Nov 02

Legal Ease

by in Life of Arlo, Postcard Valet, Travel

Em waves goodbye to Cuba (20k image)A few days ago, I was threatened with legal action over a blog entry I wrote almost four years ago.  Cliff Mayhew, owner of aircharterbahamas.com, claimed that I libeled his business.  I feel like I’ve just passed some blogger right of passage!

When I first read it, I was worried.  What did I write?  Was I going to have to edit my entry… perhaps remove it altogether?  After rereading what I wrote back in 2004, I realized I didn’t have anything to worry about.

If I hadn’t been so busy with Halloween, I would have posted a response sooner.  I’ve been seething about that comment for a days now.  Let’s have some fun tearing it apart, shall we?

Here’s what he wrote:

New comment on your post #15 “Cuba:  Getting to Cuba”
Author : Cliff Mayhew (IP: XX.XX.XX.XX , XXX.fl.comcast.net)
E-mail : XXXX
URL    :
http://www.aircharterbahamas.com/
Whois  : XXXX

THIS BLOG SHOULD BE REMOVED IMMEDIATELY!!

I am the owner of Air Charter Bahamas.com

This blog has liabled my business and I am in contact with an attorney.

I have never been in contact with anyone that has written the story above.  

You should take the time to determine the legitimacy of the article -

This article was most likely written by one of my competitors – this industry is filled with scumbags that should be housed in the federal penitentary.  Watch your wallet..

A competitor called the BBB to file a complaint with us too!!  They acted as a customer when dealing with the BBB – The BBB threatened to place us on a “bad” list if we did not competulate to their “rules”.  Bullshit.

If you need to deal with an honorable, trustworthy, respectable, honest, reliable, etc. company, call us – you will soon learn who we are, and what we stand for.

Thanks for the post:

Cliff Mayhew, CPA
Masters – Finanace
Masters – Taxation
Bachelors – Finance
Commercial Pilot
Certified US and Bahamian Air Carrier

T-1.866.FLY.ISLANDS
T-305.885.6665

Please call me personally if you would like information about fllying to the bahamas.

Too bad the blogger didn’t leave contact information – scammer in the shadows.

Have a great day!

Nice how he turned a threat into an advertisement for his company, isn’t it?  I thought about editing that information out, but then I realized that I went ahead and linked to his business in what I wrote, anyway.  If you want to give him your business after reading this, go right ahead.  Here, you can have these, too:  My condolences.

Before we really get into it, I’d like to respond to his comment, point-by-point:

THIS BLOG SHOULD BE REMOVED IMMEDIATELY!!

Yeah, that’s going to happen.

I am the owner of Air Charter Bahamas.com

I’m happy for you.

This blog has liabled my business and I am in contact with an attorney.

This blog has not “liabled” your business.  Say “hi” to your lawyer for me.

I have never been in contact with anyone that has written the story above.  

Oh, how I wish it were so.  Check your records, Cliff.  You’re a CPA, you keep good records, don’t you?  No?  I do.

You should take the time to determine the legitimacy of the article -

Yes, by all means, let’s do just that.

This article was most likely written by one of my competitors – this industry is filled with scumbags that should be housed in the federal penitentary.  Watch your wallet..

I’m not one of your competitors, but I agree with your other two points.

A competitor called the BBB to file a complaint with us too!!  They acted as a customer when dealing with the BBB – The BBB threatened to place us on a “bad” list if we did not competulate to their “rules”.  Bullshit.

Those bullshit Better Business Bureau rules.  How can anyone make an honest buck anymore?

If you need to deal with an honorable, trustworthy, respectable, honest, reliable, etc. company, call us – you will soon learn who we are, and what we stand for.

Truer words were never spoken… after a hyphen.

Thanks for the post:

You’re welcome.  Wait, what?  What are you thanking me for again?

Cliff Mayhew, CPA
Masters – Finanace
Masters – Taxation
Bachelors – Finance
Commercial Pilot
Certified US and Bahamian Air Carrier

T-1.866.FLY.ISLANDS
T-305.885.6665

Please call me personally if you would like information about fllying to the bahamas.

…But not to Cuba.

Too bad the blogger didn’t leave contact information – scammer in the shadows.

