(As an update, The Better Business Bureau Just Sent Me A Response From The Below Company That They Refuse To Issue Any Refund At All!)
This complaint is also being filed with the State Of California as a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act! This is the actual complaint that I sent them minus minor editing, so please take that into consideration while reading it.
Sea Sprite Ocean Front Motel
1016 The Strand
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
My name is Joseph, and I have a problem that I am hoping you can help me with. I believe that my complaint falls under both consumer complaints and race/religion discrimination.
Last April, my wife and I went on vacation in Hermosa Beach, CA. We traveled a very long distance from Las Vegas, NV to get there and we had made reservations at the Sea Sprite Ocean Front Motel prior to our arrival. I made the reservations at least 1 1/2 months ahead of time because I knew that the motel could easily be booked up even during the slow season. I have stayed at the Sea Sprite several times in the past and have never had a problem. In fact, they have always been courteous, and kind, and helped me in any way possible during my stay.
During my first conversation with the manager on the phone, when I initially made my reservations for a full weeks stay at the motel, I was told that they didn't take credit cards over the phone so far in advance, and that I needed to send cash/money order or check for my reservation. This I promptly did with certified mail, as the manager whom I made the reservation with (a Mr. Robert Garcia) said that a deposit of at least 50% needed to be sent and then arrive within one week of the reservation. Because I was getting a discount on the room for a full week's stay, I decided to send the full amount of approx. $626.00. During my conversation with Mr. Garcia, I explained that we would be arriving early in the morning after driving during the very early morning hours and would like an early check in, as we would be very tired upon our arrival. Mr. Garcia stated that he would make sure the room was ready.
Now the room that we had made reservations for was an ocean view room, which I assumed meant that we would be facing the ocean, and considering the amount of money we paid, I thought we would be getting a bargain, especially since we were coming off season. I should state that my wife and I are both in very high-pressure jobs in the Casino Industry, and this was our first vacation in over two years, and we were looking forward to a very nice relaxing time, almost a second honeymoon, at the beach.
Well, from our first moment of arrival, we were treated very badly, and here is what followed.
1) We arrived at approx. 9am for check in, and were told that our room was not ready, and that check in was at 2 pm. I should state that my wife and I had already been up for 24 hours when we arrived at 9am as we worked the day before, entertained my aunt who came to town (Las Vegas) and then left at 2am in the morning to beat traffic on the way to Hermosa Beach. By the time we arrived we were exhausted, and needless to say disappointed that our room was not ready. The manager, Robert Garcia, told me at the time of our arrival that he would rush to have the room ready within an hour. I appreciated this, so I let it go, but returned an hour later and was told that the room still wasn't ready, and wouldn't be for at least another hour.
By this time, my wife had decided to sleep in the car as she was exhausted, and I went for a walk along the beach while waiting for the room. I had several conversations with the manager during this time about waiting for the room, and that he had promised it would be ready by our first arrival. I was constantly told that check in was 2pm, but when I confronted Mr. Garcia that he had specifically told me on the phone that the room would be ready in the morning, all I got was a blank stare and excuses.
2) We finally got our room at 12:30 pm, three and a half hours after our arrival. My wife who had been sleeping in the car went to the room first, as I was still walking, and by this time fuming about what was happening. Upon checking with the manager again, I was told that our groceries had arrived (I ordered special food because my wife and I eat Kosher) and got to the room about 20 minutes after she did. My wife was very upset and told me that the room had a beautiful view of the "Parking Lot", and if we looked down the alley, we could see the ocean.
The room was also in bad disrepair with dirty sheets on the bed (which I found after sleeping on the top cover and luckily had not slept on directly), a stove that had missing knobs and didn?t work very well, and was generally filthy with cockroaches, and holes in the wall in several places. I promptly went to the motel office and complained and was told that this was the room I had made reservations for. Even though I explained (this time to a clerk) that on the phone I was told by the manager that we would have a "full" ocean view, not to mention that we expected a clean room without damage, he kept saying that this was the room we made reservations for.
You can see that I was beginning to feel pretty ripped off by this point, and the clerk who was there was not very helpful, but did say that we could take it up with the manager when he returned the next day. However, I desperately needed some sleep, and decided that things would (hopefully) look better after I was more rested. I fell asleep for about 4 hours, on top of the sheets on the bed cover that as I mentioned before were later found to be dirty. I awoke, and after assessing the situation, looked at the room which was of course still a mess, decided that it wasn't what was promised, and recognized at that point that we were about to be taken for a ride on our vacation.
I once again went to the office in "good faith", that the situation could be straightened out.
3) Upon arrival at the office, I requested a different room, hoping to salvage our vacation. I was told that there weren't any other rooms available (even though it was the slow season and there were very few cars in the parking lot.) I said I would be more than happy to pay the difference, and was again told that there weren't any other rooms. I then said "What about the Beach Cottage?", which is the Sea Sprite's only house on the beach. At least it had a full view, hopefully was cleaner, and had more room. I was promptly told that it was available that night, but I would have to check again the next day because it was rented for the weekend.
