My travel agent charged my card for someone else’s cruise

Rachel Broughten booked a cruise on Royal Caribbean, but the cruise line incorrectly charged her credit card for an extra payment — because her travel agent gave the line the wrong credit card number. And her travel agent stopped helping her try to get the charge refunded, leaving her high and dry for $1,372.

We often advise travelers planning complex trips and cruises to book their trips through a travel agent. But we assume travel agents will prove worthy of their clients’ trust by making bookings properly and providing assistance when their clients find themselves in difficult situations. Broughten’s story is a sad case of a travel agent who failed her client in both instances — and a warning to initiate a chargeback as soon as you see an unauthorized big charge on your credit card statement. Had Broughten done so, she might not be out the $1,372.

Broughten retained a travel agent at Sea Dog Travel, through InteleTravel.com, to book a cruise for her family on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas this summer. At that time she paid a deposit and intended to pay the cruise fare balance of $1,966 at a later date prior to departing on the cruise.

But several months later, she saw an unauthorized charge of $1,372 by Royal Caribbean on her credit card. She immediately contacted her travel agent, who notified Royal Caribbean’s customer service.

Royal Caribbean’s agents agreed to offset the $1,372 payment against the balance due of $1,966, leaving Broughten with a final payment due of $594. They also agreed to issue Broughten an onboard credit of $250. But when Broughten authorized the final payment to be charged to her credit card, Royal Caribbean charged the entire $1,966 to her account without subtracting the $1,372 it had charged without her authorization.

And Broughten’s travel agent has been unhelpful:

My travel agent has supposedly been working on the situation but I have had no updates from her. When I ask for updates I get told there are either no updates or no response. My travel agent told me over the phone that RCCL offered to put the entire amount of money that we have paid (deposit, fraudulent charge, and final payment) towards a future cruise. We do not want a future cruise with RCCL.

The case has one other wrinkle: Broughten herself is a travel agent with InteleTravel.

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“I booked with an acquaintance to have a stress-free birthday trip,” says Broughten. “I am an Expert-Plus Royal Caribbean travel agent and I am not feeling the ‘Loyal to You’ from Royal Caribbean.”

Broughten complained again to Royal Caribbean, whose agent agreed to follow up. But months passed without Royal Caribbean issuing a refund to Broughten of the improper $1,372 charge. Broughten and her family took the cruise and received the promised $250 onboard credit.

When Broughten and her family returned from the cruise, she tried to circle back with Royal Caribbean. Its agent told her that Royal Caribbean could not issue a refund for the charge to Broughten’s credit card because she had used a travel agent to book the cruise.

Broughten then requested our advocates’ assistance in getting back the $1,372. (Contact information for Royal Caribbean is available on our website.) We reached out to Royal Caribbean on Broughten’s behalf, and the cruise line agreed to investigate Broughten’s case.
Royal Caribbean investigated the charge and learned that the travel agent had applied Broughten’s credit card to another traveler’s cruise fare:

Our Executive Guest Relations team has been in communication with Mrs. Broughten daily. Unfortunately, her travel agency has not been responsive until recently. They are trying to connect with the travel agent to get a better understanding of why Mrs. Broughten’s credit card was used to pay for another guest’s reservation. A manager from the travel agency is involved and is trying to obtain information from the travel agent, so we can resolve this matter.

In effect, Broughten had paid for another passenger’s cruise.

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Royal Caribbean also informed our advocates that the travel agent had agreed to reimburse Broughten directly for the charge. But as of this writing, she hasn’t done so. And she hasn’t responded to any contacts from Broughten or our advocates.

Our advocates suggested to Broughten that she initiate a chargeback against Royal Caribbean for the unauthorized charge. As the window of time during which Broughten could have successfully challenged the charge has passed, her bank is attempting a chargeback for the entire cruise fare. But because Broughten and her family did take the cruise, we don’t think the chargeback is likely to succeed. And her accusations of fraud against Royal Caribbean won’t have helped her case.

Because the agent won’t respond and the chargeback is in process, we deem Broughten’s story a Case Dismissed.

Update: We received the following reply to our inquiries from Royal Caribbean:

I touched base with our Guest Relations Team. Mrs. Broughten’s credit card was used to pay for a booking that did not belong to her. Mrs. Broughten’s travel agent and friend of many years, Amy Uribe, was the InteleTravel.com agent for both reservations.

The amount Mrs. Broughten is disputing is $1,371.94. To resolve the misunderstanding, Travel Partner (TP) Amy agreed to pay said amount and Royal Caribbean International would refund Mrs. Broughten’s credit card. The initial credit card TP Amy provided was declined, so she provided a second credit card, but it also declined. She insisted funds were on the credit card and asked to speak with our Accounting Department. We offered to charge the card again, however, the transaction was declined again. Our team advised her, but she insisted the account number was inputted incorrectly and again requested to speak with our Accounting Department.

We agreed to process payment once again, unfortunately, it declined. Finally, we sent TP Amy a screenshot showing her credit card was declined. To resolve the matter TP Amy agreed to personally refund Mrs. Broughten the full amount. She claims she has kept Mrs. Broughten in the loop.

Also, we informed Crystal Fredrick, InteleTravel.com Customer Service Manager, and James Ferrera so they are aware of the matter. Crystal also asked how she could help. We told her we were open to suggestions, but she did not offer a resolution. On a side note, Mrs. Broughten is also a TP for InteleTravel.com; however, considering this was her vacation, she did not want to deal with the booking process.

Our team called Mrs. Broughten on Friday, March 31, left her a voicemail advising TP Amy would be providing her with a refund and asked her to call Janice from our Guest Relations team. To date, Mrs. Broughten has not responded.

And from the travel agent:

This matter has been resolved and though RCCL has admitted to the error on their end, both InteleTravel and myself have been working and will continue to work as advocates for Ms. Broughten as she is one of our own.

Ms. Broughten’s card was not used by either myself or InteleTravel without her consent and did not even have her card information in our possession for misuse. This was a complete mishandling by entities outside of Inteletravel and my personal agency.

Due to the gravity of the situation and the fact that the situation has been resolved, any further derogatory statements against my name or others will be handled by my lawyer. InteleTravel is my host agency and has been very active in the resolution in this matter and should not in any way be looked at negatively.

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 Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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