Oh yeah, that’s right.  I’m the competitor, looking to put you out of business, right?  That’s why I created a blog four-and-a-half years ago, wrote close to 200,000 words about my personal life in it, and mentioned you in passing only once.

And the contact information?  Yeah, sorry about that.  I didn’t put it up in blinking neon.  But honestly, it’s not that hard to find.  Check the domain name registry, for instance.  Or, you know, my resume.  Ye Gods, type something into Google.

Have a great day!

Hey, man, you too.  And do me a favor, would you?  When you’re talking to your attorney about libel, run this phrase by him, see what he says: “A true retelling of a negative experience.” 


It’s been almost four years since this incident occurred.  Our trip to Cuba was such a success, I had completely forgotten how disappointing it was to deal with Mr. Mayhew.  But you know what?  I’ve got a stack of e-mails that – along with refuting his claim that we’ve never had any contact – make it pretty easy to remember. Let’s take a look.This first e-mail is essentially background information.  You see, our class trip had, at one point, been cancelled by our university.  By the time it was reinstated, we had very little time to find a flight to Cuba.  This is the message I sent out to my students:

From: <jnacm1_@_mail.uas.alaska.edu>
Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2003 6:00 PM
Subject: Miami to Cuba travel arrangements

Okay.  So.  Here’s the deal.

Dan, Rick, and I have been trying very hard to find an economical way to get us from Miami to Cuba.  The problem has been that we’re so late in making reservations that it appears the only way there is to charter our own flight (to the tune of about $8775 round trip!)

So, that’s one option.  We can go with Gulfstream air and divide the cost among us… break out your calculators and that’s about $730 each (assuming 12, instead of 13, of us go — Luna’s told me that she’s probably not.)

I’ve spent the last couple days looking for creative options.  Boats from Key West, boats from Jamaica, boats from the Bahamas.  There are possibilities, but costs (of getting to those places) add up to being just as expensive… not to mention adding a day or two more of travel.

Joe and I asked Adrian XXXX if he had any boating contacts down around that way, but his charter fishing boss lives in *northern* Florida.  Still, Adrian went WAAAY out of his way to make a bunch of phone calls today and came up with some great information.

Long story short, it looks like we can charter a plane for $6500 instead of $8775 with 1.866.FLYISLANDS.  Adrian tells me that the guy is ready to work with us and all we need to do is call.  I plan to touch base with him tomorrow and ask all the important questions:  Can we pay separately with our credit cards, are the Cuban visas included, student/group discounts… anything I can think of.

I don’t plan to make reservations until I hear from most of you, though.  I know this is more expensive than we speculated back in early October, but we’re kinda up against the wall with our forced timeline. Is anyone going to have to back out in the Miami/Cuba round trip is over a certain amount?  Does anyone want to spend the weekend some time this weekend looking for a better option? (Adrian even looked into high speed ferries to Nassau and flying from there, but it’s not quite cheap enough, plus it adds a day on the water.)

Anyway, I should have more info to e-mail out tomorrow afternoon.  If there are no problems, I’ll want to make the reservations on Monday morning… and that means you’ll likely be expected to pay within 24 hours.

Please relate your impressions, either to the group with a Reply All or to me personally.  I’m VERY curious to hear what ya’ll think!

-A.

Oh, P.S.  I’m attaching the Spanish syllabus again for the people that didn’t receive it before.

My first contact with Mr. Mayhew was over the phone.  Unfortunately, I didn’t bug the call, so we’ll jump right to the back-and-forth e-mail conversation we maintained over the next week or so:

From: “Air Charter Bahamas.com” <one866flyislands@yahoo.com>
To: arlo.midgett_@_uas.alaska.edu
Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2003 14:19:54 -0800 (PST)
Subject: trip to cuba

Hi Arlo,

Thanks again for your request.

Round trip pricing, ALL INCLUSIVE, is $7,200.00  (all fees, taxes, cuban landing fees included) Your group will be responsible to pay the cuban departure tax (if applicable) This fee is paid in cash @ the time of departure.

Per student cost is:

7,100 / 12 x .04(Credit card fee)

or

$624.00 TOTAL

Looking forward to working with you on this flight.

