This isn’t how a damaged-bag claim is usually paid!

Has Joshua Ngwang Menang been scammed? First, his baggage was damaged while flying on KLM. Then he was “compensated” with an uncashable check.

Since we were previously able to help Menang, he came to us again — this time to our forum to ask for help in receiving compensation for his damaged bag.

But Menang’s case took an odd turn when he was given orders to go to a local office where he was given a check that no bank will accept — not even his own. His case is a warning to consumers to always use established channels whenever possible to file complaints and receive compensation, and to double-check if anything doesn’t pass the smell test.

Menang’s story begins when he deplaned from a KLM flight in Valencia, Spain, and collected his baggage. He wrote the following to various executives of KLM listed in our contacts, including the CEO, Pieter Elbers:

I submitted a receipt for a valise damaged on flight [number] … as instructed by the KLM Lost and Found Luggage office [in] Valencia, Spain [which] saw the said valise, completely damaged.
I got … feedback …, requesting that I repair the valise or purchase one and then submit receipts for full reimbursement. … I did purchase … the receipts as the said valise was beyond repairs.

As of today, I have had no further response from KLM, nor have I gotten the promised refund of [249 euros ($261)], despite my numerous attempts to contact KLM…

It was my first-ever flight on KLM and I really enjoyed it, but I am disappointed in the two-month- long delay in getting the refund for my damaged luggage replacement which I expected while in Valencia in order to enable me [to] replace the damaged one on [my] return.

Menang received the following response to his request for help from someone claiming to be a “Customer Care Executive” of the airline:

I fully understand your dissatisfaction with the delay in transmitting your compensation.
A copy of your message has been forwarded to the concerned department in order to accelerate the handling of your request.
I would be grateful if you can contact our office reachable [at phone number] in order to fix you an appointment so you can collect you [sic] the cheque.
In closing, it remains for me to thank you, once again, for writing and allowing me this opportunity to respond to you. I do hope that any subsequent flights with us will be to your entire satisfaction.

Menang, who lives in Yaoundé, Cameroon, called the number, where he received instructions to visit a local office of KLM. He went to the office, where he was given a cashier’s check from Citibank to settle his claim.

But when he took the check to his bank, it would neither cash the check nor deposit it in his account. At that point, he contacted our advocacy team for assistance.

KLM’s website instructs passengers with damaged luggage to contact KLM Customer Care to request reimbursement of expenses or compensation for the damage. Its conditions of carriage contain the following provisions regarding damaged baggage:

19.2.3 Damage to Baggage
In accordance with article 17 of the Montreal Convention, the Carrier is liable for Damage caused by loss of, or damage to Checked Baggage, upon condition only that the event which caused the loss or damage took place on board the aircraft or during any period during which the Carrier had custody of the Checked Baggage.

Amount of the Compensable Damage:
The Carrier’s liability in the event of destruction or loss of or damage to Baggage shall be limited to 1,131 [Special Drawing Rights (SDRs)] per Passenger. If a higher value was declared in accordance with Article 10.2.3(a) the Carrier’s liability shall be limited to the value declared, unless the Carrier can provide proof that said value is higher than the Passenger’s genuine interest at the time of delivery.

But the conditions of carriage don’t indicate what form of payment the airline will use to issue compensation to passengers filing claims for damaged baggage.

As cashier’s checks are not a common means of compensation by airlines for damaged baggage, our advocates wonder if Menang has been the victim of a scam. There are articles online warning about false cashier’s checks. One indication that a cashier’s check is counterfeit is poor quality printing. Menang sent our advocates a copy of a cashier’s check containing blurry print that is difficult to read.

Although our advocates reached out to KLM on Menang’s behalf, no one from the airline has responded to our contacts. We regrettably file Menang’s case as a Case Dismissed and warn our readers not to accept payments from businesses made by unorthodox methods to settle customer service claims.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

  • sirwired

    What’s the reason his bank won’t accept the check? While payment via cashier’s check (vs. just an ordinary check) does seem odd, but maybe they do things differently in Camaroon?

    If this is a scam, I’m not clear what the payoff is… there are lots of cashier’s check scams, but they are always things like a fake check to buy goods, or the overpayment scam. Can’t imagine why an airline would be presenting a counterfeit check.

    I wonder if a visit to the local Citibank branch would be helpful; it doesn’t look like it’s a retail branch, but maybe somebody there could re-issue the check or clear up the problem.

  • AJPeabody

    How the scam works: Person who gives the OP the fake check cuts the amount to a real check, either in the fraudster’s name or in the OP’s name with a forged OP cashing signature. Books balance, OP is cheated, yet the airline thinks it paid correctly.

  • jim6555

    If an airline employee is involved in a scam, why doesn’t KLM take immediate action to fire the employee and issue a real check to compensate the customer for his damages. I can’t believe that an airline would tolerate this sort of criminal behavior from a member of their staff.

  • Travelnut

    If this is a possibility in this case, could Jennifer continue to pursue the case? I would think KLM would want to investigate possible employee fraud, which this very much sounds like, and to get the customer his money.

  • Sandra

    The uncashable check makes no sense; KLM is not a “fly by night” (excuse the pun!) little business. I agree that Jennifer should pursue this as it would seem the airline would want it cleared up. Very poor customer relations that translates to many people thinking twice about flying KLM if there is an alternative.

  • PsyGuy

    I don’t get this where is the scam, this is KLM why would they direct the LW to a scammer and use a bogus check. Cashier’s checks are common in areas where personal and business checks are just not used.

  • PsyGuy

    Maybe just cash the check at CitiBank?

  • PsyGuy

    Only if the consumer doesn’t complain, which since the LW originally complained, isn’t going to just go away.

  • PsyGuy

    I imagine KLM already is investigating.

  • michael anthony

    It can’t be a legitimate cashiers check if no bank will cash it. It very well may be the case that they do offer cashiers checks in that location. Banks would be aware of that also. Since no one will cash it, is safe to say it’s a bogus check. I agree with others above. This case needs more of an explanation from KLM. Itsk unbelievable that a carrier with their history would do nothing about a bogus check given to a customer on their behalf.

  • sirwired

    It does not appear to be a retail branch.

  • Carol Molloy

    I’m not aware the laws in these jurisdictions, but this definitely sound like a fraud that KLM needs to investigate and take appropriate action. I wonder if KLM can be prodded a bit more. I would alert Citibank to the situation as well.

  • PsyGuy

    Yeah, I get that, but it’s their check it’s their bank, don’t they have currency lying around.

  • PsyGuy

    Well that’s not true, it can be a legitimate cashier’s cheque, and not be cashable. Cashier’s cheques that are written in highly unstable currencies , and many banks won’t cash foreign cheques of any type. They wan’t a wire, not a piece of paper.

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