A $500 voucher for a missed riverboat cruise? You’ve gotta be kidding!

The blue Danube. / Photo by Happy Hangaround - Flickr
The blue Danube. / Photo by Happy Hangaround - Flickr
Some cases are resolved quickly. Some aren’t.

Sheila Drezner Freedman’s problem with Tauck dates back to February 2010, and although the high-end tour operator thinks it is closed, she’s still fighting.

Back in February of that year, she paid her Virtuoso travel agent a $600 deposit on a European riverboat cruise. She made a final payment of $9,606 through her credit card in July.

“I opted out of travel insurance, since I considered myself indestructible, having traveled for over forty years and never had a problem and foolishly, never expected one now,” she says.

Big mistake.

“At the beginning of June, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and after surgery, was told I would now face six weeks of radiation,” she says. “No problem — it left me with an extra week to recoup and still be able to go on that planned vacation. However, six days into the 59 day, 50 percent penalty period, I was given the dreaded news that I would need three months of chemotherapy before the radiation treatment.”

In other words, she’d miss the riverboat cruise she’d already paid for.

Her agent tried to negotiate a credit, which could be used for a riverboat cruise in 2011. Tauck refused. So Freedman called Tauck herself.

Unfortunately, I was connected to a manager who lacked any feeling.

I told her I was planning to put the final payment shown on this month’s Visa statement in dispute. At that point in our conversation, she said, that if I do that, she would not allow me to ever travel with Tauck again.

Not what I would call good customer service and if that threat were possible, she would also hurt my travel agent. Her rudeness was unnecessary.

Tauck has a reputation as one of the most customer-focused tour operators in America, so it was difficult to imagine such a conversation taking place.

I contacted Tauck on Freedman’s behalf twice in 2010. She sent several additional letters to the company, and finally, a few weeks ago, received the company’s “final” answer: an apology and a $500 voucher toward a future trip.

Her reaction?

Tsk, tsk. They should be ashamed to treat a once-loyal customer in such a cheap way.

It will be difficult for me and my travel companion to ever book another vacation with them.

Although we’re only two people, it shouldn’t matter. A reputable business should care about every customer and do their best to keep them satisfied.

Tauck’s cancellation terms are clearly disclosed on its site.

I can’t argue with them. Tauck recommends travel insurance and spells out its cancellation policy in black and white.

Would travel insurance have covered Freedman? I’m not entirely sure. A vigilant claims adjuster might determine that her breast cancer was a pre-existing condition (I’ve seen it before).

My real problem is the interaction between Freedman and the manager by phone. I can’t imagine anyone threatening a customer like that. Unfortunately, Tauck never addressed that issue, at least not with me.

Tauck ended up keeping about $5,000 of Freedman’s money, since some of the components of her vacation were refundable. So the tour operator is offering her 10 percent of the value of her lost vacation as a voucher.

Is that enough?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • bodega3

    Not being present and on a conference call with the OP and Tauck, hard to really know how things were worded, epxressed, inflections and tone in the conversation. To threaten the company isn’t a good idea, but then neither was the Tauck employees response if that indeed was what was said. As stated, the OP didn’t take out insurance,and having worked for a tour company, I know that there are costs to be paid at a certain point  between the tour company and their vendors.  It isn’t as easy as just switching dates or feeling sorry for the traveler’s situation.  If the TO has had to pay money out, should they be out because of the travelers illness and lack of forethought to taking out traveler’s insurance?  They are running a business and get lots of cancellation of a similar nature…especially since they sell to older travelers. 

    I am guessing that someone new is involved with this at Tauck and decided that their current offer would be an amends for what sounds like was a nasty conversation.

    I voted yes that this was a decent compensation as they didn’t have to offer anything due to the OP cancelling at the time she did and not taking the responsibility to take out insurance.

  • sdir

    I feel for her situation, I really do.  Learning she has cancer, missing out on a riverboat vacation and then, adding insult to injury, losing $5000 on the deal.  But c’mon now.  She’d only paid a $600 deposit when she decided to pay another 9 grand in July, a full month after she was diagnosed.  Perhaps I’m being silly, but wasn’t it a bit optimistic to assume that she’d bounce right back after 6 weeks of radiation so she could go on a cruise?  I know she wanted to go badly, but she should’ve cancelled and waited until she knew she’d be fine.  ESPECIALLY since she blatantly ignored getting travel insurance.

    So yes, I feel the company did enough for her.  Sad as her situation is, she made deliberate choices about her trip and is now upset she got burned. 

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    She rolled the dice and lost. Really? A week’s window after some major treatment? Without insurance, she should’ve cancelled immediately when she got the prognosis and ate the loss which I’m guessing would’ve been significantly less than 50%. She could always explain to the tour operator and asked for whatever that amount was to be applied towards a future cruise, post-treatment. Sucks for the OP, but I don’t think she can expect any more. She thought she was indestructible and sank like the Titanic…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/4DMVW6EDML54CXFQMZHZCZ7WEY EmilyE

    To me, she comes across as arrogant. She knows what she could have done (buy insurance, cancel earlier) but argues that she deserves a refund or credit anyways? And then says that she will dispute a charge on her credit card that was fully authorized and paid for? No wonder she got treated the way she did by that manager.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Whoops just went back and re-read the dates. She indeed found out about the cancer prior to plunking down the final payment. Would’ve been the best $600 she ever spent to have cancelled. If she’s well, great. She gets to go on a trip . She has absolutely no reason to dispute the charge.

