Is this enough compensation for a Spanish-only tour?

When Juventino Garcia and his wife arrived in Madrid for a recent tour of Spain and Portugal, they didn’t understand a word anyone was saying. Garcia and his wife don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese, but they’d been promised a bilingual guided tour by their tour operator, Sunbound Vacations.

“We were on a Spanish-only tour with people mostly from Latin America,” says Garcia. “We notified Sunbound by email, and they responded letting us know that they would handle the situation.”

It took seven days before the tour accommodated them.

“But the local guides who spoke English were directing their presentations primarily in Spanish, understandably for busload of Spanish-speaking people. We were given synopsized versions at times in different locations, away from what was being explained,” he says.

Garcia paid $3,473 for a bilingual tour. Instead, he received a “stressful” vacation filled with missed opportunities and miscues.

“We were never given an explanation or even an apology for our treatment,” he says.

Garcia went through all the channels and requested a full refund. Here is the response he received from Sunbound Vacations.

First of all, we are very sorry to hear you were disappointed with the trip. Please accept our sincere apologies

However, your demand for a full refund is not reasonable and therefore it is unacceptable to us.

The maximum total compensation we could agree to pay you is $1,000. This amount is NOT negotiable.

If you agree, we will need a letter of release before issuing the check.

Garcia contacted me, and after reviewing his case, I decided to try to contact Sunbound on his behalf.

Garcia, who is a repeat customer, told me he would accept a $2,000 reimbursement, so that’s what I asked Sunbound for. The reply I received was less than what I expected.

The tour was bilingual. That can be proven. We have never misrepresented any of our advertised inclusions and services.

It is apparently true that there were more Spanish than English-speaking customers on that specific tour, but the escort used by our representative Mapaplus in Madrid was bilingual and they all follow the procedures of speaking both Spanish and English during the trip.

We are very sorry if the escort shortchanged these customers. For that reason we are offering as very reasonable [resolution]. Mr. Garcia even accused us of being guilty of his urological problem – nothing to do with a case like this.

The profit we make on our packages is between $150 and $200 pet [sic] person. This is the average tour operator margin. But that doesn’t matter. We do listen to clients when they have a complaint and when that happens our company offer[sic] generous compensation. In all cases. We don’t want unhappy customers.

So please do not infer we are ignoring this complaint. But we do not tolerate abuse either. Again, we are prepared to offer $1,000 to Mr. Garcia and that is more than adequate.

Being a repeat customer, I felt that Garcia deserved more, especially considering he had documentation from Mapaplus that the guide was in fact not bilingual, so I tried once again to get this offer upped, this time to $1,500.

While Sunbound wouldn’t budge on the refund amount, they agreed to add a voucher for $500 for future travel with them, and Garcia accepted that offer. While it was less than what he wanted, it is at least more than what he was initially offered, and since he has traveled with them before, he will probably use the voucher.

Did Juventino Garcia receive enough compensation?

View Results

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William Leeper is a consumer advocate based in Waldron, Ark. He mediated this case on behalf of one of this site’s readers. If you’d like to help by becoming a volunteer mediator, please send us an email.

  • LFH0

    There appears to be a difference of opinion as to what constitutes a bilingual tour. The Garcias appear to have believed that in a bilingual tour identical presentations would be made in both languages, whereas the tour operator appears to believe that it is sufficient for only some of the presentation to be made in both languages. The tour operator also states in their communication that the escort followed the “procedures” for bilingual tours, but it failed to indicate where those “procedures” are memorialized and whether or not the Garcias actually agreed to those “procedures.”

    In general, I think most people expect that the provision of bilingual services means that the services will be provided equally in both languages, and will not shortchange users of either language. For example, federal services in Canada (and provincial services in New Brunswick) are bilingual, and pretty much every government service is presented equally in both English and French. (To be certain, there are exceptions. I recall a few years ago attending dinner theatre in Newfoundland for which the play was “bilingual”; in that instance, and for dramatic reasons, the actors went back and forth between English and French, with the audience having to know both languages to fully appreciate the performance.) In the context of a group tour, I would expect the same interpretation and commentary to be presented in both languages, but it would be acceptable for the lesser-used language to be secondary (following the primary language, and possibly made to just a smaller group in a lower volume). To that extent, it seems to me that the tour operator may not have provided a “bilingual” tour (though that’s not entirely clear from the facts presented by the Garcias).

