Her “personal cruise consultant” dropped the ball — should I pick it up?

Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com
Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com
One of the cardinal rules of my consumer advocacy practice is to never get between a travel agent and a cruise passenger. Agents, and especially cruise specialists, tend to react defensively, take my interest in the problem personally, and the result is almost never a happy ending.

But when has a rule ever stopped me? Which is why I’m asking about Sally Radicali’s Holland America cruise to Tahiti.

From the beginning, things didn’t go as planned. Her home-based agent never sent her a receipt for the $3,500 deposit. And then, a few months ago, she tried to cancel her cruise because of a work-related issue.

“I talked to the agent twice, and she assured me I would receive a full refund,” she says.

Didn’t happen. Turns out the agent had misinformed her on several fronts. First, she gave her the incorrect deadline to cancel without a penalty, missing it by about a week. She also provided the incorrect deadline for her second payment, and assured her (incorrectly) that she could buy insurance by that date.

As a result, she says she lost $3,500.

“This was handled so shabbily,” she says. “Although we have sailed with Holland America twice before and enjoyed the services, we will never sail with them again unless this is settled in our favor.”

Radicali turned to everyone involved in the transaction for help. Holland America told her it couldn’t change its deadlines, even if her travel agent misrepresented them. Her agent says there’s nothing she can do, either, but that Holland America might be able to help. But revisiting the issue with the cruise line just leads to more frustration — and denials.

If I jump in and ask the travel agent, here’s what’s likely to happen: She’ll tell me (very defensively) that she was just doing her job and that she represented the rules and restrictions as she understood them. And besides, why am I picking on her? The real bad guy is Holland America, for having its absurd rules and refusing to be flexible.

And then the agent will go into radio silence. Why? Because that’s what incompetent, home-based cruise specialists tend to do when their competence is questioned.

Holland America will probably tell me that its deadlines are published on its website and that Radicali could have familiarized herself with its rules, rather than take her agent’s word for it. And that is certainly true. But her $3,500 still remains lost — an unfortunate casualty of poor communication. Holland America could help if it wanted to. But it doesn’t want to.

If nothing else, this underscores the value of a qualified travel agent. Sure, agents earn a generous commission from the sale of a cruise, but they work for it. One of their services is sending you accurate information about your upcoming vacation. A qualified agent also is insured against errors and omissions, and can help a client like Radicali when things go wrong.

I’m not sure if this Tahiti cruise can be saved.

“My personal cruise consultant did not know too much about her job,” says Radicali.

There’s no easy fix for ignorance. Or is there?

Should I mediate Sally Radicali's case?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

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.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus

  • Nat

    Isn’t this something for small claims court against the agent?

  • dourdan

    exactly–put together all the paperwork with the wrong dates and get the agent to pay the 3,500!

    because cruise lines do not do favors for people with cancer/deaths/etc, WHY would they help someone who had to cancel due to a “work issue”.

  • FishySounding

    Come on, really? You’re going to dump a couple grand on someone who is a “home based agent.” They were just asking for trouble. You cheap out, and you get cheapo service.

    I’m not a fan of TAs but if you’re going to use one at least use a professional.

  • Matty B.

    Yes, which is why I voted “no.” Unless you honestly believe that a home-based travel agent is going to refund $3500, mediating this case only draws it out. Head to small claims court ASAP.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Publish the agent’s name and “agency.”

    It’s obvious she is a terrible businesswoman and should not be granted anonymity.

  • kwt

    Yes, this is a small claims court resolution. Sent a polite letter of demand and if it is ignored/refused, head to the court. The agent may be unable to pay but you get it on record or draw her out to make compensation.

  • TonyA_says

    Show me the paper trail then I will make my decision.
    And please do not insult home based agents because you want to call someone at night or on weekends.
    I don’t mind being home based when I retire.
    It is the skill, knowledge, and integrity you are paying for, not the office furniture.

  • bodega3

    I have been a homebased agent for most of my 3 decades in selling travel. Also, the cruise lines ‘personal cruise consultant’, which is what I thought this was going to be about, also are homebased. So before you go jumping into something you know nothing about, do a bit of research. Most agents are homebased, internet, cruiseline and agency.

  • bodega3

    First off, if this was not a group bookig, then a cruise that is under deposit is fully refundable but there could be an agency cancel fee. If the agent didn’t send the information, which can easily be done by email the day of initial payment, you can call the cruise line to obtain the information.
    This isn’t the cruiselines fault and for the OP to say they will never sail with Holland again because of this is silly. This is between the OP and the agent/agency. I am guessing that this is an online cruise agency as I know of no ‘real’ agent that calls themself a personal cruise consultant.

