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Monday, October 13, 2008

Never Holiday With Sandals, Part Two

In the beginning, there was Sandals Travel Sucks (the first part).

Then we swam, ate, drank and generally had a merry time for a few days.

When it came time to leave though, we were pretty rightfully frightened considering the treatment Sandals had given us on the flight down. The Girl kept asking our butler (yes, we had a butler - but it's not really as swank as it sounds) to verify our schedule but we were continually told not to worry about it.

So I double checked the only flight information we had on hand - the original paper itinerary. This told us we needed to board around 9:45 and considering the amount of merry time we had the night before ... this proved somewhat difficult. We awoke and sloughed around 7 in the morning to shower, finish packing and harass the front desk. We were both in a state of pain from being hungover with very little sleep.

The front desk was certain we were to check out at 11, leave at 12 and board a plane at 2:35. This prompted a lot of questions from us. Were we still getting into Chicago at 7 if we were leaving half a day later than before? Were we going to have enough time in San Juan to make our connecting flight (without the use of a time machine)? Were we confirmed for this new flight out of San Juan?

The first story we got was the yes, we would still get to Chicago at 7:00. Yes, thirty minutes was enough time to exit the plane, get your luggage, get through customs and get to the other gate.

We were a bit skeptical of all this.

The second story we got was that we had about an hour in San Juan but we'd still get to Chicago later that night. We still didn't get any real confirmation on this phantom flight and never got confirmation that we were actually on that flight.

We were a bit skeptical of all this.

So noon rolls around and we're put into a cab and get sent off to the airport. We get to the American Airlines ticket counter.

We are told there has been a schedule change and there is no flight out of San Juan to Chicago. The best they can do is get us to Miami that night, hope we can get a hotel and then get to Chicago in the morning.

At this junction there are only three possibilities. Either Sandals is so woefully incompetent that they don't understand the difference between a plane being in existence and not being in existence, they know the difference but they were simply lying to us because they knew once we were off the resort we weren't their problem - or some combination of the two.

To make a long, painful, story short - we spent four hours in a Days Inn off Miami International. We made it into Chicago about 17 hours after we were supposed to originally. I missed a day of work and The Girl had no chance to clean or organize for our impending house guests. We've been in varying states of exhaustion ever since. Oddly being stuck for inside hotels, airports and airplanes for nearly a day cycle really throws the body out of whack.

Despite the fact that we had a plenty good time while on the island itself - our end summation is that there are plenty of resorts in the sea and we don't need to deal with one that treats its guest so carelessy from both a corporate and local level. The treatment was truly astonishing.

I've heard back from their odd, secret, internal customer service on the first part and the response was essentially a formal summary of their original stance. They process many flights like this and if a few customers fall through the cracks then well, shrug, ho hum and go sod off.

Which we would say to Sandals: the feeling is now mutual.

Update:
I sent a summary of this to the "internal customer service email" (whatever the hell that means). I had already sent the first post there and basically got a paraphrase of the same "this is our policy" nonsense that they gave us before.

This time I got nothing. Not even a "sorry for lying to" or, heck, even a sorry. Nothing at all. This is Sandals, people. Unless you're calling with your credit card in hand, they could really care less.

1 comment:

kerrie.albers said...

I hate to post a negative review, but I am so disappointed with Sandals and their "lack of customer service" I felt I had to let it be known.

Let me start by saying that we very much live for vacations and do our best to enjoy every minute of them. We have been on several very nice AI vacations to Mexico and Jamaica before, but never to a Sandals property. Sandals was always considerably more expensive and, to be honest, we were never sure if it was really that much more fabulous to justify the additional expense.

Last July (2008) my husband and I decided we would splurge and booked a trip to Sandals Whitehouse in February 2009 to celebrate our 22nd anniversary. We even had some friends sign up to come along for their 1st ever trip out of the US, because they loved our stories of glorious vacations from the past. Seven months went by very slowly as we were so excited we were counting down the days.

Finally, the big day arrived! February 6 was finally here! Our flight was uneventful (thank goodness!) and landed almost right on time. It took us about 45 minutes to get through Customs, etc., we gathered our bags, and were off to the Sandals lounge! Woo-hoo!!! The tough part was over and the vacation had begun! . . . . . or so we thought!

Upon arriving at the Sandals lounge, we were asked to check our bags in with the bellman and come in, get a drink, relax, and wait for the bus. My husband told the rest of us to go ahead and he would take care of checking in our luggage. So we did. After several minutes he had not joined us and I started wondering where he was. I looked all around and didn't see him, so I waited a few more minutes thinking maybe he was in the men’s room. A few more minutes went by and they were announcing that the bus to Whitehouse was leaving, and I still couldn't find him. Finally, after about 15 minutes, I was standing in the doorway between the lounge and the main airport lobby wondering where the heck he had gone, and I spotted him at a desk in the center of the lobby with his head in one hand and a telephone up to his ear. Who is he talking to, I asked myself!

