The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Beware of Ocean Options, Tiverton, Rhode Island

We just got ripped off. Here’s the story in the hopes that it will save someone else from the same fate.

Some 25 years ago we bought a D8 Espar heater from Mike Bowden owner of Ocean Options of Tiverton, Rhode Island.

And over the years that we owned the McCurdy and Rhodes 56, Eddie, the excellent technician at Ocean Options (since left) maintained the heater for us, and even advised me over the phone on the single occasion it needed repair while cruising.

Given that long relationship, when we decided to install a small Espar heater in our new-to-us J/109, I called Mike and was particularly happy to hear that they had installed the same heater in a sister ship.

Over a couple of weeks I sent Mike photos and measurements so he could quote on everything we needed. The total came out at US$3,207.10, a lot more than we could have bought a kit for right here in Nova Scotia.

But, on the other hand, we needed a bunch of additional stuff to do a good installation that does not come in the kit, and Mike also promised me one of the new S3-version heaters with a brushless motor that are way quieter and also hard to get, or at least that’s what he told me.

And most important of all I felt I owed Mike for his advice—I clearly remember how much it stung when, back in the day, I would advise someone on selecting a computer, only to have them buy it from a discounter.

So I called Mike with a credit card just before Christmas, and he assured me that the whole order would ship in the first week of January.

January came and went, I was super busy, but every so often I would check with Mike and he kept telling me that the problem was that Espar had not shipped due to issues at their end.

Finally, in mid-February, Mike said that since Espar was still having issues, he would send me everything I needed to do all the installation work, and then send the heater, fuel pump, and control panel as soon as it arrived from Espar.

Soon we received a huge box, only to find that Mike had cleaned out his storeroom, dumping all kinds of stuff on me that I did not need and much of it wrong for our boat: wrong fuel fitting, wrong transom exhaust fitting, to name two.

The whole reason for going to Mike was that he said he knew what I needed, and could save me all the agro of sourcing it.

That was when the alarm bells really went off. I called Mike and told him I suspected he was on credit hold with Espar and had used our money for other things. He admitted I was exactly right. He had been lying to me for weeks, saying it was an Espar problem.

But he passionately promised to make it right and that if I just held off for a week he would find the money to pay Espar and ship the heater.

I didn’t believe him and filed a credit card dispute that day. That was six weeks ago and, although I was properly documented and even complimented by the dispute department representative at our bank on the thorough presentation of our case, we have not heard a word from Mastercard nor received a credit.

Given that I’m fairly sure that Ocean Options won’t be able to make Mastercard whole, I have a nasty feeling there may be a “reason” found to deny our claim—what a cynic I am.

And even if Mastercard refund us for the parts we didn’t get, the bank advised me not to claim for all the stuff Mike did send me, even though much of it was wrong, because, since Ocean Options could prove they had sent it, Mastercard would likely use that as an excuse to deny the whole claim.

So there you go:

  • Don’t give your credit card to Mike Bowden of Ocean Options.
  • Once we have established that we have been lied to, file a credit dispute immediately. One lie is always followed by others. And the best liars are always the most credible sounding.
  • Never assume you are fully protected by using a credit card…or maybe protected at all—I will update this when we see what Mastercard does.
  • At least I had the sense not to use a debit card, or a service like Wise. There would have been no hope of getting any money back—a less-known fact about debit cards.
  • No good deed—being a loyal customer to Mike—goes unpunished.

On that last one, I still think longterm relationships and expert advice are important and worth paying for, and so would do the same again in the same circumstances. I won’t let one rogue turn me into an ungrateful wretch…OK two rogues…both in Rogue Island.

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Terence Thatcher

I sympathize. Here’s a tip: I was massively overcharged on my Bank of America MasterCard. I won’t bore you with the whole story. I was getting nowhere with B of A. Until, that is, I sent emails to several of the top execs at the bank. I got my money back. Find the email address by searching for a top PR guy. His or her email will typically be revealed because that is his or her job. And that email address will reveal the address methodology for all or most execs, e.g. . Then search the website for the top execs and send them emails using the same address. Good luck.

Matt Marsh

Mastercard is just a network. Not an issuer. Most problems of this nature are resolved by the issuer – that’d be TD, RBC, CTFS, PC Financial, MBNA, etc. as they are the ones on the hook for the money. (Only with certain Amex and Discover cards are the network and the issuer one and the same.)
Fighting with a card issuer is slow, but usually yields the desired result in the end. This is part of why credit card interest and interchange fees are so high…. it’s to ensure the card issuer has sufficient funds to protect you, the buyer, from a fraudulent or problematic seller.

Situations like this are why I use credit cards for almost everything, but never carry an interest-accruing balance on them. If you pay with cash or debit, then a dispute is 100% your problem and nobody will help you. If you pay with credit, then a vendor’s failure to deliver the goods as specified is the card issuer’s problem as much as it is your problem, and while they might take some time to demand documentation and proof, they have a strong financial incentive (per the terms of page 47 paragraph 334 subsection b of your cardholder agreement) to be on your side.

