Non-refundable deposits - whaddya think?

I’m not looking for a legal opinion here. I gave a non-refundable deposit to hold a room and event at what used to be a very nice resort and inn. The deposit was at their behest after they had indicated they understood what I was looking for in details and the timing of the event, via an email.

I made the deposit, but then received their contract for signature. It was way out of whack with what we’d initially discussed. I pointed out the discrepancies and they sent draft 2. The second draft contract (and covering letter) admonished me that they’d told me of a particular timing conflict in our initial discussions - which entirely contradicted what had been said in the initial email. Many of the details were substantially different than what we’d agreed to. It’s important to add that the woman with whom I’ve been dealing borders on rude and dismissive and the final admonishment was the last straw.

I canceled the event. While I understand what “non-refundable” means, I would expect that honoring our initial, albeit informal contract, would hold some weight in whether I’m entitled to any part of the deposit back.

My guess is that they will not refund anything - and frankly I’m just relieved to be out from under this unhappy experience - however, it doesn’t seem right that someone can request a non-refundable deposit and then do whatever they like after that point, ignoring our earlier agreement.

Oh well, whine, whine, whine, on my part. What do you think? Their reputation’s at stake, do you think I’ll get any part of my $2,000 back? (The affair was booked the first of August, the event was for the end of November - I canceled yesterday).


Normally I would’ve said, let it slide expect no refund and be happy if you get something. For that money though I’d be chasing it up.

Maybe in the future you’ll pay the deposit when you sign the contract.

I think a deposit should only be paid when you see the contract and agree to it, not a second sooner. It’s meant to help them if you pull out between the time you sign the contract and the event itself.

Thanks for your replies!

That was my feeling too - I expected the contract to match the email recounting of our discussion and was shocked to find the contract for our signatures didn’t resemble our conversation at all.

I’ve suggested that it would be the right thing to do to refund - they do have a reputation at stake - but if they don’t, fortunately a) at the moment it won’t ruin me; and b) I’ll be much much happier at the new venue I’ve found.

So under the header “Life Lessons” I’ll not make the mistake again - .

Did you keep the emails?
I would think this would give you some leverage to get your deposit back. Maybe in small claims court?

As a matter of fact I did keep the emails. Much to my contact’s shock and horror, I think as I was able to copy and paste her email into my letter of cancelation. I underlined the 3 or 4 extreme differences between email and the contract including the portion where she said, “based on these details, blah, blah, blah” we require a $2,000 deposit to hold the room for the event.

I am so delighted that she put both the accurate details AND the request for a deposit in an email. I’m thinking on principle I should go the small claims route if necessary.

I also copied her boss, the owner of the resort, who is currently on 3-weeks vacation. I have a feeling if this isn’t resolved by the time the owner returns, they may have some desire to resolve it.

As an aside, I wrote one of my best, most scathingly, righteously indignant letters of all time yesterday which had a wonderfully cathartic effect on me - not worth $2,000 mind you - but then an opportunity get it all out in one missive is priceless, right?

Did you sign the second contract? Even if there are items that were substantially different from what you discussed? If you did and they have met the terms of the contract you signed although it’s not what you had agreed to originally then I guess you are out $2000. Don’t sign a contract that isn’t what you want then refer to what you really wanted to be in the contract.

If you didn’t ever sign the contract then I would demand the $2000 back as it is not a deposit on a contract. My thinking is no contract = no deposit (regardless of the $2K on her desk, it’s not a deposit until it has a contract to be met with) = no breach of non-refundable deposit.

Finally - and this is not directed at you, I mean we/you in the general sense - can we stop saying non-refundable deposit? It’s not. It’s a down payment. Deposit indicates (to the general public, I don’t know about Webster’s or legally) money held until the end of the contract that is to be returned at the end of the contract (like a security deposit) or applied towards the final bill (like a down payment). It just… irks me.

Hi **ShelliBean **. I agree with you that there isn’t (or shouldn’t be INAL) any such thing as a non-refundable deposit - I’m simply using that term because that is how they’ve referred to it throughout our discussions.

I did not sign any contract - I acknowledged they had the right information in the initial email - pointed out the errors in the first draft of the contract - and pulled the plug on the affair prior to signing the second contract (as it was so woefully different from our discussions)- or anything else for that matter.

To my thinking that was money to protect them from my getting to within a couple of weeks of the event and then canceling which I fully understand. The situation as is has meant that they’ve done very little work in support of my event, other than the initial tour of the facilities and the two botched contracts.

I also agree that putting a down payment on something to hold a date/room should only be a sign of faith in advance of an agreed upon contract. They couldn’t deliver said contract - I didn’t sign - so therefore my down payment should be returned.

I appreciate that others seem to see the situation as I do, and it encourages me to not just walk away.

How did you make the deposit?

If by credit card, call the card issuer and explain that you had been requested to make a deposit, and only after you’d made the deposit were you told it was non-refundable. You’ll probably have your money back by the weekend.

If by check, call your bank to put a stop on the check (assuming they’ve not deposited it yet) and advise the venue that you’ve done so. This will cost $35 or so.

And of course, you can always make a claim against them with your local Better Business Bureau, leaving them to explain why they changed terms like that.

I think you were careless in giving them a check before you had a contract. But, I still think you deserve your money back anyhow, since they changed the informal agreement and were lax in putting together a formal agreement. They’re the professionals here, they should have insisted that you do things in the proper order.

Well, I’m very pleased to report that I received an email of apology and the return of the deposit!!

The apology states that they’re sorry they couldn’t fit our plans and wish us all the best . . .

Wow - I thought this would be a long road - Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions.


Wow I’m so glad that worked out for you! I was getting antsy just reading it at first because I know how frustrating that can be.

PS - the whole deposit thing was just me blowing off steam at a personal pet peeve. I know you were just using it the way the company did. :slight_smile:

Yay you.

That’s one way - if you are happy with telling a blatant lie to try get your money back - and a lie that the merchant can prove by producing the email chain. A better method would be to contact the credit card company and tell them the truth - you paid for something that turned out not to be what the merchant represented it to be. (However, I see you have already got your money back).