Where’s my deposit?

Question: I’m writing in the hope that you can help us secure the return of our deposits from a tour operator.

My mother and I booked a wine tour in Spain through a company called The Unique Traveller that we found online. We each made a deposit of $881, which amounted to 30 percent of the cost of the trip. We weren’t presented with any terms and conditions, nor were the terms available on the tour operator’s Web site.

We asked to see a copy of the company’s terms, which stated that if we canceled fewer than 45 days before the tour, we would forfeit our deposits. I spoke with the owner of the company, and he agreed to modify the terms, allowing us to get a full refund of our deposits if we canceled after 45 days.

Several months later, I was laid off from the law firm I worked at. Then my mother lost her job. We can no longer afford the trip. But The Unique Traveller — despite agreeing to a refund — has refused to send us our money back. Can you help us? — Debra Hitti, San Francisco

Answer: If The Unique Traveller agreed to revise its terms, then you’re entitled to a full refund of your deposit.

I’m just not sure if it made that promise. I reviewed the correspondence between you, your mother, and Ramon Ramirez, the tour operator, and found that although he implied you would get your money back, his language was sufficiently vague to avoid a refund. How clever.
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