I received a call on April 9, 2012, purporting itself to be a survey about political opinions, which then "selects" you to win a free 2-day cruise to the Bahamas from Ft. Lauderdale. I am on the do-not-call list, so I assumed that I was in fact getting a political campaign call, even though the questions did not sound like real polling questions.
After I waited on hold and listened to a pitch on the cruise and hotel package, the agent pushed me enthusiastically to purchase additional services, which included several nights in hotels in Ft. Lauderdale, The Bahamas and Orlando. For this package, you are given an 18-month time frame to book the vaction, and then after you an get "free" accomodations in Las Vegas.
When finalizing the purchase, which seemed like a good deal compared to the vacations I usually take, I asked the agent specifically about when the vacation package becomes non-refundable. They told me that I can get my money back as long as I cancel 60 days prior to my booking date. As I usually book through reputable services, it didn't occur to me that their policies would be so much less friendly. And of course, it's very hard to look them up while they're chatting at you on the phone. A quick peruse of Yelp shows I'm not the only one who was caught up in this pitch.
As per the usual with these services, they set up an online account and have you agree to the Terms & Conditions, which is extremely long, worded in a complicated way and shows up in tiny font. They know nobody reads these, and of course I didn't, because I thought the most important information - terms of cancellation - had already been disclosed to me over the phone. Not so much.
After reading a lot of mediocre reviews about agressive direct-mail and direct-phone marketing, how the service nickel-and-dimes passengers on service fees, the substandard food and inconvenient hotels, I decided I didn't sound like that great a deal anymore, and called to cancel on April 20. They told me that I had waited too long (11 days), and that I was supposed to cancel for a full refund within 72 hours. I chewed the agent out on the phone because that was not what I was initially told, and demanded my money back because of their failure to provide accurate answers. She gave all kinds of conflicting excuses, including:
1.) This is a rule in my particular state, which is why they didn't have that information on the phone for me when I reserved, even though I gave them my state and mailing address.
2.) They are not subject to my state's laws.
3.) They were actually very generous since that 72 hours doesn't start until after I agree to the TOS.
4.) They actually did tell me 72 hours over the phone (they didnt).
5.) Why is this such a big deal? ($935 is NOT a big deal?)
6.) Sorry, there's nothing she could do.
7.) Actually, she's going to be nice and give me back half the money I paid. I'll get it back on my credit card for now and then pay it up front when I make my reservation instead.
8.) Maybe they can help me more if I explain why I need my money back.
9.) Well, I could still sell it or give it to someone else if I just don't want it.
10.) The law is on their side, so it's no use reporting them.
After all this customer service trouble, I of course do not intend to use this vacation package, and I have a conscience so I'm not going to rip someone else off with it. That means I'm out $468 unless my appeals through Rip Off Report, the Better Business Bureau, my credit card company put them under enough "black mark" pressure. A consumer protection lawyer I talked to agreed that I'd been scammed and taken advantage of due to lax protection on disclosure laws and TOS agreements.
I initially filed a complaint to the BBB under the Celebration Cruise Line brand, which contracts out other services, like Caribbean/Florida Bahamas to sell their tickets and hotel rooms. This means of course that this company has no record of my dealings with Carribbean/Florida Bahamas, and they responded that they can't help me. I urged them to stop selling their products through this company.