Reserving this Marriott lodge was a catastrophe. Can we get a refund?

What if you happen to arrived at a Marriott lodge anticipating an opulent seashore resort however as an alternative discovered a rundown institution that is been below renovation since 2017? That is the disastrous scenario that confronted Denise Jacob’s household once they traveled to Marriott’s Carambola Seaside Resort in St. Croix final July.

Jacob says the alluring pictures of the lodge displayed on the Marriott web site bore little resemblance to the situation wherein she and her household discovered it. The crumbling basis of their room’s veranda, uncovered electrical sockets, stained bedding and extra pushed the household to take a look at early.


However their last-minute reservation at one other lodge on the small island value these loyal Marriott Bonvoy members over $5,000.

After a number of unsuccessful makes an attempt at discovering somebody at Marriott who would sympathize and compensate the household for this troubling lodge expertise, Jacob requested TPG for assist. She hoped we might negotiate an final result that restored her household’s religion within the lodge chain.

Getting an ideal lodge deal on the Marriott website

In spring 2022, Denise Jacob and her household have been thrilled to be taught that many Caribbean islands have been lifting COVID-19 testing necessities. The brood unanimously determined to plan a tropical summer season trip to have a good time this newfound ease of motion.

Opening her laptop computer, Jacob began looking for lodging concepts for the journey. As a longtime Marriott Bonvoy member with Platinum Elite standing, naturally, her first alternative was to test the Marriott-branded resorts within the Caribbean. Quickly she zeroed in on the U.S. Virgin Islands as their trip goal vacation spot.

Jacob appreciated that the islands are a U.S. territory, so United States residents do not undergo immigration strains to enter St. Thomas, St. John or St. Croix. Actually, the group would not even want their passports for this trip, they usually wouldn’t have to fret about forex trade.

Now, the household simply wanted to select which island to go to. Jacob hoped she may even have the ability to redeem Marriott Bonvoy factors for the journey.

“We discovered Marriott’s Carambola Seaside Resort in St. Croix. The pictures regarded fabulous — simply the kind of place we have been on the lookout for,” Jacob instructed me. “It had lovely suites, and the property was gorgeous — proper by the ocean. We have been bought.”

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Even higher: Jacob efficiently redeemed Marriott free-night-award certificates for 2 nights on the lodge. This considerably would scale back the general value of the seven-night trip.

“I assumed the speed for the extra 5 nights was unusually low, however because it was a Marriott lodge, we had no actual considerations,” Jacob defined. “And the images satisfied us this was the correct alternative.”

Not investigating these low charges additional was an oversight that Jacob would come to remorse. However that realization would not turn out to be obvious till many months later … on the check-in counter of the Carambola Seaside Resort.

Was this even the identical lodge?

The day the household boarded their flights from California to St. Croix, they have been excited. Due to the worldwide pandemic, it had been fairly some time since they’d loved a tropical trip, they usually have been actually trying ahead to this getaway.

After the lengthy journey, the household landed in St. Croix and took a 45-minute taxi to the Carambola. That is when their excessive hopes for this trip took a sudden nosedive.

“We confirmed up, and it did not look fairly like we anticipated. Instantly we noticed it was a bit run down,” Jacob reported. “The employees defined that Hurricane Maria had broken the property in 2017. The lodge was nonetheless below renovation. I began to get a foul feeling.”

Then the Carambola employees put the household in a golf cart, took them on a bumpy trip over damaged concrete pathways and delivered them to their bungalow. At this level, these loyal Marriott Bonvoy members knew they’d made a giant mistake reserving this lodge.


Jacob mentioned the room was nothing just like the pictures she had seen on the Marriott web site. “I could not consider the state of the room,” Jacob recalled. “It was not like every seashore resort I had ever stayed at earlier than. The place was in shambles. It was laborious to consider that Marriott would have branded this lodge!”

The household stood within the room after their lengthy day of journey and questioned what to do.

Making an attempt to change rooms

Jacob says the situation of the room was stunning. She annotated the pictures beneath for us to level out the particular points she encountered.