    Also, the deposit falls within a cancellation penalty with the cruiseline with the final payment due date. So something is not right with what the OP is saying. If she had only made a deposit and hadn’t made the final payment, then the deposit is refundable…unless this is a group booking,then different rules might apply.

    Chris, I have suggested it before, and this article is another example of why you need to consult a travel consultant BEFORE you submit this for you readers. There are a few holes in what the OP is telling you and an agent would have told you this so you could have made sure you had the right terminology and understanding of how all this works.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Being home based does not mean that the agent is not professional. I had a great home based agent when I consulted with a law firm in Santa Monica, CA. He was excellent and was able to handle travel arrangements for a firm of hundreds.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I disagree. We only have the OPs side of the story. Bodega has already suggested that the OPs story doesn’t completely add up. Let’s see what the facts bring out before we publicly disparage this woman.

  • jpp42

    If I were a small agency, I’m not sure that I would point out that I am “homebased.” I would operate in a home office that has its own fixed line phone number, fax number, etc, to be as professional as possible. If clients asked to visit the office I would simply state that I work in a small office that is not configured for retail use, and I therefore only do business over the phone/Internet. There’s no reason to say that you’re “home based” as that implies a lack of professionalism (I’m doing this on the side while I raise my kids) – and if you’re clever no one will know the difference.

  • bodega3

    I was with one of the first brick and mortor agencies to move homebased. ARC didn’t know how to handle this, sales reps were not allowed to come by a home. Since then, most agencies are now homebased. There is no shame in this. I remember, back in 1985, being in Sandwich, MA and seeing shingles hung from homes for doctors, lawyers, architects, design consultants. We have a doctor in our area that works out of his home. It hasn’t hurt his business. If you are looking online for a company, in any field, take a look at their contacts link. Most are PO Boxes, no street address.

    BTW, I was for several years, rated as one of the top outside agents in our area, and I was homebased. I retained that until I went to work inside sales for awhile. I was asked to handle a major worldwide corporation’s leisure travel for many years until they got smart and added a leisure agent to their corporate travel desk. So being homebased didn’t hurt my business!

  • bodega3


  • TonyA_says

    As I said, show me the paper trail.

  • TonyA_says

    Thank you for explaining reality.
    I have yet to meet a damn good travel agent who is not home based in some fashion. Answering calls at 10-11PM, how do you that from the office?
    In my experience the only people left not home based who are worth their salt are the agents working in consolidator offices and the airlines or operator employees themselves.

  • TonyA_says

    A computer, telephone, fax, scanner, email and text (messaging) is all I need. Printer rarely gets used.
    People hire us for our SKILL!
    Last thing they want to do is drive and find (paid) parking.
    Funny how ARC still insists travel agencies need and maintain ground floor walk-in facilities. Who works for those now? Who even goes there except for ethnic markets?
    People forget that the travel experts and professionals today are mostly self employed and independent.
    They are simply connected with a consortium, a consolidator, or a host brick and mortar.
    So, as you said, an office is nothing but additional overhead.

  • TonyA_says

    Come on really, dumping a couple of grand for ANYTHING and getting NOTHING. What kind of scam is that? Only in the cruise industry.
    That’s why I don’t care to sell it.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I agree, as “homebased” writer, location has nothing to do with the quality of my work. At least I hope not. These “Can this trip be saved” posts (every Tuesday) are not meant to be a full investigation, so I wouldn’t publish the entire paper trail. What I’m asking for, ever week, is your feedback on whether I should take the case or not. So far, the “yes” votes are leading.

  • sirwired

    I don’t see why the agent thinks Holland America should be covering for her screwups. It’s court time; most agents should have Errors and Omissions insurance for just such circumstances. And if she doesn’t have such insurance? Well, it’s just like Trip Insurance: if you don’t pay, you take your chances, and it may not end well.

    And Chris, thank you for finally explaining why you push a cruise line to fix agent screwups. Though it might be nice if you acknowledged in your articles when you were doing so.

  • http://twitter.com/johntbaker John Baker

    Time for the Agent to use their Errors and Omissions policy. If they don’t have one, time for the courts to remove a chunk of her revenue.

    There’s no reason for Chris to be involved. The agent is refusing to admit to her mistake (as long as the OP got the deadlines in an email). Mediation does nothing and this is not Holland America’s problem to fix.

    It’s time for a letter from the courts.

  • Blackadar

    Absolutely. At the very least get the other side of the story. But if things are as the OP represents (and they often aren’t), then that agent deserves to be called out publicly.

