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Buyer Beware!!


Nerdgirl

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My husband and I went on our first cruise in April of 2005. We were on the Carribbean Princess and cruised the Eastern Carribbean (St. Thomas, St. Maartin, and Princess Cay). The ship was beautiful, but a little difficult to find your way around. The food was fabulous. The crew was also exceptional, especially our steward, Glenn. He just spoiled us. The ports of call were very beautiful, and for the most part we really enjoyed ourselves.

 

But-we'd like to caution everyone about purchasing jewelry in the Carribbean.

 

I was interested in purchasing diamond stud earrings and had been planning for years to get them when we were in the Carribbean. We attended the talk by Cindy the ship's shopping coordinator about where was the best place to purchase items you were interested in. She said Diamonds International in St. Thomas was the best place to buy diamonds. She also suggested buying Tanzanite on St. Thomas, as it would be about half of what we would pay in the states. She assured us that Princess had a guarantee on all purchases.

 

Well, we found out the hard way that this was not true, at least for us. I purchased diamond studs for $3900.00. We also purchased a Tanzanite stone and had it set. When we got home we had them appraised for insurance purposes. The Tanzanite appraised for close to what we paid for it. I can live with that. The earrings appraised for $1100.00 less that what we paid. We contacted Princess, they said they did not guarantee the price, just that the stones would be the same carat weight, color, cut, etc. as the certificate that came with the earrings. I did some research and found that on the Diamonds International website earrings very close to what I purchased were $2000.00. When we contacted Diamonds International they offered us in store credit if we sent the earrings back. At this point I just wanted my money back, feeling I had been ripped off. Diamonds International did offer us $350.00, but I didn't feel it was reasonable, since their website offered the same earrings for about half of what I paid.

 

So, I contacted Visa and started a dispute.

 

Where this will end I don't know. At this point all I can do is warn others to be careful when purchasing jewelry in the Carribbean.

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That SUCKS! I was on the same ship in April and wanted some diamond and pearl studs. DH asked the sales clerk what grade the pearls were he said A+, there is no a+ grade. PEople down there are SHADY with jewlelry.

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Sorry you were unhappy with your purchase. Princess does guarantee certain shops in the Caribbean, but that is for workmanship only, not the price. We never shop at these stores for the main fact that they are always more expensive then some of our tried and true favorites in St. Marten and St. Thomas. I still feel that it is just a 'kick back' being paid to Princess for recommending certain stores.

 

$3900 for a pair of diamond studs in the Caribbean sounds terrible high right from the start to me. The other shops would have bargained with you and although they aren't a guaranteed shop, they are just as good with lower prices.

 

Guess this is an expensive lesson. Best to get recommendations of jewlery stores before you sail from passengers who have been there before, whether they are suggested by Princess or not. There are lots of them out there with lower prices.

 

Again, sorry you were stung!

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You were smart to use your VISA card. I've been dealing with them from a legal point of view for 20 years. I can tell you that most all disputes, where there is any real question, are resolved in favor of the cardholder and against the vendor/merchant. Just be sure to stress the fact that you did not get what you paid for using the certified appraisal as evidence and you will, most likely, prevail.

 

The Monk

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Frankly, I dont see why you can't get a refund. Was it printed on the receipt that all sales were final????

 

I never buy any jewelry in the Caribbean unless I have thoroughly researched price and quality in the states before I leave. I recently bought an Italian gold heavy woven necklace in St. Maarten, but soooo checked out US prices before I left so I could negotiate well, by weight AND design.

 

I have noticed that their Tanzanite prices are ridiculously high, although many of their stones have beautiful color. I finallly bought one, but back in the US.

 

However, I will now NEVER buy in Diamonds International EVER. So thanks for your post and good luck. Hope you can get a full refund.

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I have bought quite a bit of jewelry in the Caribbean and I have heard many horror stories about DI. So much so, that I almost laugh when I walk by. However, I have made several purchases at smaller (family owned) stores in both ST and SM. Have been pleased with all purchases. I think it is mandatory that if you shop there, you do your homework prior to leaving....that means bargaining here in the states too, to see just what values really are. Last year we had the awsome task of purchasing an emerald cut diamond for our best friend's son who was getting married. We bought one finally in SM (which for some reason lately, we seem to do better). Paid $3,600, had it appraised in the states for $5,100, so we were happy. All that being said, yes, haggle it out with VISA, it might be your best bet. I have always thought that "port/shopping lectures" on board could be much better done with fellow passengers sharing information!!

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Perhaps you need to send a letter to Princess Headquarters with a copy to Diamonds International corporate offices suggesting that Princess should not openly stear customers to stores that outrageouly take advantage of people.

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Frankly, I dont see why you can't get a refund. Was it printed on the receipt that all sales were final????

