The circumstances of Michelle Melcher’s claim are common, but the sum of her claim isn’t. She — or, more precisely, her client — wants $20,000 after returning from an Apple Vacation. “What should we do about this $20,000 claim against Apple Vacations?”
Lynn Friedman’s daughter, Emma, became violently ill during her family vacation to Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun. When she returned to the States, she was hospitalized for five days. The diagnosis: acute food poisoning.
“Based on the timing and the test results, the doctors are convinced that she was poisoned at the resort,” says Friedman.
She wants a refund for her vacation from either her travel agent, tour operator or the resort. But so far, her efforts have come up short.
“No one will claim responsibility,” she says.
Friedman wants me to help. But as I review the details of her case, I’m not sure who to ask for relief — or even where to start. And that’s where you come in, dear readers. Please tell me what to do with this one.
The visit, which happened in April, was supposed to be a relaxing family vacation. But shortly after their arrival, Emma started to feel sick.
“We knew Emma was ill on the trip,” explains Friedman. “But we did not understand the cause.”
Emma had her own room, and wanted to give her family space to enjoy their much-needed vacation. Friedman says, in retrospect, her daughter was probably more ill than they suspected.
“She simply carried on and told us she didn’t feel like eating. Only on the plane home was it clear that she was very ill. I took her to the doctor our first day back home,” she says.
The doctors back in the States said she had Salmonella. That’s no tummy ache — more than 400 people die of Salmonella every year.
Friedman says she’s certain the resort is to blame, because the family only ate at the hotel.
For the last six weeks, I have devoted hours of my time and much emotional energy emailing and faxing two managers at Secrets Maroma, a supervisor at Apple Vacations, and two individuals (the travel agent and the owner of the company) at Travel House of Barrington.
I have sent medical records (including the test results and diagnosis, dates of hospitalization, etc.) and impassioned letters.
My daughter has been suffering terribly, we have spent a huge amount of time and a great deal of money because of someone else’s inappropriate behavior, and we cannot seem to receive the compensation we believe we deserve.
It is so unjust to poison someone and get off scot-free.
Friedman’s demand is simple: She wants her $5,753 back, which represents the entire amount she spent on her all-inclusive vacation package.
She believes the hotel is trying to throw her case out on a technicality.
In my distress, I accidentally told the hotel that Emma was poisoned at our first meal at the resort; I later corrected that error and told them that she was poisoned at the hotel on our first full day there. They used that understandable error as the excuse to throw out our LEGITIMATE case.
So far, her travel agency has asked her to fill out a medical claim form, but Friedman says she already has medical insurance. She just wants her money back.
I get a fair number of tainted food cases, and the problem is conclusively proving the poisoning happened at a restaurant, hotel or on a cruise ship. In defense of the hotel, the incubation period for Salmonella is 24 to 48 hours, so Emma might have been infected from another source.
I’m not sure if Friedman’s travel agent or tour operator are responsible for this vacation gone wrong in any way, other than that they might have recommended the hotel and helped her make the reservation.
Also, refunding the entire vacation seems like a tall order. After all, the family flew to their destination, enjoyed the accommodations and at least some of the food at the resort.
Should Maroma Beach refund everything, or just part of the vacation? What responsibility, if any, should the agency and tour operator bear?
Is Friedman owed anything for the Salmonella episode, or should she just chalk this up to an expensive, and exceedingly painful, lesson learned about watching what you eat when you’re traveling abroad?
I don’t know. This is one of the more difficult cases to cross my desk in recent memory.
Heather Lockridge and her husband thought they would be checking into the honeymoon suite at the Ocean Maya Royal in Cancun, an all-inclusive beachfront resort described as the embodiment of “exotic serenity.” After all, it was their honeymoon.
Instead, they were greeted with some bad news when they arrived: The suites were all occupied and they’d be downgraded into a smaller ocean view room. And serenity? Forget it. Trying to recover the cost difference between the suite and their room was anything but easy.
“It feels like we are being ripped off,” she told me. (Please see an update from Apple Vacations at the end of this post.)
“Can this trip be saved? “It feels like we are being ripped off””
Question: I need your help with an Apple Vacation trip from Philadelphia to Cancun, Mexico. We were recently notified that our direct flight would have a stopover in Pittsburgh, which added two hours to our travel time.
Each person was offered a $50 voucher for the inconvenience, but it could not be used during our vacation. It had to be used within one year for future Apple vacation travel.
A few days later, we were notified that one entire day was being removed from our schedule. Our 6:30 p.m. flight was rescheduled for 10 a.m. the next day. So we no longer have the 8-day, 7-night vacation I paid for. Apple offered us $50 again.
When I made my annoyance known, they told me I should have taken the insurance for another $650 — then we could have canceled our vacation.
How dare they just remove an entire day from our plans? We had arrangements to meet with another group of friends. This will now have to be canceled. Apple vacation has been very callous in their behavior. Our family was looking forward to a delightful travel time and they have made this very distasteful. — Sandra Sitarski, Ambler, Pa.
Answer: When an airline changes its schedule, you’re entitled to either a refund or a flight of its choosing, under its contract. But when you’ve bought a package vacation, it’s not that simple. There are hotel rooms and activities to take into consideration. Apple’s $50 offer was reasonable but too restrictive, because it required you to buy another trip.
“A lost vacation day and nothing to show for it”
Question: My wife and I recently booked a honeymoon in Costa Rica through Apple Vacations. On the morning we were supposed to leave, our flights on Delta Air Lines were canceled, and they didn’t have any other flights until two days later.
I called Apple and they simply told me to call the airline. They refused to help. Delta’s customer service was only a little more helpful. They ended up getting us to Costa Rica a day later on a different airline.
Because of this we missed one day at an all-inclusive resort and decided to stay an extra day. I again called Apple and asked them to refund our missed day and wanted to book an extra day on the end of our honeymoon. They would not refund any money for the missed day and charged us for the extra day.
I sent a letter to Apple’s customer service like they suggested I do. I have not gotten any response from them after two letters. Any advice on this issue? — Loyd Jobe, Evansville, Ind.
Answer: It sounds as if Apple could have done more to save your honeymoon. But let’s take a closer look at the facts.
Delta canceled your flight, not Apple. So in a sense, Apple was right: You would have to talk with the airline about rescheduling your flight. At the same time, Apple advertises a “beginning-to-end” vacation experience, which includes employees greeting you at your departure airport and meeting you when you arrive.
“Help, my honeymoon in Costa Rica went south”