Pearl Seas Cruises, a small luxury cruise operator that specializes in Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, Panama Canal and Cuba sailings, is keeping $850 of David Posner’s money.
Rules are rules, says the cruise line. But what happens when its own employees misrepresent those rules, as Posner alleges? Should I get involved?
Posner was a guest on the Pearl Mist September cruise of the Great Lakes.
“It was a nice trip and we enjoyed the itinerary, the crew, and the ship,” he recalls. “During that trip, there was a session to sell future cruises. My wife and I were interested in the Cuba cruise this coming spring, and reserved a room.”
When they made their deposit, no less than three separate Pearl representatives assured them that if they canceled within two weeks, there would be “no penalty” and they would receive a full refund.
Shortly after that, Pearl informed him that it had moved him to a different cabin. That didn’t sit well with Posner.
“We canceled two days later,” he says. “The cancellation was done by both myself and my travel agent.”
About a month later, Posner received a refund check — minus $850. Making matters worse, the check wasn’t valid, since it lacked both required signatures.
“Imagine my surprise at the very large penalty after we had been assured repeatedly on the ship that there would be none,” he says. “This seems grossly unfair and unreasonable, especially considering that your company changed the cabin that we had reserved, essentially selling it out from under us.”
Posner tried to resolve this through his travel agent, who contacted Pearl’s customer service department, “only to be rebuffed by an agent who seemed not to care — those are my agent’s words.”
The whole exchange was “insulting and patronizing,” he reports.
That’s probably because Pearl’s own policies contradict what the employees said — although it’s difficult to say exactly how they do, since refund terms are not spelled out.
Pearl wasn’t entirely unbending.
“They did offer us a credit to a future cruise and acted as if this was an accommodation,” he says. “But their policy says that they can do this, so they actually are standing firm. A credit means we have to use them again, which, after this treatment, we are unlikely to do.”
Posner wants a full refund. I’m not opposed to trying, but this raises a bigger question in my mind: What happens when employees say refundable, but the policy says nonrefundable? What takes precedence — the employee or company policy?
Also, how much proof do you need in order to hold a company’s feet to the fire when it comes to an oral contract?
Pearl says at least one of the reps who told Posner he could have a full refund is no longer working for the company. That’s going to make a resolution even more difficult. But not impossible.