  • BillCCC

    You can try. I don’t think that you will get anywhere with the cruise line. Their cancellation policies are well known and in my opinion very good. Depending on the evidence perhaps she can take the agent to small claims court.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I think you’re over-generalizing, based on your very urban experience in Queens. I’m picturing the local AAA Travel Agencies in west Omaha that I’ve stopped in. The clients that were there didn’t seem to represent “ethnic markets”, unless residents of Surburbia are now “ethnic”. Free and plentiful parking is kind of the retail hallmark until you hit Philadelphia and points east. (Can’t give an opinion about West Coast parking except for San Francisco – shudder!)

  • vipalpinetours

    This agent needs to step forward. Even us great agents make mistakes. We fix what we can to stand behind our integrity and service. The client should have received a paper trail with deadlines and so forth. Insurance guidelines should have been signed. When an agent ‘washes’ their hands clean of such a huge mistake and lack of follow up she does not represent those of us who do our job, and do it well. Go Chris….stand behind the client. Tahiti is a dream vacation for all of us. Their dreams should not be shattered because of the mistakes of this untrained ‘outside agent’.

  • andrelot

    I think Chris Elliott should get involved is there is a robust paper trail showing that the agent had in fact misrepresented the deadlines, refund and insurance policies. An email, an official letter or form, a brochure…

    Otherwise, if information was given by phone and there is no record, it will fall under the she-said-he-said trap.

    What looks generally confusing is that the TA role is often blurred: does he/she work for the traveler or for the service provider (airline, cruise company, tour operator)? Many TAs will usually claim they are just facilitators in the same way insurance salesmen are, but then the service providers usually claw back on anyone they can (credit card company, TA, OTA, third-part bundle vendor) to deflect “ownership” of such problems.

  • vipalpinetours

    Yes, it is! If the correct insurance was purchased work related reasons should be covered. The agent should have followed up in the mean time. I really would love to see this paper trail from both of them.

  • former Holland America client

    No-that’s why there’s small claims court. She better have the incorrect info from the TA in writing though. A word on Holland America: Several years ago as part of a cruise tour, we stayed at a hotel in Denali. It was very early in the season and we were told by the restaurant manager that the hotel was not fully staffed as yet. Our room had not been cleaned in the Fall nor in the Spring-filthy tub, bath room, trash under the bed, dirty floors, etc. When we complained to Holland America (with pics), the answer was that yes, we probably deserved a refund of sorts, but the hotel was owned separately and Holland America didn’t have ‘any money to do that sort of thing’. But they offered us a $100 future cruise credit for on-board spending. Holland America didn’t have any money-really?

  • http://twitter.com/johntbaker John Baker

    @bodega3:disqus I disagree with “a cruise that is under deposit is fully refundable.” My last cruise had a very firm date when the deposit became non-refundable. If the OP crosses that deadline, the deposit is non-refundable. It could very will be that the OPs final payment was due and she didn’t pay it because she couldn’t travel. If the TA missed the deadline by a week, the deposit would be non-refundable and the cruiseline may have cancelled the reservation for non-payment (since its allowed under their T&Cs).

  • Cam

    What is a home based agent? A persons that works from home? To they work for a company? If so, then the company is responsible. If a “home based agent” is some kind of freelancer, then he or she is responsible.

    I voted yes.

  • Tigger57

    I think this agent just better stand up and take the blame. Holland America’s cancellation rules are straight forward – the agent is responsible if she gave out the wrong information. It is not Holland America’s responsibility. I think the client is being unfair to Holland America – “Although we have sailed with Holland America twice before and enjoyed the services, we will never sail with them again unless this is settled in our favor.” Holland should not have to refund the money. It is not fair to all other passengers who purchase insurance if she gets a refund. Go after the travel agent! And I am one!

  • EvilEmpryss

    I think Sally should be taking the woman to small claims court to get her money back. The agent’s incompetence was directly responsible for the lost money (misrepresenting dates and other facts which she was being paid to be mindful of). $3,500 is worth the effort.

    Or, to have some fun with it, contact Judge Joe Brown’s show and go through his binding arbitration. She’ll get her money back for sure, and subject the agent to a few minutes of national TV shame.

  • Casa Mariposa Panama

    I agree. I think SCC is the way to go. Its unfortunate the client took the agent at her word, but it appears the agent was either unqualified or incompetent. Either way, SCC seems to me to be the best (albeit still painful) way to resolve the issue. If nothing else, it should teach the “agent” that they must take their job and their clients seriously. If this “agent” really is that bad, hopefully the SCC can “encourage” her to find other work for which she is better suited.

  • TonyA_says

    Yes my experience is based on the typical big city experience. Our rent in Queens for a hole in a secure building is over $5k a month. I would love to shut that down and have everyone work at home! We used to have a whole floor way before 9/11.