  • Monica Lynn Kennedy

     I have to agree. She only had the deposit down when she was diagnosed. At that point, she could have added travel insurance before the final payment, or she could have opted to back out and reschedule after all the treatment was finished. I think it was not a good idea to plunk down thousands more and assume she’d be a superhero and back to her regular life. No one knows how they are going to react to the treatments. While I feel for her situation, I think she got as much comp as she could.

  • backprop

     Could not have said it better!  She made the conscious, informed decision, in consultation with a travel agent, to forego the insurance.  Why does she assume the cruise company is on the hook for her misfortune?  I just don’t get these kind of people.

  • sirwired

    There are plenty of insurance companies that would have covered her.  Most of them, as long as you purchase your policy promptly and buy a policy for the full amount of the trip, would have covered her with few quibbles, and she could have also added an Any Reason rider to be safe.  (I would have obtained a letter on the policy purchase date from the physician indicating that she was cleared to travel.)

    In fact, KNOWING she had cancer and that things could possibly be in flux, not going all-out with insurance seems to be foolish in the extreme.

    She didn’t and ended up on the losing side of that gamble.  Giving her a full credit (or even a 50% one) is unfair to those that DO buy insurance, knowing that nobody is actually indestructible, especially those that are already sick.  Nearly everybody that cancels a trip has a good excuse…

    EDIT: And her credit card dispute crosses the line. It is an abuse of the credit card dispute process and I don’t blame Tauck for being pissed. They reason they want to ban her is because merchants pay real financial penalties for disputes, even if the disputes get overturned. There is much paperwork to fill out to fight one, and there is always the chance the bank will screw up and grant the dispute, leading to even more penalties.

    Filing a credit card dispute is like filing a lawsuit… if you are going to do so, expect nothing in the way of further negotiation from the company, and you better be on the right side of the law, because your recovery is probably going to be zero beyond what you already have if you aren’t.

  • backprop

    She had NO RIGHT to threaten to put the payment in dispute.  I see no problem with Tauck’s response thus far. Christopher, why do you have a problem with the conversation that she and the manager had? I think it is a perfectly legitimate response to someone who threatens to cut off payment on something they are obligated to pay. I would have done the same thing in Tauck’s case, and followed up with a letter from a lawyer if she followed through.

    Unfortunately the $500 voucher was just like dangling a carrot in front of this entitled lady’s face, allowing her to feign mock outrage by pretending that it’s compensation rather than a very kind gesture.

    The nerve of people writing in never lets me down.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I think the agent could have handled the call better, from the sounds of it. When you dispute a charge, it’s still a process – the agent surely knew this, and didn’t have to respond the way she did.

  • $16635417

    Having worked for a large credit card company, I recall those that filed disputes were not offered upgraded status to their account. While it was never explicitly stated, dispute history was certainly a factor when choosing to offer a “by invitation only” upgrade to a card with more status and perks.

    I really don’t get this case. She knew she had a potential problem, yet elected not to purchase insurance and plunk down a hefty amount of money while there was still uncertainty and wants the tour company to foot the bill? I agree that it is unfair to those that do purchase insurance.

    While she’s at it, why not have the doctor pay up? She states that they changed her treatment therapy that no longer left her with her “one week” (??) recovery window. (One week?!)

    Make no mistake, I certainly feel for the OP’s condition. I have lost several family members to breast cancer and some others have devoted their careers to prevention and detection. I certainly wish her the best in that fight.

  • emanon256

    She should have canceled or re-scheduled when she was diagnosed.  Not getting a refund during the100%-deposit refund period on the assumption that she could still go one week after the conclusion of her initial therapy prescription was just cutting it too close.  She could have gotten all but her deposit back, which would put her in a much better place financially.  I wonder if she asked the doctors if she should go on a cruise just 1 week after her initial therapy prescription was to end?
    I had my tonsils out a few years ago.  I know, I’m a little too old to get my tonsils out, but they do it to adults sometimes.  I had a trip planned 4 days after the surgery and another one 10 days after.  I bought non-refundable tickets full well knowing that I was having the surgery.  I asked the Dr. and she said I need to cancel both, that I am at a risk of bleeding for 10 days after the surgery.  I changed both flights, and ate the cancellation fee because I knew going into it that the tickets were non-refundable, and this was my decision.  In my case the $300 in change fees were much less than what the OP was out, but the $300 was a risk I was willing to take, I would have never gambled with $5,000.  And it’s a good think I re-scheduled my flights too.

  • $16635417

    The OP used the term “threat” in the way the Tauck agent responded to her “plan” to dispute the charge.

    When Ms. Freedman’s communicated her “plan” to dispute the charge, could that be termed a “threat” as well? 

    Was she using that to elicit the response she was hoping for?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OSW6Y735Q2LBC5CSZUZBVTTYEQ JT

    Except this is Tauck – one of the most reputable travel companies in the world.  It’s highly unlikely that the conversation was remotely close to what the OP reported.

  • Michael__K

    There are plenty of insurance companies that would have covered her

    Any insurance company could easily have denied on any claim on the grounds that she was not fit for travel at the time she made her (final) deposit.

    And I have little doubt that most of the comments here would support the insurance company if they ruled that way.

  • john4868

    This OP really annoys me. Not only does she not buy insurance but she also made her final payment knowing that she had been diagnosed with cancer and had treatments almost right up to the day she leaves. Anything could have delayed her treatment schedule.

