‘Daily deal’ turns into travel-planning nightmare

Besides looking cool, the guitar helps Cole Kroutil strum away the stress.

Right now, Kroutil is maxed out, worried about what was supposed to be a stress-free tropical vacation.

“We're like, ‘Alright, let's do it!' So, April 20, we bought our Groupon,” he said.

Kroutil and his friends pulled the trigger on a six-day adventure-filled island getaway at an all-inclusive five star hotel in Costa Rica. It was one lump sum, everything included, except airfare.

Groupon sold the discounted trip, but the actual vacation was through third party travel agency, Ecoterra travel.

Ecoterra is based in Costa Rica.

Kroutil said a helpful person from Ecoterra helped them book the trip, start to finish.

“They told us, ‘Okay, you're getting this all-inclusive five star resort, confirmed the package we had. ‘We're great,’" he said.

Confirmation in hand, they purchased four airline tickets, roughly $2,500 but, then, just 24 days from saying bon voyage, Kroutil received an email from Ecoterra.

“Stating Groupon has contacted [Ecoterra], and they had made a mistake with the prices,” he said. “And, they're not willing to pay the full price of the voucher for the package that we got.”

Basically, Groupon sold the travelers a deal priced way too cheap and, then, without a heads up, downgraded their vouchers from an all-inclusive five star hotel to three star accommodations, meals and drinks not included.

“Again, I told them we don't want a refund because we have already paid for our flights so, if you cancel and refund us, we're stuck with flights and nowhere to stay and we're 24 days out now,” Kroutil said.

Despite their plea, Groupon issued the refunds anyways, refusing to honor the original voucher.

Kroutil was told he could repurchase the same five star travel deal but only if he shelled out an extra $600.

“They offered us something at a certain price, and they should hold their word to that,” he said.

We sent word to Groupon that Kroutil and his travel companions were not happy campers, and wouldn't you know Groupon got back to us with a change of heart.

A spokesperson told the In Your Corner team "there was a temporary pricing issue that affected less than 10 people and it was resolved appropriately."

"We continued to work behind the scenes with the tour operator and property, immediately after this happened, and we’ve been able to secure accommodations for the property they booked at the original rate they paid," he said.

Unfortunately, the new offer comes a day late and a dollar short.

Kroutil scrambled to secure new accommodations and, if they tried to cancel them now, they'd be stuck paying a penalty.

“We understand everybody makes mistakes, whether it be a person or a company, everybody makes mistakes but, whenever you're provided with the opportunity to correct these mistakes, that's what's going to define us as people and as our companies,” he said.

Indeed, Kroutil and his weary travelers wish Groupon would have changed their tune in time.

The In Your Corner bottom line: lots of people have success with the discount travel deals, but buying a trip online can come with risk.

Make sure to carefully research the travel agency planning your trip.

Read reviews and the fine print, specifically the cancellation policy, and the potential for hidden or unexpected fees, because those can add up quickly.

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