Reason Schoolies website refuses to repay deposits
GUTTED school leavers who want to follow health advice and Mayor Tom Tate's stay-away order say they can't get back deposits to booking site Schoolies.com, because they can still technically check in.
Their gripes come as body corporates warn the annual rite-of-passage will return to "bad old days" of unit parties after the State Government pulled pin on official events.
Despite Cr Tate urging schoolies to stay away come November, accommodation portal Schoolies.com continues to take bookings and promote rooms at that time.
Last week, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk canned Schoolies on the Glitter Strip, deeming it "high risk" in a pandemic, but locals fear axing official activities like beach parties won't keep large groups away.
Hundreds of schoolies are venting in online forums about Schoolies.com failing to refund $150 deposits. Under terms and conditions, Schoolies.com says bookings remain current, and those who cancel over COVID concerns but can still get to their accommodation will have the deposit as a credit voucher.
Schoolies.com CEO Matt Lloyd did not respond directly to questions. Instead he repeated a statement first made last Friday. "We are in conversation with local tour and attraction operators to provide deals to entertain this year's graduates in a way that is safe and in line with advice of Government and Health officials"
It adds Schoolies occurs wherever youth travel to mark it and it is not controlled by any one group. Schoolies.com accommodation partners were working on COVID-safe plans including "staggered check-in" while Schoolies.com was investing in ensuring photo ID for all attendees, a 24-hour help line and extra security patrols, Mr Lloyd's statement said.
But Aquinas College student Iain Matthews wants to cancel because he doesn't see a point in paying extra for events that won't take place.
He had requested his deposit back but has had no reply. "It stresses me out since the due date for payment is close and I'm trying to find a way to get my money back," he said.
"The point of Schoolies is the fun and now these events are cancelled it ruins that."
Helensvale State High student Lachie Artz also said he was frustrated by the Schoolies.com refund policy.
"It is so frustrating, I messaged them months ago asking if we would get a refund if something like this would happen, they said only if 'they' cancel it. Even though government has cancelled, Schoolies.com says it is still on for them so we have no luck. It seems irresponsible, when State Government has said it isn't the right thing to do."
Property owners who use Schoolies.com as a booking agent said any kept deposits were unlikely to be passed on to the Gold Coast businesses.
"Our apartments have been fully booked for two weeks with over 100 people each week, but we never get paid by Schoolies.com until a week before check in," a local operator said. "If they have collected deposits from 20,000 bookings they'll have made over a million, while we get nothing.
"We've asked about deposits but got no answers, many small buildings are in the same situation and there is growing anger about how this is managed."
Accommodation providers bracing for an influx of schoolies face $100,000 security fees.
Hilton Residences body corporate chair Alan Sparks said bookings were still being taken, and they needed to prepare.
"All of the large buildings are talking to one another, the biggest problem in our minds is school leavers will be here to celebrate, but with no events it will all be in their rooms.
"That leads us to the usual safety concerns around alcohol, overcrowding and damage - this thing is set up for disaster.
"We essentially will be going back to the days before the government support stepped in."
Mr Sparks said schoolies' safety was paramount to residents who already pay $100,000 for security: "It is not refunded by Schoolies.com who make a fortune from it. The responsibility seems to have landed on our laps, these are early adults who want to come and party, it will not be a quiet time for them."
Originally published as Reason Schoolies website refuses to repay deposits