 

 

 

Just because some one paid over the odds for something why should they be entitled to a refund? If I pay 70 p for a litre of milk then see it for 50 in Asda do I qualify? NO! If I pay 15,000 for a VW then see it on offer somewhere for 14,000, Do I get a refund? NO. Last year we purchased our cruise before Xmas, it was on offer later for much less...............its tough but thats life!!! Some time you win some times you lose !!

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I'm sorry you are going through this, but I give you a lot of credit for sharing your experience. I'm curious if the price you paid was the first offer, or if you tried to bargain. We have purchased some jewelry in St. Maarten and have never taken anything less than the third price. We, too, have had very good results with the family-owned stores. My wife had a ring appraised back at home, and when the fellow asked what we'd paid, he said we had done, "Very well."

 

Hope it all works out for you.

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I must say it distresses me lately hearing bad business deals with DI.

 

I have made several purchases there (on different islands) and not had any trouble. In fact over the years have made many jewelry purchases & always made out ok. I too have my jewelers that I deal with & do research pricing before I go.

 

Sorry you had such a bad experience & hope Visa helps you.

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Thanks everyone for the replies. I wish I had read more from previous cruisers before purchasing anything.

 

Two things I should clarify:

 

1. The Princess shopping rep very strongly recommended DI. When I asked about another store we had purchased from on previous trip she was adamant about us not going there. She lead us to believe that Princess guaranteed all purchases from DI.

 

2. DI will not let you return merchandise without a Return Authorization number. You can't get an RA number unless you sign a form saying you are returning the merchandise for store credit only.

 

I will keep the post up to date. DI has until July 10 to reply to the Visa dispute, so this will be a lengthly process. I am determined to stick it out.

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I find the prices in a lot of the stores in the Caib to be very high. I looked at a beautiful ring in St maarten in November. Price was 16,000. By the time i walked out the door it was 4600. How much do you think I trust this??

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I hope this works out for you but I am having doubts. It is kind of like booking a cruise and spending XXX amount of dollars on it just to find out the people in the cabin next to you paid half as much for the exact same cabin. I know, two totally different things, but if you think about it...........................:confused:

 

I have some diamonds that I had appraised twice, the difference between the two appraisals was half again as much by the first appraiser as the second. Doesn't make any sense does it?

 

When Princess guarantees a product, they are not guaranteeing the price, but the quality of the item purchased. Unless it was stated that they stand behind the appraisal of the item when you get home. That would be a totally different angle.

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Nerdgirl, I hope your dispute is resolved to your satisfaction. I have bought many things at DI in St. Thomas but one has to be careful shopping there. The salespeople are on commission and will try to get as much as possible for an item. Here's what I've learned.

 

1. Unless you are buying form someone you know and trust, do your homework to make sure you know what a fair price should be. If I was going to buy a Rolex watch in the Caribbean I'd make sure to visit stores at home first to get an idea of the prices. Same with a $4,000 pair of earrings.

 

2. The cruise shopping lecturers are paid by and represent only the companies that pay a fee to be listed as recommended shops. They do not offer unbiased advice. They will only recommend stores that are paying them.

 

3. There are three types of appraisals. In descending order, a retail appraisal is what you would pay for the item. An insurance appraisal is what an insurance company would pay to replace the item. And then there's an appraisal of what the item is actually worth if you were to sell it. Be careful of the appraisal game. Having something apparaised for $5,000 doesn't mean it's actually worth that much.

 

By the way, I believe DI is a US company so you shouldn't have to go back to St. Thomas to resolve a dispute with them. You would think they would be smart enough to realize that one greedy salesperson could end up costing them a lot of future business. It would seem to be much better for them to just give you back your money. Good luck. Tom

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We attended the talk by Cindy the ship's shopping coordinator about where was the best place to purchase items you were interested in. She said Diamonds International in St. Thomas was the best place to buy diamonds. She also suggested buying Tanzanite on St. Thomas, as it would be about half of what we would pay in the states.

 

So sorry to hear about your unfortunate situation.

 

I think what people don't realize is that these 'port and shopping' talks are basically sales pitches. The ship/advisor gets receives a commisison for every purchase you make at one of the 'authorized' stores. Why do you think you are encouraged to fill out your 'assured buyers form' on board listing everywhere you've shopped - and why every store you go into asks you what ship you're on? One other thing - the stores mentioned at the 'port and shopping' talk all pay to be mentioned. It's and advertising/marketing strategy at it's finest.

 

Of note, on our recent cruise to Alaska, the hand-outs for each port contained 3 1/2 pages of merchant advertising and a 1/2 page of other (useless) info - more common sense stuff than anything else.

