Marnie Bute didn’t enjoy the Mexican getaway she booked through Sun Country Vacations. Actually, that may be an understatement. She hated it and she wants every penny refunded.
Normally, when someone asks for a full refund, it triggers a predictable amount of eye-rolling here in the office. It couldn’t have been that bad, we say to ourselves.
Then we read her story.
It begins with a frantic note to Sun Country in Mexican on the day of Bute’s arrival at the Royal Decameron Los Cabos resort in San Jose Del Cabo.
“This resort is under construction,” she writes. “There are workers pounding on concrete outside our door. We either want our money back or to be to moved to a new resort ASAP.”
Sun Country’s response:
We have called the hotel direct, and have been advised that the construction is minimal and they will not be honoring any sort of compensation or refund. An option we can offer is the Hyatt Ziva, which is an additional cost of $1,026.
If you choose to check out and relocate to a hotel of your choice, you would also be required to pay the new hotel directly and we will process a refund for your unused nights at the Royal Decameron.
Bute didn’t want to spend more money to get the product she expected, so she and her husband stayed. They regretted it.
The construction continued without a break, she says. After asking around, they learned that the Mexican resort used to be clothing-optional and was in the process of being converted into a regular hotel.
This place was under construction from daylight to sunset.
While we were there they put in landscaping outside our room and had to use equipment and sledgehammers to break up the concrete, haul it out, and hence the piles of rubble.
The nude portraits were in process of being taken down and replaced with new artwork leaving piles of nude art in the hallway outside our room. There was painting outside our room the day after we arrived.
I would have never booked this resort if I knew it was under any construction. I don’t recall in my 20+ years of travel being at a resort under any construction this loud and visible.
Sun Country wasn’t entirely unsympathetic. After numerous inquiries, the company responded with an apology and an offer. It said it had “forwarded your comments on to our product department” and was awaiting a response from the hotel.
“It is very important to us that our website has clear and accurate information,” it said.
Then, the offer:
As compensation for the confusion and frustration you experienced during your vacation, we would like to offer you a Future Vacation Voucher to use towards your next Sun Country Vacation Package in the amount of $500.00. You will receive another email soon with the voucher information.
Bute doesn’t want credit. She wants all her money back.
As part of my due diligence on this case, I took a closer look at the hotel’s online reputation. It appears as if the hotel’s employees have been busy stuffing the TripAdvisor ballot box — nothing to see there. I failed to turn up anything under its former name, Desire Resorts. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Bute was the only person on Earth with a complaint about this property.
But I know better. (Related: Construction noise during a traveler’s Sandals vacation. What is she owed?)
Hotels don’t take chances anymore when it comes to their reputations. They whitewash their online reputations by gaming TripAdvisor, Yelp, and blog comments with flattering comments and fake reviews, so I really don’t believe anything I read. And I think Bute is probably telling the truth about her experience. (Here’s everything you need to know before planning your next trip.)
Question is, even if everything she says is true and happened exactly as she says it, does she still deserve to get every penny back?
Certainly, the funny money is problematic because it forces her to take another Sun Country vacation within a set amount of time. But I’m not sure if I can — or should — argue for more.