Jeff Hanson’s 17-year-old daughter missed her Barbizon USA model cruise and he wants a refund. Can we help?
Question: My wife and I paid $3,395 for a Barbizon USA model cruise for our 17-year-old daughter. This was a chartered cruise not available to the general public, which would have allowed her to compete and meet various modeling agency representatives.
Because of work, my wife and I were unable to participate, but Barbizon USA informed us that they would assign a chaperone to accompany my daughter the entire trip. The chaperone would guide her from the airport to the cruise ship. Once on board, another chaperone would take over for the duration of the cruise. At the conclusion of the cruise, the original chaperone would accompany our daughter home. We understood that $3,395 was the total price, but it turned out that competition fees and a shore excursion were not included. So we paid the additional $430, for a total of $3,825.
We went to Eastern Iowa Airport and met the chaperone. There were a total of seven people, including two chaperones. During check in, Delta provided seat assignments for the flights from Iowa to Atlanta leg. But the boarding pass for the flight from Atlanta to Tamaulipas, Mexico, directed the group to get seat assignments at the gate.
Late that night, we received panicked phone calls from our daughter because she missed her flight from Atlanta to Mexico. There was a three-hour window between flights to catch the connecting flight to Mexico, but the chaperone got confused and sat at the wrong gate. They missed the cruise and were sent home.
We requested a refund from Barbizon USA, but they have offered to apply the money for a model cruise next year. Our daughter will be a freshman in college next year and will not be able to attend. Barbizon USA said my wife and I could both go in my daughter’s place for no additional cost. But that is unacceptable since this cruise is for modeling and acting students to be able to advance their careers. We also have the same problem with getting time off for the cruise.
We’ve had several phone conversations with the Barbizon USA representative, but we were told the same thing – no refund. We’ve been friendly and have asked to speak to a supervisor, but she will not provide that information. She states that she is the supervisor and the highest authority for contact. Can you help us obtain a refund? — Jeff Hanson, Dubuque, Iowa.
Answer: If you paid Barbizon USA $3,825 for a fully chaperoned cruise for your daughter, and Barbizon’s chaperone didn’t get your daughter to the cruise ship, the company should refund your $3,825.
On its website, Barbizon USA represents itself as “the trusted source for breaking into the modeling and acting industry, the right way.” So you felt that entrusting your daughter to a Barbizon USA chaperone for the model cruise was the right way to go. This was not a case where you or your daughter were responsible for the missed cruise. This was not a case where travel insurance would have benefited you, because waiting at the wrong gate is not a covered event. This was a trip in which your daughter was chaperoned by a Barbizon USA representative, and it was the Barbizon USA representative’s responsibility to get your daughter to the cruise ship on time.
In addition, it was not you or your daughter’s choice for her to be sent home. The choice was taken away from you and and your daughter and made by someone else. You had no input into whether this was the right way to go.
You telephoned Barbizon USA several times, but you also could have tried to contact Barbizon by email, through the company’s website. Our advocates contacted Barbizon USA on your behalf, and the company notified us that they have contacted you and agreed to refund the full amount.