The home windows had large diagonal cracks and {the electrical} retailers have been uncovered. The place a tv was purported to be on the wall was only a clean house with wires snaking from it.


When she opened the closet to place their baggage away, she discovered that the rods meant to carry their garments have been damaged or lacking. Sharp metallic poles jutted in varied instructions from the wall. The muse of the porch was crumbling, too, and black mould crept up from the underside of the partitions contained in the room and within the lavatory.


The household was touring with kids, in order that they anticipated to have the ability to use the fold-out sofa, however the furnishings was lined in mysterious darkish stains.


When Jacob pulled the mattress out to have a look at the mattress, she instantly realized one factor: With unidentifiable crimson stains, nobody in her household could be sleeping on it. Particularly her kids.


“There was no telephone to name anyplace, so that you needed to hike up a 3/4-mile service street crammed with potholes with minimal lighting or on an extended path with buckled and cracked sidewalks to get to the foyer. My husband is disabled, so he could not take that journey. My daughter and I went up there and instructed the employees we couldn’t keep in that room.”


Jacob was below the impression that maybe they’d been given a room below renovation in error and that each one could be corrected by a transfer to a brand new bungalow. That turned out to not be the case. Jacob mentioned the following room she was proven had a robust odor of mildew and visual mould in every single place. She rejected the substitute provide.

When the Carambola employees defined there have been no higher rooms to assign the household, Jacob returned to their room. She famous and photographed the terrible state of their bungalow, nonetheless in disbelief on the flip of occasions.


“I assumed, if this place was so broken by a hurricane 5 years in the past, it must be closed. Every thing regarded harmful,” Jacob instructed me when she despatched the pictures.

The household tried a number of web sites to get an appropriate substitute lodge for the following seven days. However, on the final minute, nothing was out there inside their value vary. So the household received one other concept.

The ultimate straw

Having no different alternative, the Jacobs determined to attempt to benefit from their scenario. They might journey to city and purchase air mattresses, sheets and pillows and camp out within the room. In spite of everything, Jacob mentioned, the seashore in entrance of the lodge was lovely. However then they seen a big drawback that made their new plan unattainable.

“We realized that the doorways in our room resulting in the seashore wouldn’t lock,” Jacob defined. “That was a deal breaker. We have been in a bungalow solely 10 ft from the seashore on a darkish, abandoned finish of the resort. We did not really feel protected with no option to safe our room.”


And with that, the household started a search in earnest to discover a new lodge, which they discovered, however at nice value.

An costly last-minute reservation on St. Croix

Lastly, after a lot effort, the Jacobs have been capable of guide another resort, The Buccaneer Seaside & Golf Resort, at a value of $1,000 per evening.


Earlier than reserving the substitute property, Jacob texted the supervisor of the Carambola and known as Marriott customer support (800-535-4028) and requested for steerage.

“A consultant requested me what I wished her to do. I instructed her we simply wanted a protected, clear place to remain for the following seven nights. She had nothing to supply me, however after reviewing our pictures, she confirmed we might have a full refund of our factors and money. The entire refund was $1,600. However now our solely alternative was to guide a lodge that will value us over $7,000.”

Not solely that, however the Buccaneer solely had availability for 5 nights. The household needed to transfer once more partway by their “stress-free” trip to a different lodge.

Nothing had turned out because the household had hoped for this Caribbean getaway.

Asking The Factors Man for assist

Jacob and her household accomplished their disjointed trip and returned to California. She set about attempting to get Marriott to reimburse her household for no less than a few of their extra bills. She additionally hoped for some clarification as to why Marriott had pictures on its web site that appeared loads like a “bait and change” to her.

“After we received residence, I despatched Marriott customer support a prolonged description of what we discovered at this lodge in St. Croix and requested for some truthful compensation. Nobody bothered to answer and even acknowledge the written assertion that I despatched,” she mentioned.

By October, Jacob had nearly given up on ever receiving any significant response to her grievance when she learn my article about one other household’s equally disappointing lodge expertise.