 

Also, please let us know how your dispute with Visa goes. I had previously filed one in regards to a 'deposit' I had made for a tour in Belize. I cancelled the tour the next day (i.e., 4 months before the cruise) because I didn't like the 'bait and switch' tactic that was pulled. The merchant refused to refund the deposit. I filed a dispute with Visa and their response was that international merchants are not required to refund deposits (i.e., they have a different set of rules than doestic merchants do) - even though the reason I was doing the dispute was as an 'internet transaction - goods/services not delivered as promised/sold.' So, I was out $25 and learned my lesson.

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I would continue to pursue your issues with Princess, Visa, and Diamonds International. I have not sailed with Princess before. However, Carnival offers a guarantee that states that jewelry purchased through Diamonds International will appraise for at least the purchase price upon return to the states. I find it hard to believe that Princess, being owned by Carnival, doesn't offer an equitable buyer's protection program.

 

Also, thanks for sharing your hard-learned lesson. Let us know how everything turns out......

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So sorry to hear about your unfortunate situation.

 

I think what people don't realize is that these 'port and shopping' talks are basically sales pitches. The ship/advisor gets receives a commisison for every purchase you make at one of the 'authorized' stores. Why do you think you are encouraged to fill out your 'assured buyers form' on board listing everywhere you've shopped - and why every store you go into asks you what ship you're on? One other thing - the stores mentioned at the 'port and shopping' talk all pay to be mentioned. It's and advertising/marketing strategy at it's finest.

 

Of note, on our recent cruise to Alaska, the hand-outs for each port contained 3 1/2 pages of merchant advertising and a 1/2 page of other (useless) info - more common sense stuff than anything else.

 

Also, please let us know how your dispute with Visa goes. I had previously filed one in regards to a 'deposit' I had made for a tour in Belize. I cancelled the tour the next day (i.e., 4 months before the cruise) because I didn't like the 'bait and switch' tactic that was pulled. The merchant refused to refund the deposit. I filed a dispute with Visa and their response was that international merchants are not required to refund deposits (i.e., they have a different set of rules than doestic merchants do) - even though the reason I was doing the dispute was as an 'internet transaction - goods/services not delivered as promised/sold.' So, I was out $25 and learned my lesson.

Jeffry--

You are exactly right. The "port and shopping director" may be a cruiseline employee, but the cruiseline is obviously in a monetary relationship with the stores it promotes. I too recently returned from an Alaska cruise [on Coral Princess] and those port guides they give you are full of the typical DI type stores which you find in most Caribbean ports---with less than 5% of the stores being the Alaskan-owned shops. As well, in the Caribbean, rarely do you see the locally owned stores listed. I ignore the cruiseline recommendations and do my own research about where to shop before I leave for a cruise or other trip.

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We shopped for jewelry in St. Thomas. We went to one shop and asked for certain gemstone earrings- the shop quoted $1,100.00!!!! No way, Jose! We went to another shop and found almost the exact same earrings for $120.00!

Buyer certainly beware!

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Very sorry for the experience you had. I had purchased black diamond earring studs in St.Thomas. I was very happy. They were about 30 point total weight. Not extremly large, but nice size. It was about $90.

One important thing people have to remember. You do not want and you probably won't get a high quality stone for earrings anyway. Diamond earrings get dirty very quickly so even if they were top quality, you probably couldn't tell the difference anyway. You always want a top quality stone for a ring or pendant. In St Thomas, figure about $1000 per carat for a pretty decent stone.

 

Just my 2 cents

 

Jeff

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I have bought quite a bit of jewelry in the Caribbean and I have heard many horror stories about DI. So much so, that I almost laugh when I walk by. However, I have made several purchases at smaller (family owned) stores in both ST and SM. Have been pleased with all purchases. I think it is mandatory that if you shop there, you do your homework prior to leaving....that means bargaining here in the states too, to see just what values really are. Last year we had the awsome task of purchasing an emerald cut diamond for our best friend's son who was getting married. We bought one finally in SM (which for some reason lately, we seem to do better). Paid $3,600, had it appraised in the states for $5,100, so we were happy. All that being said, yes, haggle it out with VISA, it might be your best bet. I have always thought that "port/shopping lectures" on board could be much better done with fellow passengers sharing information!!

 

Would you mind telling me what the name of the Jewelry Store is in St. Marting that you purchased them from? We will be there in September.

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When purchasing jewelry in the Caribbean you really have to do your homework beforehand. My husband bought a Movado watch several years ago, but knew exact style and what the price is in US. He got a good deal in St. Thomas. He also purchased a large loose stone diamond from Diamonds International. When we got home he had an INDEPENDENT appraisal of the diamond because Diamonds Internationl WILL return the money IF the diamond is not the same quality and clarity etc. as stated (nothing in guarantee about price paid). It was not. My husband was able to prove this through the independent appraisal and he received his money back from Diamonds International. He then purchased a beautiful, extremely high quality diamond from a reputable dealer here in the United States.

 

Princess and the shops they recommend are a form of advertisement for the shops.

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