    But remember I live in Connecticut which is a totally different atmosphere than Queens (where the airports are). Even here, where one can drive and park for free, AAAs (as well as Liberty Travel) are downsizing rental space,. I suppose this has to do with people simply going online to buy travel. Whenever we go to AAA to have our driver’s license renewed or get some documents notarized or buy discounted movie tickets, I see the travel agent section empty. And that observation was made even after AAA relocated to get more foot traffic. ONLINE or CALLING is the way to go in my opinion.

    In my area, there are 3 kinds of brick and mortars. The AAAs as you mentioned. The “Virtuoso” kind because we are home to the super rich hedge funds and bankers. And, the bodega (nothing to do with our friend Bodega3) types for ethnics since we have a very large Hispanic community as my city provides a haven for undocumented aliens. The classic B&Ms are the ones disappearing.

    In my opinion, the travel agent worker (himself or herself) is making very little money since commissions are quite small. Most do it for the love of the job and travel. Many are home based because they cannot afford rent. I personally doubt that those working in AAA or similar brick and mortars will be there much longer. When this generation of old TAs retire or are no longer able to work, y’all will be dealing with Indians and Filipino overseas call centers.

    On with my sabbatical …

  • Daddydo

    “Because that’s what incompetent, home-based cruise specialists tend to do when their competence is questioned.” The best line that I have ever seen in your column. I have friends…I can use a computer….I am a travel agent!….bull.

    It is not Holland’s fault! I have made two major errors that required the use of my insurance and several minor adjustments that I handled myself. I have “0” complaints on my BBB record because of that. Final payments are critical! Princess will cancel if not payed on or before the date. Whose fault, the agent. Sue in small claims court for negligence.

  • len

    In lieu of getting involved I would instruct client to sue the pants off of the mom & pop travel agent.

  • Bette Nan Weiner Green

    I said yes, but with some reluctance. We book our travel ourselves, with the exception of cruises. We have an awesome cruise agent. She spells everything out and we get an invoice for our initial deposit (which is quite nominal) within days of making it. She is very clear regarding insurance, including deadlines. If did not have an invoice and a clear understanding of my cancellation rights early on, you can bet your bottom dollar I would not be sending any more money. But I think it still could use some investigating.

  • Ian Parrish

    I think this is a great one to mediate. Although, if the facts above are true and there’s documentation of a mistakenly given cancellation date, I think the blame falls squarely on the travel agent. I hate to see anyone lose out on that much money, but it sounds like she made a pretty big mistake and has to make Sally whole.

    On a side note, I hope this wasn’t a cruise from the US to Tahiti. That much time on the open ocean trapped on a cruise ship would make my head explode. But then again, I’m not a cruise person.

  • emanon256

    I could not agree more.

  • emanon256

    I have always used home based agents since my old company closed its agency and told us to do it ourselves. I used one for many years until she passed away, and another for many years until she moved to New Mexico which has strange laws for agents. Now I switched to another who lives in my neighborhood. I believe these home based to be some of the best ever and they routinely go above and beyond.

    My first agent made a mistake once and she more than made up for it. I was Island hopping through French Polynesia and she booked a flight from one island to another on the wrong date. When I called her collect, it turned out everything was sold out, she apologized for the mistake and paid for a helicopter service to get me to the next island, and then gave me two free round trip tickets to Hawaii to make up for it. Talk about good service.

    Home based agents are not a way to cheep out, they are a way to get great personalized service. Its just a shame the OP found a really bad one.

  • Tanya

    I have worked with 3 travel agents. Only one of which more than once, because she is awesome! After a phone conversation with her about the travel arrangements, she sent me an e-mail documenting everything that we discussed, which included, cancellation dates, insurance buy dates (to make sure that prediagnosed conditions were covered), and anything else that was important. She also sent a receipt to me after every payment. Whether it was a $50 deposit or the full amount due closer towards the vacation. I think mediation is a good idea, if more facts are found and then the correct party be held liable. It does not sound like this is HA’s fault and I don’t think they should refund the money. Because my job contains deadlines that I cannot always control, I always opt for the insurance policy extra that covers work-related vacation misses. Whether it is worth it or not, it gives me peace of mind that if a deadline comes up without warning or an emergency, my vacation fund is not wiped out.
    If anything, can the OP take the travel agent to small claims?

  • DChamp56

    I say no. How did she choose this fly-by-night travel agent? Quite honestly, most cruise lines will give as good as if not better service than an agent, AND there’s one person responsible. Oh, and buy trip insurance RIGHT AWAY!
    Hire a lawyer.

  • DChamp56

    In our state, small claims court maximum is $1500

  • bodega3

    Usually, deposits with the cruise line becomes nonrefundable at the final payment due date.