Jacob had a renewed hope that somebody may hear her plea for assist about what she known as her personal nightmare trip. She rapidly despatched her request for ombudsman assist to The Factors Man and her story quickly landed in my inbox.

Marriott investigates the issue

I learn by Jacob’s e-mail with warning as a result of it contained a laundry listing of complaints. Seemingly nothing was proper concerning the lodge, in line with her letter. As a shopper advocate, over time, I’ve obtained loads of exaggerated complaints from vacationers with excessive expectations who anticipate the businesses concerned to provide them the moon in return for minor inconveniences. However as I reached the underside of her plea, it was clear that there was no hyperbole in her story.

Jacob had meticulously documented her household’s expertise with pictures, they usually left nothing to the creativeness.

I gathered her supplies and requested our govt contact at Marriott if her workforce might take a look. This particular person is a media contact that we are able to method instantly about circumstances like this slightly than a public-facing customer support consultant.

My expertise with this govt is that she is at all times fast to resolve issues that Marriott clients ship my approach. After all, that’s so long as the details of the case lean in favor of the visitor. I used to be certain that the details of this case supported Jacob and her household’s model of occasions, although.

To make sure, nevertheless, I hooked up a number of pictures of the lodge in my correspondence with our Marriott govt contact. Quickly Jacob had a proposal of a decision. However to her, it nonetheless didn’t appear truthful.

“The supervisor of the lodge known as me and provided me 35,000 Bonvoy factors. That doesn’t even cowl one evening for this Marriott lodge,” Jacob instructed me. “Do you suppose that is truthful?”

I didn’t.

Pushing again on Marriott

I by no means wish to harangue or strong-arm corporations into correcting issues. I don’t often want to try this since most companies wish to appropriate the issues that their clients encounter and I’m very cautious about which circumstances I tackle, reserving my assist for those who really deserve some kind of decision in my view.

Jacob’s pictures confirmed that the resort was in a state of disrepair. And it wasn’t affordable to ask a household with kids to remain in a room they couldn’t safe at evening.

The uneven sidewalks and crumbling basis of the bungalow’s porch and varied staircases across the property offered a hazard to visitors – particularly ones who’ve mobility issues, as Jacob’s husband does.

So I requested Marriott to have another look.

Some excellent news from Marriott

After Marriott reviewed the really disagreeable expertise of the household, Jacob obtained a telephone name from the supervisor of the Carambola. She was offered with two doable resolutions.

  • A free five-night keep for her household after renovations are full, or …
  • 120,000 Marriott Bonvoy factors.

Jacob requested what I assumed she ought to select. The reply was simple: the Bonvoy factors, that are value round $1,008 based mostly on TPG’s present valuations.

Why? The Carambola has been below renovation because the hurricane hit in 2017. There isn’t a deadline for these fixes. If, for any motive, the resort doesn’t full the renovations, goes out of enterprise or switches possession, Jacob would don’t have anything in the long run.

Whereas the household has empathy for the island and the lodge’s wrestle to restore the terrible harm from hurricanes Irma and Maria, they really feel bamboozled by this expertise.

Transparency is vital, although. Vacationers should have the ability to resolve for themselves whether or not the present state of a property is suitable. Promotional pictures ought to present that situation — not what the property regarded like prior to now or what it might appear like sooner or later. This household wouldn’t have chosen the Carambola had they recognized its true situation. However they weren’t on condition that alternative.

In the long run, Jacob determined that she didn’t wish to take a raffle on whether or not or not the lodge will ever return to its former state. She selected the 120,000 Bonvoy factors. The household is fortunately planning their subsequent Marriott trip, and this time she will likely be further cautious together with her lodge choice.

Learn how to keep away from your personal lodge reserving mistake

With at this time’s plethora of on-line assets, getting blindsided by a lodge’s situation upon arrival is fortunately unusual. That’s, so long as you do your due diligence to verify the truth of a property matches your expectations.

Right here’s how you can keep away from making your personal lodge reserving mistake when reserving your subsequent trip.

