is the hotel refund?
        SeaWorld: I don’t see a record, let me e-mail the Hotel Department to get back to you.
        E-Mail from Sea World (2 days after call #2):
        SeaWorld: You will get a refund for the second hotel night.
        Call #3 (No time frame listed, but implied it was right after the E-Mail):
        Customer: I demand an immediate refund of everything now.
        SeaWorld: No
        Customer: I’m calling a Lawyer and Chris Elliott
        SeaWorld: Click.
        Letter/Or E-mail sent after speaking with Chris:
        Customer: ? Not Published ?
        SeaWorld: We will not refund any more, we are already giving you a 1 day pass, and we refunded the hotel.  We can’t refund the included food from the promotion.
        Customer: “They are very much taking the stance that they are doing us favor by even doing what they have done.”
        I don’t see any false promises and he received the refund within a week.

        1. Emanon, I noticed you are so good at customer service issues. Where you a customer service manager or a call center manager? Your understanding of the CS process is spot on.

          My wife started at the Fedex call center in the early 80’s and worked up the ladder. I also (worked there and) did a few projects with specialized call centers run by Fedex for other companies. At that time, Fedex was a gold standard for quality as was used in many case studies. We are used to money back guarantees (very few companies have this). When I read this article, I could not spot a wrong done by SeaWorld Vacations. It was the customer who failed to do his part of the bargain. (Note: it is not even clear WHO DIED, what relation?) I’m not sure if he was even entitled to a refund. But he sure looked “pushy” to me.

          If there is one criticism I can make, MAYBE it’s about making the front line more empowered to give refunds or vouchers. But that process can be easily abused.

          1. You figured me out Tony.  I was a Call Center Supervisor for several years for a university financial aid department before moving up to a Bursar position where I supervised and handled A/R, collections, tuition, and lots of other random stuff like parking operations and dining services.   I miss those days. 
            I did IT consulting beforehand and when my wife got the job in Denver 4 years ago, I had to give it up and went back into IT consulting.  I enjoy the IT consulting, but I miss the university environment.  I get to do lots of fun and odd jobs as an IT Consultant, but it’s just not the same as being with an organization long term.  Also, when I was the supervisor, I got to deal with all the crazy customers.  That’s why I have so many stories.
            I can’t agree more about empowering the front line staff, I always gave my staff power, but I also was sure to have staff that I could trust with it.  I found they were more willing to be cautious when using it than abuse it, and when they made a firm decision, I would always back them up.  I hate it when the front line staff says “no” and the supervisor says “yes”. 
            I agree with you, I think SeaWorld handled this very well.

        2. I don’t see any false promises and he received the refund within a week.

          Read the article again.  It took an entire week until they received this promise on the third call:
          “we would receive a refund for the second night of the hotel. “

          And even then that refund didn’t actually occur until later, after they communicated with Chris and started a paper trail.

          There was also an implicit promise on the first call to follow-up regarding the hotel refund request — a  request that was completely lost.

          What you’re calling “Email from SeaWorld” was an internal email from customer service to the hotel department that led to Call #3 (which makes your Call #3 really Call #4).

          1. In call #1 SeaWorld asked the customer to obtain proof of the hotel and follow up with them.  The customer did follow up during call #2.  Two days after the customer followed up as they were asked (1 week after their trip ended), SeaWorld called the customer to confirm they got the confirmation and are processing the refund (I apologize; it was a call, not an e-mail, however it was placed by SeaWorld).  Then the customer places their Third Call, Call #3 and makes threats.  Then sends and e-mail or letter, and are told the refund already happened and their day pass is still good. 
            I still don’t see any false promised being made.  The customer called and was told they will see when they get confirmation, then the customer called back post confirmation, the rep sent the info to the appropriate department and 2 days later received the refund from the appropriate department.  Then the customer got angry and called back asking for more.  SeaWorld did do them a favor by refunding the majority of a non-refundable package.

          2. Where are you getting your timeline from?

            Clearly, they did not hear back from Sea World in 2-days as you claim if the OP can say: “Five days later, after not hearing from SeaWorld Vacations about the hotel refund I called them.”

            And not only did SeaWorld not acknowledge receipt of anything at that point, they didn’t even have a record of any refund request that was awaiting some sort of documentation. 