I said, "Great, switch the room then." I was then told that I would have to pay additional money for the Beach Cottage. I couldn't understand this as I had already paid over $627.00 for the other room for the week, and now they wanted to charge me an "additional" $324.50 for the Beach Cottage. Why not just switch the fee for the rooms? I was told that the money I had paid for the original room was already spent money and paid for and that I couldn't get a refund unless it was re-rented.
Then they would send me a refund for whatever time the original room had been re-rented. At this point, I decided that I would take the Beach Cottage for the night, and take it up with the manager in the morning so that the day wouldn't be a total waste, and I could get some sleep in a clean bed.
4) After getting some more sleep and later some dinner and finally settling in at the Beach Cottage, which I paid the additional money for, my wife and I settled in for the night to watch some television. We both felt pretty cold as the night air and early time of the year caused the temperature in the Beach Cottage to drop dramatically. It was now well past midnight, and we looked for the thermostat to turn on the heat. Big problem, there wasn't any heat when we tried to turn it on and no one available at the office for help. My wife and I spent the night huddled together trying to keep warm all night, shivering most of the night away.
(Later the next day we were given lots of excuses as to why it was our fault that the heat was not turned on. We were told that we should have reported it right away...an impossibility since the office was closed.)
5) My wife and I decided that we would check out of the Sea Sprite if we could find another decent motel. After finding out that "The Beach House Inn" a newer 4 star hotel was available with beautiful rooms that have full ocean front rooms, we made the reservation for the week and an early check in later that day. It should be stated here that we had absolutely no problems whatsoever at the Beach House Inn. We were treated very, very well compared to the Sea Sprite. It was also here that we started to hear the rumors of how the Sea Sprite was ripping off customers similar to us in the same way, and that the place had changed quite a bit in the last few years since the owners didn?t have an active role in managing the place anymore.
6) The next morning, I spoke again to the manager of the Sea Sprite calmly about the situation and all that had occurred, thinking that perhaps the clerk the night before had made some kind of mistake about how refunds were done. I explained that the Beach Cottage didn't have any heat, and considering the way we've been treated since our arrival and how disgusting the first room was (and without a full ocean view as promised), I believed that a full refund of $324.50 for the Beach Cottage and the $627.00 for the other room was in order since we were checking out of the motel after one night.
The manager explained (to my shock) that the policy is that only if a room is re-rented can a refund be done. This seemed like an excuse, but as the manager explained it to me he said that there are times when someone needs to leave because of an emergency and this is the way they handle it. He then said that my room would be put on their computer as the first to rent, so that my money can be refunded, and at the end of the month, or sometime in early May, they will reconcile the books, see how many nights the room was re-rented and send me a check for the difference or full amount.
Then I ask about the Beach Cottage and how it didn't have any heat, and Mr. Garcia explained that he would talk to the owner and refund my credit card for the amount, that this shouldn't be a problem, and that he will call me the next day at the other hotel and fill me in on the details. I figure that we are finally getting somewhere and agree to what he says, and wait for his call the next day.
Before I go on, I should say that there is absolutely no way that I can verify whether the room has been re-rented or not, and whether I am just be handed a line to get rid of me. I also feel that I was well within my rights to ask for a full refund, and the 3 days given by federal law to cancel a contract if what was promised is not delivered.
7) The next day, no phone call.
8) The day after, I call the Sea Sprite and ask for Mr. Garcia. I was asked, "who's calling?" and when I mention my name, I'm told that Mr. Garcia doesn't work that day and will be back in two days. Now, I know something is fishy. 5 minutes later, I walk down past the Sea Sprite, which is a couple of blocks away, and promptly see Mr. Garcia in the front of the motel. When he notices me, he moves quickly to the back room hoping that I won't catch him.
I walk to the front desk and ask for him, and say I know he's there because I saw him go to the back. Mr. Garcia states from the back room that ?Yes, that?s right I am here?, which I?m sure he never would have had I not said that I saw him. The clerk walks to the back room muttering something in a language which I couldn?t understand (possibly a Middle Eastern dialect, although I?m not sure, and then says in English, ?He?s one of THEM.? I didn?t take notice of this right away as he could have been just making a comment about me confronting them on the fact that I was being ripped off, but a very interesting thing happened shortly after this that makes me suspect that I was discriminated against because of my Jewish background.
When Mr. Garcia comes out to meet me, he says that he was only there for a moment and that he stopped in after a doctor's appointment and that he wasn't supposed to be there. (This too did not make sense because he later informed me that his doctor lived in an area well out of the normal driving distance to ?just stop in? at the motel.) When I ask for an update, he again responds that the owner ?will? be issuing a refund for the Beach Cottage as soon as he comes in (an impossibility since I now know that the owner is almost never on the premises as noted before), and that I should receive a check in the mail for the other re-rented room, which he assured me again "looks good" as far as re-renting as it's been re-rented and the weekend is coming, and gauging from the amount of phone calls for reservations it shouldn't be a problem for a full refund.