    If it wasn’t truly a bilingual tour, then there’s the question of compensation due to the Garcias. It seems to me that diminution in the value of the tours might be a good measure of their damages. That is, what is tour without interpretation and commentary worth compared to a fully-escorted tour? Perhaps one could compare the cost of having to independently arrange one’s own non-escorted transportation (using bus and/or train) and lodging with the cost of this tour, the difference being damages. But since I don’t know what independent arrangements would have cost, it is difficult to judge if the tour operator’s offer was adequate or not.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree with your analysis. For me, a tour in a language that I cannot understand is basically worthless. I don’t see the difference between what Mr. Garcia received, and simply taking a taxi from Point A to B to C? (ok. that’s a little hyperbole, but not much) I think a nearly full refund is appropriate in this case.

  • sirwired

    This sounds like a classic case of a business (in this case the tour operator) turning a problem with the local contractor (Mapaplus) into the customer’s problem.

    Okay, the margin on the tours is small. Whatever. Sunbound should have issued the requested refund and then, on their own time, gotten a refund for themselves from the local contractor. (Or gotten a better contract with the local operator to provide better services for bilingual tours in the future.)

  • Justin

    Pending Mr. Garcia has unequivocal proof of misreprensation, he’d probably have a great case here (U.S).

    Problem: Company is governed by European law and local regulations. What constitues intentional misrepresentation in Spain? Were Sunbounds acts fraudulous (appears if guide didn’t speak English) or was there disagreement on level of bilingual?

    I’d want a full refund, too. However, I think LFHO’s argument stood the most chance of success. Cost of trip less cost of “tour and guide”.

    Of note, I took a tour Naples / Pompeii. Every explanation of sites came in English, Spanish, and Italian. When we broke into groups and disembarked the tour bus, we were assigned by language to a guide. Every group received equal treatement.

    This is how I picture a proper tour.

  • Justin

    Agreed. Sunbound hired guides unable to fulfill their contractual agreements of a bilingual tour. OP deserves a refund.

    Problem: Sunbound is governed by Europrean law and local regulations. Tours know people aren’t likely to travel back to hire a lawyer or initiate a case in court. Tourists don’t know local laws and are easy victims.

    Appealing to local regulatory authorities probably is the best bet or settle out.

  • Raven_Altosk

    $1000 sounds fair, definitely NOT a full refund.

    And how was the OP blaming the tour operator for his potty issues? Seriously?!?

  • William_Leeper

    Sunbound Vacations is actually a Florida based company, and there were emails presented from Mapaplus to Sunbound that showed the mix up of the guides, as well as that the situation would be resolved.

    According to Sunboubd, the Garcia’s changed their starting date and that is how they wound up on the incorrect tour.

  • William_Leeper

    Long story short Raven, no bathroom on the bus and he had to get on the bus 1 hr earlier and stay on 1 hr later than everyone else. He had no where to go, so he held it in. He has had surgery since he has been back in the states.

  • William_Leeper

    Sunbound is actually based in Florida, so they would be governed by US laws.

  • Alan Gore

    That whole-site-turns-blue problem is back this morning!

  • Christopher Elliott

    We have reason to believe a rogue ad is responsible. We’re looking into it. I’m sorry for the problem.


    Mine is actually back to white!!

  • Kairho

    If that tourop is only making $200 they are doing something completely wrong!

  • JustJP

    There are many tour companies that offer tours of Spain and Portugal that are for English speakers only. If the Garcias don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese, what are they doing on a tour that caters to speakers of those languages? Anytime it is a bilingual tour one of the languages seems to get shortchanged.

  • Justin

    I reread the story and see no mention of a changed start date. I just read took 1 week to accommodate. From. Your reply to Raven, I assume you’re a moderator or have insider knowledge Chris did not share? Otherwise, these statements are hyperbole.

    I visited sunbounds website. While I see a Florida office, is the company registered in Europe or the U.S. Doing business and registered I believe makes a difference. Suing a company locally based is easier, but collecting if a foreigon cpmany is not.

    I think if all you state is true, op had good case for a refund.

