Insights on Travel from Costa Rica Expeditions’ Founder Michael Kaye and his Expert Friends.

Vacation Horror: Who Pays?

This Saturday’s Charlotte Observer ran a story about a family of four who reserved and paid for a week’s vacation on Orbitz. The cost including airfare from the U.S. was almost $7,000. It was not until they arrived at Hotel Medditeraneus in Potrero that they found out it was closed.

The family spent their vacation, which happened to be the parents wedding anniversary, with all four of them sharing a room with two double beds. Since it was peak season they also had to switch hotels. By the time they had made alternate arrangements they had suffered, lost precious vacation time and spent an additional $2,000.

Orbitz refunded the money paid for the closed hotel and the additional $2,000. The family thinks they deserve more.

How much more if anything should Orbitz pay? Should they pay for the lost time? How about frustration and suffering?

According to the 28 people who commented on the article, as of Sunday February 22, 9:35 pm Central Standard time, the answer is, “Depends”

Six commenters thought the family should have received more compensation. Eleven commenters thought they should not and 11 of the comments were either ambiguous or did not apply.

Of ten the people who thought the family should not get more compensation, four justified their opinion by saying that the family would have found out the true situation if they had checked on Trip Advisor.

If you go on Trip Advisor as of this writing and search for the Hotel Medditeraneus in Potrero, this is what you’ll find.

Had you checked out the hotel on Trip Advisor before December 30 you would have found all positive reviews.

So if Trip Advisor is not always the answer how can travelers ensure that their vacations and what should be Orbitz responsibility for the pain and suffering?

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5 Comments and 1 Replies

  • At February 24, 2011
    8:05:49 am
    Shannon Borrego said:

    It seems to me that it would be very foolish of Orbitz not to bend over backwards to compensate this family. In the long run the negative publicity will cost them more than offering to cover the cost of another trip. Sadly for the family, the joy associated with the special occasion is probably lost forever, but another trip would at least give them the opportunity for a positive experience in Costa Rica. If handled correctly, this could present an opportunity for Orbitz to show themselves as remorseful and eager to make amends for the disaster. Apparently, saving a few thousand dollars is more important to them.

    • At February 23, 2011
      11:04:53 am
      Meena said:

      Dear Michael What an awful experience it must have been. The one thing that I have found useful , was to actually call the hotel ,or get as much info about it independently , before leaving on the trip .
      I do think that Orbitz should pay something extra for the , “lost vaction” and mental anguish . maybe a free ticket or voucher for a future trp ?
      Meena

      • At February 23, 2011
        10:48:29 am
        Jennifer Fletcher said:

        I really don’t think the victims should be blamed ,as some people suggest.Max himself says he had consecutive booking disasters with Orbitz before he learned to avoid them!
        Orbitz should pay $3,000 more.They are at fault .They should do all they can to restore what remains of their reputation,which one hopes will be in tatters all over the Net.However, because they are a big organization, they probably don’t give a damn.
        Quite a different scenario from CRE’s handling of complaints at Monteverde Lodge,some postings back.

        • At February 23, 2011
          9:30:07 am
          Max said:

          That’s what they get for booking through Orbitz in the first place. After consecutive booking disasters with that site years ago I refuse to do anything more than search for fares there.

          That said, I don’t think Orbitz is liable for anything more than the hotel costs. You leave yourself vulnerable to these types of situations when you rely on someone else to make all your arrangements for you. Generally, I hate using travel agents or agencies that aren’t located in the actual place I’m visiting, because problems and communication issues always creep up. Planning a New Zealand trip with a Seattle agency… problems. Planning an Africa trip with a Massachusetts-based agency… problems. Planning a Patagonia trip with a UK-based agency… lots of problems!

          The smoothest planning usually occurs when we either make our own bookings or work with a company actually based in our destination (like CRE).

          Max

          • At February 23, 2011
            11:32:57 am
            Michael Kaye replied
            to Max:

            I don’t think that whether the company is based in the destination or in the country of origin of the traveler is a reliable indicator of reliability. I can think of companies based in the UK and the US that provide excellent personalized service in a variety of destinations and companies based many countries that routinely defraud guests

          • What a nightmare! If I were advising Orbitz I would tell them to do everything they can to prevent future similar incidents – remove the hotel from their offerings, make it clear to consumers on their website that it is the customer’s responsibility to double check properties directly before booking and travel (if they really expect that), and offer some form of compensation (if not a dollar amount, then a voucher toward future travel or a discount at a good hotel chain) to help this family feel that their story was heard and to prevent them from taking their frustration to the media. Who, after hearing this, would want to book with Orbitz? CRE for Costa Rica, all the way!