Go to unbiased evaluate websites

It’s at all times a good suggestion to get an unbiased opinion a few lodge from fellow vacationers. Visiting an unbiased evaluate website like Tripadvisor ought to provide the full image of the property you’re eyeing. Don’t simply deal with the best or lowest scores. I like to recommend paying specific consideration to the middle-of-the-road opinions, which frequently provide you with data on the nice, the unhealthy and the mediocre concerning the property.

Beware of pretend opinions

Sadly, regardless of the most effective efforts of many websites to manage faux, paid or bot site visitors, a few of the opinions you’ll learn on these websites are fraudulent. That’s to say, both somebody has paid for the evaluate, or they might be a competitor or disgruntled ex-employee trying to break the status of the lodge. Because of this, you must at all times have a look at the general depiction of the property. Disregard “one-hit-wonder” reviewers who’ve a cartoon avatar and no earlier opinions anyplace on the positioning. These are the hallmark indicators of a faux evaluate. Keep away from evaluate websites that don’t will let you see the poster’s particulars.

Do a value comparability of comparable resorts

When deciding on a lodge, be certain to do a comparability of different properties in the identical class. If all the opposite luxurious resorts in the identical location are considerably dearer than the property you’re contemplating, that’s one other warning signal. You’ll wish to discover out why. On this case, Jacob was conscious that each one the opposite resorts have been far more costly than the Carambola, however she neglected that oddity.

Use knowledgeable journey adviser

One practically surefire option to keep away from ending up at a lodge that doesn’t match your expectations is to make use of a journey adviser to make your plans. These professionals have entry to data common vacationers aren’t aware about, and their purpose is to make sure that the desires and wishes of their purchasers are met.

When you’ve got a query a few property, knowledgeable journey adviser doubtless is aware of the solutions — or is aware of how you can rapidly discover them. And the most effective half? If one thing goes incorrect throughout your travels, they are going to be out there to you in actual time to appropriate the issue. That may be an ideal reduction when you end up removed from residence with an issue, as this household did. Yow will discover knowledgeable journey adviser who focuses on your vacation spot on the American Society of Journey Advisors web site.

Keep away from non-branded resorts which might be a part of chains

In Jacob’s case, I requested Marriott how this lodge in its present state of disrepair had remained part of Marriott. The reply stunned me and I feel it is going to shock you, too.

The Carambola lodge isn’t formally branded by Marriott, which means it is not designated as a Marriott, Autograph Assortment, Westin or any of Marriott’s 30 manufacturers — no less than not but. Marriott’s spokesperson for the Caribbean and Latin America defined, “The lodge is presently present process renovations, and, whereas it’s a part of the Marriott portfolio, it isn’t assigned a model presently till all renovations are full.”

This can be a vital piece of data that, had Jacob recognized, she wouldn’t have booked the Carambola. She had seen adverse opinions of the resort on Tripadvisor, however was lulled right into a false sense of safety based mostly on what she perceived to be the Marriott branding of the property.

Right here’s what you could know as you browse the listings on the Marriott website:

  • Though all the properties on the positioning are within the Marriott portfolio, not all are branded.
  • A Marriott-branded lodge meets a particular set of requirements that you just doubtless affiliate with the corporate.
  • To substantiate {that a} lodge is definitely a part of the Marriott model, the property’s web page ought to point out one of many 30 manufacturers below the Marriott umbrella.

By taking that step, you must make sure the property lives as much as the requirements Marriott (or different main lodge teams) publicly set forth for his or her particular labels.

Backside line

It’s not usually that you just’ll see an marketed luxurious resort in such a state of disrepair because the property on this case. Sadly, although, this might occur to you if you happen to don’t take some precautionary steps throughout your planning levels. By doing some research earlier than clicking on that “Verify” button, you’ll be unlikely to be stunned on the check-in counter throughout your subsequent lodge keep.

If regardless of your entire finest efforts, nevertheless, you end up in a dispute with an airline, cruise line, trip rental firm, automobile rental company, lodge or bank card firm, ship your request for assist to, and I’ll be completely satisfied that will help you too.

Wish to be taught extra about whom we have helped with their journey quandaries? Take a look at these associated posts:

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