    What really annoys me is she then plays the cancer “card.” She makes grossly poor decisions, blames everyone but herself and then expects the tour company to pay for her mistakes because she has cancer. Sorry I lost my MIL to breast cancer and my grandmother to bladder cancer neither of those ladies would have EVER attempted to use their disease to gain sympathy. Sorry but a reputable business may care about every customer but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to eat the expense of your poor decision making.

    On the phone call, here’s my read. There isn’t a tape and Tauck doesn’t want to get into he said/she said. Based on her quoted notes, there’s no doubt in my mind that the OP got nasty with Tauck on the phone. The supervisor’s response is appropriate. The OP threatened to file a false claim with the credit card company. Not allowing the OP to travel again after making a fraudulent claim is an appropriate response not poor customer service.

    The OP needs to grow up and accept responsibility for her decisions. It isn’t Tauck or anyone else’s fault.

  • john4868

    Chargebacks, whether founded or not, hurt a businesses ability to charge in the long run (higher fees etc). Beyond that, the OP is threatening (its a threat not a plan) to commit FRAUD.

    Telling the OP the consequences of her actions is appropriate. Of course, I sure that wouldn’t be her fault either.

  • Kate Tyminski

    I disagree. I thought I was indestructible. Would bounce right back from major surgery, I mean how bad could it be. Really, well I sure found out I was unable to travel, hardly could walk to the ba without help. If that was not frustrating for a super human. So yes, I could see how she would be very optimistic. They should be more compassionate. This would have been great PR however, now I surely would hesitate to use this company for tours. As for the insurance, well I have never had it and will make it part of my travel expense. A lesson learned.

  • john4868

    @sirwired:disqus I have to disagree with you on the insurance. Once she has the diagnosis, the travel insurance companies I’ve worked with wouldn’t cover it even with a preexisting conditions waiver. As @Michael__K:disqus said (and I can’t believe I’m actually agreeing with him), she wasn’t fit to travel at the time she purchased the policy.

    You can’t buy health insurance in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. The time to buy is before you have an issue.

  • backprop

    I would actually be more inclined to use this company.  I would be assured that customers like me would not be subsidizing people who, despite every chance of backing out, press forward with their behavior and want me to pay for it.

    Kudos to Tauck.  Next time I can afford a cruise, it’s on my list.

  • http://www.ironmountaininn.com/ Vikki

    sHE WAS offered Travel Insurance. Something similar like this happened to my mother – she had paid for 4 of us to go to Mexico on a family vacation , but before we could go, she discovered she needed an immediate operation to remove part of her stomach due to cancer.  She did not have insurance and so lost a great deal of moneyt

  • backprop

    I didn’t want to mention it earlier, but I thought of the “card” of which you speak.

    Here’s a fun idea – we create a deck of 52 playing cards, with names such as:

    – Six of “This was our honeymoon”
    – Jack of “I was diagnosed with..”
    – Nine of “My elderly mother…”
    – Ace of “One in a lifetime…”
    – Queen of “Emotional Distress…”
    – Three of “Child was Disappointed..”

    Then when one of these articles comes up on the elliott site, and the OP doesn’t have a chance but plays the cards anyway, we post pictures of the relevant cards.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I think I love you. :D

    Don’t forget:
    Five of “My special needs child…”
    Two of “Seniors on a fixed income…”
    Four of “Can they treat a family this way…”

  • Raven_Altosk

    Big budget trips should be insured.

    I really got nothing on this one beyond the OP being a whiner who didn’t bother with insurance and then paid in full after her diagnosis.

  • Kevin Mathews

    Think your kids could do the artwork for the deck of cards?

  • Kevin Mathews

    Would anyone who voted that the company did NOT offer enough compensation care to comment?  I voted that they offered enough, but the vote shows 53%/47% but based on the comments below, it seems like 100% of the people believe this woman is an idiot and the company was correct in their actions.
    Is there anyone on her side that thinks the company should’ve done more?

  • $16635417

    I’ve been reading the comments through the morning, yet just voted and looked at the poll. I was about to note the same thing you did.

    Perhaps 48% of the population that believes all companies are big, mean entities and should always pay up when asked, regardless if the customer admits mistakes?

    I’m even skeptical that the Tauck manager’s response to her threat to dispute the charge was even rude.  

  • othermike27

     We have taken Tauck tours the last 4 years, and have another one planned for later this year.  I’ve watched the Tauck folks and their tour directors in action, dealing with all the stuff that might upset the arrangements, and I have always been impressed with how smoothly things are sorted out. I’ve watched them deal with “high-maintenance” tour guests with more courtesy and consideration than some of the whiners deserved IMHO.

    I always buy trip insurance and I buy it through Tauck (yeah, I know what you’re thinking). Last year, my wife turned an ankle in Paris and we incurred some out-of-pocket medical expenses. Then, United cancelled our return flight (mechanical issues) so we had to pay for an extra day of food and lodging. United picked up about half of the delay costs, and the trip insurance covered the rest and all of the medical expenses with no problems. And the Tauck office people helped me arrange an extra hotel night at their much lower group rate, sort out the paperwork to file claims, etc.  Total exposure was about $800 and not the primary reason you want to buy trip insurance, but it gave me some confidence that the trip insurance would be there if something bigger came up.

    I have trouble believing that a customer service representative from Tauck or any reputable company would issue threats to a customer. I would have to hear the whole conversation to make any judgment there.

