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Buyer Beware in Belize

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Edmonton
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9 posts
49 reviews
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Buyer Beware in Belize

My sister and I are planning a trip to Belize in March 2013. Sadly, we already have a bad taste in our mouths about Belize.

We live in different cities and are meeting in Belize. I am planning the entire trip, and we had decided that I would pay for the beach portion and she would pay for the inland portion.

I made a reservation at hotel outside of San Ignacio. Well, you know they want full payment up front to make your reservation. That was no problem, but we also wanted to do some tours. I was having an email dialogue with the hotel discussing various tours. I never received any email with a quote, or confirmation of any kind for the tours. In fact, I had heard nothing from the hotel for a several days. But, unbeknownst to me, the person I was dealing with added the cost of the tours to our package. But that is not the worst of it. The worst is that she DOUBLED THE PRICE OF EACH TOUR and added it to our bill. This was supposedly because each tour has a minimum number of people, if there is less than the minimum number booked on the tour, you have to pay for the empty spots. I was NEVER told of this policy and can find no record of it on their website.

The next part is, i admit,our own fault. The place is question has a unique way of obtaining payment. You get a confirmation number, and use it as a code to enter their payment website. Once in the payment website, you can pay with your credit card.

Well, I gave my sister the confirmation number so she could pay for the inland portion of the tour as planned. As far as I knew, we had only been billed for the price for the accommodation. I never heard anything back from the hotel regarding the tours and just assumed they would get back to me when they could. My sister went in and paid the bill, then contacted me to say how much more it cost than she thought. Waaaaaay more than we had discussed.

You guessed it, they had added the price of the tours we had been discussing, and then DOUBLED it.

I was horrified and contacted the hotel immediately, thinking the doubled cost of the tours was a mistake. But I was even more horrified to discover that it was not a mistake, they had intentionally doubled the cost of the tours so that we would have to cover the entire cost for the minimum number of people ourselves. I have been trying to get them to relent with no success. We are stuck with this outrageous bill. They do not even return my emails anymore.

We will now be making our trip with pretty bad feelings about this hotel. When we return I will publish the name of the hotel on TripAdvisor to warn others of this deceitful and unethical practice.

Ohio
Destination Expert
for Cruz Bay
Level Contributor
5,897 posts
6 reviews
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1. Re: Buyer Beware in Belize

Call your credit card companies and dispute the charges. You aren't even there yet, so you have an excellent case. I would also ask your CC company if you can cancel your reservation at that hotel and go elsewhere without having to pay the hotel's cancellation fees because of their unethical practices.

Ambergris Caye
Destination Expert
for San Ignacio, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
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2,463 posts
7 reviews
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2. Re: Buyer Beware in Belize

Sorry this happened to you. Agreed with bluewater43 about calling cc company. That is not cool and not the norm for hotels here.

belize
Destination Expert
for Belize, Placencia, Ambergris Caye, Cayo, San Ignacio
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6,838 posts
10 reviews
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3. Re: Buyer Beware in Belize

FYI, many tours are priced for up to 4 people traveling together and those 4 people split the price of the tour. However, some clients prefer private tours and if its less than 4 people, they pay the entire amount for the transfers and basic set costs, but only pay pp for lunch, entry fees, etc. Most hotels require full payment in advance for the rooms, but never the tours, unless you are buying a package. Contact the hotel, tell them you would rather wait to book your tours to share the costs with other guests and tell them to refund that which you paid for the tours. They can not deny you that. Also check if they billed in US or BZ$. US$1.00=BZ$2.00, so that could be why the billing appears to be double. But ask.

San Ignacio, Belize
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4,753 posts
276 reviews
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4. Re: Buyer Beware in Belize

Sorry to hear that happened. Which hotel is it? I live here in Cayo, and am taking Eco and Adventure Tourism class right now, and would really like to know. I'd also recommend calling your cc company, as soon as possible. Let them know the details, and that you'd like a full refund, then let the hotel know the same.

Best of luck!

