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August 2004 Vol. 19, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Subscriber Asks: Did I Get Gouged?

from the August, 2004 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

A subscriber from Dallas, TX, thought she had a good deal when she booked a DEMA show special for her dive club aboard Peter Hughes' Sun Dancer for a June 12 Belize trip. She got a discount for reserving the entire boat plus three free slots, which she used to lower the price for everyone in her group.

Several months later (March), she learned that Hughes was offering a rate after June 25 -- a week after her cruise ended -- at $400/person less than her group was paying. She e-mailed Terri Huber, sales manager at Hughes Group, requesting the lower rate. "Our dates were not etched in stone and had we known this, we would gladly have traveled at least two weeks later." Huber responded: "This decision was made a few weeks ago [months after she had guaranteed her reservation] due to the lack of bookings." Business was down and they needed to fill bunks.

Our reader contacted Undercurrent to ask whether we thought her request was reasonable. "I feel as though we were gouged if they can sell the trip for $400 per person less now. But maybe I'm not able to see things from their view."

While we normally side with the diving consumer, all sorts of travel businesses -- airlines and hotels -- offer last minute deals to fill seats and beds. And, if one pays ahead to guarantee a spot, one usually can't make a change (there may be no slots), or there is ofen a penalty, sometimes greater than what one would gain.

We contacted Hughes' Vice President, Sue Hamilton, who told us that they would have honored our subscriber's request had her trip fallen within the seasonal rate window, a decent response, we think. Sure, it's frustrating to miss this price break, but our subscriber initially liked the price. Had she waited for a discount, she would have had to deal with partially full boats. Instead, she took a guarantee that she could have the full boat at a good price, which also means that if rates were to increase (as they do with airlines) she was locked in. To us, that's a fair deal for both. Still, her request was reasonable and, as Hamilton said, she might have gotten it had they been departing later. So we admire our subscriber for trying.

P.S.: Hughes has rolled out seasonal reductions for other boats in his fleet for 2005. Sun Dancer fares, for example, drop $200/person from July 16 on. Guarantee them now or, to take advantage of occasional late-booking discounts, wait until a few weeks prior to a departure and call 800-9DANCER. (Then, of course, air fares might have jumped.) www.peterhughes.com for details.

-- Ben Davison

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