Have you seen the promotional materials for Sandals Turks and Caicos? Beautiful models lounge on white sand beaches, selling the Caribbean dream vacation that singles, couples and families spend thousands to experience.
If you imagine that Sandals stops accepting guests to accommodate its photoshoot, you’d be wrong. Sandals welcomes paying vacationers like Arthur Boas 365 days a year.
But perhaps it shouldn’t.
Last March, Boas and his family spent thousands of hard-earned dollars on a Sandals vacation, staying in the most expensive suite in the Italian Village.
Halfway through his stay, a sheet of paper was slid under his hotel room door, with the following announcement:
The Beaches will be using the property for a promotional photo shoot for the next 4 days. All pools will be closed except one, and the poolside chairs will be removed for your safety owing to the wind from the helicopter being used.
Boas reports that all chairs were removed, chained and locked, beaches and restaurants were closed, and helicopters flew noisily 100 feet overhead while swimsuit models occupied the property, floating in the pools, for 4 days.
Boas, his family and hundreds of Sandals guests were furious.
“The lineup to see the manager was 50 people deep, and then they decided to take appointments for when you could see him, which was limited to 15 minutes,” he says. “When I finally got to see him, I was pretty steamed. I demanded to know how he could justify depriving resort guests of their vacation time. Out of sheer frustration, he showed me the fax from corporate alerting him of the shutdown with just one day’s notice. Powerless to do anything, corporate basically just hung this guy out to dry.”
Boas returned home and after several fruitless phone calls to Sandals management, he totally gave up on doing anything more.
“I have a philosophy in life: When you’re walking down the wrong road, turn around,” he says. “I had realized Sandals was content to do nothing. I decided to chalk it up to one of life’s awful experiences, and so I vowed to never give them another cent of my money, so long as I live.”
Boas’ horrible experience was buried in his mind until he recently began planning another vacation. His travel agent asked if he would consider Sandals Jamaica.
“I related to her what awful treatment my family and a resort full of guests were put through,” Boas explains. “She was horrified and insisted I report it immediately on TripAdvisor.”
Boas did write his review on TripAdvisor, which, according to him, garnered a great deal of attention. “More than 1,500 people gave it a ‘thumbs up,’ and people started sending me private messages about how they’d had the same experience — and got no compensation.”
Boas says shortly thereafter the review mysteriously disappeared from TripAdvisor, so he reposted it.
After reading the review, Sandals contacted Boas. A Sandals rep told Boas that according to their records, he had previously been offered two complimentary nights on a future Sandals vacation.
Boas insists that offer never came, and if it had, he would have rejected it on principle.
“In order to claim this ridiculous offer, I’d have to again spend thousands of dollars, not to mention airfare, and commit my family’s valuable vacation time.”
That agent escalated his complaint, and Boas was finally contacted by Sandals Managing Director, Donald Dagenais.
Thus far, Sandals has refused to refund any money to Boas. But Dagenais did invite Boas to email him directly to make sure “all goes well” when he books his next Sandals vacation.
Boas puts Dagenais’ invitation into perspective:
So, let me get this straight.
Step 1: Completely forget about how Sandals ruined our first vacation to their resort.
Step 2: Book another vacation at full cost.
Step 3: Contact the Managing Director and ask them to make sure that they treat me with the respect I deserve.
Boas’ Sandals vacation took place a year ago, but research on TripAdvisor reveals that his experience is not unique. In fact, others report similar tales stretching back over the last three years.
The response from Sandals would suggest that marketing campaigns to attract new guests are more important than its current guests.