            To me, good customer service means I make one outgoing phone call and deal with an agent who is professional and who proactively and promptly follows through on all promised activities after that one call.  Even if it means I don’t get some of the things I request.

            I generally prefer that outcome as opposed to ultimately achieving a more generous result, but only after lots of redundant calls and letters and listening to agents tell me they have no record of my prior calls, emails, faxes, etc.

        3. Emanon, you actually have a it a bit wrong from what I read. A week after the supposed end of the vacation and two days after the call to Sea World Vacations he still had not heard about the refund. Upon calling the hotel and was told that a refund would be issued, he then called Sea World Vacations demanding the refund. However, i am not sure how much time elapsed between him calling the hotel and then demanding the refund. It could have been an hour later or it could have been two weeks later.

          Also, when was he finally issued the hotel refund? Was this a month later, two months later… etc. Of this all happened within 8 days, then yeah he is being a bit childish. However, if the rest of the stuff happened two months later then I do not think he overreacted. The story does not make it clear what time elapsed between when he made the demand and threatened to call a lawyer, contacted Chris, or recieved the response from the hotel. It does not also state what he asked fro in the e-mail to Sea World and what tone he used.

          I can understand that he would have liked the refund on the meals, but clearly he wasn’tgetting that, since it was supposedly “free” anyway. However, if he was promised x items when he checked out, then i think it’s a legit gripe to not get what was promised in a timely manner.

          1. He may have been checked out early by the Double Tree (Hilton) but NOT by the Tour Operator, Seaworld Vacations. It takes time for credits to make their way through a maze, especially IF the package itself is non-refundable. Also, what is the value of the hotel room if one buys a whole package? Is it what DoubleTree charges Seaworld? How many bean counters had to get involved to compute the cost of one night stay? The amount of time Seaworld spent on this case was probably worth more than the 85 bucks they refunded him. I wonder why they even allowed him a refund to part of a package.

          2. If credits were making their way through a maze during the first 5 days, wouldn’t you expect there to be some record of that?  (And perhaps a heads-up to the OP as to how long to expect the process to take?)

          3. You are assuming every CSR knows where to find that information in the system. It might have helped if he got the names and employee #s of the people (including sup) he talked to so he can call them back. Do you expect everyone in the call center to know your one-day (~$85) refund request winding itself through the system? Just because the CSR didn’t know does not mean nothing is happening. Why threaten a lowly CSR? Who the hell does he think he is? How about waiting longer or asking how much longer he needs to wait to check again? You know this kind of people might make for good stories here but in real life, nobody gives a crap about them. No wonder the CSR hung up on him.

          4. If CSR #2 didn’t know where to look, I would expect them to get help or at least be transparent about it.

            What’s most likely is that CSR #1 completely dropped the ball, and CSR #2 (who actually emailed  the hotel) picked  up the pieces.

            Mentioning contacting a lawyer (to CSR #4) might be foolish and might cause you to dislike the OP, but I wouldn’t construe that as a personal threat to the CSR.

          5. @TonyA_says:disqus  –

            Oh really? Why do you think the CSR hung up on him if he is talking nice?

            I obviously wasn’t there, but that doesn’t reflect well on either the OP or the CSR.

          6. True. But let me explain why I think there was a problem (based on my on customer service experience working for Fedex for almost a decade.)

             I have never heard of a Fedex CSR hung up on a customer call. They are ALL professionals and well paid folks. When my wife joined Fedex in the early 80’s, she took that job right after graduating from her MBA (Thunderbird in Arizona). One of her team mates (an Air Force pilot) joined as a CSR because he wanted to be a FedEx 727 pilot (he did after about 2 years). Fedex had a promotion from within policy so you could bid for other jobs after you got in. In other words, back then they were entry jobs and not dead end jobs. Everyone in the company was trained to talk to, deal with and help customers. With the kind of pay and fair treatment we got, we were glad to.

            This may or may not be the same call center environment that we have today (for airlines and travel companies). However, whenever I call Southwest, Delta, American Airlines, American Express or AT&T, I always get a professional on the phone. I don’t get a feeling I am talking to an outsourced person. I have no clue how Shamu’s call center is organized.