George L

have done this successfully a number of times

good luck – the whole story really sucks

PETER WHITMAN

A very timely post. I was about to contact Mike at Ocean Options about installing an Espar on my Bristol 41.1. Now I’m not so sure….

Edward Sitver

Peter,

If you’re considering DIY, I had a great experience with Ray at Espar of Michigan (http://www.esparofmichigan.com/).

His business is oriented towards truckers, but I got everything I needed for a marine installation, promptly and at a great price. He provided a very helpful electronics harness he builds, and some basic advice by phone. I was directed to him by the head trainer for Espar installers in North America, after struggling to get any traction with dealers or Eberspacher North America.

Long story, but Ocean Options was one of the three or four dealers I ran from. OO clearly didn’t want to sell me equipment if they were not going to get paid for the install (fair enough, I suppose). He sketched me out for other reasons, as well. I struggled to get any of the dealers to sell me the model I wanted, which was the new, much more efficient version. I even had one admit that he wasn’t willing to order the new model until he had sold all the older stock he had, which was probably the reason behind the wacky excuses I got from all of the others.

I’m happy to share my purchase and install experience, along with my line item order, if you’d like.

Edward Sitver

Honestly, it was pretty much dumb luck; the dealers just didn’t seem to want to sell me the equipment. Perhaps I seemed too high maintenance (I am). It was a truly bizarre experience.

Bryan Keith

I too used to believe that using a debit card meant no chance of a ‘charge back’ should goods or services not be delivered. We use an Australian issued Revolut debit card here in Europe whilst sailing for all our transactions, their exchange rate is very good and anything that will help our ‘south pacific peso’ go further is most welcome. We recently had a dispute with a courier company and wasted lots of time trying to resolve the issue just trying unsuccessfully to speak to someone over a period of 3 days. I half heartedly raised the issue with Revolut over morning coffee at the suggestion of my other half and astonishingly the money was back in my account before lunch.
Maybe banking is different in the great land of Canada and it’s distant cousin ‘merica!

Jeff Sowell

We had a bad experience with them (Mike) several years ago – luckily before any money changed hands – and we ended up sourcing our diesel heater from elsewhere. I’m sorry to hear that this happened to you, John. Perhaps even worse than the money, this kind of thing is a waste of your time!

Ben Logsdon

John, try filling a complaint with the RI Attorney General’s office . I have done this in Ohio with good success. Sorry to hear you got burned. Wishing you luck finding resolution!

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
I commend you making public your experiences with Ocean Options and I would suggest that there are (at least) 2 elements of note: first, did you get what you paid for, and second, how the company responded to your complaints. It is unrealistic to think that every transaction will go smoothly, but how a company reacts to a problem makes bad luck digestible.
OO seems to have failed at both.
And, the sharing of your experience is a very good thing for all boaters and for the industry. Us consumers are warned away from OO and can be a bit wary and self-protective in future transaction of all kinds while the industry, if it pays attention, is warned that its transgressions will not go un-noticed and un-publicized.  Further, it might support other publications who are generally reluctant to hold the best interests of their readers foremost rather than the interests of their advertisers.
And the structure of your site lends itself to OO responding if they so choose: an important check and balance in the airing of disagreements.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Bradford Lewis

Im heading up the east coast and Im going to find this MF and make him give you all your money back.
He is finished and will never rip another boater again.

Steve Vance

Since many of us are moving constantly out here, knowing both good and bad vendors is helpful. I wish there were a larger database. Maybe a Better Business Bureau for sailing.

Michael Jack

I use Trustpilot from time to time. I just checked and Ocean Options isn’t on there yet which is often the case with obscure companies in obscure businesses like “boating”. For example, West Marine is on there but has zero reviews. Raymarine is on there with just 13 reviews (most of them negative…not a surprise to me). If you can be bothered opening an account I think you can add Ocean Options. On the subject of refund, I used PayPal recently and didn’t get what I ordered and PayPal did eventually refund me (took weeks but at least I got the money back).

Nikolas Andersen

Hmpf – Sorry to hear. My lifetime losses for this sort of thing is around 150, this is a bit heavier.

> a less-known fact about debit cards

I can add that it might depend a bit on the country/bank. I once paid for a boiler service with my UK debit card (in advance – doh). Afterwards they were quick to say sorry, you are just outside the area we cover, we will refund you at the end of the month.

After emailing after a couple of “ends of the month” getting the response “next month”, I contacted the bank, forwarding the emails and they reversed the charge.

I am glad that there is a positive story about Revolut here, but I think your caution is “Wise”, as it is only a licensed bank within the EU, and some sort of “services provider” outside. Wise has no banking license although they do a good service for what they specialise in – exchange and transfers.

David Shepherdson

I also have had a good experience with PayPal. It was a scam. I was stupid, but PayPal paid up promptly..