Have you ever felt convinced or even forced to buy a diamond or any other expensive item during a cruise stop? Kathy Hoffarth says it happened to her.
While cruising through the Caribbean with Royal Caribbean she purchased a $16,000 diamond at Diamonds International at one port. Unhappy with that purchase, at the next stop, she exchanged it for a larger, more expensive one. Now that she’s home she doesn’t want that bigger diamond either.
She says the employees at Diamonds International made her buy this diamond and she just wants to send it back. And she wants a full refund. 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 on the next cruise stop — a much bigger one!
Hoffarth says after three hours of shopping at Diamonds International in Cozumel during the next cruise stop, 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: “No, this cruiser wasn’t forced to buy any diamond”
Since Hoffarth no longer owned the Crown of Light, Diamonds International rejected that refund request as well. Its team reiterated that she was not forced to buy any diamond during any of her cruise stops.
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.
“They have me over a barrel!”
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.
How to avoid making unwanted diamond (and other)purchases during your cruise
You should never feel forced to buy a diamond during a cruise. Do not buy any expensive items unless you’ve done your research first.
- Check out the online reputation of the shop you intend to visit. Make sure you’re dealing with a reputable jeweler.
- Know what type of jewelry you want before you enter a shop. Knowing what you’re looking for will lower the chance of an impulsive, unwanted purchase.
- Make sure you know what a reasonable price is for your desired bauble. This involves a little technical research. You need to make sure you’re comparing the same quality gems.
- Give yourself a budget and stick to it. Don’t spend more than you can comfortably afford.
- Prepare yourself for aggressive salespeople — remember, they want to make a sale. Tell the employee what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to spend. Be firm.
- Read the entire contract very carefully before you sign on that dotted line. Don’t sign anything unless you understand the whole document.
Stay strong and don’t let yourself be forced to buy a diamond during your cruise
Based on the contract, the exchange offer from Diamonds International is a fair resolution. The contract just doesn’t support Hoffarth’s appeal for a refund. Cruise passengers need to stay strong during their shopping excursions and don’t allow anyone to “force” them into a diamond purchase — or any other purchase.
It’s never wise to make such a significant purchase without having time to think it over. (Related story: This is why you should not buy jewelry on a cruise) 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 not to feel forced into buying anything. Read all of the terms of the contract before you sign it — not after a dispute has begun. This is important for every aspect of your cruise (See: What if you don’t want to tip on your cruise).
I wish the Hoffarths a happy 50th anniversary and hope that she can pick out a substitute piece of jewelry that will please her.