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Vacation rental company refuses refund over bad online review

(KKTV)
Published: Aug. 3, 2017 at 5:35 AM MDT
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One local vacation rental company told 11 News they won’t give customers a refund if the customer leaves a negative online review.

11 News learned about this when a woman contacted us saying she had a bad experience at a cabin she rented. She left a negative review online and then was told she wouldn’t get a refund because of that review.

Stephanie Gannon lives in Kansas and when she found a large solar-powered cabin in Cripple Creek available to rent online, she thought it was the perfect place for a summer vacation for her family.

“This particular one caught my attention because it was secluded and we wanted to get away from the stressers of just everyday life,” Gannon said.

She booked the cabin online through TripAdvisor. The cabin is managed by a local vacation rental company called “Joyous Vacations.”

Gannon said once her family got to the cabin on a Friday night back in June, certain appliances like the fridge and oven weren’t working and the electricity would go in and out. Then, on Saturday, after she and her husband took their showers, there was no water for the rest of the day.

“We couldn’t wash our hands. I made us something to eat and we couldn’t wash the dishes. Couldn’t flush the toilet, all kinds of things. It just was not good,” said Gannon.

In an online chat, Joyous Vacations told her their handyman wasn’t available and their backup couldn’t come out until Sunday morning, so she took her family to a hotel.

“It was like, we got to leave. We got to do something here,” she told 11 News.

As they were leaving the cabin, Gannon wrote an online review that read:

“No water, No refrigerator, No Oven, paid for 3 nights in this place. Miserable Vacation beginning. Nobody has checked this place out before renting otherwise things would be addressed and fixed. Can’t wash hands, flush toilet, cook. Don’t be fooled!! Some integrity on Trip Advisor behalf would be nice too. No one should have to endure this.”

Gannon also sent an email to Joyous Vacations asking for compensation. Gannon shared the email chain with 11 News that showed she got a response a week later saying since a “bad review” had been written, the owner can’t give any type of refund, “The policy is the guests can’t have both.”

“I don’t think that’s fair. I was really surprised … I felt like I wanted somebody else to know what it was before they got into it,” Gannon said.

The Federal Trade Commission told 11 News they cannot comment on this case because they have not investigated it themselves. They do want consumers to know that companies are not required to give out refunds just because there is a complaint by a customer.

11 News spoke to the owner of Joyous Vacations on the phone. He confirmed the no refund because of a bad review policy. He said the company was in the process of giving Gannon a partial refund, but when they saw she left a negative review, they didn’t think it was fair.

The owner of Joyous Vacations also told 11 News, if a customer changes their original negative review, the company is more willing to work out a refund.

11 News checked in with the FTC about that practice. They told us, “If the consumer was truthful and not defamatory in their review, asking the consumer to take it down or change it could raise concerns.”

Gannon said she wants to encourage others to do their homework and read more reviews while planning their vacation, especially if it involves renting a place sight unseen.

The FTC suggests consumers to be very familiar with any company’s refund policy that they’re doing business with.

They also said if a consumer feels like they are being punished by a company because of an honest negative review, that person should contact the FTC. The consumer can also contact the review website, like TripAdvisor or Yelp, and let them know what’s happening. The FTC said those websites may be able to flag the company in their database if the company is doing something wrong.

Joyous Vacations has the cabin Gannon rented on several vacation rental websites like Air B&B and VRBO. 11 News found some negative reviews that share similar experiences as Gannon and other positive reviews that say they had a great time in the cabin.