Overseas Adventure Travel didn’t refund my money. Can it do that?

Overseas Adventure Travel

John Gardner’s tour operator cancels his cruise to Italy, Croatia and Greece and offers him a full refund. But then it changes its mind. It’s a disturbingly common problem — Overseas Adventure Travel didn’t refund my money! But what’s the solution?

Question

My wife and I were scheduled to go on an Overseas Adventure Travel cruise to the Dalmatian coast and Greece this spring. OAT canceled the trip because of the coronavirus. It offered to rebook us on another tour, with a $500 per person credit, or give us a full refund.

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We chose a refund. Two weeks later, an Overseas Adventure Travel representative called and said they “changed their mind.” No refunds would be available. We could either rebook or get a voucher.

Although I have sent many emails and have had three subsequent phone calls, Overseas Adventure Travel didn’t refund my money. We are hoping that you can help us get our $30,000 back. — John Gardner, Lakewood, Wash.

Answer

I’m sorry that Overseas Adventure Travel canceled your cruise. I think you and your wife would have had a great adventure in Italy, Croatia and Greece. OAT did the right thing by canceling your cruise. It wasn’t safe to travel.

But in your case, the coronavirus is a side issue. Overseas Adventure Travel sent you not one, but two emails offering a refund. You accepted the refund. Case closed.

A company can’t revise an offer like that. Once it’s in writing, it’s a done deal.
Now, that’s not to say I’m unsympathetic to OAT’s position. Like other travel companies, it’s facing an apocalyptic event. The cruise industry is particularly hard-hit by all the COVID-19 cancellations.

I can understand why it would prefer to offer you a voucher.

Overseas Adventure Travel didn’t refund my money, so now what?

But a deal’s a deal. You could have appealed your case to someone higher up at Overseas Adventure Travel. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the executives at Grand Circle Travel, which owns Overseas Adventure Travel, on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. A brief, polite email to one of them would have probably shaken a refund loose.

And if that didn’t work? I might have contacted your credit card company. Overseas Adventure Travel email offering a refund would have made your credit card dispute an easy win. Alternatively, you could have filed a case in small claims court, although you would have had to limit your claim to $5,000.

I contacted Overseas Adventure Travel on your behalf. It refunded the $30,000, as promised.

And now a question for you, fellow readers:

We’ve received numerous questions from Overseas Adventure Travel customers since the pandemic started — way too many to publish. In fact, they’ve started knocking on the door of that other travel advocacy column published by a certain East Coast newspaper.

So here’s what I’d like to know: What should we do about these cases? Should we write a story summarizing all of them (they’re so similar)? Should we contact authorities? Publish a warning on this site? I’d love to get your thoughts.

Comments are open! Dive on in, the water’s fine. 🤿