    I agree – kudos to Tauck!

  • Harry Baxter

    “I opted out of travel insurance, since I considered myself indestructible, having traveled for over forty years and never had a problem and foolishly, never expected one now,” she says.
    I’m sorry, but that says it all. Everyone considers themselves indestructible until events prove otherwise. Another reason to buy travel insurance is that even if you’re indestructible, those close to you (Spouse, Siblings, Parents, Children, etc.) aren’t necessarily indestructible. She’s probably lucky to get the $500 voucher.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

     That wouldn’t be fraud. Unethical perhaps, but not fraud

  • backprop

    I love it!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DGG7NY4IJH6VQLW37AMQTRQHLM T

    I’ve travelled with the good folks at Tauck 3 times. On one trip, I had a small issue involving airport transfers, but they still did everything they could to make it right. I think they really do care about their customers and how they feel; That’s why I go back to them. Plus, she opted not to get travel insurance and rolled the dice, then lost. Why is this Tauck’s fault?

  • sirwired

     If she had procured a note from her doctor the day she purchased a policy explicitly stating she is fit make her trip then that would have been the end of it.  The treatment hadn’t been moved up yet at that point, and until cancer reaches the end stage, the cancer itself does not render you unfit to travel either.

    It would certainly be a pre-existing condition without the exclusion, but not enough to kill a pre-ex waiver also.

    Minor correction:  Since the deposit was already long past, there are only a couple of companies that would have granted the waiver, CSA and HTH.  TravelEx, TravelGuard, and Access America require policy purchase within 15 days of deposit for the waiver.

  • sirwired

     But she had no valid grounds to file the dispute and both parties knew it.  She might as well have threatened a lawsuit while she was at it.  The dispute will cost Tauck real time, money, and hassle, even if it is turned down.

  • Extraneededmail

    Three go “my pet deserves better treatment”.

  • Tanya Bidwell

    She turned down travel insurance (probably less than the $600 deposit she paid), then got diagnosed with cancer before the final payment was due and now wants a refund?  Who is this person and in what world does she live that she thinks she is entitled to a refund for her bad decision?  Ok, no jokes about living in the US…  Many reputable travel insurance companies offer great insurance with a waiver on preexisting conditions if purchased within 3 weeks of booking a trip.  Not that she could have known she was going to get cancer, but I am betting had she called Tauck in June and said she needed to postpone her trip due to cancer, they may not have refunded her $600 deposit, but it probably could have been applied to a future trip.  The OP chose to go on with her plans.  Great.  I think that a great attitude is crucial to a recovery for cancer.  But why should the rest of us pay for her decision?  I think Tauck responded fairly and in my opinion, actually did more than they should have.  In my opinion, she wanted special treatment because she was diagnosed with cancer.  Guess what, thousands of others are also diagnosed or have loved ones who are diagnosed with cancer and companies cannot afford to give all of them special treatment, even “loyal” customers.  She needs to realize that she made a mistake, and she should learn the lesson from it.   I hope the OP is in remission and on her way to recovery, but I too am now looking to Tauck as a potential cruise line because of how they handled this situation.

  • MikeInCtown

    I agree. It was pretty stupid to think that one could just “recover” from chemo and radiation that quickly. I would have much rather have lost a $600 deposit and planned something else last minute if everything else worked out.

  • Michael__K

    How could she possibly procure such a note from her doctor while she was either about to go into surgery or just recovering from surgery?  And about to start radiation treatments?

    And even if she somehow could get some sort of note, we’ve already seen from other cases that doctors’ notes are never the end of it if there is any other information that can be construed to the claimant’s disadvantage when interpreting the contract language.


    As evidenced by what happened to the OP’s best laid treatment plans, cancer is not a neat and predictable illness.  The insurer could easily argue that the lengthening of her radiation schedule is a common occurrence and a foreseeable event.

  • sirwired

     I remember that case.  The problem is that the doctor’s note was utterly weak and inconclusive.  It said: “The symptoms were not necessarily related to the cancer.”  I would have rejected the claim too.

    In this case, if the doctor’s note explicitly says she is good to go, that should be sufficient.  If she could not get her doctor to write such a note, that would have been an excellent signal it would be time to cancel the trip and eat the deposit loss.  (And many lines will, under extenuating circumstances, let you use your deposit towards another cruise.)

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Three of “but the LAW says…”
    Two of “I’ve never heard of scotch tape…”
    Four of “But no one told me I had to…”
    Six of “Passport? What’s that?”
    One of “I’m a loyal customer (ie. used their services ONCE)…”

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Probably infrequent travelers who think someone else should be responsible for their own decisions, is my guess…

  • Joe Farrell

    lets say you go to Vegas – you never lose.   You are one of the lucky ones and never overall have a losing streak in Vegas. 

    The next time you go, You lose. . . . will they give you your money back?

    “I opted out of travel insurance, since I considered myself indestructible, having traveled for over forty years and never had a problem and foolishly, never expected one now,” she says.
    Is there a difference?   I voted Yes.

  • Michael__K

    I didn’t vote.

    Contractually, they clearly provided enough compensation.

    From a compassion standpoint, in tragic situations like this, I’d like to see operators recover their own nonrefundable sunk costs, but refund anything above and beyond that.

    In other words, if Tauck truly incurred $5,000 (minus the cash value of a $500 voucher) in nonrefundable sunk expenses for the OP’s tour arrangements, then I have no quibble with their position.  If on the other hand they actually lost (let’s say) $3,000 in sunk costs — and the remaining portion of the cancellation penalty was punitive — then I would argue they could have and probably should have shown some more compassion.