            Now here is the second important point. At Fedex if the customer had a money issue, the customer service initiates the request but transfers  the call to foward-facing Revenue Accounting customer service folks. These REV ACTG CSRs are AUTHORIZED to give refunds over the phone and solve problems IMMEDIATELY. Think about the case of this OP. If Shamu was not ready to deal with partially used vacation plans and packages then be ready to expect irate customers. The CSR can always initiate a request but they usually do not have the power to RESOLVE A PROBLEM since they cannot give a credit. If the company does not have a PROCESS setup to solve the problem in the first call, then you have a follow up problem. Good companies have a Do-It-Right-The-First-Time policy because it protects the REPUTATION of the company. Very few travel companies do it right the first time. They fail to understand how to make it easy for customers to COME BACK AND SPEND MORE. I am very thankful to Fedex for teaching me what that means. I have used it for my own business.

  9.  I can’t really say anything that hasn’t already been said.  He left a non-refundable trip half-way through, yet through the goodness of their hearts, they have already given him most of what he missed.  Is he really that upset about missing out on a day’s worth of junk food?

    It would have been perfectly ordinary (if not very nice) if they had given him nothing at all.

  10. I think Sea World did do enough here, but I do think it took them a little too long. all this stuff, if promised, should have happened within days. I can see the frustration because he was promised something that was not delivered.

    I can also see that when a death happens and you pack up and leave, you might lose out on a few things that you prepaid for. It could be worse. One of them could have been the one who lost their life. I would also like to know what member of the family died, as someone else asked. If an Uncle of mine across country dies I’m not leaving with one day left to go on my vacation. if my sister died, then I’m running out of the place as fast as I can.

  11. While I understand that the “dining” costs at any amusement park can easily run $100 a day per person if you are not very careful what you eat and the inclusion in the package was a great offer, I think he should be happy with what was refunded and be thankful he got what he did.  

    I see the dining option is still available for packages purchased today, so I guess they could have included that in the voucher if they wanted.  But, they didn’t have to give him anything at all according to what the web site states.  I feel the company did more than enough in this situation. Especially since he pulled the lawyer card on them. At least he didn’t go the “I will never go there ever again” route. He probably would have gotten even less if he did.

  12. We were on a vacation at a resort where there were just a few cabins and they were hard to book.  The group at the next table was told on Day 2 that someone in their family had died.  I overheard them tell someone on the house phone that “they weren’t going anywhere and we already paid for this.”  So they finished the week.

    I loved that practicality.

  13. Why do people who buy locked-in, no change, no cancellation, no refunds products then want refunds?  They made a calculated risk, knowing if something unexpected happens they might forfeit their money.

    The provider sets aside a time-limited commodity for them.  Then the buyer decides to change his/her plans and expects the provider to just say, “OK, no problem.  Our rules mean very little when we are the ones to get screwed.”

    1. The “locked-in, no cancellation, no refunds” applies to other people not them. There is no risk when the rules don’t apply to you.

      So who “got screwed”? Certainly not the OP in this case.

  14. When people buy a ‘packaged deal’, it priced and sold for the dates requested and confirmed.  Often, the components have restrictions that the TO can’t override. When you book a package, you are usually getting a discount which is why people book them.  But with the discounted package come restrictions.  In this case, the TO contacted the hotel, which was aware of the death of the family and allowed the refund, but this is not always something a hotel will do with discounted rates.  The OP should be grateful for what he got. 

  15. I am really surprised by the comments here. It seems you all want to enforce the rules to the letter without regard to unforeseen circumstances. I have been in a somewhat similar circumstance when my mother died. I also asked for a change, not a refund, and was denied by an airline. Chris gave me email addresses to contact that were no help. There are rules and there is what is right to do for a customer and to try to keep them as a customer within reason. I don’t know who died in this situation and what documentation was supplied. But saying “screw you, you should have bought travel insurance” is an unacceptable answer to me. Depending on insurance they may not have covered it anyway. It seems to me there are a lot of people on here wanting to enforce rules rather than look at what shoulda company do within reason to retain its customers.

    1. You want the rules bent because you didn’t wish to pay a higher price for that travel component that would give you flexibility.  Life doesn’t work that way and when you make a purchase, you need to think about the what ifs.  If you can’t afford to lose the money, pay more or don’t make the purchase. A package comes with restricts that the often the TO can’t overrule. If you owned your own busness, you might have a clear understanding of how things work.

