EDISON - Vanessa Andresen and Dawn Sudol were shocked and angered when they arrived in Rome to begin their 18-day vacation and nothing was what they expected. They used Intrepid Vacations, an online travel agency based in Marlton, to book a European trip after finding the company on Groupon.
"The pictures of the hotels looked amazing, they were close to all the sites that we wanted to see," said Andresen.
But as soon as the women arrived in Rome, they knew they had a big problem. They thought they'd be staying at the four-star Hotel Siviglia. The hotel employees never heard of Andresen and Sudol or Intrepid. Their actual accommodations were at a camping village, complete with bungalows, no frills bathrooms and bunk beds.
"Bunk beds! No towels, one sheet. We weren't prepared for that," says Sudol. "Who travels with their own sheets and towels when you're supposed to be staying in four-star hotels?"
They called Intrepid Vacations, thinking there had to be a mistake.
"He said, 'No, this is what you paid for.' I said I would not at my age with these young girls go and choose to camp. That was not what was on the website," said Sudol.
It was the same story in city after city. In Munich, the women wound up in a hotel in the red light district. In Nice, where they expected to dine alfresco at the Villa Victoria, they wound up staying in something that looked like a dorm room with no closets.
"Every new place we were basically afraid to turn the key and walk in," said Andresen. "It was nightmare after nightmare."
Sudol says, "I think he owes us either another vacation or our money back because this is not what we paid for and unfortunately we can never get that experience back."
The owner of Intrepid Vacations, Brian John, refused to speak to News 12 New Jersey on camera. Over the phone, he insisted the women never bought the five-star package advertised on Groupon. He says they bought a cheaper one that substituted campgrounds and hostels for luxury hotels, for a savings of about $500, around $30 a day.
"The program that they actually purchased was cheaper and was not the same package that they saw on Groupon," John says. "We have copies of the exact invoices that we sent out to the client that did not indicate anything about Groupon."
That's not what our Kane In Your Corner investigation found. A document, which Intrepid sent the women a few weeks before the trip, specifically says they are getting the Groupon deal … which should have included the luxury hotels.
John insists that's just a typo. John says the real proof is that they paid for an 18-day Western Europe trip that started in Rome and ended in France.
"Our Groupon started in Rome and ended in London," says John. "So I think we're talking about two different things here."
"I don't understand how you can advertise one thing and give someone a completely different experience from what they're expecting. I just don't understand it," says Andresen.
There is some good news for Sudol. She disputed the charge with her credit card company and got a refund. Andresen is still battling with her credit card provider.