  • Stephen Mencik

    She specifically turned down travel insurance because she thought she was “indestructible.” In other words, she was willing to gamble several thousand dollars to save a few hundred. Unfortunately, when you gamble, you sometimes lose. While I may feel bad that she lost the money, it is her fault, and her fault alone.

    I have the same issue with people that don’t buy medical insurance because they are young and won’t need it. Then when something happens they expect everyone else to pay for their care. It is time for people to take responsibility for their own actions. Insurance is available for a reason. If you don’t have it and then need it, you are up a well known polluted river with no means of hydro-propulsion.

  • Michael__K

    The problem is that the doctor’s note was utterly weak and inconclusive

    And the note you suggest in this case wouldn’t be any different with the benefit of (always) 20/20 hindsight.

    If they don’t get her on the “fit for travel” clause they can easily get her on the “foreseeable circumstance” clause, doctors note or not.

  • Stephen Mencik

    Adding travel insurance at that point would not have covered the now preexisting condition. To get coverage for preexisting conditions, most travel insurance companies require you to buy the insurance anywhere from at the time of deposit up to 14 days after time of deposit. Insurance companies would go broke if they allowed people to buy insurance only after they knew they would have a claim.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lola.jones.330 Lola Jones

    Goodwill should trump the need for any travel insurance. The cruise operator should have refunded the entire amount.  Theft of service is prosecuted if one does not pay a bill.  Theft of lack of service should also be the law. The cruise operator stole this woman’s money.  It did not show its hardship.  It is no different than scamming someone out of money and refusing to pay that party back.  Because there are no Federal Trade Commission proactive regulators to oversee such thievery, cruise operators get away with this thievery.  It did not show it could not find another person to fill that canceled reservation.  It did not show it lost money by paying other vendors. It did not show it lost money — period.  
    What it showed was thievery of a woman’s money.  If she is elderly, it
    would be no different than elder financial exploitation. 

  • backprop

    Who are you and why do you think it’s April Fools Day?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    It’s odd because she calls herself foolish but then she launches into the big speech about how horrible their customer service was for not letting her off the hook.

    There is nothing wrong with asking (or even begging and pleading) that they disregard their policies and reimburse her, but she needs to realize they have every right to say “no.” And if they exercise that right she really can’t be mad at them, only herself.  It’s too bad because this wasn’t an eve of the trip sort of issue where she was just stuck–she had the opportunity to back out without losing much at all, but rolled the dice and lost.

  • jebaker

    the lesson from this is get the travel insurance.  You never know what curves life throws you and you can’t depend on flexibility of carriers, cruise lines or anyone else

  • BillCCC

    I didn’t vote either way because there was not a lot of information. I can see where someone would vote that she did not receive enough compensation since the company apologized and provided a voucher. What was the company apologizing for and why did they offer any compensation at all?  Why not $1000 or $1500?


    Let’s not forget:   -The ace of  “My dog needed surgery”

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Having had three family members with cancer, having had cancer myself, none of us (at the time) felt radiation was really that big a deal.

    Also, this is probably this OPs first bout with cancer and extreme optimism is one of the first emotions one can feel when given a diagnosis of cancer of any kind.

    I don’t know if she were suffering from the extreme optimism or not but certainly she had a right to believe she could go on the cruise. Given the circumstances, I don’t know she was wrong.

    She should have it all returned.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    She wasn’t planning to “recover” from both chemo AND radiation.  Read it again – she was initially supposed to get just radiation.  That you can “recover” from pretty quickly.

  • $16635417
  • ExplorationTravMag

    Extremely well said, eamon256, every last bit of it.

  • Raven_Altosk

    If every company issued “goodwill” for every idiotic mistake by a customer, they’d be out of business.

    This wasn’t “thievery.” She did not buy insurance on a very expensive trip. That’s her fault, not the cruiseline or agent’s.

    You’re obviously new here. Might want to sit down and watch the adults play before joining the game, sweetness.

  • Raven_Altosk

    And the ultimate (perhaps the Joker):  “I felt discriminated against because….”

  • Raven_Altosk

    Oh, that dog going to Mexico nonsense still gets my hackles up. Those people need to go to Vegas, find some hookers, and get laid.

    Because a Facebook page for your dog is pretty effing pathetic…

  • ExplorationTravMag

    This post impresses me a great deal.  Tauck sounds like a quality company with (if the OP is to be believed) one employee having a bad day.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II


  • ExplorationTravMag

    Where do “This is a once in a lifetime trip” or “We saved our whole lives for this” or “This is our last trip before (a member of our family) dies” go?

  • emanon256

    And the Joker is an emotional support snake!

  • john4868

    @Raven_Altosk:disqus Me thinks … and Me hopes that she needed that new snark font. I read it as complete sarcasm.

    If she was serious….

  • SooZeeeQ

    OK, she was too optomisitc about her recovery and she did not get travel insurance.

    But…I have seen only ONE happy ending on this site when it comes to travel insurance paying.

    So what one do we use with confidence that our money for it is not mis-spent?

  • Lindabator

    Agreed – we keep hearing more and more of this – I chose not to pay for coverage, but when something happens, don’t want to assume the cost involved with that risk.  Just can’t have it both ways.

  • Lindabator

    Still too risky to assume that risk with no insurance – she could always have re-booked.

