Can Globus keep our $500 deposit? I can’t afford to travel anymore

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By Christopher Elliott

Will a big tour operator like Globus bend its rules to help an elderly customer? That’s what Joan Powell wants to know since she’s about to lose a $500 deposit. 

“I have asked for more time,” she says. “The answer was no.”

Really? Globus, which operates Cosmos, Monograms and Avalon Waterways, is going to pocket Powell’s $500 for a vacation she canceled at the end of the pandemic? That seems heartless.

But can Globus do that? The answer is … well, before I get to it, let’s unpack this problem a little.

  • What are the refund rules for tour deposits?
  • Can I get my tour deposit refund during an extraordinary event like a pandemic or war?
  • How do I get a tour credit extended?

But first, let’s take a look at Powell’s problem.

“I can no longer afford their trips”

In May 2021, Powell optimistically made a $500 deposit on a Globus trip in December. I say “optimistically” because the pandemic was still raging, and no one knew when it would end.

It didn’t end soon enough.

Powell and her husband reluctantly postponed their vacation as various strains of the coronavirus continued to rage in the United States. 

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She asked Globus for a refund of her $500 deposit. The answer was a firm no. A Globus representative said she could get a tour credit that would last until May 2022.

But by the next year, COVID continued to be a health threat. (Related: What to expect when you travel this spring break.)

“Neither my husband nor I will be able to do any traveling anytime soon,” she told Globus in a message.

So the company extended her credit for another year — until December 2023.

But her situation took a turn for the worse.

“I can no longer afford their trips,” she told me.

Powell asked Globus for some consideration. This time, the company turned her down flat. If she didn’t book by December, it was going to keep her $500. End of story.

Does it seem fair to you that a tour operator could keep a customer’s $500 deposit? Let’s have a look at the rules.

What are the refund rules for a Globus deposit?

Refund policies for tour deposits can vary. Some offer refunds up to 120 days before the trip starts. Others become nonrefundable after two days. And some are completely nonrefundable, even if the tour operator cancels the trip (which is not what I would call consumer-friendly).

Most tour deposits are nonrefundable to one extent or another. A company may offer a credit if you have to cancel your tour, but it will almost certainly keep your money. (Related: I travel nonstop. Here are 12 places you have to see in 2024.)

Here are some strategies for discovering your tour deposit policy:

Read the fine print

Before you book, check the tour operator’s terms and conditions document to determine specific refund policies. Policies can even vary between tours.

Know your rights

Get to know federal and state laws governing tour operators and their obligations to customers. For example, the Federal Trade Commission enforces the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act, which requires conspicuous disclosure of material terms, including refund policies.

Here are the industry standard refund policies

What you can expect if you decide to cancel your tour:

  • A full refund within a certain period after booking (typically 7 to 14 days).
  • Partial refund minus administrative fees beyond the specified grace period.
  • No refund once the final payment deadline passes.

Be aware of any cancellation deadlines

A tour operator will set cancellation deadlines for its trips. Make sure you read it before you book and before you decide to cancel. I have more details in my ultimate guide to tours.

Always contact the tour operator promptly if you decide to cancel your tour. Follow up with written confirmation by email to establish a paper trail.

Globus follows the industry standard when it comes to refunds. Here’s what the Globus terms say about refunding deposits.

Deposit to Hold Space

At the time of reservation, a
non-refundable, non-transferable, per person, per trip deposit is required. The deposit amount is dependent upon the trip and services booked. See the information below.

(Emphasis added)

I checked to see if the terms had changed since 2021. They hadn’t. These are the terms now and they were the terms of Powell’s tour when she booked it in 2021.

Can I get my tour deposit refund during an extraordinary event like a pandemic or war?

Generally, you can’t get a refund on your tour deposit if there’s a war or extraordinary event. 

Here’s why: During the pandemic, most tour operators tightened their refund policies to allow them to keep deposits and payments even in the event of a war or pandemic. They believed it was the only way to survive the pandemic.

However, there’s still wiggle room in some contracts. Here’s what you should look for:

Force majeure clauses 

Many tour operators include a force majeure clause covering unforeseen circumstances like pandemics or war. This clause may provide an opening for a refund or offer options like future travel credits.

Specific event policies

Some operators offer specific policies for pandemics or war, outlining refund or credit options depending on the situation’s severity. Tour operators tested these policies during the latest Mideast conflict, and to absolutely no one’s surprise, they generally got to keep their customers’ money.

Government intervention clauses

If your destination faces government-imposed travel restrictions, your tour operator may allow you to cancel without penalty. But don’t hold your breath. Most tour operators would rather keep your deposit and let you use it toward a future trip.

Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to find these clauses in any current tour agreements. Tour operators hardened them to the point that customers have few if any rights.

Can Globus keep her $500 deposit?

So does Powell have any rights? 

Strictly speaking, no. She agreed to the terms when she gave the tour operator $500, and it has every right to keep her money now.

But should it?

“It’s hard to believe such a well-known company would treat consumers so poorly,” Powell told me. “It’s not like I’m 25 – my husband and I are both in our 70s.”

Powell is saying that she’s retired, on a fixed income and unable to afford a Globus trip after the pandemic. Shouldn’t Globus bend its rules as a customer-service gesture?

So I asked.

A representative sent me the following reply:

The Globus family of brands’ deposit refund policy is clear and all guests sign terms and conditions agreeing to the policy upon booking. 

Recognizing the challenging circumstances of the length of the pandemic for all involved, we provided guests – including Ms. Powell – extensions to use their deposit for future trips in the form of a Letter of Credit. Many travel suppliers in our category did not offer this option.  

While she made her original booking in 2021 and paid a $500 non-refundable deposit, we can offer Ms. Powell another extension to use her $500 Letter of Credit on a new booking through December 31, 2024. She can use that Letter of Credit on a 2024 or 2025 booking. And, she has until 60 days before departure to make payments. So, if she books a November 2025 trip, for instance, she has between now and then (nearly two years) to pay for the vacation.

We feel confident that we have been fair and generous in our support of our travelers, including Ms. Powell, providing them time and flexibility with deposits and travel plans.

I thought that was a fairly decent offer. Powell would now have more time to use her credit.

Globus sent the same offer to Powell.

She was not impressed.

“Hard to believe a company as big as Globus has such crazy policies in this day and age,” she says.

She’s still pushing for a full refund. (Related: Why are travel refunds taking so long now?)

Should Globus refund her $500? If she can no longer afford to travel, then she will indeed lose $500 — and at a time when she can least afford it. So a small gesture of goodwill would go a long way.

On the other hand, rules are rules.

What do you think?

Should Globus refund Joan Powell's $500 deposit?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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