  • backprop

    “he had documentation from Mapaplus that the guide was in fact not bilingual”

    What was this documentation? This directly contradicts Sunbound’s statement.

  • William_Leeper

    I was the one who worked to resolve this case. So I suppose you could say that I have some insider knowledge of the case. :)

  • Christopher Elliott

    I think we fixed it. Is anyone seeing the blue?

  • Dutchess

    Wait, 150+ people voted NO!? Seriously? People have unrealistic expectations. Did he not get to see Madrid? Did he not get to stay in a hotel? Did he not get to eat the meals (assuming some where provided)? Despite whatever hyperbole about vacations ruined and not understanding some or most of the explanation did they not still get to see and experience their tour? I think $1000 is MORE than a generous offer.

  • Justin

    DOWN VOTE? Hope not from you.

    Makes sense why you know more than article states.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’m on the fence. On one hand he got the benefit of the food and lodging. And he has to eat regardless. But in the sobering morning light, I think its a really depends. Was the hotel a special place, or merely a place to see to facilitate being on the tour. And did the tour include places that are internationally recognizable like the Eiffel Tower, Statute of Liberty, etc, or was it primarily places that would be meaningless without context?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Yes, Seriously. apparently many people, myself included, disagree.

    If he stayed in an unremarkable hotel, and saw sights that required context, then he got very little for his money. If he stayed in an awesome destination hotel and saw sights that don’t require context then the 1k might be fine.

    I personally don’t speak a word of Spanish or Portuguese, and I am don’t know much of Spain or its history. The tour guide would take me to see wonderful historical buildings, important cultural sites, vineyards, etc. and all I’d see would be masonry, cobblestones, and grapes. That would piss me off greatly. I have friends from Spain and my family went to Barcelona and loved it.

  • Vec14

    I am going to go out on a limb and suggest the tour operator saw the last name, Garcia, and assumed they were also Spanish speakers? It would be an easy inference. I only comment on that because I recently visited Switzerland and found out my last name was very common in one region and I was usually addressed in German, as well as being asked if I was visiting relatives. (I don’t speak German, although I can understand a little of it and as far as I know I don’t have relatives in that area).

  • Alan Gore

    After breakfast and grocery shopping, I’m still seeing it (1007 MST)

  • Christopher Elliott

    Could you try clearing your page cache, please?

  • AZX Traveler

    Mine started out blue. I did a refresh and it is fine now. Mozilla if it makes any difference.

  • jamesbeaz

    I understand the frustration of this individual, but Spanish-speaking people tolerate this kind of disappointment all the time whilst traveling in many parts of the world, where English is considered the dominant language of travel and tourists. I think $1,000 is fair.

  • Dutchess

    What does the quality of the hotel he stayed in have to do with anything? He didn’t mention it so I can only assume he stayed in the quality of hotel he paid for. You missed my entire point. The Garcias are asking for a full refund. A full refund is due when you receive NOTHING that you paid for. If they never went on the trip or it was substantially interrupted I could support a full refund. Their only real complaint is they didn’t understand the tour guide 100% of the time. They did have the information shared with them after so they didn’t even miss out on all of that. I’ve been to Spain a dozen times, what you’re basically just said is if you rolled up in front of the Cathedral Sagrada Familia (I’m sure you remembered this from Barcelona) and had zero explanation of what it was you wouldn’t understand that it was a beautiful cathedral and would mean nothing more than pile of “cobblestones”. If this is what you truly believe then you’re being just as hyperbolic as the Garcias.

  • jamesbeaz

    Still blue on Safari.

  • flutiefan

    look at the by-line and the footer. Leeper wrote the article and mediated the case.

  • bodega3

    Mapaplus is the tour operator, not Sunbound for this trip.

  • bodega3

    In other words, the US company is selling a European companies tours for a commission. I noticed that Sunbound doesn’t show any Seller of Travel numbers on their website and I don’t find them registered to sell in the State of CA, yet they have testimonials from CA residents.

  • Londoner1936

    Finally, one commenter noted that: his name is ‘juventino garcia’ and that would be my analysis – someone in the tour company assumed he was a Spanish speaker. And my first name is “juventino”. Well a third of the population in this large California city (Stockton) has Spanish last names, Garcia, Gonzalez, etc., but many have first names like Bob, or John, and not Roberto or Jose, and a first name like Juventino positively yells I am a Spanish speaker. Then I book my tour with a Miami based company for a tour of Spain; well, Miami is also full of people with names like Juventino Garcia, and the personnel of the operator might be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that he wanted a Spanish speaking tour guide, and not the reverse.