  • emanon256

    I think some people simply think everything should be 100% refundable, even when it’s not, and they probably vote and go away without even reading the comments.  Though I have a feeling very soon we are going to see a comment along the lines of, “If I paid in cash, I should be refunded in cash.”

  • emanon256

    Since when is not refunding something that is not-refundable considered thievery? I call it contact law.

    Edit: Financial exploitation would be if they sold her a cruise that didn’t exist, or deceived her into buying a service she didn’t need that was actually never performed. In this case, she bought something that only offered a partial refund after a certain date, she accepted the terms, and then she decided she wanted the refund anyway.

  • Lindabator

    Bull!  She could easily have cancelled and rebooked once she was SURE she could go – SHE choose to roll the dice, and when they came up snake-eyes, threatens to dispute the charge she doesn’t WANT to pay – Tauck was in the right, and she was CLEARLY in the wrong here.  And I’ve worked with Tauck for years – find it the most reputable and flexible company to deal with – I just don’t expect them to pay for mine (or my clients’) stupidity!

  • Lindabator

    They also do lovely small group land travel.  :)

  • Lindabator

    Of course, that’s if we “believe” her at all.  Never been MY experience with them, either.

  • lorcha

    My wife is currently battling cancer, so I know how hard this is. I understand why you thought that you could make the trip, even after the diagnosis and treatment recommendation. Heck, when she was first diagnosed, we thought she’d be done in 6 weeks or so. Well, 2 years later, she’s still fighting. You didn’t deserve to be hit with this terrible disease, and I wish you a speedy and complete recovery. 

    Also, I’m sorry to say, but you do not deserve a refund for the money that you lost on this trip. What you have received so far has been generous. Now it’s time for you to accept this life’s lesson and what it cost. If you want to share risk, you buy insurance. If you want to shoulder the risk, then you decline the insurance. What you don’t get to do is shoulder the risk and then change your mind when that risk has proved to have been a bad one.

    As a funny coincidence, my wife is currently at her oncologist’s office for a routine appointment, and one agenda item is her obtaining a note, clearing her to travel on a vacation that we’re planning so that we can purchase an insurance policy today. After all, we believe that she’ll be able to make the trip, but in the end, we can’t be sure. You never know what might come up in this battle.

  • Lindabator

    Obviously just another “entitled” person – guess the rules don’t apply to you, just everyone else!  Ridiculous! 

  • sunshipballoons

    I really don’t understand this. She’s not entitled to any money back, other than what she got. A $500 voucher seems like more than reasonable compensation for a rude customer service rep.

  • Joel Wechsler

    I’m assuming, if you are serious, that you live on a different planet than the rest of us. When the OP booked this trip she would have been given a clearly defined payment schedule as well as a schedule of cancellation penalties based on date of cancellation. She would also have been given the opportunity to insure against loss. That she chose to not avail herself of that opportunity is entirely her fault and should not result in any refund. There is no thievery involved when someone makes a conscious decision to enter into a transaction that clearly spells out the risks.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2JRSKXGYKERKX7REAVMZZOGZJY Joe Apples

    You people are heartless

  • Raven_Altosk

    A badge I wear proudly, pal.

  • sirwired

     How is anybody supposed to compute the sunk costs?  A fixed scale makes far more sense.

    Possible sources of sunk costs, all of which are going to have to be tracked and calculated:
    – Travel agent commissions
    – Commission paid to providers of advertising (i.e. cost-per-click online ads)
    – Losses (or gains) due to demand-adjusted pricing
    – Customer service resource expended

    And that’s just if they manage to re-sell the tour slot.  If they don’t re-sell the tour slot it gets even worse.

  • MarkKelling

    Nope.  Just realists.  Reality sucks sometimes.

  • sirwired

     I think just about everybody, even the snarkier ones here, certainly feels sympathy for the woman.  Cancer sucks, and it would be heartless to wish ill will on someone coping with it.

    But suffering from an unfortunate circumstance does not relieve you from responsibility for your actions.

  • emanon256


    Thanks. Maybe @elliottc:disqus will hire me as a freelance consultant?

  • Michael__K

    How is anybody supposed to compute the sticker price to charge for of a tour?  How is anyone supposed to calculate the dates and percentages for a fixed scale?  How is anyone supposed to know when to change prices?

    I have confidence that an employee with access to the right information can come up with a reasonably accurate estimate in a small fraction of their day.

  • Lindabator

    The insurance is a moot point here, though.  She had only paid the deposit, and it wasn’t until AFTER the diagnosis that she chose to pay the balance off – she should have cancelled at that point, and if the trip was still available when she could be SURE she could travel, she could have re-booked then.

  • Lindabator

    Very well written, and very compassionate as well.  I wish your wife well, and hope you both get to take that vacation!

  • ExplorationTravMag

    *Fingers Crossed* but only after he hires me!  LOL

  • lorcha

    I can see that you are a warm, compassionate person. To truly show these qualities, I recommend that you reach into your own pocket and pay Freedman the $5000 that she lost due to this unfortunate circumstance.

    Or does your generosity only apply to other people’s money? 

  • sirwired

     Making an educated guess at a profitable price to charge for a tour is worlds away from calculating liquidated damages for a broken tour contract for a single passenger some short amount of time before the tour.

    If they did make a guess, you’d be sure there would be people here complaining that they didn’t agree with the number the tour company came up with.  Instead, in a pretty straightforward contract, they simply calculate the damages based on the amount of time before the tour.