  • bodega3

    Many here are saying take the agent to small claims court. The OP would have to lay out travel money to do this if the agency isn’t local and my bet it isn’t. As I mentioned in another post, a personal cruise consultant is what a real TA calls themselves. My guess is this was booking with a online agency.

  • DChamp56

    And if you made a mistake and it cost a customer $3500, would you find a way to get the money and return it?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    But you need to be careful you don’t get so clever you end up coming off as deceptive. If any business told me they have an office but it’s “not configured for retail use” they’d look WAY worse to me than if they’d just admitted up front the office is out of their home. It’s far better to simply not elaborate until you need to rather than float a bunch of half truths that might eventually come across looking like a lie. Maybe a decade ago people would have thought less of you, but working from home is so prevalent now nobody thinks twice about it.

  • bodega3

    Travel agencies usually E & O policies. They try not to use it and often pay out of pocket for a mistake, which do happen in any business. Like any insurance, use it and your rates go up.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Wow, a down vote for that simple statement? Some anti-home based person or somebody who doesn’t think there are any good agents in Santa Monica!

  • DChamp56

    Many states like mine limit small claims court to $1500.

  • geekgrrl57

    Plus, why on earth would you NOT publicize this agent’s name?? It’s called accountability. Give her another chance, and let her know you have no problem going public.

  • jldamon

    The real value of a travel agent is never really truly known until after something happens, regardless if it is the agents error or not. This goes with any customer driven business – anyone can sell a product, but can they own up and ‘fix’ mistakes or be there when something goes wrong?
    This is when using an agent that is with a larger travel management company is helpful. It is unfortunate – we’re all humans and make errors. The customer should NEVER be held liable for expenses or lost money, unless the customers themselves are at fault. A larger, global travel management company would have refunded the customers money without question and it would have gone against the agent who provided the incorrect information.

  • Joe Farrell

    Nothing to mediate here – who is the travel agent the agent for? The cruise line? Or the Traveler?

    If the ‘agent’ screwed up, as in not giving the correct information about cancellation – and the customer relied on that information and canceled within the time frame given by the agent – the agent is on the hook for the $3500. End of story.

    There is nothing to mediate – the agent needs to gut it up and come up with the cash.

    The real bad guy is not Holland America. The OP should not be upset at Holland America. Holland America has its rules easily available – the mistake is booking a cruise with those insane rules in the first place. As several recent cruise related vacation disasters reveal, and the publicity around how little they actually do for the customer, you should not book a cruise in the first place.

    But this has nothing to do with Holland America and everything to do with the idiot agent. So what if she ‘misunderstood’ that the rules were and was merely ‘doing her job?’ she was legally and simply negligent. . . . end of story.

    It is also pretty clear to me that this home-based cruise consultant does not do lots of business with HA, otherwise, for a week and if the agent admitted giving a wrong date to a customer who met that date that HA would waive its penalties for the agent out of good will. More BS.

  • bodega3

    This applies to the vendors we use, too. Sadly, with the internet, people look at price first but I only work with companies (learned over the years which ones) that are there when you need them. Sometimes a price might be a few dollars more, but knowing who I am working with and that they are there for my client’s is worth it in the long run. I had always said, nobody cares or pays attention when thing so smoothly, but when something happens you need someone who knows how to fix it.
    I don’t agree that a larger travel management is better than a one person office. I have worked with 7 different agencies in my career and the larger ones weren’t any better than the smaller ones. Actually, I found the smaller ones to do a better job as they had more to lose.

  • Joe Farrell

    Have you seen a brick and mortar travel agency lately? I haven’t. Other than AAA.

  • bodega3

    Since we only have one side of the story, I don’t think the agent’s name is necessary at this point.

  • bodega3

    We have several in our area and more are opening up as people want to talk to someone local, more and more. The internet is losing its luster for many.

  • wiseword

    Home-based travel agent? No way. Want a surgeon who operates in his kitchen?

  • William_Leeper

    In Arkansas where I am, small claims is limited to $1,000 so that is not an option here.

  • TonyA_says

    BIG IF. I would not speculate.
    Also I do not reserve anything that is not in writing and I send a proforma and itinerary WITH DATES first. I am not that crazy yet.

  • bodega3

    You never know where they work unless you go to a brick and mortar agency. Onlne agents work from home, tour company agents work from home, airline reservationists work from home, rental car agents work from home. The list goes on and on.

  • TonyA_says

    Exactly. So I do not understand why the OP crossed that line without knowing it. Am I missing something?
    ADDED: I know there are SPECIAL (FARE or RATE) cruises that make ALL payments (including deposits) NON Refundable.
    The $3.5K is about the amount needed as a deposit for those long 21++ night cruises. So I wonder how the OP lost all that.