    On the bigger issue: yes, he had hotel rooms, meals (I assume), saw the sites (no complaint that the tour short changed him on the route or destinations), and there were even summaries of the stops and visits in English. What did he miss out ? I too think a $1000 refund was plenty, and although that voucher of $500 may turn out to be worthless, he had more than what he paid for after accepting the cash.

    A major question revolves around what is “bilingual” in this setting? If a guide gives an identical presentation in two languages, then a large number in the tour group are out of touch while he talks in the other language. Therefore, on a much smaller scale, if the group is overwhelmingly Spanish speaking, the guide did what was reasonable and gave a shortened summary in English; the group moved on, and from his point of view the tour went smoothly. And of course, he may have spoken English, but with a more limited vocabulary, more limited use of idiomatic expressions, and an accent … all hurdles that the clients have to be understanding about.

    This language issue is not easy to resolve: the best solution for the monoglots is to avoid mixed language tours; if enough clients are present in different languages then a good operator provides separate monolingual tours. We spend months each year in France, we are both fluent in French, people join tours with limited French and it is our experience that guides, often young people, make a serious effort to explain in English. And English is the default language on tours primarily in the local language … it can be frustrating, but that is the way it is, and in Europe the locals are more tolerant of language usage. Americans can be very difficult if they are spoken to in English (and a variety they can understand). My advice to Mr. Juventino Garcia is to do a European tour through a company which aims solely at the American market: Tauck, or Grand European or similar.

  • Londoner1936

    I totally agree, more than enough compensation, as if any were warranted … see my longer explanation below. Monoglot Americans, expecially those who think everyone else in the world should speak english, should seriously look for tours organized by US companies whose market is clearly just Americans, and who use English speaking guides with some experience. There are plenty of those companies around … they may be more expensive but you get what you need and require.

  • Londoner1936

    Fully agree, and as I write in a longer comment below, yes it is almost impossible not to “short-change” one or more of the languages, as you note – if you did not shorten the presentations in the non-dominant language, then those presentations could go on forever, and ever … Moral: choose a tour specifically given in one language, your language

  • DReid

    William, I have a couple problems with your post. You should have identified yourself in your initial post. I find it unethical that you did not. Even more unethical is to post on a major forum the medical issues of of customer, especially when that customer has been identified by name!

  • Londoner1936

    Once again, was this a new and sudden medical problem, or as we are so fond of calling it “a pre-existing condition”. If the latter, then he needs to take a great deal more care of which company he travels with – and extended bus tours are not the best for those with health issues of this kind. Do people like Garcia ever thoroughly check out if the conditions of the travel will really work for them? You make a realistic assessment of your personal needs, and you choose a tour operator accordingly – there are tours for people with medical issues like weak bladders, chronic conditions, physical handicaps, etc. My wife and I, now in our late 70s have progressively adjusted how we travel as these type of health issues become more significant in our lives. Mr. Garcia needs to to look at himself, and adjust.

  • William_Leeper

    I work with Chris, not Sunbound. As for the medical issues of Mr. Garcia, I had full permission to include that information, I chose not to because it was not pertinent to the case. Once Raven brought the subject up I had no problem discussing it, but it should not and was not in the post itself.

    If you will read back, you will find that I moderated this case, it was handled professionally and courteously.

  • Londoner1936

    This is probably the client’s view; the guide(s) were able to speak English, it says so in the set up piece. There is no case here, and what kind of documentation could he have?

  • backprop

    Very well said, especially the summary of what ‘bilingual’ means given the constitution of the tour group. I’ve been the only English speaker on smaller tours (i.e. individual sites, not long guided tours) and did not feel put out when the majority of the tour was given in the local language.

  • backprop

    I’m just saying that ‘documentation’ usually means something more than just, say, a perception. If the local guide provided him with a letter indicating that they didn’t deliver what was contracted, then that’s a stronger message. I’d really like to know what this documentation consists of.