  • sirwired

     There are two decent-sized companies, CSA and HTH Worldwide, that will provide a pre-ex waiver up until Final Payment.

  • Joe Farrell

     I tend to choose Option B in this situation – don’t book til the last minute – when you know you are healthy. 

    Took a trip last week to Boston and Connecticut – my son grad HS and wanted to visit his friends.  Got 25k airline tickets on super bowl sunday.  gee – do you think they added inventory that day so they can pad the availability stats?  “We have X gazillion mileage saver tickets every year.”  And they are generally available for trading in miles on Super Bowl Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the 4th of July.  The day before there were no 25k seats available – during the game there were literally almost every flight I wanted.  We even got round trip first class for 50k. 

    But back to the the point –

    booked our car with the vendor who had the best prices two days before leaving because they had too much inventory.

    Got the hotels 4 days out – when they are seeing their actual numbers and make cheaper rooms available. 

    Rack rate for hotel:  $245
    AAA rate for hotel:  $204
    Pre-purchase rate:  $195

    Rate actually paid by calling hotel and negotiating:  $140. 

    Got a nice room, nice service, because I booked with them instead of a consolidator – actually got a free upgrade on both room and car. 

    In this economy – wait.  The deal gets better – even on a cruise –

  • AAmerican1

    As a cancer survivor I agree with your opinion about her optimism. However, Chris writes the cancellation terms were clearly stated and they recommended trip insurance. Based on that I can’t agree that she is entitled to a refund, she gambled and lost.

  • gritchie

    That may be the greatest reply to a foolish comment that I have ever seen on this site. R_A… I… I think I love you!

  • gritchie

    Love it, Iorcha. So, how much are you pitching in, Apples?

  • ExplorationTravMag

    In reading through many of the comments, apparently, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t realize she paid the remainder of her deposit AFTER she got her diagnosis.

    Based on that, I think the bulk of you are right – she gambled and lost. She knew she had this diagnosis yet shelled out the rest of it and then wanted to get it back when she was told her treatment was going to be more extensive?

    There’s being over;y optimistic and then there’s being in complete denial, which I believe she suffered from when she paid out the remaining nearly $6000.

    Mea culpa…

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    you didn’t take out travel insurance you idiot. You should have been offerred a $500 voucher.

    Why on earth do you think you’re entitled to effectively insurance cover when you didn’t take it out.

    Some people are just too stupid.

  • Michael__K

    You’re suggesting that companies are happy to tie their survival to prices and cancellation tables that completely hinge on “educated guesses.”  

    I would give them more credit than that.  But let’s accept this premise at face value.  Common sense says that — at a minimum — whoever created the “educated guesses” is capable of identifying and subtracting out any of the component numbers baked into their guesses that are not applicable to a particular passenger or that constitute padding.

    And the goal/expectation is not to satisfy 100% of potential complainers.  Just to demonstrate compassion (and perhaps generate goodwill) in the relatively few cases where there is a clear tragic situation.

  • bodega3

    There was no stealing of her money.  She made a purchase and she knew the cancellation policies.  She made a bad decision to make the final payment.  Tauck is certainly being fair to give her $500 credit when they didn’t have to do anything.  There are costs involved and if you owned a business, especially a tour business, you would have a clearer understanding of this.  Tauck’s passengers are usually upscale, older people.  If they gave back every penny to every passenger with a medical problem, they would be out of business as the have to pay their vendors.  Get it?

  • bodega3

    Really?  How so?  I seem to think most people who posted are sympathetic to the OP but also can see the mistake she made that Tauck should be expected to cover.

  • judyserienagy

    Dumb and dumber … Tauck has screwed up royally by not gently and sweetly dealing with this unfortunate woman.  They could have AT LEAST told her that they’d refund her money if they were able to sell her spot, and they should have  been able to do that in 30 days without a problem.  If they couldn’t sell her place, then she does have to bite the bullet and lose the money.  I know EXACTLY how she feels, I never cancelled a piece of travel for 50 years, then I started falling apart and now always buy the insurance which I’ve had to call on twice in the last 4 years.  Tauck should send her flowers and have someone with a brain call her and a) declare their sadness that she had to cancel without insurance reimbursement or b) listen to her rant and rave to someone trained to deal with the public.  How do these “customer service” people keep their jobs?  They’re worse than incompetent.

  • sirwired

     Yep, companies make educated guesses as to pricing.  It’s a bit of a black art.  If it was easier, making a profit would be easier too!  Companies get it wrong all the time…

    And in any case, they already have a rough estimate in place, the schedule they already use that provides partial refunds up until a certain time before the cruise.

  • bodega3


  • Nigel Appleby

    I agree.

  • Nigel Appleby

    I have every sympathy with her illness, however she made 2 bad decisions.

    First a conscious decision not to buy any insurance, let alone travel insurance,  is called self insurance. If a problem happens you pay the bill yourself. Most of us don’t want to pay so we arrange for someone else to pay in the event something goes wrong by buying travel insurance.

    The travel insurance companies with which I’m familiar in British Columbia require the travel/medical insurance to be purchased within 48 hours of booking the trip. How they treat pre-existing conditions depends on the age of the insured and the length of trip.

    With the scenario given of having travelled for over 40 years, if she had never bought travel insurance she could possibly be ahead of the game – if the premiums saved over the years were more in total than the loss on this trip.