  • bodega3

    I think you might check again as I see that Arkansas limit is much higher than that. But remember, you file in the state where the company operates.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree

  • emanon256

    The Attorney General’s website says the limit is $5,000.


  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Some businesses require large equipment and support staff. Other’s do not. My former law partner, now semi-retired, works from home. Some of his corporate clients are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The nature of his corporate representation does not require an office. By contrast, I litigate and require an office. In today’s wired world, working from home is very different that 20 years ago.

  • bodega3

    Holland has ‘Personal Cruise Consultants’ who work from home. Now Chris used the term, not the OP, but she is upset with the cruise line, not the agent, so this makes me wonder if she booked directly with the cruise line. Also, the OP, according to the internet, works with a company, that handles taxes and does bookkeeping. Now if you do that, would you wait that long to get a receipt for a deposit of that amount? Something is not adding up here.

    I am editing this, as I seemed to have missed the next to last line where the OP uses the words, Personal Cruise Consultant. That tells me she was dealing directly with the cruise line.

  • http://www.facebook.com/judyserie.nagy Judy Serie Nagy

    Dumb and dumber. Please, Chris, let’s save this poor consumer, even tho she doesn’t deserve it. She had trouble with the agent from the start; OK, then follow up on your own with HA, don’t just hope for the best. The agent is incompetent, who cares if she gets defensive with you? She should be put out of business. HA should refund the deposit, they resold the cabin so why are they being bureaucratic, just another word for dumb?

  • flutiefan

    exactly. i wonder how many people know that JetBlue reservation/phone agents work from home?

  • bodega3

    Several years ago, prior to the internet, one of the major 6 carriers use to use prisoners, which you could say was ‘homebased’!

  • sirwired

    But Chris routinely publishes other business names without supplying a paper trail… rental agencies, cruise lines, airlines, insurance companies, whatever… why not this agent?

  • Randy Culpepper

    I’ve never booked a cruise before. What makes it so complicated that an agent is required?

  • TonyA_says

    You always say “get it in writing” :)
    You mean the dates were not in writing?
    If they are then this is a simple case, correct?

  • TonyA_says

    For HAL (Tahiti cruise) you lose deposit if you cancel 120 days (or less) prior scheduled departure. I wonder when the OP cancelled.
    When was the second payment due if final payment is due 75 days prior? Aren’t these things (dates) on the brochure to begin with?

  • Joan Eisenstodt

    Yeah but it’s not because the agent is home-based. Lots of home-based businesses are legit and good and have experience and abide by ethics. Maybe another outcome is for a checklist for consumers of what to look for – beyond where a biz is based! – when selecting an agent/agency.

  • TonyA_says

    Bodega, honestly, the only thing left in the future might be some kind of travel consulting or travel planner. The actual buying and distribution has become automated and there is no stopping that.

  • TonyA_says

    Excellent post especially the last paragraph.

  • TonyA_says

    The lack of documentation makes me wonder if she was or is an agent.
    3.5 grand no receipt, really? No cruise itin with deadlines. Does not sound right.
    Heck just selling a cheap one way ticket generates several emails. Something is very wrong here.

  • TonyA_says

    Those from Queens do :) You are 100% correct. Jetblue is a gold standard for home based remote call centers.
    Anyway would folks prefer home based Americans or office based Indian call centers

  • TonyA_says

    Nothing. Just laziness or failure to think sanely.

  • TonyA_says

    Don’t you think enough damage has already been done to agents who work at home.
    So next time people will ask me if I work at home and then check how much E&O insurance I have.
    Have pity on us small businesses. Better still, I’ll quit. Gone fishing …
    Good luck dealing with Expedia or the giants.

  • Charles

    “Home-based agent” cuts both ways. While it is true that, given modern communications and computing, competent agents who would have been in an office a decade ago may move their operation to their home and be just as productive or more. But, the other side of the coin is that the startup costs become considerably less, so someone with no skills, ability, or ethics can just as easily declare themselves a home-based agent. When I go to a brick and mortar travel agency (and we still have a few), I know they had to make a considerable investment to build that business. A home-based agency may have just as great an investment in time, effort, and money, but how are we to know?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    +1 to that last sentence.

  • Cybrsk8r

    When that “agent” neglected to send me a receipt for $3500, I’d have fired her and demanded my money back. That should have been a huge red flag that this person is the travel equivalent of a used car salesman.

    I would take this to small claims court even if the limit is only $1000, because that’s more than she’s gonna see otherwise. I’d also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. And maybe get the consumer reporter involved, if the local TV station has one. It’s one thing to look bad on a blog like this (no offense, Chris), but it’s a whole different matter to look bad on the newscast that a lot of your potential customers watch.

