Sethu Krishnan was promised a refund for a cruise he canceled. The company didn't send the money. The tour operator gave excuses about the missing refund.
Krishnan was like many other customers at the end of his patience. He wants to get his money back from the tour operator.
His story is frustrating.
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Krishnan and his wife decided to go on a cruise together.
Krishnan told me that this would be their fifth trip with the company. The company was excellent before the Pandemic.
A 14-day Portugal, Spain and Douro River cruise was chosen by the Krishnans. The Platinum Travel Protection was bought for $1,350 by them. The couple found the cancel-for-any-reason waivers appealing.
If the Krishnans had to cancel the cruise, they would get a full cash reimbursement. The events are called perils. If the cancellation was caused by something other than the policy, the couple would get a future travel credit with the company.
The Krishnans were looking forward to their cruise in the spring. It's until February 2020. The world was aware that a global health crisis was imminent.
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The Krishnans canceled their cruise on March 7, 2020 due to fears of a possible Pandemic.
Krishnan said that the cruise was scheduled for May 2020. We didn't worry about the penalty since we had purchased cancel-for-any-reason travel protection.
Krishnan was going to find out that his Platinum Travel Protection didn't provide the travel insurance he was hoping for.
When Krishnan canceled the cruise, he was told to file a claim with the company. The cancellation was due to concerns about the coronaviruses. Just as quickly, the man rejected his claim.
Krishnan explained that fear of the coronaviruses was not a reason for cancellation that would lead to a cash refunds.
They were in a 40% penalty phase when they canceled their cruise. The Krishnans would only be able to get their money back in cash. The balance of what they paid would be returned in the form of a future travel credit.
The confirmation of the future travel credit was sent within weeks. The cruise industry was shut down after the World Health Organization declared a global epidemic. The entire industry was put in financial danger because of that closing.
The cash refund was not going to happen soon.
Krishnan was always on the lookout for his refund. He kept calling and writing to ask for more information. He would remind the company of the money it owed him. The customer service agent would thank him for his patience and remind him that the company was not able to process refunds at that time because of the swine flu.
He ran out of patience after one year. He said he was done waiting when the cruise industry started sailing again.
Krishnan received something on the surface that appeared to be good news about his refund. He was told he would get his money in eight to 10 weeks. It was once again an empty promise.
Krishnan once again pressed the company for answers about his missing refund in early 2022. He said it was time to return his money.
The email was returned with another standard message, "Thanks for your patience" and an acknowledgement that their refund processing was slightly delayed.
He received a strange explanation for the delay. The eight to 10-week processing promise was out the window and the time for the refunds had been extended into the unknown.
"Dear Mr. Krishnan,
Unfortunately, recent world events have caused us to once again redeploy our team to handle time-sensitive trip issues, operational challenges and an unexpectedly large number of inquiries requesting updates / changes to existing itineraries. As a result, we are once again unable to provide a timeline on when we will be able to process your refund request.
Mira Delgado, Vantage Deluxe World Travel"
Krishnan realized that he was never going to see his money.
Krishnan spent a lot of time pursuing his refund. He wasn't getting any closer to his refund because he didn't send emails, make phone calls or read through the many complaints about the company.
He asked The New York Times to expose the company because he wasn't sure where else to turn.
Retirees make up most of the customers of the business. The company's terms and conditions are ripping them off. I would like to thank you for helping to make the people aware of the predatory policies.
After Krishnan sent his letter, he read an article in the New York Times about a customer who was fighting for his money. In that article, the senior cruise writer for the company gave an insight into the problem with the ship.
Krishnan wasn't surprised to read that the New York Times couldn't help a customer with their refunds.
Krishnan wanted to shine more light on Vantage and its refusal to send promised refunds to its customers.
Krishnan said that he was waiting for a refunds. I would appreciate it if you could make customers aware of the unethical practices of the company.
Krishnan's request for help was found in my email box thanks to the help ofAshley.
Many companies did not survive the Pandemic. Other travel providers didn't make it. The company would seem to be one of those.
Since the start of the Pandemic, I've responded to hundreds of emails from frustrated customers of the company.
All of these customers have the same story to tell. Krishnan canceled his tour before the Pandemic struck. On the day the couple canceled, they cited a fear of carbon dioxide as the reason. They were due a cash refund and a future travel voucher.
Many other customers did not change their plans. If the tour operator canceled the cruise first, it would owe refunds to its customers.
Things worked that way before the outbreak of the swine flu.
The company issued future travel credits to most of its customers instead of refunds when it had to cancel all of its tours due to the Pandemic.
Other customers of the company were booked on new trips without even having a discussion with the company. On ABC News, the company claimed it hadn't canceled any trips, but only delayed them. The company didn't owe guests refunds, but it would allow them to book an alternative trip if they didn't like it.
The definition of canceled had been changed. The company told its customers that it couldn't operate their tours as scheduled. It was a cancellation in most people's books, but then the company called it a postponement and asked its customers to give their money to the company.
I contacted the company in the fall of 2020 to find out how it justified the new interpretation of the word.
"Our team is trying to figure out what's happening here. Did Vantage change the terms of their contracts after the pandemic began? Is there something in the Vantage contract that allows Vantage to cancel the tours and keep the guest's payment indefinitely?
A postponement is a cancellation, no matter what label you place on it."
An executive was assigned to look at all the complaints in the advocacy team's inbox.
As the company began to operate tours again, refunds began to appear. When Krishnan forwarded his complaint to me, I was hoping that we could finally end his battle with the company.
I shared Krishnan's frustration when I read the many pages of correspondence that he had accumulated. He had politely and consistently asked for his money back, but each response from the company contained an empty promise that his refunds would soon be processed.
He had waited a long time and had not been paid. I wanted to know why Krishnan was still waiting after all this time.
Krishnan got his refund within a few days.
"Good Morning, Michelle!
Thank you for circling back to me on this one. I do come bearing some good news! Our Accounting Department has processed the Krishnans' refund today to their AMEX ending in **** for $7,443.20."
Krishnan is happy that he can put this behind him. He's still worried about the other customers who are still waiting for their refunds.
Krishnan said thank you for your assistance. I hope the refunds are valid for all customers.
We share that hope.
If you or someone you know is still waiting for a refund from a tour operator, there are a few things you can do to get them to give you one.
Travelers canceled their vacations before the companies canceled them. Many consumers made a mistake by that. Most companies will give you a full refunds if they cancel your trip. The cancellation terms of your contract will affect your eligibility for refunds.
It will be processed back to the original form of payment if you are owed a refunds. You wouldn't get a cash refund if you paid with travel credits. It's important to make sure you'll be eligible for the missing refund.
You can file a complaint with your state's attorney general if you've been unsuccessful in getting a travel provider to process your refund. A complaint can be filed in the state where the company is located. That is Massachusetts in the case of Vantage. You can find the attorney general in your state.
It is possible to file a small claims case against the company if you have missing funds. It's a lot easier to file this type of lawsuit. It can be difficult to collect a small claim award. The attorney general's office in your state should be able to give you advice. If the value of your claim exceeds the small claims limits, you can go to the American Bar Association to find out if and how to file a lawsuit.
The squeaky wheel gets grease when a company has a long list of refunds. Don't give up if you know you're going to get a refunds. Send the company reminders and let them know you're still around. You could find that your request rises to the top of the list if you send those reminders frequently.
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The travel industry is slowly returning to normal and mostReputable companies are trying to return all the funds that are owed to their customers. The company is trying to regain the trust of its customers.
Send your request for help to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are one of the travelers who are still waiting for their promised refunds.