Can this trip be saved? “My wife got salmonella poisoning at a Mexican resort”

Chris and Shelley Harper had hoped for a week of R&R with their two young children at the Riu Tequila, an all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. But instead, Shelley ended up in the emergency room with apparent food poisoning.

I won’t bury the lede, as they say in journalism. She made a full recovery. The Harper’s bank account, however, is $1,849 poorer. (Wow, those Mexican hospitals are not cheap.) Who is responsible for her hospitalization, and who should pay?

Those are excellent questions, to which the Harpers still don’t have an acceptable answer.

The Travel Troubleshooter: Four stars for that resort? Says who?

Question: I recently booked a four-star hotel in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, through Hotwire. Hotwire claims its four-star hotels are prestigious, respected properties. Not only that, but the map of the area looks as if it runs along the coast, virtually ensuring a resort near the beach.

After I made my purchase, I found out I had a room at the Hacienda Vista Real Resort & Spa, which was located far away from the beach. According to TripAdvisor.com, they have at least 85 percent bad reviews. I am traveling with my husband and a baby, and want to avoid taking taxis to get to the beach.

Initially, I tried to tell Hotwire that the hotel was neither prestigious nor well known, and that it wasn’t close to the beach. But now that I’ve read the reviews, I’m even more concerned. Hotwire sent me a form response, saying, “We reviewed the hotel’s location and verified it is within the Playa del Carmen — Playacar, Quintana Roo city area.” What should I do? — Valerie Acosta, Fullerton, Calif.

Answer: Hotwire owed you more than a form letter in response to your request to review your hotel assignment. But before I get to Hotwire’s mistake, let’s talk about your booking choice.

Did you say you booked a resort in Mexico for you and your baby through Hotwire? Seriously?

The Travel Troubleshooter: Snared by the Mexican insurance scam

Question: I recently returned from a nine-day trip to Cancun, Mexico. Before arriving, I booked a car rental through Hotwire.com, accepting a midsize vehicle with Europcar for $9.80 a day. With taxes, my rental was supposed to come to $97.

Before leaving for my trip, I verified that my credit card company covered all types of rental car insurance and that no additional insurance should be purchased. When I arrived in Cancun, the Europcar agent insisted that it was company policy that I take the extra insurance, otherwise he could not rent me the car. He even insisted that this would have been on the Hotwire agreement page.

Reluctantly, I accepted the insurance. When I got home, I ended up being charged $268 for the rental car. The Hotwire and Europcar websites do not mention mandatory insurance, yet neither will compensate me for what I believe was an attempt to overcharge me for services. What can be done about this? — Gordon Houston, Calgary, Canada

Answer: Ah, the old Mexican insurance scam! Regular readers of this column already know about this one. It goes something like this: You rent a car south of the border, believing the rate you’ve been quoted includes all mandatory charges. But wait. When you get to the car rental counter, an associate tells you that without insurance, you’re not going anywhere. So you pay.

I thought car rental insurance was optional

Question: For nearly a month now, I’ve been fighting to recover more than $280 from Hertz in connection with a reservation for a Mexican rental I made through Hotwire.

I reserved a Hertz car for a week in Mexico for an estimated $113 — a flat $90 for the rental of the car, and an estimated $23 in taxes and fees. I did not pay Hotwire at the time of the reservation and understood that I would pay Hertz directly when I rented the car.

At the Hertz desk in Mexico, I was presented with an entirely different set of charges. There, I heard for the first time about the mandatory Mexican liability insurance. I did not have the option of declining the insurance, which amounted to approximately $110 for the week.

But that wasn’t the only surprising charge. The price of the car had mysteriously risen to around $108, and I was assessed a “service charge” of approximately $135. No one at Hertz or Hotwire has yet been able to tell me what that’s about. Together with two smaller fees of about $44, my total bill came to $397.

The day after I returned from Mexico, I contacted both Hotwire and Hertz. Although their stories have varied slightly over the weeks, each company tells me that I should go talk to the other. Hotwire says it has no control over what Hertz bills me, and Hertz says it has no control over what Hotwire quotes me.

Given the enormous discrepancy in price and the hours I’ve spent trying to get this matter resolved, I am seeking a refund of the full $283 difference between the $113 reservation price and $397 charge. Hertz has my money, but Hotwire made the representations that led me to the Hertz desk in Mexico. Can you help me get my refund? — Brian Perez-Daple, Arlington, Va.

Answer: You should have been charged the rate you were quoted. When you weren’t, Hotwire should have asked Hertz to refund the money on your behalf.

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