  • TonyA_says

    The OP also said this is the third time they would have cruised with HAL. Did they use the same agent? Or, the same Personal Cruise Consultant. By the way are the PCCs just as liable as indepedent agents? Who do they work for?

  • TonyA_says

    Joe, sounds like personal cruise consultants are assigned by and work for HAL. Their website more than implies it.

  • TonyA_says

    Chris, Personal Cruise Consultants are HAL employees according to this job posting

  • bodega3

    The online automation isn’t giving full possibilites, just what the vendor or OTA wants to offer.

  • bodega3

    A true TA is working for the client. But a ‘Personal Cruise Consultant’, is working for the cruise line.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    For someone on sabbatical, you’re sure working hard! :)

  • TonyA_says

    My personal travel consultant was unavailable :-) She did not want to take a long drive with me.

  • TonyA_says

    I now believe you are absolutely correct.
    Just google Holland America Personal Cruise Consultant and you’ll see linkedIn accounts of many HAL PCCs working for HAL in Seattle area.
    If this person was an honest to goodness home based agent, then sure just take her to court and move on. But if she is not, the the article needs to corrected to reflect the truth.

  • TonyA_says

    It’s hard to believe this is a travel agent.
    All the information she needs is in the main booking sreen of Polar Online, HAL’s travel agent portal.

  • jldamon

    I should have been clearer in my remarks regarding smaller agencies – and for anyone whom I may have offended if my thoughts conveyed that I think smaller agencies are somehow less reliable than larger agencies, I truly apologize! I completely agree with the fact smaller agencies and those who work in smaller agencies can be much more mindful of their client and their travel needs. It is in these unfortunate circumstances when a smaller agency may not be able to simply ‘pay-out’ a refund due for an agent error.
    Of course, this all goes back to competent agents vs incompetent agents. An agent who knows what they are doing will make less mistakes, but will undoubtedly own up to them and do what is necessary to ensure any necessary refunds due to the client are provided on a timely basis. An agent who is only in the industry for our ever decreasing travel benefits or who does not know what they are doing, will try to find as much blame elsewhere and care much less about refunding the client. This is regardless if they are working on their own or with the largest of agencies.

  • bodega3

    I hope Chris will followup on this and tell us if this was a travel agent or an employee with the cruise line that the OP used.

  • Faoi Run

    As a travel agent, I couldn’t agree more Nat! It’s imperative to convey the correct information to our clients at all times.

  • Lindabator

    Her saying Holland will make this right or she will never cruise with them again is out of line. Holland did nothing wrong here, her agent did. If that had been my error, I would be paying for it – and she CAN sue the agent for those losses, which is why there is errors & omissions insurance we agents carry for instances like these (have never had it happen yet, thankfully). But I don’t think blaming Holland for following clearly stated rules makes any sense here.

  • Lindabator

    PLUS – the fact that the AGENT assumes responsibility for the booking once they make it, and Hollands T&Cs are very clear.

  • Lindabator

    Of course, that is “assuming” the client is being truthful. (A client lie? Mercy!)

  • Lindabator

    Because those are large companies, this is an individual whose entire reputation (and job) could be irreparably damaged for a false story. He’s just playing fair.

  • Lindabator

    That is a good point – if I had messed up, I have a BDM who can waive those rules for me. I’d love to get more info on this one!

  • Lindabator

    Unfortunately, I sometimes see agents use that title as well, which may be the issue here (sounds like it if Holland won’t do anything) – plus she said she never got a receipt – those go out almost instantaneously when you book with them directly (which is why WE get them so quickly)

  • Lindabator

    See above, Tony! :)

  • Lindabator

    Umm…not necessarily so – if you miss the final payment date, or if THAT date is AFTER the start of penalties (happens!) you may be off by a week.

  • Lindabator

    And sometimes, the penalty date is just BEFORE final payment date. Can be very confusing!

  • Lindabator

    Actually, there are MANY home-based agents who have just decided to work from home rather than an office, and who are knowledgeable and competent. Don’t automatically assume just because they are home based they are less then professional.

  • Lindabator

    Or those of us who specialize in FITs, exotic travel, safaris…and been around over 20 years!

  • Lindabator

    Ethnic markets? Wow!!! Just because you went home-based, don’t knock the THOUSANDS of us brick-and-mortar agents.

  • Lindabator

    Thanks, Jeanne (and I know you don’t consider yourself or me as ETHNIC – how did we work this out!) :)

  • Lindabator

    Ummm….no, the best discounts, perks, and SERVICE come from a competant agent, NOT the vendor. Cruise line “agents” are minimally trained to sell the product you wish to purchase, but only IF you know what you want.

  • Lindabator

    Matching a person’s expectations and dreams to the proper itinerary, cruise line or even ship is one point. Knowing the flight, hotel, insurance, transfer, shore excursion, pre-documentation requirements and options are another. Otherwise you may find a horror awaits.

