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Couple says jewelry purchased on cruise ship isn't what they paid for
A B.C. couple trusted the salesperson who sold them some jewelry on a Holland American cruise and were thrilled with their purchase and the deal they got, until they got home and learned the truth.
"I thought it was black opal I totally trusted them," said Doreen Schneider.
Schneider and her husband Garry bought several "black" opals while on Holland America’s Noordam during on a cruise of New Zealand and Australia in the spring of 2018.
Their purchase included three loose stones and a black opal pendant. They paid a total of US$4,900 for the jewelry. The certificates of purchase they were given stated that they were all black opals with the total price tag for all the jewelry listed at $10,900.
"And said, 'Oh you’re getting a real smoking deal,'" said Garry Schneider.
It sure seemed like it, until they took the loose stones to a gemologist in June to be put into a setting.
"I was kind of shocked that they were describing them as black opals when they’re not black," said Ron Hanania a Calgary gemologist and co-owner of International Gemological Laboratories. "Black opals have way more value than white."
None of the opals were black opals, including the pendant. And the appraised value, based on the exchange rate at the time they were purchased, put it at $4,500 - less than they had paid.
"I think I got ripped off. Sure it's a nice piece of jewelry, I'm not saying it's not but it's just not what they told me I was buying," Doreen Schneider said.
Black opals are truly black, dark blue or dark grey in colour. While some of the Schneiders' opals had some grey tones, none were dark in colour.
"So you didn't recognize these weren't black opals when you bought them?" asked CTV News consumer reporter Ross McLaughlin.
"We were told when we bought those that a black opal will be either grey at the back or black," said Doreen.
It's not uncommon for consumers to trust the experts and the couple says they trusted the sales person on Holland America.
CTV News Vancouver reached out to Holland America about the purchase and received an emailed response.
"Holland America Line is committed to customer satisfaction. The company’s gift shop partner, Starboard Cruise Services, has offered a full refund to Garry and Doreen Schneider. Details of the refund and return of the jewelry are being finalized directly with the couple," the statement said.
Starboard Cruise Services states on its website that it provides retail services on more than 90 cruise ships worldwide, representing 10 cruise lines.
CTV News reached out three times to the company to find out what happened and how the mistake was made but received no response.
We asked Holland America three more questions in response to their statement: "Anything to say about how this happened? Any concerns for the future shopping experience on the cruise line? How does the company plan to investigate this further ensure confidence for all consumers in their onboard shopping experience?"
The company declined to say anything more.
"We've done a lot of cruising with Holland America, a huge amount of cruising, and we've never run into a situation like this," said Garry.
"I think I would dig down and find out what actually this company is doing and if they’re doing it to more people than just us," added Doreen.
While the couple appreciates the refund offer, they've lost trust in Starboard Cruise Services.
"If they had to replace it, we'd be in fine shape because the opals would be worth a huge amount of money," stated Garry.
They are reluctant to send the jewelry back to Starboard Cruise Services and then wait for a cheque to arrive. They want the jewelry held in trust by a lawyer or by Holland America until their refund is received.
Those details are still being worked out.