I made a bee-line straight to him and asked him who the heck he was talking to. He told the person on the other end of the line "let me let you talk to my wife, she's the one that booked it". So, I get on the phone and it's a lady in the Sandals Whitehouse executive office (I know her name but am not listing it) who proceeds to tell me, and I quote, "the company you used to book this vacation has gone bankrupt and did not pay for your trip". WHAT???!!!!!! I excitedly explained that I had paid for this trip 7 MONTHS AGO, and the money was taken out of my account 7 MONTHS AGO. After several minutes of arguing back and forth, I pointed out to the Whitehouse rep that I had checked in online on the Sandals website 4 days earlier, and they couldn't tell me this then, before I actually arrived in a foreign country!!! After more "discussion", I finally said "this is ridiculous, Expedia has not gone bankrupt!". Then she asked "you booked through Expedia? Our records indicate that you booked with Mike Steel of (something) Marquis Travel". I was so upset that I didn't catch the first word of the company.

Keep in mind that we have friends traveling with us too, and I booked their travel also, and they are wondering what the heck I have gotten them into!

So after more arguing, the Sandals rep kept telling me that she has that we booked with this Marquis company, and I am almost to the point of screaming and telling her that I am the one that booked it and I am POSITIVE that we booked through Expedia! She for some reason, didn't want to accept that. I told her "I have our confirmation numbers right here!". So, she asked for our confirmation numbers and told us to wait in the airport and she would make some calls and call us back in 5 minutes. About 15 minutes later, she called back and said "I've talked to Expedia and got it all straightened out, come on to Whitehouse".

I truly believe that if I had not been so persistent, we would have been turned around and put straight on a plane back home, at our expense (for changing flights) I'm sure!

By this time, I am very upset, I'm embarrassed in front of our friends, and, as you can imagine, our stomachs were in knots from all of this. But, it was all straightened out and I was going to make the best of it and take it up with Expedia when we get back home.

We arrive at the resort, and everyone else on the bus except us gets checked in, get their arrival packets, and are escorted to their rooms. We're still sitting on the couch in the lobby. So I ask if we're supposed to get arrival packets. A couple of minutes later, they came out with packets and room key cards, and a very nice bellman showed us to our rooms. We arrive at our room and, of course, our key cards do not open our door, so the bellman comes to help. He couldn't get them to work either so he stopped one of the maids (who happened to be walking by) and used her card to open our door, and said he would be right back with new cards. We went in and changed from our traveling clothes into our swimsuits, and in a matter of a couple of minutes, he was back, but the new cards didn't work either, so he said we should go eat and he would find us (by this time it was about 5:00 p.m. (est) and we'd been traveling since 9:30 a.m. (cst) and hadn't eaten all day, so this sounded good). A couple of hours later, we were done with our dinner, had watched the sunset, and decided we would walk back toward our room and look for someone to let us in since we still didn't have keys. We took just a few steps and heading towards us was a young man bringing our keys.

Our room was in the French Village, room #3216, and it did not have a view of the ocean, as Sandals Whitehouse catch-line "all rooms have ocean views" touts. The vegetation was so thick and the building was angled diagonally, and our room was right on the corner as far from the water as you could get, but...we were on vacation and I didn't come to sit in the room! So, we spent the rest of our time enjoying our vacation.

Upon returning home, I decided to contact Expedia regarding the problem we had, because I thought if they used travel companies to book for them, they should know what happened. I sent them a scathing e:Mail, to which they responded almost immediately. I was very impressed that they were so quick to address the complaint. They informed me that they do not use third-party companies to assist in bookings and that the error had to have been made by Sandals. They even put me on hold and called Sandals Whitehouse and talked to the manager on-duty to try to figure out what happened. The Expedia rep came back on the line with me and said that the Whitehouse manager on duty told them that "since I didn't come to the management office while I was there and complain that there was nothing they could do".

Now let me ask you this, why on earth would I have gone to the executive office while I was on my vacation and used what was left of my precious little vacation time just to get mad all over again and raise heck about an issue I had with, according to the Whitehouse rep, the company I used to book by travel (remember, I was told by the Sandals Whitehouse rep that the error was made by the company I booked with)?

I didn't believe that they would respond like that so I asked the Expedia rep if she would mind if I connected Sandals Whitehouse on the line with us in a 3-way call to figure our whose error it was. The Expedia rep said she would be happy to do that, so I called Sandals up and requested a manager and, of course, I was told that they were out on the property somewhere. So, the Sandals rep told me I had to submit complaints via e:Mail to customerservice@grp.sandals.com, which I did. I received a computer generated message reply back that same day that stated they would look in to the complaint and would respond within 7 business days. 12 business days later, I still had not received any type of response, so I e:Mailed them again, and received a "we're sorry" response.

I believe that a company with the reputation that Sandals has for supposedly being "elite" surely could have handled things much better than this.

I can honestly say that I will never ever give ANY Sandals property another penny of my hard earned money (my friends agreed) and, we will tell every single person we know or ever discuss traveling with how they treated us.