  • Lindabator

    Can depend. They can be an independent agent for a brick and mortar company, or they can work for a host agency, in which case they are responsible, and not the host agency.

  • sirwired

    Large companies (and, for that matter, their employees) like their money just as much as small travel agencies. If a widely-spread article leads a bunch of people to not patronize a business and they have to lay somebody off, that hurts that person just as much as a single agent losing business.

    I have no problem with not publishing names until all the facts are known, but this should be applied consistently.

  • TonyA_says

    Yeah like this one. Penalty starts 120 days before cruise but final payment due 75 days before cruise. You need a phd to keep up with these rules.

  • TonyA_says

    Hey I am just talking about my small world :-) Welcome to the NYC area.

  • Randy Culpepper

    Thanks for the response. Having grown up in a family where vacation was usually a weekend trip to the nearest Six Flags (still awesome), the logistics involved in a major trip are still lost on me.

  • Impulse Fiji

    When dealing with travel agents, it’s good to check their website and also their reputation on sites such as tripadvisor, orbitz and others.

  • scapel@suddenlink.net

    Was this agent a member of the National Travel Agents Association? If s use this as leverage to fess up. My understanding is that the customer has to purchase the insurance at he time of booking to cover prior conditions, but can purchase the insurance later.
    This another example of she said. OP should have said: ” Email me a copy of that info”. Looks like the TA I at fault here. What is her name and what is the name of the company she represents?

  • Mickay

    It’s the agent who must refund the money. In Canada our agents are all insured for errors, (or are supposed to be – I always make sure I deal with those who are) not sure about in the US. But clearly take it to court, with all the documentation showing the agents errors. They tell you to hire an agent to inform you about the rules, the agent was wrong, the agent pays.

  • g

    When I read the term “Personal Cruise Consultant” and Holland America as the cruise line involved, I thought this complaint would be about one of HAL’s PCC’s who are assigned to past HAL cruisers by HAL. I wonder if HAL’s PCC’s are “home based agents”, and if it was a HAL PCC in this case, then it would seem that Holland America should make this right with the customer by at least offering a credit toward a future cruise. If it was an independent travel agent, then it seems that she dropped the ball several times and should be held liable.

  • James Penrose

    “From the beginning, things didn’t go as planned. Her home-based agent never sent her a receipt for the $3,500 deposit”

    That was her first huge red warning sign that she was dealing with an amateur or an incompetent or even possibly a swindler.

    If she didn’t get that resolved but continued to do business with this person, she is not the brightest bulb in the string and my sympathy dwindles to near zero

    The agent has or should have the responsibility for providing correct and timely info when asked, especially about payment deadlines. You make a goof, you need to own up and make the fault up out of your own pocket if need be.

  • James Penrose

    I’ve used a “home based” agent for more than a decade but this is his full time job and he is a serious pro at it. he is reachable even when he is traveling and will stop what he is doing and handle problems when they occur even when he is ten thousand miles from home.

    Home based is not the problem. Find out if this is their profession or a sideline and stay away from the latter as a rule in any business.

  • Joe Farrell

    No assumption there at all – just a question about brick and mortar travel agents . . .

  • Joe Farrell

    The agents employed by HA in a call center certainly work for HA. The agent involved here for the OP worked for the OP.

  • Joe Farrell

    TWA and Pan Am both used them for a time . . .

  • pauletteb

    The problem is not only with home-based “specialists. I had a bad experience a number of years ago with an “expert” in Australia travel who was recommended by our office manager, one of her former colleagues.This was no home-based twit, though, but a TA with more than 25 years’ experience. Even with almost daily phone calls from me, she managed to miss the deadline for getting us assigned seats, which proved a major hassle on our very full flights. She was also unaware of the prohibition by most hire car companies in Australia against allowing their vehicles on ferries. Fortunately, when I called the ferry company regarding another issue, the customer service rep apprised me of the situation in time for us to make other arrangements. Basically, something went wrong with just about everything this “professional” laid her hand on. If not for the competence and helpfulness of Qantas and local Australian reps, it could have been far worse. Fortunately I’ve found an excellent TA since then, but it took me awhile.

  • lorcha

    Don’t you have to carry some sort of errors and omissions insurance policy if you’re a travel agent?

  • Slightlys

    This is why I NEVER, NEVER, EVER, use a travel agent. I spent too many years on the hotel side of a front desk and can’t tell you how many times I heard “my travel agent said” when there was a problem. This is why I cut out the middle man and always make my own arrangements.

  • Joe Farrell

    So what happened? Here we are 2 months later, you have the votes – so what happened?