  • Londoner1936

    Interesting point of comparison with Canada, but we are not dealing here with government services whose language usage is regulated by law and acts of parliament. But since you mention it – note that only New Brunswick, approximately 50-50 anglophone and francophone, actually provides provincial services in both languages. Neither Quebec or Ontario are officially bilingual, although you can use French in the provincial legislature of Ontario when speaking as a member (not sure about the National Assembly of Quebec). So I think that your assumption that the provision of services equally in both languages does not pass the test, even in Canada, where the issue has been fought over for decades – nor does it pass the test in Belgium, with two language regions, nor Switzerland, with three official languages, but distinctly monolingual at the cantonal level for the most part. It is therefore an American misconception that bilingual means fully equal treatment, and it ought to be a Canadian misconception too, particularly if you are from western Canada, where French is as exotic as Serbo-Croat. (We once encountered a young woman ranger of Parks Canada at a National park in the Selkirks, who overheard us speaking French, and turned out to be a French Canadian, sent to the west by Parks Canada, to brush up her english … she was very happy to have received this consideration, and French Canadians had very right to find a French speaker in the west … hard enough at times in federal buildings in the west, and almost impossible elsewhere in Alberta – the Texas of Canada.)

  • y_p_w

    A coworker from Germany referred to Swiss German as “Switzer-Deutch”, although I understand that most speakers are conversant in standard mutually intelligible German.

  • y_p_w

    I remember visiting Miami, where a kid asked me if I understood Spanish. He was surprised when I said No, since I said I was “from San Francisco”. He was fluent in English, but the massive amount of bilingualism in Miami led him to think that it was common elsewhere – especially a place with a Spanish name.

  • omgstfualready

    Why would a repeat customer be more entitled?

    And I’m dying to see what nastiness was in his letter!

  • Justin

    Why is everything a down vote…..

    Carver hit the nail on the head regarding context. Tours are meaningless without explanation. Imagine being taken to a bull fight in Spain (animal cruelty aside). The whole experience hinges upon cultural understanding and relaying of events.

    Otherwise, the op might as well show up to sites via a normal admission ticket. Heck, buying the audio guide is more useful.

    Therefore, unless special accomodations were arranged, I say the OP deserved a refund less hotel, food, and normal admissio. Tough luck if company loses money.

  • Alan Gore

    I still get blue on both Safari and Chrome on Apple right now (1334 MST). It’s a particularly nasty problem because selecting the text doesn’t work – it still comes out an unreadable muddy gray.

    But I have a fix: run AdBlock, which means that the problem is ad-related. I usually run with AdBlock off because doing so is required for commentary on most forums these days.

  • Bill___A

    This is like the British restaurant which messed up the entire meal, and then says “the potatoes were fine, the carrots were fine”, so we’ll take £4 off your bill. Vacations cost time, money and entail frustration. Ruin it and expect to pay the whole cost of the inconvenience, not the piecemeal part of what you think didn’t work. Bilingual tours are commonplace and shouldn’t be that hard to do. Screw it up and pay the piper, don’t whine about what your “margin” is. It is the traveller’s expense and time that was wasted.
    Last week, I saw tours in an attraction where the guide had a transmitter and each guest had a receiver so they could hear everything in their own language without anyone else hearing it. Excellent set up really.

  • Deepstardiver

    I am not bilingual, if I booked a tour of a non English speaking area I would want a tour guide that not only “spoke” (there is a wide range on this) English but could explain the sites, art, history to me in English. i would love to tour Europe but would feel “cheated of the experience” if I could not understand the site, museum, view, history of a place. Yes, he got rooms and meals but is that all a vacation is. This could have been his trip of a lifetime (was not as he is a repeat customer) and he felt short chainged. i personally would have done far more on day 1 because I would not have enjoyed the rest of the trip.

  • omgstfualready

    Some of the early comments seemed to state the traveler had changed their date and hence the problem. If I’m mistaken I’m sorry, I didn’t go back to the end. If that’s the case most issue lay with the individual.

  • LadyLightTravel

    The change in start dates is only relevant if Sunbound disclosed that the change would mean that the tour was Spanish speaking only, and that Garcia accepted that change in the contract. Since it appears that it wasn’t disclosed, the change is in start dates is irrelevant. Sunbound accepted the change in start dates so was still under obligation for a bi-lingual tour. They failed to meet contract.