      1. I do run a business and I do have a clear understanding of how things work. But thanks for the degrading comment…….if I treated my clients with a “take it or leave it attitude,” I would slowly go out of business.

        1. But if you provide the customer with the rules of the purchase, they have a responsibility of following them.  We own two businesses and of course we do what we can, but there are times your hands are tied.  Nonrefundable, means nonrefundable.

          1. How do you handle people who sign up to use your services then tell you they want to pay you less after you did work for them?

          2. Yes, I tell all my customers that this is a TOUGH marketplace and I am here to help them make LESS MISTAKES because mistakes are very expensive in this industry. America should be used to it since we had the wild, wild West.

  16. Here we go again – buy travel insurance or be prepared to accept a loss. IMO if the deceased was close enough to the family in question that an immediate return was required travel insurance would almost certainly cover the incident. Otherwise, is there any need to rush home?
    Nowhere did any one say what relation the deceased was to the OP.

  17. @emanon256:disqus  @MikeInCtown:disqus  @Michael__K:disqus
    Regarding the calls

    Call #1 – OP makes request for refund presumably talking to first-line CSR. Call need to be escalated to Supervisor. What was resolved?
    (a) One day unused hotel will most likely be refunded pending the hotel’s verification (approval).
    (b) One day pass to the park – voucher good till one year.

    Call #2 – OP follows up hotel refund. OP get’s pissed. He says:

    The vacation specialist knew nothing of the request for hotel voucher or refund. She wrote an email to the hotel department for follow up.

    The hotel department did call back one week after our vacation ended and said since no voucher could be issued for hotel stay we would receive a refund for the second night of the hotel.

    What was resolved?
    From the OP’s own words, he says he would receive a refund for the 2nd night of the hotel.

    Call #3 – OP calls SeaWorld demanding an immediate refund.

    He called SeaWorld Vacations to demand an immediate refund, but it refused. When he mentioned contacting a lawyer and a consumer advocate, he says a representative hung up on him.

    What was resolved? Nothing.

    Ok so what is the issue? Isn’t it only the one night hotel refund and (possibly) the one-day pass he HASN’T RECEIVED YET? But more importantly, it looks like Call #3 was totally useless. If his goal was to get some of his money back, then Call #3 was not the way to do it.

    If anyone threatens me with some lawyer and ombudsman BS, all I will do is clam up and wait for their lawyer’s or ombudsman’s letter. I have no obligation to be nice to you if you are not nice to me. If I recall correctly, he bought a NON-REFUNDABLE PACKAGE. He should be lucky they are even talking to him. Why couldn’t he wait a little longer for something he was not entitled to in the first place? If you are requesting something that is NOT DUE YOU, then the timeline is irrelevant. You wait.

    1. 1) What evidence do we have that the OP wasn’t in fact entitled to (at least) a hotel refund?

      Everyone is asserting that he bought a “Non-Refundable Package” but when I click on the link in Chris’ article and try to create a package, I get all the way to the Payment / Complete Checkout screen and I can’t find anything in the Terms & Conditions or the FAQ’s that addresses the question of refundability or changes.   (For the free dining with admission — if he chose that option — it does say that the free dining is available for a “limited time only”).

      [There is non-refundability language for *park admission tickets* for San Diego and San Antonio, but I can’t find even that language for Orlando].

      2) Is it unreasonable to expect that if an agent tells you that you can expect a hotel refund — subject to their confirming your check out date with the hotel — that someone will actually follow-up accordingly?  And that you won’t be told 5 days later that there is no record of this? And how does waiting longer help solve this problem?

      1. Elliott said it was non-refundable. Did I read that incorrectly?
        Both calls #1 and #2, according to the OP, confirms that SeaWorld agents were going to give him a refund. Then he threatens to lawyer up. Guess we will never know how long it will take till his lawyer sends a letter. If you want it the hard way, you’ll get it. Don’t ever threaten someone you are REQUESTING something from. I have ZERO sympathy for anyone who acts this way. So I can’t answer your question in a better way.

        1. Where does Chris say it was “non-refundable”?  The words “refundable” or “non-refundable” appear nowhere in the article.  “Restrictive” does not necessarily mean “100% Non-Refundable and Non-Changeable”

          Does anyone care what the actual terms were (if any relevant terms were even published and accessible before purchase in this case)?

