Was she really forced to buy a $20,000 diamond on her cruise?

During her recent Royal Caribbean cruise, Kathy Hoffarth purchased a $16,000 diamond at Diamonds International. At the next port, she exchanged it for a larger, more expensive one. Now that she’ s home she doesn’t want that bigger diamond, either. She claims she was forced to buy the diamond and just wants to return it. 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.

Shopping for a diamond on her cruise at Diamonds International

During the cruise, Hoffarth was shopping for a unique diamond to celebrate her upcoming 50th wedding anniversary, she explained to the Elliott Advocacy team. 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 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. That person’s job is to help passengers navigate their port shopping experience with trusted merchants within the “Port Folio.” Diamonds International is one such store.

Forced to buy a diamond — a much bigger one?

Hoffarth says after three hours of shopping at Diamonds International in Cozumel she was forced to buy a different diamond. She exchanged 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. It declined her request based on the contract that she signed. That contract 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. She discovered that it exceeded the appraisal given to her by Diamonds International.

With that path to a refund a dead end, Hoffarth decided to approach her return from a different angle. She complained to DI that it should give her a refund based on the poor quality of the original diamond.

Diamonds International rejects this refund request

Since Hoffarth no longer owned the Crown of Light, Diamonds International rejected that refund request as well.

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

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

Uh, if you are contesting a $20,000 purchase, you need proof — not a personal opinion.

In response to Hoffarth’s ongoing complaints to the company and 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. The company stands firm that this is a simple case of buyer’s remorse.

How to avoid purchases that will lead to 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. It’s important to read those contracts and carefully consider if you agree to the terms. And that must happen before you put your signature on it.

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. Hoffarth did not appraise the first diamond. 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. Diamonds International took back the diamond, no questions asked. The diamond that she does possess has been independently appraised at a higher value than she paid. And lastly, Diamonds International agreed to take back the diamond and give her store credit.

A fair resolution from Diamonds International

This appears to be a fair offer from Diamonds International.  This case cruises into the Case Dismissed file because Hoffarth’s contract doesn’t support her appeal for a refund.

It’s 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 you’re thinking of buying a diamond on a cruise, it’s imperative to read all of the terms of the contract before you sign it — not after a dispute has begun.

I wish the Hoffarths a happy 50th anniversary and hope that she can pick out a substitute piece of jewelry that will please her.

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