Is this fishing trip refund dead in the water?

He canceled his trout fishing trip. Where is the refund?

Jim McClenathan was looking forward to a fishing trip to Montana this summer with a group of friends. But then the men found a better deal and asked for a refund. Even though the fishing lodge promised to quickly return the money, the checks haven’t arrived yet.

Is this fishing trip refund dead in the water?

This is a slippery case. It turns out that while the fishing lodge was dragging its feet on the refund, one of McClenathan’s friends didn’t pay his deposit. Confusion ensued. Their fish tale serves as a reminder to be careful with your paperwork when you’re acting as your own travel agent.

Don’t worry, our advocacy team untangled the mess just in time for their Montana fishing adventure.

How the fishing trip refund story started

McClenathan and his pals booked a week at the iconic Kingfisher Lodge on Montana’s Bighorn River. The trout fishing up in Fort Smith, Mont., is said to be incomparable. And the lodge promises to go above and beyond.

“Our commitment to hospitality runs deep,” it says on its site. “We promise to exceed your expectations.”

Apparently, it also exceeded McClenathan’s budget. He and his friends had each paid a $1,000 deposit earlier this year. Or so he thought. Unbeknownst to him, one friend didn’t pay his deposit. I’ll get to the details in a moment.

“We later learned that we could have the same trip booked through a different lodge in Fort Smith for a far better price,” he says. “So back in February, I informed the Kingfisher that I was sorry to let them know that our lodging plans had changed.”

The Kingfisher Lodge promised them a 90 percent refund if they had to cancel their reservations 45 days or more before their arrival.

Fast forward to April, when McClenathan contacted us for help.

“I have twice requested refunds of deposits for my fishing colleagues,” he says. “My refund requests have been cordial and respectful. The lodge owner indicated three weeks ago then refund checks would be sent. To date, none of us have received refund checks from the Kingfisher Lodge.”

What to do when a fishing trip refund never comes

Wait, did he say “checks?” Dwayne reviewed his paperwork, and sure enough, they had paid their deposit by check. The likely reason? The lodge charges a 3 percent fee for any transactions by credit card. That not only deters guests from using a credit card, but it also gives the property far more power over the money, and particularly over refunds.

When a company promises you a refund but doesn’t follow through, you have more leverage if you paid by credit card. A promise by the Kingfisher Lodge in writing might be viewed as a debit memo by McClenathan’s credit card company. If the lodge didn’t follow through, he could have disputed the charge and received a full refund.

But with a check, you are at the company’s mercy. All McClenathan could do was ask repeatedly — and politely. The lodge had his money and could return it whenever it pleased. Or not at all.

Seasonal lodges in remote areas don’t always play by the same rules as the rest of the travel industry. (See the Becker’s Lodge case from last year.)
McClenathan and his friends had waited more than two months for their fishing trip refund and their patience had run out. That’s when he called us.

The real reason for the cancellation

Dwayne asked for the paper trail between the lodge and McClenathan. New facts emerged. He’d been a regular guest of the lodge for the last 13 seasons. On his last visit, he’d spent almost $10,000. So he was a big fish, as you might say.

But when the lodge’s ownership changed about a year ago, he says it raised its prices. He’d gone fishing last year under the new ownership.

“We had hoped to go again,” he adds. ” But their price increase was too great this year.”

I looked at the price tag for McClenathan.

Where is his fishing trip refund?

That’s about $460 a day for some of the best trout fishing in the world. Is that too much? Perhaps — unless you love trout fishing. But maybe that explains why one of his friends didn’t pay the deposit.

On a related note, if you’ve never gone fly fishing in a river before, you have to try it before you decide that $460 a day is too much. Once you’re hooked, you may think no price is too high.

What did the Kingfisher Lodge have to say about this?

Dwayne contacted the lodge on McClenathan’s behalf. A few days later, we had some good news.

“I have heard back already saying checks are in the mail,” he told our team. “Without your help, I don’t know how long our wait would have been.”

But when he received the checks, he discovered a problem.

One of my guys made a $1,100 deposit and according to Kingfisher website he should have gotten a 90 percent refund. In fact, he got a check for a 76 percent refund.

Another colleague got a less than a 90 percent refund.

As for me, I got a 64 percent refund.

Better than nothing but the host decided that since one of the other clients never sent in a deposit, he would take that deposit penalty out of my refund. I acted as the event organizer for my group but I was never responsible for the bills of my fishing friends.

Sadly, things are ending on a sour note and we may never be able to return to this venue.

His friend never paid his part of the deposit

So we have a fuller picture now of this fishing trip refund. It looks like one of McClenathan’s friends didn’t pay the deposit, so now the lodge is taking his penalty out of the refund.

Unless McClenathan agreed to act as the tour organizer and assume financial responsibility for the group, that seems unfair. He says he made no such agreement.

So we find several useful lessons in this fish story. First, how you pay for any consumer product, whether it’s a fishing trip or a fishing rod, really does matter. I’m not exactly a fan of credit cards, but they can protect you in ways your checkbook can’t.

Second, if you’re going to be your own travel agent, make sure you know all of the rules before you make a reservation. The Kingfisher Lodge treated McClenathan’s party as a tour group and held him responsible for all of their deposits.

A representative for the Kingfisher Lodge says he discussed the terms with McClenathan by phone, but there doesn’t seem to be a written agreement.

McClenathan will need to collect the 10 percent penalty from his friend if he wants to be made whole. That’s an expensive lesson learned. But it could have been much worse.

What should McClenathan do?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend