How I Flaked And Triumphed On The Same Day

Have you ever challenged yourself to do something physically scary?

Well, in Macau, I planned to do the Macau Tower Skywalk.

The rim is 233 meters high (about 61 floors) and it’s possible to walk around the outside. Let’s be clear, there’s no guard rail. It’s just you and the birds and the breeze. Oh, there is a safety harness around your chest though.

The pay off for strolling around the rim are the views. Gorgeous ones of the ocean, the landscape, and the city below. I didn’t want to miss out on that.

The problem was that the weather didn’t cooperate. I waited all day for a break in the rain and then raced to the tower. When I arrived there, it was drizzly outside, but it didn’t matter. I love drizzly rain actually.

But after paying $75 US and taking the elevator ALL the way up to the top, it started raining hard. What’s worse, the clouds descended all around and there was very little visibility.

So, I flaked.

I just couldn’t do it, and not because I was scared. It was the overall value of the experience I thought about. I wanted to walk around the rim and see buildings in the distance and feel in awe of the space and air around me. Without all that, all of the sudden it seemed like a contrived EXPENSIVE cheesy tourist trap experience.

Then, I did the unthinkable in China. I asked for a refund.

I knew that it would be a hard negotiation. In the States, we’re so culturally conditioned to think a refund is our right. Other cultures operate more on a once-it-leaves-your-hands-wave-goodbye-forever-to-that-money kind of principle.

I approached the manager carefully.

ME: “I was wondering if I could have a refund for the skywalk?”


ME: “But it’s raining hard.”

MANAGER: “You knew it was raining when you got here, and you still paid the money to do it.”

ME: “yes, but it’s raining really hard now.”

MANAGER: “That’s not our fault. ”

ME: “And there’s lots of clouds. You can’t see anything.”


ME: “So, aren’t we supposed to enjoy the views? Isn’t that why people do it?”

MANAGER: “We don’t give refunds.”

ME: “But…”

MANAGER: “No refunds.”

I planned to say more, but he seemed stern. I walked away and plotted my next move. I decided to let the negotiations rest and then try again. I thought all the way back to debate team in high school searching for logical tactics I could use.

I walked away and stood staring out the window, facing the prospect that maybe I’d have to walk around the tower a lame girl in the rain, as I wasn’t going to just throw away $75.

A few minutes later, a girl approached me, and said, “Okay, we give you refund.”

Have you ever asked for a refund in another country? How did that work out? What would you  have done in this situation? Have you ever flaked out at the last minute from doing something you challenged yourself to do?


24 thoughts on “How I Flaked And Triumphed On The Same Day

  1. Mary,

    I am glad you got the refund. I understand in Asian countries, refund and returns are unheard of it.

    Just a few years ago there was no concept in restaurants, for taking left over food home, but it is changing slowly.

    Sometimes US site seeing places are hard on giving refund too, being polite and persistant helps. Love your blog btw.

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Preeti,
      Thanks for stopping by! I think you’re right about being polite AND persistent. Of course, merchants have to say no at least once. Also, many times they are reluctant to give in if a person acts assuming or entitled. I do think it’s getting harder in the States too.

  2. Poi

    This sounds awesome! gutted about the rain and clouds would have been amazing to do? are you going back again??

    We’ve just tried to get a refund from a hotel in Xiamen, we’ll see how that turns out….

    • maryrichardson

      I tried again the next day, and it was still rainy. Maybe I’ll have another chance. Hey, are you planning to make it to Macau? You could give it a try.

      Good luck with getting your refund!

  3. You were very determined, I don’t think I would have pushed it. I once asked for a refund in Trinidad and was dismissed with an incredulous look. I only half expected them to do it. What made them give you yours after all? I push myself physically on most trips but I flaked on the last one to St.Kitts, where I was going to climb Mt. Liamiga. I’ve climbed volcanos before but this one is rated challenging by professional hikers and I didn’t want to risk an injury since I was supposed to hike through Puerto Rico’s rainforest a few days after. After seeing the soreness and bruises of people who did the climb, I don’t regret not doing it.

    • maryrichardson

      Fly Girl,
      I figured a refund would be impossible in my case too, but I it was worth a try. I think because photos were part of the cost and there was too much cloud cover they finally relented. Who knows?

      It’s important to know our physical limits. Good for you for listening to your body!

  4. Amy

    Mary, I’m so glad you stopped by my blog, because I am excited to find yours! I just added you to my Google Reader. I look forward to reading more…

    p.s. I almost picked this theme, but couldn’t get it to install correctly.

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Amy,
      Thanks for stopping by! I love your blog! I had some issues with getting the theme set up myself, but then suddenly it worked.

  5. This is not how I expected this to turn out! I thought you would have to try multiple tactics and jump through hoops. It’s nice that you only just had to ask once. Oh, and I would have been the lame girl in the rain right along with you. No wasting $75 for me!

    • maryrichardson

      It’s funny you say that because I was completely working myself gearing up for more talking. Oh well, maybe i’ll get to try it again some day. By then it will probably cost $100.

    • maryrichardson

      I wonder too… I think since it was such a “tourist” excursion that they didn’t want anyone to write a bad review. It might have been really unsafe in the rain too.

  6. I’ve never had to ask for a return in asia, I imagine it’s not so easy, good work on getting one! Was surprised at the ending.

    But $75 for the skywalk? Is that US$? That seems a hell of a lot, was anything else included in that price?

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Rob,
      Yes, $75 US in China is very expensive but I was willing to choke it up for a unique experience. That’s why getting it back seemed important. I think the price included a Tshirt and a CD of photos they take of you with skyline behind you. That may be why they decided to give the refund. The photos would have been crap.

  7. Dear Mary, you are to me still pretty gutsy and brave – and not just for wanting to walk around that crazy sky walk without a guard rail – but for asking for a refund….We have been to Macau on a very clear and sunny day in 2007….but to answer your question, I’d NEVER do what you did – even for free….I am glad you got your refund. I haven’t asked for refunds abroad but I have driven some hard negotiations and in some places, done very well! I enjoyed this story so much I read it to my husband too….Keep writing about your wonderful travels!

    • maryrichardson

      Hi Farnoosh,
      Thanks, though I don’t know if I’d call it brave! More like I’m just a sucker for any new wacky experience when I travel… I have no doubt you’re wonderful at negotiation!

  8. You *were* brave. I couldn’t even think of doing it (with a railing yes, but just a harness, no…)

    But you were also brilliant to get a refund. It’s a good reminder that nothing will come, unless you ask!



    • maryrichardson

      Dear BB,
      Yes, working up the nerve to ask is sometimes the hardest part… but I knew I’d feel wrong about it if I didn’t try.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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