Sincerely,

Cliff Mayhew, CPA
Air Charter Bahamas.com
1.866.FLY.ISLANDS
www.aircharterbahamas.com
info@aircharterbahamas.com
__________________________________
Do you Yahoo!?
Free Pop-Up Blocker – Get it now
http://companion.yahoo.com/

$624 each is definitely better than the $730 I’d quoted the students.  And “ALL INCLUSIVE” in caps, that’s a good sign, right?  Mr. Mayhew even promised to handle our “Cuban landing fees.” I would never have thought of something like that, but I guess that’s why I’m not in the airline charter business.

To: info@aircharterbahamas.com
Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2003 13:53:45 -0900
Subject: Re: trip to cuba

Cliff,

Thanks for the quote.  I’m going to forward it on to our group and I’ll inform you of our decision soon.

-A.

I talked with the students; we didn’t have anyone that had to drop out because of the cost.  I called Mr. Mayhew on the phone again to find out the next step.  We wanted to pay individually, so he gave me a per-person quote and told me to gather everyone’s credit card information and signatures in the form of “transaction agreements.”

To: info@aircharterbahamas.com
Date: Mon, 01 Dec 2003 10:32:25 -0900
Subject: Alaska group to Cuba

Cliff,

As of 10:30am, Monday morning (Alaska time), I’m still gathering Transaction Agreements from the students in our class going to Cuba.  I only need three more, though, so there’s still a good chance that I can get these to FedEx before the end of the day.  Couple questions:

1)  What address do I need to send these to?
2)  When can get get our “official” itinerary — i.e., airlines, flight times. etc.?

Thanks,

-Arlo Midgett
arlo.midgett_@_uas.alaska.edu
(907) 465-6375 work
(907) 321-4033 cell

From: “Air Charter Bahamas.com” <one866flyislands@yahoo.com>
To: jnacm1_@_mail.uas.alaska.edu
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2003 04:09:24 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

Hi Arlo,

Once the doc’s are received, I’ll email all the pertinent info..

Tail number and location of the aircraft.

Please fed ex the docs to:

Air Charter Bahamas
3680 S.W. 13th Terrace
Miami, FL  33145

Thanks,

Cliff

From: “Air Charter Bahamas.com” <one866flyislands@yahoo.com>
To: jnacm1_@_mail.uas.alaska.edu
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2003 16:51:35 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

Hi Arlo,

I’m working on the tailnumber(s) and other data for your trip.

Should have it by tomorrow.

Thanks again,

Cliff

To: info@aircharterbahamas.com
Date: Fri, 05 Dec 2003 11:44:27 -0900
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

Cliff,

Still waiting to hear from you about the details of our charter.  I’m assume that you have received our transaction agreements by now — is there anything you’re missing?

-Arlo

I was starting to worry at this point.  It’s December 5th and our flight to Miami left Alaska on the 11th.  I have more conversations on the phone with Mr. Mayhew.  My biggest concern at this point is that I have no idea how to get tourist visas from anywhere other than an airlines…

From: “Air Charter Bahamas.com” <one866flyislands@yahoo.com>
To: jnacm1_@_mail.uas.alaska.edu
Date: Sat, 6 Dec 2003 05:56:51 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

Hi Arlo,

Did not receive them..  Although fed ex did leave a note when I was out for lunch.

I’ll call them today to see if i can manually pic up the docs.

The a/c(2) is available.

Cliff

From: “Air Charter Bahamas.com” <one866flyislands@yahoo.com>
To: jnacm1_@_mail.uas.alaska.edu
Date: Sat, 6 Dec 2003 15:25:58 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

Hi Arlo,

I’ve received the FED EX packet.

What time does your flight arrive in Miami?

I’m working on several options before giving you the final info.

Thanks,

Cliff

To: info@aircharterbahamas.com
Date: Mon, 08 Dec 2003 08:54:17 -0900
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

Cliff,

Here’s my arrival info for Miami:

Friday, 12 Dec 03
Alaska Airlines, Flight 16
Arrive Miami @ 4:59pm

I’ve also made reservations with a hotel in Miami.  Here’s the info:

Holiday Inn, Miami Airport West
(http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/hi/1/en/hd/miawc?irs=y)
Reserved (for Dec. 12th.) under the name “Arlo Midgett”
Hotel Phone Number = #1-305-500-9000

Also, FYI:  I’ve been told conclusively that normally the travel service arranges the Tourist Visas for Cuba (i.e., Marazul)  My guidebook states that it is possible to purchase visas at the Havana airport, but it is not recommended (as rejection means you’re denied entry into Cuba.)  Is there any way you can arrange visas, or are we going to have to wing it?