Level Contributor
7,834 posts
220 reviews
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5. Re: Buyer Beware in Belize

I must admit I can't really follow the series of events but agree that first step is disputing the items in question with credit card company..most hotels have a set guideline for cancellations and if you still can I would find another spot. Don't understand why two people are using credit cards here but guess you both need to dispute. As for tours they are normally not prepaid as so many things can come up such as weather (ATM cancelled most days we were in San Ignacio) sickness etc. Our hotel booked the tour but we did not pay unless we went and more importantly how did they know there would not be enough people when you are traveling in March?? I think you should mention exactly what hotel you are dealing with here as it might facilitate a resolution to your problem. As I mentioned maybe I am missing something here but there is no way I would pay for tours in advance and frankly no reputable hotel or tour company would ask for it. If this is some sort of package tour operator then it is a different story but does not sound that way. Good luck and please post results.

Beaumont, Texas
1 post
1 review
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6. Re: Buyer Beware in Belize

I understand you are upset but it is hard to make out exactly what happened as far as the tours. Sounds like this place does private tours instead of group tours....which usually means a minimum of two people. So, is that why it appears you were charged twice....the charge for the two people minimum on a private tour rather than a group tour?

Paying in advance for tours is usually done when the resort is putting everything into 'one neat package' - it's just adding up everything - accommodations; meals; tours; etc. and giving it to you in one price so you will know your cost total in advance. It appears there was a lack of good communication between the two of you – you and the resort – and they added everything up for you in one bill.

I suggest that you get back in touch with the resort and ask them to remove the tours from the bill. And, Okavanga – I wonder if the resort is having communication equipment problems which is not unusual in Belize…[service provider problems] esp. remote areas? I find it hard to fathom that they would just cease to communicate with you…especially if they are expecting to see you face to face in March.

Belize
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15 posts
7 reviews
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7. Re: Buyer Beware in Belize

It sounds like something has gone wrong with the billing system at the hotel where you plan to stay, but, FWIW from a lodge owner/tour operator point of view, we do pre-bill for tours. We didn't used to, but a few too many times guests canceled at the last minute because they didn't feel like doing a tour that day and, after all, it's their vacation. We already had a tour guide set up who is then without a day of work because he scheduled for our tour, so we need to pay him. We had a vehicle scheduled for transport, which is then left sitting in the driveway when it could have been making money that day. We had lunches ordered, which we need to buy since the lunch provider made them ahead of time. And, we had purchased tickets, which may or may not be able to be used on another day.

Depending on the circumstances, we will offer refunds if a guest cancels a tour for a good reason and it doesn't cost us too much money (e.g., if other guests are going to cover these costs, or the guide can reschedule his time), but we, and many small tour operators, just can't afford to eat all these costs when a guest cancels a tour at the last minute on a whim. We know most people won't do this, but getting payment upfront is insurance that we don't end up paying for tours that don't happen, which we just can't afford to do.

San Ignacio, Belize
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224 posts
30 reviews
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8. Re: Buyer Beware in Belize

Very well stated, and clear explanation Moonracer.

Many people just don`t quite understand how much time, and effort goes into assisting guests in planning an itinerary.

However, responsible travelers do understand !!

Level Contributor
7,834 posts
220 reviews
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9. Re: Buyer Beware in Belize

I understand above reasoning on prepayment of tours but the OP indicated that they were not traveling until March which should be more than adequate time in advance to refund them. Personally unless it is something that you can't book on the spot (most of them you can) pre paying so much is risky business. You sometimes don't know what you are going to feel like doing and weather does play a big role. In booking a complete package there is usually a set cancellation schedule for hotel and I guess for tours etc. and I assume OP should have been advised of this. Hope they will come back and tell us "the rest of the story".

Edmonton
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9 posts
49 reviews
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10. Re: Buyer Beware in Belize

I have very good news to report! The hotel has refunded the visa card for the amount of the tours. I am so glad that this has worked out well for us and am now once again very happy and excited to go to Belize. The hotel was Mahogany Hall.