We did tours on two different days with Helaman Tours. As we had two very different experiences from two different tour guides I have decided to review them separately. This review covers our tour to Tulum with Helaman. We paid $250.00 US cash (plus tip) for a private half-day tour that was just my wife, myself, and Helaman.
Helaman is the owner of the company. His tours had been recommended to us by a friend. This was our second day of touring with his company and so everything that happened we could not help but compare to the first day with a different tour guide. Unfortunately, the tour with Helaman was not as impressive as our other tour. I would not use Helaman again.
He was on time at 1:30 in the afternoon to pick us up at our resort just south of Cancun. The drive to Tulum took about 90 minutes. During this drive he did some explaining of what we would see. But he also was texting and sending emails while he was driving. In fact, his constant email checking and writing became quite a problem throughout our time together.
We were at the ruins of Tulum for 90 minutes. He spent less than half that time giving us a tour. He spent the rest of the time "taking breaks" to answer emails and leaving us alone to walk around on our own. He did not take us to the temple of the descending god. He did not take us down to the beach. Before we knew it we were leaving the ruins on a different path than where we entered. It was too late to go back in and see what we had missed.
On the drive back to our resort he continued to write emails as he drove. These were not voice dictated emails. No, these were him typing into his phone while he was driving us. We tried to pull his attention back to us by asking him questions about the ruins but again we were told he was taking a "break" (by writing emails while he was driving us). Again, this is while driving on a highway at high speeds. We stopped asking him questions as we were afraid to further distract him at that point. So we rode on without being able to talk to our tour guide as he had more important things to attend to.
I expressed to Helaman my concerns about the amount of breaks he was taking and about him typing emails while driving us. I told him it was dangerous. If he did not have concern for his own safety he should at least have concern for the people who are paying him to drive them around. He responded to me that he must answer his emails immediately as he has no staff to answer emails for him. Well, this simply reinforced the impression that his future clients were much more important to him than the ones he had right in front of him. I do not approve of this business practice. I also do not approve of him putting our lives at risk.
At the end of the tour he gave us a nice reproduction of the Stela 5 Tree of Life image as a gift. He told us we could buy more for $20 US each. We wanted to buy two more of them. He then revealed he didn't have any with him to sell to us but he would bring them to our resort. He said he would email me to let me know what time to expect him. I asked him to email me before the next morning as we had plans for the next day. He said that was no problem.
So if I wanted the other two trees of life I had no choice but to pay him the full price of the tour and also give him a tip. I figured that was worth it so that I could get the two more trees of life.
He did not email me that night or the following morning as he had promised. So I emailed him around noon as we were getting ready to leave the resort. At that point he emailed me back that he did not have any to sell me. He had known this since the previous evening but in all his rampant desire to email everyone else he had not bothered to email me back. I did not appreciate that.
I recognize from the reviews on this site and from my friend who had recommended Helaman to us that my experience seems to be unusual. I guess everyone can have off days. We definitely got Helaman on an off day. But according to his justification of writing emails while driving and while giving tours it does seem that this is his normal business practice. I do not feel I received good value for the price I paid.
After returning home I contacted Helaman and asked him to send me the two Trees as compensation for my poor experience. His website states he has a satisfaction guaranteed warranty. He agreed to this and said he would let me know when they were sent. I didn't hear anything from him for a couple of weeks so I emailed him again. He told me to give him some time. He was very busy and couldn't get around to sending them. 6 weeks after returning home he notified me that it was too expensive to mail them and he would not be able to send them after all. I then asked him for a $100 refund to compensate us for our poor experience. He responded that I am not a good mormon and I should discuss this issue with my bishop before asking for a refund. I quote from his email:
"Let me tell you that the way you are acting in not according to a member of the LDS church... I recommend you to talk to your bishop about it... I don't really understand what kind of person you are, you really need to talk to your bishop."
So... no refund or compensation is headed my way. And for the record, my bishop is totally OK with me asking for compensation for my poor experience. My temple recommend is intact.
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