Mr. Garcia then states that I did overpay him though when I sent in my original $627.00 and then gives me a receipt and a penny. He then says, ?That should satisfy you.?, which I take as an obvious slur to my nationality and religion. I should note that for the most part, things didn?t really start to heat up and the clerks and manager did not start to treat me with full disrespect until my Kosher food had arrived. It was bad enough that the room was in such bad shape, and the cottage didn?t have any heat, but now I was definitely being discriminated against as well as being ripped off as a consumer.
As a side note, and obviously another slur, neither Mr. Garcia, nor any of his staff, ever addressed me by my proper title of Doctor, even after correcting them EVERY time the wrong title was used. (I have a PhD and this was another attempt to belittle me.) I was pretty ticked at this point, but being the good natured person that I am, I decided to leave it at that, expecting the credit card refund immediately, and a check in the mail by mid-May, however feeling quite anxious and perplexed about the situation and all that had been happening.
9) I call my credit card company several times over the next few days to see if a refund has been issued. No, no, and NO. Every additional time that I try to contact Mr. Garcia, I?m told that he isn?t in, and the clerk says that he doesn?t have the ability to fix the problem and only Mr. Garcia or the owner can give refunds.
10) My vacation time at Hermosa Beach comes to an end and thanks to "The Beach House Inn", (the other hotel I decided to switch to) it is mostly successful. I decided to file with the "Better Business Bureau" about the Sea Sprite (of which they are a member) when I get home, and file a dispute with my credit card company about the other room.
To this date, the BBB has not answered any of my requests for an investigation, have not written to me, (even though I have filed with them 3 times), and the BBB file on the Sea Sprite continues to remain in good standing without any complaints filed.
11) My credit card company, American Express, states that they will look into the situation but it will take several weeks.
12) Towards the end of May, my credit card company sends a response about the charge for the Beach Cottage at the Sea Sprite, and Mr. Garcia, who promised me a refund in oral agreement to which we shook hands on several times, has now told the credit card company that he will NOT issue a refund. I am also sure at this point that I will not be receiving a check from the Sea Sprite for the days that my room was supposedly re-rented, and which Mr. Garcia assured me that it had been re-rented, but which now he will say wasn?t re-rented and which I can?t prove one way or another. (How are you supposed to know if the place was re-rented or not if they won?t give you proof?
I asked how many days it had been re-rented during my time in Hermosa and when I caught Mr. Garcia that one afternoon when he was hiding, he refused to answer me as to the exact amount of days although he did say it had been re-rented and ?looked good.?.)
13) I'm screwed out of approx. $975.00, not to mention the mental anguish, practically ruined vacation, additional expenses of another hotel at a much more expensive rate, and definite discrimination as a Jew.
I live out of state, and I can't continue to go to the Sea Sprite in person to work out this problem. I know now that I am not going to get restitution unless I take this to the State. I have thought about going to small claims court, but that is out of reach as I live in Nevada.
I am asking for your help. Perhaps some would consider this a small case, but I feel that any case where a person is discriminated against because of their religion/nationality and then ripped off as a consumer is no small matter no matter how trivial. I was violated in several ways, and you cannot imagine the amount of mental anguish I have gone through trying to get this matter resolved. I saved a long time for that vacation. My wife was recently in an auto accident, and the stress because of it, combined with work and added expenses was our reason for going on vacation in the first place.....to get some piece of mind back before the long haul before us.
The Sea Sprite was always my place of choice in the past, but I have never been treated so badly in all my life, and I feel as if insult has been added to injury. I was mistreated by their entire staff from the moment of our arrival, and definitely after the arrival of our Kosher food, which earmarked us as Jews.
After the food arrived, I was treated in a discriminatory manner, by being called ?one of THEM, and the penny insult which if you are a Jew, you know full well is an insult to your nationality/religion. (The ignorant and racist think that we are penny pinchers. The old joke of ?How do you make a Jew go crazy? Put him in a round room and tell him there?s a penny in the corner? applies here.)
I can not tell you how much this has affected my life at this point, but I am mentally stressed as well as feeling as if I've have been prejudiced against because of this, and completely ripped off.
I would like to know what my options are, and I don't want to give up. Please don't tell me that this is a small matter and to just let it drop. To me it is not! I had heard from others in Hermosa that this is a standard tactic by the Sea Sprite now for some reason (the ripping off of customers by keeping their money and promising a refund... a con game if there ever was one, ever since the owner's stopped having a daily hand in the operations of the business.
If you could help by investigating these people, and getting my money back, and then making sure they don?t ever do either of these tactics again, it would be appreciated.
Las Vegas, Nevada