    The second bad decision was to make the final payement in full and not cancel the trip when she was diagnosed, and that’s when self insurance kicked in.

    Unfortunately she lost her money this time.

  • Michael__K

    To re-iterate, unless those rough estimates came from tea leaves, common sense says that the estimator should be capable of checking (in extraordinary cases) whether — for a particular passenger — the company indeed incurred all the costs that were factored into the estimate.

  • sdir

    You know, in most situations I would also want Tauck to be more compassionate.  If she was suddenly diagnosed when it was too late to cancel or purchase travelers insurance, I’d be saddened by her hard luck.  True, it could still be said she was still gambling by not purchasing insurance at the onset, but to be completely blindsided is awful.

    BUT, she gambled with thousands of dollars AFTER being diagnosed.  To me, it’s beyond common sense to either postpone travel or to re-evaluate the need for insurance.  She made an informed decision, her deliberate choice, and then cries foul when Tauck holds her to the contract she signed.  I don’t blame Tauck at all for their so-called lack of compassion, when she went out of her way to gamble with her money and her health.  No doubt she assumed she could use sympathy for her illness to strong-arm a refund.  I find that extremely distasteful.

  • Ann Lamoy

    To those people that think we are being heartless because we think Ms. Freedman doesn’t deserve any further compensation from Tauck because of her cancer couldn’t be more wrong. (and if anyone here takes that point of view, you and I need to step outside). I think I speak for everyone when I wish her a speedy recovery and a cancer free life-hopefully to be able to enjoy many more vacations. Just buy insurance next time Ms. Freedman,

    Her big mistake (other than being arrogant enough to gamble on not buying travel  insurance “I opted out of travel insurance, since I considered myself
    indestructible, having traveled for over forty years and never had a
    problem and foolishly, never expected one now,” she says. Look-she even admits to be foolish. Personally, I call it arrogant. Potato, pohtato.) was to pay for the rest of the trip after her cancer diagnosis.

    “At the beginning of June, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and after
    surgery, was told I would now face six weeks of radiation,” she says.
    “No problem — it left me with an extra week to recoup and still be able
    to go on that planned vacation.”

    Here is a woman who is probably in her 60’s thinking that she WILL be okay to travel after six weeks of radiation. Instead of waiting and making the wise decision to cancel her vacation, she pays the rest of the money she owes, knowing she cannot cancel. If she had canceled at that point, she would only be out the $600 deposit. And I bet if she had called Tauck, they would have let her use it as a credit toward a future cruise. If she had sailed through radiation as she had foolishly expected, she might have even been able to book the very same cruise she canceled.

    I get that it sucks to have to change plans so suddenly-especially for something so life altering and potentially life ending. But you have to play the hand life deals you and make smart choices. She didn’t make smart choices and play by the rules. She didn’t and to expect Tauck to refund her money when they played by the rules isn’t fair to anyone else.


  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Uh uh. I’m his favorite!

  • ExplorationTravMag

    We need to get a poll going with only one participant!  LOL

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Yes. Make Chris CHOOSE. I expect to see the results in tomorrow’s column, Chris… And don’t pull a weak sauce “I love all my commenters the same”. It didn’t work with my mother and it won’t work with you.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    3 bad decisions.  She decided not to allow her travel agent to get her a credit for a trip in 2011.  “Her agent tried to negotiate a credit, which could be used for a riverboat cruise in 2011. Tauck refused.”  Tauck may have allowed her a do-over, but I guess we’ll never know, now.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Well said.  Bravo!

  • ExplorationTravMag

    TOO FUNNY!  Yes, @elliottc:disqus you have to choose!

  • Sadie_Cee

    You have laid it out so well that it would be sheer impertinence for me to add anything.  The part that especially resonates with me is as follows: 

    “I get that it sucks to have to change plans so suddenly-especially for something so life altering and potentially life ending. But you have to play the hand life deals you and make smart choices. She didn’t make smart choices and play by the rules. She didn’t and to expect Tauck to refund her money when they played by the rules isn’t fair to anyone else.”

    Very well said!  Thanks!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UES4TUPI6NRPTG2DCB4YCX6R4U wyoming1949

    Given the amount of money involved I, definitely, WOULD have purchased travel insurance.  HOWEVER, I would NOT have purchased it through my travel agent or through Tauck.  I would have purchased a “Travel Insured” policy with a “cancel for any reason” feature.  This way I would avoid the “pre-existing conditions” exclusion if I tried to make a claim based on illness.  After 60 one is anything BUT “indestructable.”  Things in your body start to wear-out or break-down.  One does not need to be a rocket scientist to comprehend this point.  I wish Ms. Freedman well, but she, clearly, had an over-inflated sense of herself and she paid for that thinking through her lost deposits.

  • backprop

     You have got to be kidding.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I love you ALL!

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Brilliant idea! I think we have way more scenarios than cards.

  • jet2x2

    I agree with the consensus here that no refund is in order.  The alleged poor customer service on the phone is troubling but it’s a side issue even if it’s true.  I really don’t understand why a lot of people these days think they are entitled to compensation for their conscious choices.  Maybe she thought she was making a rational choice – but it’s still a choice.  If I was diagnosed with a serious illness I would never take a chance with that kind of money.  If you gamble and you lose, it’s time to put on your big kid pants and get over it.  

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    *cough* Suck up! *cough*

  • pauletteb

    I don’t think buying travel insurance at that point would have covered her, since she was already diagnosed.