-Arlo

From: “Air Charter Bahamas.com” <one866flyislands@yahoo.com>
To: jnacm1_@_mail.uas.alaska.edu
Date: Mon, 8 Dec 2003 12:45:58 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

Hi Arlo,

Problem.  As of right now, the company that was going to provide the two aircraft for your flight has not received their renewal from the Treasury Department.  

I’m working on other options (nassau) that are a possibility but more expensive.

I’ll be in touch later.

I have not processed any of the agreements @ this point.

Cliff

To: info@aircharterbahamas.com
Date: Mon, 08 Dec 2003 12:04:15 -0900
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

Cliff,

I’m trying not to panic here, but we’re leaving Alaska in a matter of days.  I need to know ASAP if you are or are not going to be able to provide us a flight to Cuba.  We don’t have the luxury of being able to wait any longer.

-Arlo

From: “Air Charter Bahamas.com” <one866flyislands@yahoo.com>
To: jnacm1_@_mail.uas.alaska.edu
Date: Mon, 8 Dec 2003 13:26:06 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

Arlo,

I recommend you get your transportation lined up a.s.a.p.

The U.S. government makes it VERY DIFFICULT to get to Cuba.

I’ve placed calls to the Treasury department (gone unanswered) asking for the details.

You’ll need a treasury permit (most likely) to travel directly from Miami.

All the flights are booked out of Nassau for the 13th.

We can get a charter from Nassau, although the cost will be prohibitive (double).

I recommend flying out of Mexico @ this point.  

Sorry for any inconvenience.

Cliff

Even now, I can’t decide what he meant by the first line. Was he implying that this late in the game, he’d be the only one able to book us a flight?  Or was he encouraging me to take our business elsewhere?

To: info@aircharterbahamas.com
Date: Mon, 08 Dec 2003 12:40:20 -0900
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

We have our treasury permit.  I assumed that any charter service you advertise for would have the requirements met as well.  Flying out of Mexico is not an option — we all have our tickets to Miami.

-Arlo

Now I’m freaking out.  My co-instructors and I scramble to get in touch with some of the other charter companies we’d discarded earlier because they were more expensive.  As soon as we get confirmation from Gulfstream Air that they can get us to Cuba, I send an e-mail to Mr. Mayhew.  (I’m sure I chose e-mail for this correspondence because I didn’t trust my emotional state enough to speak with him on the phone.)

To: info@aircharterbahamas.com
Date: Mon, 08 Dec 2003 15:39:21 -0900
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

Cliff,

Please cancel our reservations with 1866flyislands.  We’ll find another route to Cuba.  I’m informing the students that their credit card statements will not be charged by 1866flyislands and that they should contest any charges that might show up on their statements.

Arlo Midgett
University of Alaska, Southeast
907-465-6375
arlo.midgett_@_uas.alaska.edu

From: “Air Charter Bahamas.com” <one866flyislands@yahoo.com>
To: jnacm1_@_mail.uas.alaska.edu
Date: Mon, 8 Dec 2003 23:31:26 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

Hi Arlo,

Consider it done.

Don’t worry about charging the cards, the transaction agreements have now been destroyed.

Unfortunately, the US government does not want folks heading to Cuba and makes it VERY difficult to travel there.

Sincerely,

Cliff Mayhew
Certified Public Accountant

Yes, of course it’s difficult!  Otherwise we wouldn’t have had to charter our own plane!

From: “Air Charter Bahamas.com” <one866flyislands@yahoo.com>
To: jnacm1_@_mail.uas.alaska.edu
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2003 23:57:18 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

Arlo,

I’ve destroyed all the transaction agreements as you mentioned in a previous email you would not be using our services?

Sincerely,

Cliff Mayhew, CPA
Air Charter Bahamas.com

I read this as:  Is there no way I can salvage a commission out of this?

To: info@aircharterbahamas.com
Date: Thu, 11 Dec 2003 05:06:06 -0900
Subject: Re: Alaska group to Cuba

Cliff,

That’s correct.  We’ve found another charter.

-A.

