SOS: Readers beware vacation behemoth and mail-order clothier | Just Ask Us


One offers “the most gorgeous islands in a region famous for its exquisite azure waters with the best luxury all-inclusive resort experience.”

The other, “colorful, casual and comfortable plus size apparel for at [sic] a great value.”

Neither appears to mention “great customer service,” or even, “we’ll take your calls.”

Mark Gams, of Oregon, contacted SOS on Feb. 19 with a story of vacation plans stymied by pandemic and vacation refund stymied by vacation provider.

In July 2019, he and his wife booked a weeklong trip to the Bahamas for eight months hence, and everyone knows where the world was when hence rolled around.

The trip insurance Gams had purchased for the Sandals Resorts package provided vouchers for later travel, so in December 2020, they made reservations for Sandals’ Antigua resort for late January of this year, Gams said.

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Nine months after those reservation where made, though, Sandals corporate owner Unique Travel Corp. notified Gams that he’d been enrolled — unsolicited and at no cost to him — in a different trip insurance plan that promised a cash refund should their plans again succumb to forces out of their control, according to Gams and documents from the company he provided to SOS.

Sure enough, by September 2021, the U.S. State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were advising Americans not to travel to Antigua and Barbuda because of high COVID-19 rates. Gams said that when he canceled the January trip in late October 2021, a Sandals agent told him a full refund of $7,037.30 would be on its way in up to 10 business days.

“We received a $98 credit on 11/5/21, the amount of our initial deposit,” he wrote SOS. “When I called asking when the rest was coming, I was told we won’t be getting it as we paid for our trip with vouchers and the agent we spoke with shouldn’t have told us the credit would be forthcoming. They explained our only option would be to ask to re-extend the vouchers.”

Sandals’ New York City- and London-based PR firm didn’t respond to SOS’ inquiries for a month until SOS let it, Sandals and Unique Travel know SOS would be writing a column like this one.

That shook loose a March 24 response from The Decker/Royal Agency’s Stacy Royal, who said she hoped “to have the information over to you today” but needed four more reminders before she and Decker/Royal’s Cathy Decker responded on April 14 and 15, respectively, to say, in effect, that all Sandals would do is extend Gams’ vouchers expiration date through November 2023.

Sandals has not disputed that Gams was promised a refund. Gams said the couple is discussing whether to take the trip.

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Sweating sweatshirt refund

In Mary Haefner’s case, online clothing brand Woman Within could not find it within itself to refund the rest of the $19.98 she paid for two sweatshirts ordered by mail last fall.

Haefner said that after she’d snail-mailed her paper check, the retailer sent her a postcard saying it didn’t have one of the sweatshirts in the color she wanted, and Haefner decided to cancel her entire order.

Woman Within sent her the sweatshirt it did have anyway, which Haefer tried on, didn’t like and returned, and double W subsequently sent her a check for $10.44.

“I did try it on and it was too thin,” she said. “They weren’t friendly about it so I said to just cancel it.”

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Haefner called SOS looking for help getting the other $9.54 back after she said W(2) told her multiple unhelpful or untrue things over several phone calls, including that they had already refunded all of her money.

SOS emailed the media contact for Woman Within parent company FullBeauty Brands on Jan. 21, and then, after getting no response, the media contact and privacy officer for FullBeauty and FullBeauty’s PR firm. Also no response.

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A FullBeauty customer service rep in a Feb. 1 phone call provided an 800 number that connected to the same customer service phone system that wasn’t helpful in the initial call. A call to the number for a media contact culled from an old FullBeauty press release resulted in a message saying the number was not working and providing a different number that when called also was not working.

On Feb. 17, SOS called an FBB number found on the company’s Better Business Bureau webpage (which assigns the New York City-based company an A+ rating despite a customer review average of one out of five stars). The person who answered the phone said he could not provide a number to the company’s corporate office. SOS also received no response to the “contact us” form it filled out on FBB’s website.

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