Our money was stolen on an Overseas Adventure Travel tour — can you get it back?

By | August 7th, 2016

Who’s responsible for the safety of your luggage when you’re on an escorted tour? If you said “the tour operator,” then let me introduce you to Ronald Chizzick, who recently returned from an Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) escorted tour of South India.

He thinks that’s the answer, too.

“The last day, four of us discovered we had money stolen from our travel bags on the bus — we assumed from the helper and bus driver,” says Chizzick.

Of course, proving the thefts is a little harder, and that’s where we find ourselves today. Even though OAT acknowledged the incident, it initially refused to cover the $192 the party lost.

Liability is an age-old question in travel. When someone takes your bag, are they also taking responsibility for it? Airlines and cruise lines force their customers to agree to contracts that say they’re liable for next to nothing. How about tour operators?

OAT’s terms and conditions are epic. I can’t quote the whole thing because there isn’t room in this post, but here’s the relevant part from its limits of liability.

We are not liable for any claim for loss, damage, injury, death, misrepresentation, delay, inconvenience or disappointment, arising from any action by a Supplier, including but not limited to any negligent or willful act or failure to act of any Supplier or of any other third party. We will not be liable to you for any claim unless the occurrence was due to our own gross negligence or willful fault.

Translation: Go away, Mr. Chizzick.

Actually, this case has ramifications beyond one tour and a $192 loss. It’s an important reminder that you never, ever leave cash, electronics or valuables in checked luggage. Just don’t. This could have so easily been prevented if Chizzick and his party had carried their cash with them.

We asked OAT about this case, and Chizzick also appealed to the managers of the tour operator. We list the names, numbers and emails of the executives on our site. In response, the company offered each member of his party a $50 credit for future travel.

That’s a good start, but Chizzick wants his money back. He filed a credit card dispute to recover part of the money, but the credit card issuer rejected his claim because he did receive the service for which he paid by card (two optional tours costing $155).

After some more prodding by Chizzick, OAT cut him a check to cover the $192 he lost. He’s happy with that resolution, and if he’s happy, so are we. But I have to admit, some of our advocates think OAT may have bent too far backward to make this case go away, setting a precedent for others who may have their luggage stolen on a tour.

Perhaps the best outcome is this: After dealing with the Chizzick case, maybe OAT will take security a little more seriously. And that will benefit all of us.

Did OAT offer Ronald Chizzick too much compensation?

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  • RichardII

    Both parties should bear some responsibility. Chizzick, for leaving money in an easily accessible place and just assuming it was someone else’s job to watch over his belongings; and OAT for having hired the driver and guide. OAT would have been fair to offer 50%. I guess it was just Chizzick’s “lucky”day.

  • Steve Trizis

    I’m glad you resolved this for the OP. Anybody who handles your luggage should be responsible for it, and any contents, including money. And they should be required to take your word on the amount of cash you put in there. No proof, no personal responsibility should be necessary. Why should the onus be put on the consumer. And if the Company doesn’t pay, then we’ll publically shame them till they do.

  • RichardII

    I really, really, hope that was sarcastic. But, you never know on this blog :-)

  • Rebecca

    The thing is, it’s very very important to make sure that absolutely anything that ever happens is someone else’s fault. As you know, we and our spouses and children are perfect. We have to make sure we teach our children that they can do no wrong; it’s a mandatory life lesson that they learn to find someone to blame so they never take responsibility for their actions. Duh!

  • AJPeabody

    “I lost $9,000, three diamond rings, and a Gutenberg Bible. Pay me.” And that’s why they say they will pay for nothing, because it may just be what actually was stolen.

  • ctporter

    I was thinking about this, and wondered if it is also possible that another passenger returned early to the bus and therefore had the opportunity to pilfer luggage. In which case I am not sure OAT could be responsible. In this case, how does anyone know if there really was any money in the bag let alone a specific amount?

  • AAGK

    No one would voluntarily take responsibility for our luggage if made them liable for cash inside it. Sounds like they held the bags as a courtesy. Keeping $192 there seems pointless. Has this guy heard of a wallet? I don’t like that he filed a fraudulent credit card dispute either.

  • M B

    Wow, just wow. Who does a tour operator turn to to get help when they have been abused and taken advantage of by both a customer and a consumer advocate?

