Cancellation denial called “arbitrary and unfair” — but is it wrong?

By | June 2nd, 2010

Selma Sobelman wants to know. She booked a Panama Canal cruise through Overseas Adventure Travel, with the understanding that she’d have 30 days to cancel her trip, if necessary. But when she called the whole thing off, she learned the truth.

“We were told we would lose our deposits,” she says.

Did OAT misinform Sobelman when she made the original booking, and if so, should it refund her $500 deposit?

We received “Cancellation Claim” Forms from Trip Mate, which said we could only be reimbursed for reasons of death or illness. None of
this was disclosed to us at the time of booking. My friend is 85 years old and I am 78.

We feel this is an arbitrary and unfair way to do business. Could you help us with this?

If OAT told her she could cancel without a penalty within a certain amount of time, but then didn’t, I’d have a problem. I asked OAT to investigate. According to the company,

The 30-day risk free period applies to travelers who book outside of penalty dates.

In this situation, Ms. Solbelman booked her small ship cruise 103 days prior to the trip’s departure. Cancellation penalties on our small ship cruises begin at 120 days, so when she booked, she was inside the penalty area and the 30-day policy did not apply to her.

Ms. S. gave us a $500 deposit. Her cancellation fee was $310.82, so we refunded her $189.18 in cash on May 8th $189.18

I can’t tell from our records whether or not the sales person told Ms. S. that she had 30 days to cancel without penalty. While she was in the penalty area, maybe the sales person didn’t check this or gave her the wrong information?

Since I can’t tell, we are going to send her a voucher of $310.82 that she can use for travel with us within the next two years.

In a he said/she said scenario, in which no one side can prove it was right — or wrong — a compromise voucher is completely acceptable. I think OAT has done the right thing by giving its customer the benefit of the doubt.

We’ve had quite a few heated discussions about travel insurance, and the need for a good policy. Alas, this is one of those times when insurance wouldn’t have helped the traveler.

(Photo: Scott Ableman/Flickr Creative Commons)

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