Hey Travelzoo, you call that a winery tour and gourmet lunch?

Alexander Chaikin/Shutterstock
Alexander Chaikin/Shutterstock
Bob McIntyre and his wife have just suffered through the worst meal ever at a struggling winery. Can they get their money back?

Question: I purchased a $29 “local deal” winery tour from Travelzoo. It included a tour, signature wine glasses, and a gourmet lunch for $29. The list price on it was $62.

I called several days before we redeemed the voucher to make a reservation. When we arrived, there was only one other couple in attendance. A young woman offered us a tour of a withered collection of staked vines. Most of them were not alive.

We then returned to the main building — a converted biker bar — and viewed an empty room that was to have contained last year’s crop, which had been eliminated by a cold snap in May.

We sat at a table and were presented with a tasting menu that cost an additional $24 a couple. It included three tastes of wine, about six ounces. They were very stingy in filling the glasses — about one ounce per taste.

We decided to not participate in this ad hoc wine tasting so they removed our two free glasses. There were also three microscopic pieces of cheese to taste.

Finally it was time for our $62 “gourmet” lunch. We each received one half a ham and cheese sandwich on rye bread. There were also two small pieces of bread crust with crushed nuts and a slice of cucumber.

Nothing else was offered. I spent an additional $11 to buy my wife a half a glass of wine. This was the worst meal deal we have ever seen.

I called Travelzoo that afternoon, and was given a ticket number and promised a call back within 24 hours. I waited two days then called again. A representative promised to “escalate” the issue, but no one has followed up.

We would appreciate an intervention on our behalf and a credit for our miserable experience.

Bob McIntyre, San Antonio, Texas

Answer: You’re absolutely right, that’s no gourmet lunch. It sounds more like a cynical effort to monetize someone who wanted to save a few bucks. Travelzoo should have done a better job vetting this “deal” before selling it on its site.

But I think you made several missteps when you discovered you were about to be served the “worst meal deal.” When someone says half a ham sandwich is worth $62, don’t walk away – run! Consuming the meal and a tiny shot of wine means you accept the deal, and makes it far more difficult to secure any kind of refund.

The other problem, of course, is that you did this by phone. As a reminder, when you call a company, you’re giving it every advantage. It can record your call (but doesn’t have to share the transcript with you unless you sue it). There’s no meaningful record of the conversation, and it can safely ignore you. Which is exactly what it did.

I recommended you send a brief, polite email to Travelzoo through its website. An email creates a reliable record and can’t be ignored as easily. I list the names and address of the Travelzoo executives on my site.

You did that. Travelzoo refunded your $29.

Does Travelzoo vet its offers closely enough?

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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 . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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