The following is my report, in the form of an e-mail sent to the 'owner' of Vacations in Paradise, Austin Shaw, on April 30th 2004. They had promised a response by end of business hours today...as usual, another broken promise::
As the 'owner' of Vacations in Paradise (aka Sunrise Vacation Club) I would expect you to direct your staff to treat matters such as this with extreme urgency. However, that does not seem to be the case.
So.....this is directed to your attention, as I do not believe you steer this very unstable craft unknowingly.
On March 19th 2004, I arrived at the Riverview Inn in Wasaga Beach, looking forward to a lovely weekend with my close friend, dining, skiing and enjoying a promising travel presentation. For this priviledge, my Visa card had been debited with $60 (plus taxes).
My arrival at the 'Inn' was less than comforting. The site was not even Motel 6 standards. The receptionist showed me several rooms, including a 'suite', all of which were probably the worst accomodation for which I have ever been charged. Rickety furniture from Salvation Army stores, vanities propped up with 2 x 4 lumber, TV's that were older than my adult children, unfinished wallboard...and one room to which I was given the key was so steeped in cigarette fumes it made my eyes water and lungs spasm as soon as I opened the door.
I finally accepted a key for a room that I judged to be the best of what was offered...with much distaste.
The receptionist (a very helpful young lady) advised that the Donato House across the street was a sister hotel, and in fact owned the Riverview. She added that we were free to use the pool over there as a confirmation of this fact. She also carefully booked us for the 9:30 am presentation the following morning.
Not only could I not face spending not one, but two nights, at the Riverview Inn, I was certainly not going to ask my valued friend to put up with that either. So, we drove across to the 'sister' Donato House. I might add...to complete this miserable picture....it was a weekend of very heavy rain, so we knew we were unlikely to get much skiing in, and I have to say, Wasaga Beach is dreadful in any weather, but that night and weekend, it was unbelievably dismal.
I explained the situation to the desk clerk at the Donato House, who was very adament that there was absolutely no connection between the two sites whatsover, other than the fact that the Donato House hosted the travel presentations. He did have a room he could 'help me out with' at a rate of $109 per night though. Again, this served only to arouse suspicions and make
me very uncomfortable about the whole situation. However, as I already had $ invested, and as it was 8 pm on a stormy Friday night, and we were 2 hours away from home, it was either that or sleep in my car (which would have been preferable to the Riverview Inn I might say).
The next morning, we went downstairs at 9:30 am for the sales presentation, only to be told that we had been 'bumped' to the Sunday session in Collingwood. As we had planned the remainder of the weekend around the agreed time of 9:30, I asked if some other arrangement could be made. It was agreed we should attend a 'special' session at 1:30 pm that afternoon. You, Austin,
were in fact the person I spoke to at that time, and you were aware of the fact that I had not stayed at the Riverview, because your staff could not find us at 9:20 am when they came to advise us our plans had been changed. We chatted about that, and your interest level in me was obviously fairly high,because as an 'ex-IBM'er' yourself, you would know that I have a healthy
When we arrived back for that meeting, we were greeted by Nick Andre, the presenter, and Kelly, your sales manager. I was pretty clear about my level of discomfort, and stated that as a sales professional myself, I'm very cognizant of the importance of first impressions....and that none of my impressions so far had been anything other than dismal. And I stated that although I was willing to stay for the presentation and listen to the proposal, there would have to be some reparation made beforehand to gain my trust.
Nick professed to be quite upset at our experience, who called Kelly over, who came to speak to you about what had transpired. I was assured by Kelly and Nick, that our hotel bill at the Donato House would be cancelled (I had paid by Amex upon our check-in)..and that in fact, you, Austin, were already upstairs, 'taking care of it'. Kelly seemed most distraught that the clerk at the Donato House had not dealt with this appropriately, as in fact, both sites were partners in this promotion. She indicated we should have been accomodated there, or even in Collingwood ("in a 3 bedroom condo")if that was more suitable.
So, reassured by the seemingly sincere efforts to rectify the situation, we began the sales pitch with Nick. A few minutes into the pitch, Kelly came back over and told us that everything had been taken care of. Apparently the clerk (who was the same one on duty when we checked in) claimed to have had no knowledge of our situation, and had charged us for the room because he thought we had just walked in off the street. I was MOST upset when I heard this, as now there was a bold lie on the table. However, I was again reassured by Kelly that this had been taken care of...so we continued with the presentation.
As far as the presentation is concerned, we listened with an open mind. We both travel a great deal, and were open to a concept that was sound and would obviously be of good value to us both. However, what we heard was seemingly quite bogus. In essence, we were expected to pay at least $6,000 for a password to a website for 20 years, that would save us 10-30% over discounted travel packages we might already have access to. As I make my living on the internet, I could not see value in the volatility of webpages and fly-by-night tour operators.
So, although I believe we gave Nick and Kelly a very good shot at selling us something of real value, in the end there was no perceived product to buy, and we declined. We were still assured however, that we would not have any costs for our stay at the Donato House, and were told to come back on Sunday morning after the morning presentation to receive a $59 ski package credit on my credit card, when I could present my ski tag. Apparently they were all out of passes, due to the latest of the season.
We left the hotel, and drove immediately into Collingwood to catch a movie we had planned to see. Big mistake...in that we left the hotel whilst you were all still there, without checking that our bill had been taken care of. Big mistake indeed.
We completed our day, spent Saturday night at the Donato House and on checking out, expected to be told the room charge had been credited. Instead...I had to deal again with the same clerk that had checked us in and lied about why he charged us for the room. This time, he claimed to have no knowledge of what had transpired with YOU, that there was no credit on my card, that the charge for the room stood.
He also...unbelievably...claimed that he had not worked on Saturday, and knew nothing about having discussed our situation with you. This, in spite of the fact that I walked by him on my way out of the hotel after the presentation. Absolutely unbelieve bold-faced lying.
We left the hotel to spend the morning at Blue, skiing. We figured we would sort this all out when we came back around noon as agreed to get our ski package credit. Ski conditions were very bad, so we were in fact back at the hotel at 11 am, only to be told that none of you folks were there today, that there were no sales presentations. But that there may be one at the Alpine
Lodge in Collingwood. Soooooo....we drove all the way back to Collingwood, and went into the Alpine (apparently another 'sister'!). Here I was treated somewhat rudely when I asked to see someone from the sales team. As I was insistent, eventually someone came up to speak with me, took my details, including my ski pass, and assured me this would be going to 'head office'(hah!) the next day, and that I should call and speak to Vicky about it.
Since that day, it has been a litany of unproductive phone calls, to Vicky (who I must admit was very helpful and forthcoming)...who eventually passed me told me my 'file' had been passed to Jessica. I've spoken to Jessica and Morgan repeatedly also, left messages, been told my file is with management, credits are in process, and any number of other stall tactics. Today, I spoke again with Jessica, who claims to have no knowledge of my file..nor to have spoken to me before. However, as I am now at the end of my very patient and courteous way of dealing with this...I have given her till the end of the day to get back to me with a resolution.
If I do not hear from Jessica.....or anyone for that matter...by 4 pm today, I will move to take care of this myself...with possible legal repurcussions for yourselves. Please take care of this immediately, so that I don't have to spend more time pursuing the matter.
Donato House - $244.16
Ski Package - $59.00
Total of $303.16 credit is required.
After today, a dollar value will be assigned to my time.