  • C Schwartz

    I find this thought,about another passenger as the culprit, as plausible. Where was the luggage held, how many people had access.

  • C Schwartz

    Personal responsibility should go the way of the dodo. Extinct, no beyond extinct.

  • C Schwartz

    Honestly this almost sounds like the company paid off just as a nuisance, to get rid of the complaints. Considering that there are so many times when a customer through no fault of their own is taken advantage of it seems a little odd to advocate for those that are partially culpable for their losses. Now about that flawless large carat diamond ring that I cannot prove I ever had but disappeared from the pocket of the jacket I checked in at the coat check…..

  • joycexyz

    Travelling on a tour presents a real problem with your valuables. Most of us are aware those items should not go in checked baggage, but instead go in your carry-on. However, on a tour bus your large luggage (what would be “checked bags”) go in the luggage compartment and your carry-ons go on the bus with you. It seems like a real risk when you leave the bus for an excursion or rest stop. Do you want to burden yourself by taking the carry-on with you? Do you trust that the contents will be safe if left on the bus (as usually instructed by the tour guide)? Perhaps valuables would be safer in this instance if placed in the large luggage. It would take a long time for someone to rifle through those!

  • Annie M

    Don’t ever leave cash or valuables on the tour bus. Take them off the bus with you.

  • Tigger57

    Why would anyone leave money on a tour bus?

  • Daddydo

    This has to go under your “are you kidding me” column! Cash is the sole responsibility of the traveler. Safes in the room, safes at the front desk of the hotel, or your front pants pocket. In the suitcase!!!!!!!!? Wow.

  • Dutchess

    How do we know it was the bus driver or the minder? It could have just as easily been any one of the other passengers in your tour group. Seems pretty ridiculous to immediately assume it was the driver.

  • Lee

    To simply assume who it was who purportedly stole the money is irresponsible at best; Unless there is some security footage or something to prove such an accusation, it is all just a guess. I remember one time my mother was incensed because she assumed someone had stolen something (piece of jewelry) from her bag in a hotel room – long story short: when she returned back home, she found it laying on her dresser.

    Who knows without proof what really happened and my guess is that for such a low amount of money, this company decided it didn’t want any more grief about it –

    Sometimes it just makes sense and is part of the cost of doing business, to do away with a nuisance situation (not saying they should not be careful with people’s belongings only there is zero proof here) – I am also guessing if the money involved was much higher, there would have been a different resolution.

  • Sandy

    I have traveled with OATS and it is common for the tour directors to make one or both of the following statements:
    “It is a few to leave anything on the bus as the driver will stay with it” and/or “It is not safe to carry all of your cash with you.” While I don’t know if there was a secure safe where things could have been left, it is quite possible the bus was represented as the most secure place for valuables in transit between locations.
    PS: on one of our OATs tours it was a sharp eyed fellow passenger who prevented our tour guide from losing his wallet to a pickpocket.

  • bpepy

    I was on a tour in India also when something was stolen off our bus. No money, but a woman’s bag that had incidentals in it, including an address book, some reading material and tour info, etc,etc. We were specifically told to leave this sort of thing on the bus while we went to see an attraction rather than take it with us. The bus driver was staying on the bus and our belongings would be safe. This was the only thing taken, and it had no real monetary value, but had personal things the woman valued. She filed a police report and I have no idea of the outcome, but I think one should be able to leave this sort of stuff on the bus safely. I would never leave money or my passport or anything really valuable, but on a tour everyone seems to have an extra bag with incidentals!

  • M B

    “We asked OAT about this case, and Chizzick also appealed to the managers of the tour operator.” Much like the cops knocking on your door saying we got a complaint…

  • Tricia K

    I never hand over anything of value to someone else when I travel, except for someone I’m traveling with. My medications, cash, passport and very expensive camera stay with me. If I can’t manage it on my own, I skip the camera. I cannot risk having my medications stolen and tour or no tour, I consider it my responsibility.

  • pauletteb

    I’m more inclined to think a fellow passenger was the culprit, someone more likely to know the OP was careless enough to leave cash behind.

  • pauletteb

    Chizzick SAYS it happened to three other people.

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