Q: We have had a poor experience with Sandals Resorts. The week of June 4, my husband and I stayed at its resort in Barbados.
Major construction was going on at the resort. The construction had not been disclosed to me. It carried on from early in the morning until dinnertime. There was nowhere you could escape the loud noise. We tried to make the best of the situation; we used earplugs and finally resorted to listening to very loud music with earphones to try to drown out the construction noise.
It was a very stressful vacation. We had a challenging year and were very much looking forward to this respite. We were willing to pay the price for a Sandals resort to have a quality experience. If we had known of the construction, we would have selected an alternative Sandals location.
During our stay, we spoke to a customer representative who told us that our complaint would be registered and that the director of guest services would contact us within one to two days. We had to follow up with her, and she told us the company could not respond to our complaint until after we had settled the bill and were home.
Once we arrived home, we followed up with her and were told that a "ticket" was opened on our behalf. We were offered two free nights if we booked another Sandals vacation within a year.
We already have a U.S. vacation planned for 2018 and would not be able to book another Sandals vacation within that time frame.
We have lost faith in the company. We have had three vacations with Sandals Resorts and would have had more. We are very concerned with its lack of communication. Any assistance or guidance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
— Lisa Chiarello, Clarksboro
A: Sandals should have told you about the construction before you booked your vacation. After all, it claims to be the "recognized standard of romantic beach vacations," and construction noise is not romantic.
I'm troubled by the company's preferred resolution process. Did someone really tell you you had to settle the bill and go home before Sandals could help? That's nonsense. Sandals has a second resort in Barbados, which might have been able to accommodate you. I always recommend trying to resolve a problem like this right then and there. It seemed Sandals just wanted to take your money and send you a halfhearted offer of two "free" nights. (Of course, they aren't really free if you have to pay for airfare and other expenses, but I digress.)
You kept excellent records of your correspondence with Sandals. That's helpful when you're trying to negotiate a resolution. Sandals wrote you a nice reply, which appeared to be a form letter, in which it apologized for your experience, noting, "it is a real concern to us when on rare occasions despite everyone's good intentions, circumstances arise which cause the events described."
To me, this sounds like Sandals believes the bad vacation you had was no one's fault. But it was. The company is directly responsible not only for the construction, but also for failing to notify you of the repairs.
I might have appealed this to someone higher up at Sandals. When a company sends insincere apologies and halfhearted offers, it's time to escalate your complaint. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Sandals executives on my consumer-advocacy site: www.elliott.org/company-contacts/sandals/.
I contacted Sandals on your behalf, and it agreed to refund the two nights you had requested.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of "How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler." You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.