WMBF Investigates: The unreturned deposit

WMBF Investigates: The unreturned deposit
“I had video proof that there was no damages,” said Jordan, who vacationed with Berke and a group of friends. (Source: WMBF News)
“I had video proof that there was no damages,” said Jordan, who vacationed with Berke and a group of friends. (Source: WMBF News)
“The best way to make that payment by far is by a credit card,” said Dr. John D’Ambrosio, the president and CEO of the BBB of Coastal Carolina. “If you don’t get your security deposit back, you can call the credit card company and dispute that charge.”
“The best way to make that payment by far is by a credit card,” said Dr. John D’Ambrosio, the president and CEO of the BBB of Coastal Carolina. “If you don’t get your security deposit back, you can call the credit card company and dispute that charge.”

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's a cut and dry process that has turned a two-night stay into a months-long ordeal for one group of college kids: an unreturned hotel security deposit.

"I have not gotten a single penny," Steve Berke told WMBF News after a stay at Sand Castle Resort in April. "I just want what's rightfully mine. It's not so much, because I've put so much time into trying to get it back, it's almost not as much about the $200 as it is the principle."

"I had video proof that there was no damages," said Jordan, who vacationed with Berke and a group of friends.

They picked the hotel because it fit into their budget.

"We knew that we had to give a $200 deposit because we were under, we weren't over 21," Jordan said.

They paid in cash, saying they were told it'd be easier to get the money back as long as there were no damages.

Dr. John D'Ambrosio, the president and CEO of the BBB of Coastal Carolina, said the cash deposit made it almost impossible for anyone in the group to get that money back.

"The best way to make that payment by far is by a credit card," D'Ambrosio said. "If you don't get your security deposit back, you can call the credit card company and dispute that charge."

The group was told a team had to check to room before a deposit was returned. They had pictures and video showing there wasn't anything wrong, but say they were told that didn't matter.

They weren't alone in this ordeal.

"There was a kid in front of me who seemed like he was in the same boat," Berke said. "He was much more heated than I was. With him, they were like, 'we're going to call the cops,' and he was like, 'I'll call the cops.'"

And Myrtle Beach Police records show the cops came.

"Essentially, they said there's nothing we can do because no crimes were committed," Berke said, "but you can take it to civil court. I wanted my $200. I knew they were hoping that I'd go away, that I'd be too far and I'd forget about it."

Berke didn't forget.

"I left them my mailing address to send the deposit back to," he said. "Weeks went by, I didn't receive mine. I reached out to them time and time again, and they said it was coming, or they weren't sure if it was coming. I've tried reaching out to them 20 to 30 times."

Dr. D'Ambrosio said that's what you should do, keep calling.

"All businesses have problems," he said. "The issue is how they take care of the problems."

The calls never amounted to anything for Berke. WMBF News did speak with the person he was trying to reach, who would only identify himself as Dwayne. Dwayne told us his lawyers would be contacting WMBF News about the issues. They haven't.

Eventually, some money was returned, but only to Jordan.

"I only got $160 back because they said there was too much sand in the bath tub," he said.

At the end of the day, you can simply opt to walk away from the money.

"That is an option," said D'Ambrosio. "Not a good one though because then you walk away with a really bad taste in your mouth, and you say, 'I'm not going back to Myrtle Beach.'"

Tom Winslow, a lawyer that works with the local BBB, told WMBF News it's a good idea to keep the signed agreement you get when you check in and demand a receipt for any payment you make. If a company isn't willing to give you a receipt and explain what it is you're paying for, he said you should question why you're giving them any money in the first place.

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