A lost refund thanks to a missing paper trail

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Edward Fedako’s case looked like a sure thing. It involved a canceled cruise and a missing airfare refund. It had everything going for it — except for one minor detail.

Fedako’s case underscores the importance of persistence. And paperwork.

But before we get to the unfortunate resolution, or lack thereof, let’s have a look at what happened to him.

Last August, he booked a Mediterranean cruise on Holland America through Costco Travel, which included airfare through American Airlines.

“On Dec. 2, I received an email from Costco Travel stating that Holland America canceled the cruise and was offering another one or a full refund,” he says. “I opted for the full refund.”

When the refund came, guess what? No airfare.

“I contacted Costco Travel and was told I would get the refund by Jan. 15th. Then it was Jan. 31, then Feb. 15, and now Feb. 17. I feel I am getting the runaround from Costco,” he says.

Fedako wants all of his $2,700 back, pronto. And he deserves it back.

“After all, they canceled the cruise,” he says.

I asked Fedako for his paper trail, which is a standard question and absolutely essential to the resolution process. We need to see Holland America’s notification, its refund promise, and the back-and-forth with the customer and Costco Travel.

“Unfortunately, I have no paper trail but the original reservation I made with Costco. Everything was done by phone calls, except the original email telling me that the cruise has been canceled,” he told me.

I persisted. Could he send at least something that shows the cancellation and the promise of a full refund?

No.

“If you could at least call them on my behalf and reference the reservation number I sent you they would be able to tell you the calls I’ve made to them and the replies I’ve received,” he told me, adding, “I’m sorry, this is the best I can do.”

I’m sorry, too.

This one goes into the “Case Dismissed!” file, even though it’s a live, legitimate case. Why? Because our advocates can’t just pick up the phone and call a company without a paper trail. There’s no written evidence that what Fedako says is true, although I certainly believe him.

This customer failed to blaze a paper trail and then gave up, saying it was “the best I can do.” Unfortunately, it’s not enough. Persistence is important, but so is being persistent in the right way. Or maybe I should say, the write way.

I believe Fedako will get all of his money, eventually. We’re probably dealing with the ol’ “up to two credit card billing cycles” excuse here, and it’s only a matter of days before the money lands in his account.

And if it doesn’t? Fedako is always welcome to start a paper trail with Holland America and Costco Travel — and of course, we’d be happy to help him.

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 our help forum.

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  • Alan Gore

    Costco customers put up with a lot of inconvenience to get their unique combination of low prices and legendary customer service. What happened to Costco customer service in this case?

  • cscasi

    Interesting. I did not know that Costco customers have to put up with a lot of inconvenience to get their unique combination of low prices and legendary customer service. This is the first case I have seen here and most people I talk to that have Costco memberships speak very highly of the company.

  • SierraRose 49

    We have booked 8 cruises and vacation packages with Costco Travel and have never had a problem booking and/or changing our reservations if needed. We have always found their representatives to be professional, helpful and courteous. Paperwork has been accurate, detailed, and usually emailed within minutes after talking with a representative. We cannot address any airfare issues as we have typically booked airfare separately. However, Costco has informed us that we can book airfare through the cruise line and has offered in the past to transfer us directly if we wished to do so. As a Costco member, we have also been able to purchase cruise excursions and travel insurance at special rates with their preferred vendors if we wished to do so.

  • SierraRose 49

    May I add that Mr. Fedako should have two numbers regarding his cruise: The Costco Travel Booking Number and the Holland America Confirmation Number. When you call Costco Travel about your cruise and would like to make airline reservations or airport to ship/ship to airport transfers, pay gratuities, etc. they usually get the cruise company on the line with you and you make those arrangements directly. If Mr. Fedako can locate his Holland America Confirmation number, he may be able to find out about his airfare refund directly from the cruise line. Also, did he purchase trip insurance?