  • William_Leeper

    The date change was actually requested by Mr. Garcia. His revised itinerary did still include the bilingual clause.

  • LFH0

    I think we’re largely in agreement in here with respect to bilingual government services in Canada. As my post noted, Canada, the country, and New Brunswick, the province, are both bilingual, and citizens of each expect the federal and New Brunswick governments to provide all of their services equally in both languages as a consequence of being “bilingual.” (The other provinces are not bilingual, and while some do make an effort to provide at least some services in the other language, the degree varies–Ontario probably doing so the most–but there is little pretense as to those provinces being fully bilingual.) That being said, there are failures. Federal officials in the west may not be fully conversant in French, but nonetheless, that does not diminish the expectation that the provision of bilingual government services means that francophones should be able to converse in French, in the west, with federal officials.

    It is true that the foregoing relates to government services, not private enterprise. But the point of comparison is that when Canadian governments are bilingual, there is a standard of what is meant by being “bilingual.” The tour operator in Spain apparently did not provide “bilingual” service as that term is understood in the same way that “bilingual” service is understood to be the rule in Canada (i.e., only federal and New Brunswick government services being bilingual). The Garcias were sold a “bilingual” tour in the same sense that government services provided by the provincial government in Alberta are “bilingual.”

  • LFH0

    If the tour would be meaningless without context, then the Garcias might have had a duty to mitigate their damages by hiring an interpreter to accompany them on the tour. But if an interpreter would cost, say, $500 per day (plus food and lodging), that probably would have been unreasonable. And in that case, then it may have been impossible for the Garcias to have received any value from the tour.

  • LadyLightTravel

    Not really. One of the biggest selling points of Europe is the history. Many from the US go there to get more of it since so little is taught in the schools. The best way to get that history is through a guide – a guide that provides context, data, and even able to point out key features of the site visited. That requires the full ability to communicate. It is one thing to go to the Eiffel tower, and quite another to go with a guide that tells me about the engineering, the politics, the builder, etc. Two very different experiences, and a good guide is absolutely critical for it.

  • Justin

    Its tall, built for the 1889 world’s fair, cost a fortune to go up (arc de triomphe a better value), beautiful when illuminated, and littered with African Immigrants hawking cheap souveniors.

    Tip please :).

  • Travelnut

    The OP may not have been a “monoglot”. I can speak passable Spanish, German and French. Put me in Greece and I would be in trouble. I’ve also read that the notion that Europeans are typically bilingual is overstated. No one can speak every language.

  • DReinig

    I just clicked on a link in one of your email to get to this article. It initially opened in blue, but I refreshed the page and the blue went away. Using IE9.

  • MarkKelling

    Tried 3 different browsers on two different machines. Clearing cache makes no difference. It is only on this article that the blue is showing.

  • LadyLightTravel

    My tip is that you should stay out of the tour guide business ;)
    You left out the controversies, that the temporary structure had to be reinforced, what happened to the builder, etc, my good tour guide told me about that.
    Thanks for proving the point though – that an abbreviated explanation is insufficient.

  • Ellen Henak


  • Ellen Henak

    I am on Safari. I tried clearing the cache but it did not work.

  • Justin

    =). You can’t think I was serious =).

    I do agree tour guides provide an invaluable service. Good tours are fun, as you meet other travelers, and get a local perspective.

    Might I ask, are you a tour guide by trade?

  • Justin

    Tours are great, but so is self discovery. A mixture of both goes a long way.

  • Justin

    Yep. Had a tour identical to what you state. Every guest had a transmitter to hear the guide.

  • Justin

    I do fault op for not researching the tour better. Tripadvisor? I’m sure plenty of monolingual tours exist. However, the OP relied upon the company’s false representation. So the majority of fault rests upon the agency.

