Who’s responsible for the safety of your luggage when you’re on an escorted tour? If you said “the tour operator,” then let me introduce you to Ronald Chizzick, who recently returned from an Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) escorted tour of South India.
He thinks that’s the answer, too.
“The last day, four of us discovered we had money stolen from our travel bags on the bus — we assumed from the helper and bus driver,” says Chizzick.
Of course, proving the thefts is a little harder, and that’s where we find ourselves today. Even though OAT acknowledged the incident, it initially refused to cover the $192 the party lost.
Liability is an age-old question in travel. When someone takes your bag, are they also taking responsibility for it? Airlines and cruise lines force their customers to agree to contracts that say they’re liable for next to nothing. How about tour operators?
OAT’s terms and conditions are epic. I can’t quote the whole thing because there isn’t room in this post, but here’s the relevant part from its limits of liability.
We are not liable for any claim for loss, damage, injury, death, misrepresentation, delay, inconvenience or disappointment, arising from any action by a Supplier, including but not limited to any negligent or willful act or failure to act of any Supplier or of any other third party. We will not be liable to you for any claim unless the occurrence was due to our own gross negligence or willful fault.
Translation: Go away, Mr. Chizzick.
Actually, this case has ramifications beyond one tour and a $192 loss. It’s an important reminder that you never, ever leave cash, electronics or valuables in checked luggage. Just don’t. This could have so easily been prevented if Chizzick and his party had carried their cash with them.
We asked OAT about this case, and Chizzick also appealed to the managers of the tour operator. We list the names, numbers and emails of the executives on our site. In response, the company offered each member of his party a $50 credit for future travel.
That’s a good start, but Chizzick wants his money back. He filed a credit card dispute to recover part of the money, but the credit card issuer rejected his claim because he did receive the service for which he paid by card (two optional tours costing $155).
After some more prodding by Chizzick, OAT cut him a check to cover the $192 he lost. He’s happy with that resolution, and if he’s happy, so are we. But I have to admit, some of our advocates think OAT may have bent too far backward to make this case go away, setting a precedent for others who may have their luggage stolen on a tour.
Perhaps the best outcome is this: After dealing with the Chizzick case, maybe OAT will take security a little more seriously. And that will benefit all of us.