The week before last I posted a complaint from a guest who requested a refund because the plane that originally specified had to be changed because of mechanical problems, we ignored his preferences indicated on his Wish List for gourmet food and no interaction with local people, and he believe we were responsible for he and his companions digestive illness.
Your 11comments ran the gamut from
we do not owe any more compensation than an expression of sympathy to we owe a large refund.
Natalie responded that we agreed that we were wrong in not taking into account his preferences when scheduling the meal at Tortuguero and refunded $111, the full amount that we charged for the meal for the two guests and the guide, including the boat transportation for the meal.
She wrote that we did not feel we owed a refund for the change for aircraft and explained why. You can read her full 1024 response here.
Two weeks after Natalie wrote we had not received a reply so I wrote a follow-up. And on July 13 received the following reply:
“ Since Natalie made no effort to reply to my concerns, I had no intention of replying to her e-mail.
My concerns are stated in my April 23 e-mail to Luis Pablo:
1. We should have been told in advance (and given an explanation) that we would have to fly to Puerto Jiménez and back in a single-engine plane. This is a matter of keeping your promises to clients and managing client expectations. There is nothing that you can do about this other than to accept responsibility and to apologize for not communicating with us as well as you should have.
2. All of the food that we consumed in Costa Rica came from only two sources: Costa Rica Expeditions and the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica. When we became alarmingly ill, we were examined by a doctor who told us that we had been made ill by something that we ate in Costa Rica. We believe that the food that made us ill came from Costa Rica Expeditions – and not from the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica.
We had informed Costa Rica Expeditions in advance that we wanted “elegant” and “gourmet” meals, and that we did not want “interactions” with “local people”. Costa Rica Expeditions was responsible for the food which we believe made us ill. Once we became ill and bedridden (on Thursday evening, April 8), our enjoyment of our trip to Costa Rica ceased. You can either repeat the attitude demonstrated by Natalie, or offer us some compensation for the damage that you did to both us and our experience in Costa Rica.
My response, which I emailed on Sunday, July 25 follows:
“Dear (Guest Name),
I am sorry that you feel the Natalie did not address your concerns. I will do my best to address them, but to do so I need to understand them.
Regarding the change in planes, since your email to Luis Pablo says, “For us, it was a question of safety,” Natalie assumed that you concern was that by using the Caravan rather than the King Air, that your concern was that we had subjected you and Emer to increased danger and that was the concern that she addressed.
In you email to me you write, “We should have been told in advance (and given an explanation) that we would have to fly to Puerto Jiménez and back in a single-engine plane.” I agree. But Luis Torres assures me that he did just that and it was his impression that you were satisfied with the explanation. So please help me understand your concern. Is it your position that Luis Torres’ statements to me do not reflect the communication between you and him? Did you feel more frightened during the flight than you did in the King Air?
There is only one King Air available in Costa Rica. All the other twins available in Costa Rica are vastly less safe (and less expensive) than the King Air. We did not know that the King Air was not going to be in service until 6:00 pm the night before you were flying. What do you feel we could we have done differently under the circumstances?
Regarding the food, and your illness these are two separate issues: Luis scheduling a meal a typical in a private house when your Wish List clearly indicated that this was not your preference and the illness. In her email to you Natalie agreed that we were the wrong on this issue and authorized a credit for the $111, the full amount that you paid for the meal.
So again in this case, I need to understand your concern. Do you feel that refund was not enough? If not having interactions with local people was important to you, when you realized that the lunch was going to be in a private home did you say something to Luis? Unlike the situation with the plane, this was a situation that Luis could easily have corrected.
Regarding you and Emer’s illness, in your email to Luis you wrote that the Doctor said that you were “made sick by something which Costa Rica Expeditions fed us at Tortuguero or at Corcovado.” In your email to me you write that the doctor said that you made ill by something that we ate in Costa Rica,” and that “We believe that the food that made us ill came from Costa Rica Expeditions.
Again, be that as it may, I agree that you were made ill by something you ate and given the time frame it is highly likely that it was something you ate in Costa Rica. It is true that there is inherently more risk of getting ill from food that you consume in Tortuguero and Corcovado, two of the most remote places in Costa Rica, than at Four Seasons. That said, I have trouble following your reasoning that there was a “breakdown in hygiene,” for which Costa Rica Expeditions is responsible.
Digestive illness not caused by a breakdown in hygiene, especially when traveling, is a well-known occurrence. It occasionally happens to my wife and me when we travel to the states.
When I was a child and had an “upset stomach,” my mother’s was always sympathetic, but she did not rush to scour the kitchen. Her explanation was that something I ate “disagreed” with me. (In my misery I always wondered what I could say to reach agreement with the food I had offended.)
On what do you base your belief that there was a breakdown in hygiene for which Costa Rica Expeditions is responsible? A digestive illness that has you bedridden for a day, able to take a tour the next day, albeit not feeling well, and fully recovered within three or four days is not consistent with a breakdown in hygiene. Digestive illness caused by a breakdown in hygiene can usually be related to a specific organism and requires treatment for that organism. Now that I have become involved in this I have asked Yesenia to try to locate the doctor at Four Seasons so that on the chance that there was a breakdown in hygiene we can take corrective measures. If you remember the doctor’s name and/or what he prescribed, please let me know.
I am sorry that I do not feel justified in offering you blanket compensation for your concerns. Perhaps if I understood better your reasoning I would agree that you should get a larger refund than the one Natalie authorized. I know that it must be time consuming and annoying for you to continue this dialog. If you are willing to do so, I promise to be as objective as I can in considering your arguments.
CEO & Founder
As of this posting, I have not received a reply. So contrary to what I expected when I choose this example two weeks ago, this issue has not yet been resolved. That makes your comments even more valuable. To quote my friend Chris Parrot, I am waiting to read them, “with bated breath.”