  • LadyLightTravel

    An engineer

  • Dutchess

    This isn’t about an american who things everything should be centered around English speaking people it’s about someone booking a tour that includes english speaking guide. The controversy is what is that english speaking guide worth in the scope of an entire tour. The garcias think the entire tour was ruined but I disagree.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I didn’t go to Barcelona, my family members did. I admit complete ignorance of Spain. That’s why I would need a tour guide. Without the guide, it would be just one of any number of beautiful cathedrals. That shallow understanding would not be worth traveling 8 hours.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I can only speak from my experience. I have been on exactly three tours. Each one was multilingual. The guide switched back and forth between 3 or 4 languages and everyone seemed to have a good time. People just waited patiently while the guide spoke in the other languages.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Exactly. I see a tour as a sum of the total, with the most important part being the guide. Screw that up, and the tour is screwed.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree. I’m not sure what mitigating damages means in this case. What are the reasonable options? I’d probably have ditched the tour and found other tour perhaps a day tour? A tour bus? That way I could at least salvage the trip. But that could still be expensive.

    I took a day tour of the Vatican years ago. I think I paid $100 Euro including transporation. That’s an extra $1400 Euro the OP may not have had available.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The only issue is whether the OP received what he purchased. Everything else is a red herring.. I assume that the company markets and sells tours in the US. Accordingly, the company has an obligation to be mindful of American expectations. As any American company should be mindful of local laws, customers, and expectations when marketing and selling abroad.

    Americans would expect that a bilingual tour would have all written and spoken content translated into English, as well as other languages. If the company is unable to provide that service, then it should not be marketing these tours to Americans as bilingual.

    I have been on three European day tours, all bilingual, without incident. One used a recorder, two had the tour guide switching between languages. When the guide wasn’t speaking English, that was the time to focus on what we were seeing, not on what we were hearing. I was satisfied with all three and would book a similar bilingual tour again in a heartbeat.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I would assume, (and we know about assuming) that at some point he told the guide that he didn’t speak Spanish.

    The first name doesn’t yell anything to me. I have tons of friends with non-English first names who were born in the US, and speak English only. The friends are European, Latino, and Asian.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’m different. I want a bilingual tour. If its all in English, its probably going to be a bunch of Americans. I don’t need to travel to hang around Americans. I can stay home to do that. I want to hang out with non-Americans to learn about others. On my very first European trip, I went to Greece. I was “adopted” by a bunch of Germans (probably out of pity). It was a great experience.

  • Justin

    Agreed. I’ve taken multilingual tours. Whereas groups were combined to interact at points and broke away at others. Peoplle were from argentina, egypt, etc. Good tours account for all tourists. The one I took gave a 3 language explanation on the bus. Just tuned out the two non relevant onesuntil english came about.

  • William_Leeper

    I’m not 100% sure how the medical situation played out, I do know that he visited an emergency department in Madrid after being on the tour for two days. I didn’t feel that the problem warranted looking too deeply into, so I left it alone.

  • William_Leeper

    The documentation was an email from Mapaplus to Sunbound apologizing for the confusion, and agreeing to fix the problem.

  • backprop

    Thanks for the reply, but that’s really vague. “Apologizing for the confusion” as written sounds like pretty much “we’re sorry you aren’t happy.” It’s a non-apologetic apology the way you just stated it. It doesn’t communicate to me (quote) “….that the guide was in fact not biligual.” Can we please get the exact wording? If not, that’s OK obviously, but outside observers such as you have here can’t really make a determination of culpability based on what’s been said so far.

  • William_Leeper

    Here is the exact quote from Sunbound vacations.

    We are sorry the inconvenience of not having provided you with simultaneous translation, we will ensure that your guide is changed.

  • backprop

    Thanks. But that doesn’t sound like “he had documentation from Mapaplus that the guide was in fact not bilingual” and doesn’t sound at all like they “apologize[d] for the confusion.” That quote simply says there was not simultaneous translation.

    Sorry, I now have a great degree of mistrust between the inaccurate reconstructions and perceptions written in the article, follow-ups, and what the actual hard facts were.

    It would have been so easy to present the facts, but they weren’t presented at all. Instead, readers heard and mistrusted all the personal “spin” put on the actual facts of the case. I don’t believe a word written in the article anymore.

    This is still case closed from my viewpoint (not that it matters).

  • TiaMa

    Still blue for me.

  • William_Leeper

    With over 20 emails between Sunbound, Mapaplus, and Mr. Garcia, I could not have included EVERYTHING else this article would have read like a novel. All quotations in this article are verbatim as I received them. With that said, some have been truncated.

    It is further important to remember that our articles are all vetted by a team of editors, and writers. Some articles will be published as written, some will undergo substantial changes prior to publication.