You can read this as:  I’m through dealing with you, but my professional affiliation with the university requires me to state only the facts; therefore, I will not say what I’m actually thinking.

Gulfstream did all right by us, handling everything they said they would, even if did cost almost $2000 more than the original quote Mr. Mayhew gave me.  For closure, and another peek into my feelings at the time, here’s one more e-mail I sent out to the students:

From: <jnacm1_@_mail.uas.alaska.edu>
Sent: Monday, December 08, 2003 5:19 PM
Subject: Cuba Airline Charter Update

I’ve got some bad news and some tentative semi-good news.

First, the bad news.  Cliff from 1866FLYISLANDS told me this morning that he’s run into a problem with our charter reservations.  Seems the company that owns the plane hasn’t yet received their treasury permit to fly into Cuba.  I can’t understand why he didn’t check into this as soon as we asked about the charter…  actually, I can’t understand a lot about his business practices, but I guess this is what I get for trusting in a fly-by-night operation.

He looked into flying us through Nassau on the same day, but the cost was probably going to double.  It’s five days before we’re supposed to fly, so I asked him point blank to tell us if he can get us to Cuba or not – he said we should probably look elsewhere.

So, the bad news is that I decided to abandon the cheaper charter option.  He promised me that he hasn’t done anything with our transaction agreements, and I sent him an “official” e-mail telling him that we are canceling our reservations and that any charges from 1866FLYISLANDS will be denied.  I honestly don’t think he’ll charge anything to our credit cards, but keep an eye on your next statement, just to be sure.

Now, the tentative-semi-good news.  Since Rick had already made contact with Marazul, I asked him to get on the phone and try to get the reservations back that we had a few weeks ago.  He was able to get them on the phone and tell them what we needed.  They then went to work and called him back later in the afternoon to tell him that it wouldn’t be a problem – the airplane is still available.  She also told him that we can pay separately by credit card and that an e-mail with all the details would be forthcoming.

It’s going to cost more, of course – it’s the whole reason why we decided to try 1866FLYISLANDS in the first place.  Marazul is quoting us a price of $9014 right now – that’s $751 split 12 ways.  The only good news is that they’re a more reputable company, and they’ll make sure we get our tourist visas before going to Cuba (keep in mind that will be another $50 or so.)

I apologize for this mess.  I have a lot of pent up frustration myself, and I don’t know how or where to direct it.  If you want to use your power as a consumer and write angry Internet reviews about 1866FLYISLANDS, I don’t think that would be out of line.  (Or, if you can find a forum online where you can write angry reviews about my organizational skills, you can do that, too!)  I’ll shoulder a lot of the blame for this, but I also think that our administration hasn’t made matters any easier.  Unfortunately, as a student, you are caught in the middle and I do sympathize.  All I can do is try to assure you that when we DO finally arrive in Cuba, it will all be worth it!

I expect to hear back from Rick tomorrow about the Marazul charter.  I’ll pass on the information as soon as I get it.  (Hopefully we’ll be able to pay in Miami, but we might have to be ready to call them with our credit card info…)

Hang in there.

That’s my side of the story and I’m sticking to it.  The documentation I’ve provided should be enough to prove that what I originally wrote was true.  If not, I’ve got plenty of witnesses that’ll back me up.

To be honest, up until a couple days ago, I harbored no ill will towards Mr. Mayhew.  My initial impression after dealing with him was that he was a successful businessman working out of his home.  I strongly doubt there was any malice or deception on his part.  I approached him about flying 14 people into Cuba – no mean feat, I admit – and, to this day, I believe he sincerely thought he could arrange it for us.  If I faulted him for anything, it was for not being more forthcoming as soon as he realized there were problems.

His comment on my blog seems to be a knee-jerk reaction.  He made some faulty assumptions, vented his frustration, and tried to leave a small advertisement for his company to balance out what was written above it.  I have a hard time faulting him for that, but when he threatened legal action, however indirectly, by stating that he was “in contact with an attorney,” well, that really pissed me off.

But, hey.  At least I took something away from this whole mess:  The legal definitions of libel, vexatious litigation, and barratry.

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Postcard Valet is a travel blog and video podcast by Arlo and Oksana Midgett. They just returned to Juneau, Alaska, after almost three full years of travel and living abroad. Many of their stories, photos, and videos have yet to be shared...

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