Lessons in customer service – Poor service Dominican style

My wife and I recently went to the Dominican Republic with another couple and stayed at the Riu Bachata. The resort itself was beautiful and lived up to its five star billing. The food was hit and miss depending on the day, meal time, and which buffet you attended. What really surprised me though was some of the employees who worked there. Most were very pleasant and helpful, a few were indifferent but the most shocking was the front desk staff. These people were in desperate need of a copy of “Customer Service for Dummies”.

We had asked the Sunquest Travel team on the resort for their recommendation for calling cards so we could phone home and check in with our kids. They told us about a Riu calling card that was available at the front desk for $20 USD. We spoke with a lady by the name of Flora who explained how to use it and informed us that there was a $1.50 USD charge to your room each time you made a connection with your room phone. When we attempted to use it for the first time we constantly got a busy signal. We went back to the front desk that evening and spoke with one of the gentlemen at the desk but after several unsuccessful attempts, he asked us to give it a try the next day. My wife used our cell phone to make a quick call home at a cost of $3.99 per minute.

The next day (Monday) we still tried unsuccessfully once again. We went back to the desk and were told that it must be something that we were doing and no other people were experiencing the same issue. I interrupted the attendant and told her that there were two other people at the desk earlier in the morning and were having the exact same problem. Flora, who I purchased the card from, rolled her eyes at me and kept turning her head as I was speaking. I requested a refund as we had made several attempts with no success. She promised to speak with the manager and contact me. Another expensive call home on the cell phone.

On Tuesday we went on a full day excursion and when we returned in the evening, there was still no answer from Flora regarding our refund. We went to the front desk where Flora went in the back room to discuss with her manager. After about five minutes she came back, turned over the card and showed the fine print that showed “No Refunds”. I argued that the card didn’t work and I was entitled to a refund. I asked to speak to the manager she had just spoken to and she told me he wasn’t available, come back the next day. Frustrated my wife and I left to make yet another expensive call home on our cell phone.

Wednesday rolls around and Flora informs me that she has “released” our room phone so we can make the calls on the calling card. So after three days of arguing with this woman she finally does what she should have done on the first day. We went to our room and continued to have issues as the PIN number was only accepted about a third of the time. Another difficult conversation with Flora ended with a promise to remove the unsuccessful attempts from our room bill.

On average it took three attempts to make a successful call to Canada. We told Flora or other front desk staff when these attempts happened and were promised credits to our room account so we weren’t paying for issues with their hotel branded calling card.

Check out time happens on Sunday morning and guess what? We were billed for every single attempt and no staff were available to process a credit. The young man at the desk informed me that no credits were applied or authorized so we would have to pay the full amount or we would not be able to leave the resort with the tour company’s bus. To say I was angry is an understatement but I forked out the money and vowed never to return to a Riu resort in the Dominican ever again.

I guess you get poor service regardless of what country you’re in but what was increasingly frustrating is one employee put a huge black mark on an expensive vacation with her poor customer service skills. At various times she was rude, condescending, and combative throughout our dealings with her. Her idea of resolving customer complaints was to make excuses, delay as much as possible and hope that you would go away. The most frustrating part of the whole situation was the fact that it was over a $20 calling card and the fact that we incurred between $60-70 on our cell phone bill as a result.

So if you happen to visit a Riu hotel in the Dominican, avoid their calling cards. Google other options and make sure you have something in place before showing up at the resort.

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