    If you have an idea as to how to improve, or if you would like to get involved, I would encourage you to contact Chris.

  • backprop

    No thanks, I’ve heard enough distortions. I’m not blaming you in particular. But the end result is frustration nonetheless.

    We went from “we have documentation that the tour guide wasn’t bilingual” to “they said sorry for the confusion” to “the tour wasn’t presented in both languages simultaneously.” in the course of just a couple probing questions. Those are not just different takes on the same issue. They are not the result of abbreviation. They are entirely, factually, materially different statements.

    It was clearly meant to paint the company in a bad light but instead makes the story as written look foolish. I understand there is a chain of events that led to its publication, but the end result is the same: the reader reads something that is factually incorrect.

  • William_Leeper

    I am in the same boat. In all of the emails, consumer says it was not bilingual. I honestly believe that the consumer meant “we didn’t receive simultaneous translation” but that is not what he said, and I try to use direct quotes.

    Sunbound says it was bilingual, and the 22 Spanish speaking passengers from Dallas were very happy (I’m sure they were, but that has no bearing on this case so I left tht out.)

    Mapaplus says “I am out of office today. We sorry about him not getting translation, I make sure guide is changed today maxinum tomorrow.”

    That quote is directly copied and pasted. That is the single quote that in my mind proved that there was possibly no English translation being offered. Mr. Garcia even said that after that change things got better.

    If you have suggestions on how I can improve, please let me know. I’m sorry you think I dropped the ball on this one. This is only the third case I have written about. I didn’t intentionally try to paint the businesses in a bad light, but there were 3 versions of what happened, and I chose to believe the consumer. I will say it didn’t help at all the fact that Mapaplus wouldn’t talk to me at all, and Sunbound was very unhelpful.

    As I say, if I misinterpreted that message from Mapaplus about changing guides, and the consumer saying it helped, I apologize, but I invite you to give me some specific criticisms, and suggestions. I am as I said fairly new to writing for this site, and I want to know what I am doing wrong, and right. Please feel free to click my name at the top of this article and you can view my other pieces on here.

  • sunshipballoons

    If you want an English tour, you should take an English tour, not a bilingual one. I suspect the contract was pretty clear that “bilingual” means the tour guide can speak both languages, but does not guarantee how much of the tour will be in English. (Actually, I’d expect a bilingual tour of Span and Portugal to have no English — just Portuguese and Spanish — but I assume that that wasn’t the deal ehre.) Nevertheless, you’d think the tour company would be more generous wiht a repeat customer.

  • Daddydo

    Research? (!) Is it really that hard to determine if a company is the right one to use for a specific area? Sure, the Garcia’s have used that particular company before, but there are certain companies that excel in different regions. Good travel agents know this and great agents really check it out. In this situation, I would have sued Sunbound for misrepresenting the term bi-lingual, not Mapaplus. Garcia did not contract this tour through Mapaplus; they did what they were supposed to. Sunbound needs to settle this with their supplier Mapaplus, and refund Garcia the rest of the money.


    We had a very similar situation with a 6 day bi-lingual coach tour from Barcelona to Southern Spain and return to Madrid. There was a tendency to give lengthier presentations in Spanish than in English. But, this was not entirely a matter of giving the English speakers short shrift on the info. Communicating the same thought or idea can take more words and time than communicating the same thought or idea in English

  • sara8032

    Wait a minute…

    “Mapaplus says “I am out of office today. We sorry about him not getting translation, I make sure guide is changed today maxinum tomorrow.” followed by
    “Mr. Garcia even said that after that change things got better.”

    How long was this tour? While it states that “it took seven days before the tour accommodated them”, that to me sounds like there was a better tour guide put in during the tour, after which he should’ve gotten at least a sufficient tour (otherwise he would’ve have thought it better, would he?).
    So how much of the tour guiding did he feel he actually missed out on? Certainly not the full tour, and surely a tour is more than purely what is spoken – if it was, then what’s the point, you may just as well just get pamphlets or read up from guide books / online – it’s also what you experience and whatever physical needs are included in the price; so I can’t see anywhere where a full refund would be appropriate. I think they offered plenty in refund, especially when he DID get part (though I can’t find anywhere for how long) of the tour in English!