Calgary man warns Cuba travellers about fine print after paying 10X cost of damaged TV
Sunwing says resort's exorbitant cost was due to 'the challenges and expenses' of obtaining items in Cuba
By Sarah Lawrynuik
CBC News (Calgary)
1 September 2017
The so-called rule of 10 wasn't something Dan Lukis had ever heard of before his vacation to Cuba, but the fine-print policy that cost him more that $5,000 won't soon be forgotten, nor will the pall it cast on his trip booked through Sunwing.
One evening, a few days into his all-inclusive stay at the Grand Memories Varadero resort in April, the Calgary man lost his balance while reaching into the mini-fridge in his room, he recalls. In an attempt to steady himself, he grabbed the television, sending it tumbling onto the floor.
Lukis said he admitted fault for the damage immediately, but when he asked hotel staff how he could rectify the situation, they came back demanding he pay 10 times the value of the TV — the rule of 10. There was no further damage to the room, documented in photos taken by Lukis. "We were being treated like criminals for something that was an accident," Lukis told CBC News.
When he argued with staff about the cost, he said, staff told him police and other authorities would get involved and prevent him and his girlfriend from leaving Cuba if he didn't pay. "It was kind of frightening. It was lucky I was able to scrounge up enough and go into quite a bit of debt on the credit card just to be able to get us out of the country," he said
Lukis reached out to Sunwing, but the company deferred to what it called the rule-of-10 policy, which Sunwing said was enforced by the resort, not Sunwing.
"Due to the challenges and expense associated with procuring furniture and electronics in Cuba, most resorts make available at check-in their policy relating to damages and this information is reinforced in the introductory briefing held by our Sunwing destination representatives," a statement from Sunwing says.
The statement said Sunwing was aware of Lukis's situation and "did attempt to advocate on behalf of the customer."
Lukis said he doesn't accept that response from Sunwing because he offered to go to the store and purchase another television, the same kind, but that effort was rebuffed. After returning home, he came across a Daily Mail article detailing a British couple's similar situation.
"Had I been clearly aware of that being a potential implication, perhaps I would have reconsidered. But I feel it was really hidden and shady. Just something that people really aren't aware of," Lukis said.
The resort's rule-of-10 policy is stated on the Sunwing website, but there is no mention of it on the resort's web page or those of other organizations through which you can purchase all-inclusive stays at the Grand Memories Varadero. No one from the resort responded to requests for comment from CBC News.
The statement from Sunwing received by email on 1 September 2017 to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council:
“Thank you for your email. I believe that that your question relates to the recent news coverage concerning Mr. Lukis following his stay Sanctuary at Grand Memories Varadero. Unfortunately, there are some inaccuracies in this story that we are currently trying to get corrected. To aid you with your story, please find the statement that we issued to CBC News Calgary that provides more context. In short, the rule of ten is not a policy applied by Sunwing.
“Due to the challenges and expense associated with procuring furniture and electronics in Cuba, most resorts make available at check-in their policy relating to damages and this information is reinforced in the introductory briefing held by our Sunwing destination representatives.
On April 15th, we were informed by the hotel management of Sanctuary at Grand Memories Varadero of an incident where a customer destroyed a flat screen television in his room while intoxicated. The customer provided a statement to this effect, agreed to settle the charges of $3570 CUC, and requested a receipt for his insurance company.
While Sunwing representatives did attempt to advocate on behalf of the customer, the property, owned by Gaviota, deferred to their published policy which reads “when damages caused by a break or loss of property, whether classified as fixed or useful assets, are the result of an intentional act of the clients or are linked to vandalism, the responsible person will be charged ten (10) times the value of the purchase price of the asset broken or lost”
The hotel management reserved their right to apply the full penalty charge as per their stated policy as they considered the incident to be the result of willful damage given the client’s state of intoxication at the time of the incident.””
From Sunwing Internet Site:
Policies (http://www.sunwing.ca/Cuba-Travel/Varadero/Memories-Varadero-Beach-Resort.asp): "Rule of 10" will be in place, established by local authorities: In the case of damaged items, customers will be charged the value of the item multiplied by 10.
NOTE: The Sanctuary at Grand Memories Varadero is owned by Republic of Cuba government-operated Gaviota, which is under the auspice of the Armed Forces Business Enterprise Group (GAESA), which is controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of the Republic of Cuba (FAR).