          I’m not defending the wisdom of the OP threatening to lawyer up.  Does that automatically negate any shoddy customer service that occurred prior to that?

          1. I’m sure that according to the rules, SeaWorld is correct — he forfeited the rest of his vacation when he flew home.

            Actually the actual terms has become quite irrelevant since Seaworld CS already told him he would get a REFUND OF ONE NIGHT STAY during both calls #1 and #2. They never told him WHEN that would hit his credit card (or when we would actually get it). The issue was WHEN not IF.

            If he thinks threatening would make them move faster, then that is his call. I completely disagree with your statement that Seaworld had shoddy customer service. They offered him a refund on the the first SUP call. (Note: the SUP does not sign checks.) Try getting a refund for travel services elsewhere and see how “easy” it is 🙂

          2. The issue was WHEN not IF

            I’m willing to bet that it would have been never if he didn’t follow-up after the first call.

          3. YES follow up is often necessary. That’s normal for this industry. But threatening to sue will get one nowhere.

          4. Tony have you tried to find the cancellation policy at the SeaWorld site that Chris posted?  I did and I can’t find them.  I got to a point where I went through the booking process and still no rules showed up.  I refuse to provide an email contact to go further to find what SHOULD be accessible on the first page, be it by a click to a link. 

          5. I can’t find it. too. But I relied on Elliott’s findings. Nevertheless, since the first call, Shamu already said the refund will be given. So I don’t think the refund-ability is the issue. The problem is the OP did not get it quick enough (for his standards).

            IMO the OP simply does not understand how a tour operator and hotel/property contract works. Unlike an agency property where the hotel bills the guest (and credits can easily be given in near real time), in the tour operator scenario, the hotel is not the one giving the guest the credit.

            I kinda pity the CSRs. While they can INITIATE the refund requests, they are not REVENUE ACCT and cannot approve a check or credit card credit. They are very much like Travel Agents who act on behalf of airlines. TAs can initiate the transactions (and perhaps follow up). But TAs cannot promise dates or outcomes.
            Yes it need follow up to get your money but you cannot lose your cool.

            Bodega, I am not telling you anything you don’t already know. I am sure you are also sick and tired of impatient customers. Most of what I am saying here is for the general public to understand that most customer service people have limited power so don’t beat them up or threaten them.

          6. You can proceed with a bogus email address.

            And I reached the final checkout / payment screen, and I STILL couldn’t find any relevant rules.

          7. Thanks. I wasn’t willing to take it that far.  This would be a concern for me and why would anyone book without knowing the rules of cancellation?

          8. I agree. Some people might interpret the lack of posted restrictions to mean that those don’t exist.

            I’m curious if any of the resident lawyers have thoughts on this: are rules that were never visible / accessible to a customer enforceable? 

  18. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with any refund.  I agree that he cancelled his vacation under dreadful circumstances, but it wasn’t “out of his control”.   He chose to stop his vacation- so I don’t think it is to right to write it like he didn’t have an option.  He made the conscious decision not to continue with his trip.  To me it down plays when airlines, hotels, and other travel business really do cancel for whatever reason beyond the control of the travelers.

  19. Is SeaWorld Vacations part of the SeaWorld Corporation?  If so, they’re just dumb to not give this guy vouchers for everything he missed.  It’s a very reasonable request and makes them look good.  If the vacation company is a separate entity, then he’s probably out of luck, they have no customer service  image to worry about.

  20. @Raven_Altosk:disqus  Thanks for the link. Boy, what a story.
    I say he should be kicked out of the flight for using the word “STEWARDESS” too many times. Where the hell is this person from? Doesn’t he know we call them FLIGHT ATTENDANTS?

  21. Do it yoursefl and lose! Any decent travel agent can book that vacation, is obligated to explain cancellation penalties, and then suggest insurance. I guarantee that Strsbaugh did not read one word of the small print that he got with his confirmation. Emergencies happen every second of every day and I feel sorry that it happened during his family vacation, but he booked it, he assumed the liabilities of the cancellation, and he lost far far more than insurance would have cost. Find a travel agent.

  22. No matter who died, the fact remains that this nice family felt compelled to honor it by forfeiting the rest of their vacation. They obviously lost their airfare and now for a big company like Sea World to slap them in the face is beyond my comprehension. I live in Orlando and often go to Sea World and I am ashamed of that organization over this!

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