Jim Dooley asked us for help with a refund for an unused portion of a round-trip air ticket. Years ago, he might have had a case that we could have advocated. Even two years ago, we might have been able to help him.
But nine years have passed since Dooley purchased that ticket — and his ability to seek a refund is long gone. His case serves as a reminder that no matter how strong your case, time is not on your side.
In 2008, Dooley purchased a paper air ticket through the Chicago branch of STA Travel, which bills itself as “the world’s largest student and youth travel company,” for a round-trip flight between Los Angeles and Taipei, Taiwan. After taking the outbound flight, he requested a refund for the unused return portion of the ticket from China Airlines, which told him that he would have to contact STA Travel. The Chicago branch of STA Travel had since closed, and its business was transferred to the office in Evanston, Ill.
Dooley sent a copy of his ticket to the Evanston office and requested the assistance of its staff in getting a refund for the unused return portion of his ticket. The Evanston office agreed to present Dooley’s ticket to China Airlines to request a refund. But Dooley heard nothing further from STA Travel.
“I tried to contact their Evanston office numerous times in 2009 and 2010, via e-mail and telephone,” he says. “I was constantly told that the refund had been submitted to the main office and that I should wait for a reply. That reply never came. Eventually, I gave up trying to jump through the hoops of getting a definitive answer to my problem.”
Then he posted about his case in our forum. He told us: “Over the years, the unresolved issue has continued to bother me, as I felt cheated of a few hundred dollars. I didn’t think of contacting you for help until recently.”
Our forum members advised Dooley that although many businesses keep their records for seven years, it was highly unlikely that he could secure a refund after nine years. They also told Dooley that if his ticket was nonrefundable (we don’t know whether it was), he was not entitled to a refund anyway.
Dooley also contacted our advocates, sending us an email with the same information that he had posted in the forum. The advocates asked him to complete our help request form, which authorizes us to disclose information in the help request to third parties, but he never did.
Unfortunately, while Dooley may have had a case we could advocate back in 2010, the last time he pursued it, we can’t help with a case that’s been dormant for so many years. We agree with our forum members that there’s nothing we can do after so much time has passed.
The one thing we can do with Dooley’s case is write about it as a warning to our readers: That old saying “time is money” is especially true in a consumer advocacy situation. If you have a case, don’t wait to pursue it. The more time that passes since the start of your case, the less likely the company — or we — can help you.