A Squeaky Wheel Gets Results

If you read my post about Hawaii, you saw that we were unhappy with the outcome of a tour we booked with the resort’s Expedia desk.  I’m here to tell you we’ve achieved a resolution that made us happy.

IMG_5517The facts:  (1) Wednesday, February 20, make reservations on a Moana Kea Stellar Viewing Tour for Saturday, predicted to be clear.  Pay $325.70 per couple, understand the 48-hour cancellation policy.  (2) Friday morning, updated weather predicts clouds and heavy rain on Saturday; ask the Expedia desk about possibly cancelling.  They tell us, “The company will cancel if weather doesn’t permit.  You will be offered a full refund.”  (3) Saturday morning, receive a text confirming our reservations on the tour.

Version 2
our guide cooked

(4) Saturday evening, guide arrives and tells us, “The company never cancels.”  Totally understandable, because the weather is so unpredictable.  But not what we were told by Expedia.

(5) We go; we see no stars.  “A total white-out.”

The guide was excellent: very intelligent and knowledgeable about a lot of interesting stuff.  We had a nice dinner and tasted some good coffee at a plantation part-way up the mountain.

Rainy day at a boutique coffee plantation.
To make matters worse, my husband slipped and fell about where this guy is walking.

Would have been a great tour if there had been stars.  What we hoped to see:

Photo taken half-way up Moana Kea, by Czech photographer Vaclav Bacorsky, and included in a 2016 article in Photography Life.  Not visible to us, sad to say.

He indicated that the company would probably try to call us the next day, but we weren’t contacted.  We couldn’t re-book anyhow, having Sunday activities planned and leaving Monday; we were hoping for a partial refund.

Walking back after a final dinner on Sunday night, we saw a clear sky with more stars than we could imagine––too bad we weren’t with our guide then.  We knew that Kapohokine Adventures had a large group booked for Sunday, lucky for them.

Saturday: Bits of blue at the coffee plantation made us hopeful, but more clouds came in.

Our complaints were first to the resort’s Expedia rep who told us to document our dissatisfaction and she would forward it to the owner of Kapohokine.  We wrote a detailed email on Sunday and confirmed that she received it.  We left the island on Monday morning.

We heard nothing, and after one week submitted a comment on Kapohokine’s web site asking if the owner Gary had received it.  It was the first he had heard about it.  He called right away and said the best he could do was refund 25 percent.  He promptly sent each couple a check for $83.02.

Our complaint was more with Expedia for not representing the situation properly.  We emailed the Wyndham resort management; they could do nothing and said we should pursue it with Expedia.  It is worth noting that the Expedia desk hosted the first morning’s information breakfast where tours were described.  To guests at the resort, Expedia feels like part of the resort management, but obviously there’s a difference.

That’s when we wised up and followed the instructions of the Travel Troubleshooter: write a letter to a senior officer listed on his website.  I chose the Director of Customer Experience, and sent a letter via USPS.  I reiterated the story and said we would like to receive Expedia’s commission.  We heard nothing until March 29 when we received an email from the Concierge Manager, Expedia Local Expert.  The friendly woman confirmed credit card numbers, then promptly reimbursed each couple $162.85, one-half the cost of the tour.  We felt that was more than fair.

Another view at the coffee plantation.  Looks like a wedding venue, but they say not.

Interesting sidenote: One can say they aren’t going to use Expedia, but it isn’t that simple, really.  If you click on Expedia, you will see that Expedia owns several other travel-related sites. Check it out.  Best to book direct with a hotel or tour company, if possible.  Lesson learned: use the resort displays or Expedia desk to research tours, then call the company direct to book. Good advice is provided by Christopher Elliott on his blog, Elliott Advocacy.

In the end, we enjoyed very much our stay at the Wyndham resort and were impressed with how Expedia handled the complaint once it got to the right person.  And Kapohokine Adventures  is an honest company; we’ll try them again.

If you plan to go star-gazing at Moana Kea, check the weather.

Time-lapse of the observatories atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii. (Image: © Sean Goebel)

Date of travel: February 2019.

Tour:  Kapohokine Adventures

Resort:  Wyndham Kona Hawaiian Resort


See more of Sean Goebel’s work at Space.com.



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