Less than model behavior from Barbizon USA’s staff made my daughter miss her cruise

By | December 16th, 2016

Jeff Hanson’s 17-year-old daughter missed her Barbizon USA model cruise and he wants a refund. Can we help?

Question: My wife and I paid $3,395 for a Barbizon USA model cruise for our 17-year-old daughter. This was a chartered cruise not available to the general public, which would have allowed her to compete and meet various modeling agency representatives.

Because of work, my wife and I were unable to participate, but Barbizon USA informed us that they would assign a chaperone to accompany my daughter the entire trip. The chaperone would guide her from the airport to the cruise ship. Once on board, another chaperone would take over for the duration of the cruise. At the conclusion of the cruise, the original chaperone would accompany our daughter home. We understood that $3,395 was the total price, but it turned out that competition fees and a shore excursion were not included. So we paid the additional $430, for a total of $3,825.

We went to Eastern Iowa Airport and met the chaperone. There were a total of seven people, including two chaperones. During check in, Delta provided seat assignments for the flights from Iowa to Atlanta leg. But the boarding pass for the flight from Atlanta to Tamaulipas, Mexico, directed the group to get seat assignments at the gate.

Late that night, we received panicked phone calls from our daughter because she missed her flight from Atlanta to Mexico. There was a three-hour window between flights to catch the connecting flight to Mexico, but the chaperone got confused and sat at the wrong gate. They missed the cruise and were sent home.

Related story:   Delayed on Alitalia, but where’s my check?

We requested a refund from Barbizon USA, but they have offered to apply the money for a model cruise next year. Our daughter will be a freshman in college next year and will not be able to attend. Barbizon USA said my wife and I could both go in my daughter’s place for no additional cost. But that is unacceptable since this cruise is for modeling and acting students to be able to advance their careers. We also have the same problem with getting time off for the cruise.


We’ve had several phone conversations with the Barbizon USA representative, but we were told the same thing – no refund. We’ve been friendly and have asked to speak to a supervisor, but she will not provide that information. She states that she is the supervisor and the highest authority for contact. Can you help us obtain a refund? — Jeff Hanson, Dubuque, Iowa.

Answer: If you paid Barbizon USA $3,825 for a fully chaperoned cruise for your daughter, and Barbizon’s chaperone didn’t get your daughter to the cruise ship, the company should refund your $3,825.

On its website, Barbizon USA represents itself as “the trusted source for breaking into the modeling and acting industry, the right way.” So you felt that entrusting your daughter to a Barbizon USA chaperone for the model cruise was the right way to go. This was not a case where you or your daughter were responsible for the missed cruise. This was not a case where travel insurance would have benefited you, because waiting at the wrong gate is not a covered event. This was a trip in which your daughter was chaperoned by a Barbizon USA representative, and it was the Barbizon USA representative’s responsibility to get your daughter to the cruise ship on time.

Related story:   Almost overcharged on Expedia

In addition, it was not you or your daughter’s choice for her to be sent home. The choice was taken away from you and and your daughter and made by someone else. You had no input into whether this was the right way to go.

You telephoned Barbizon USA several times, but you also could have tried to contact Barbizon by email, through the company’s website. Our advocates contacted Barbizon USA on your behalf, and the company notified us that they have contacted you and agreed to refund the full amount.



  • JewelEyed

    Um…pretty sure Barbizon is and always has been a scam, much like most of these things where you pay tons of money in the vain hope of becoming a model. I got dragged to a cattle call with two friends, and when we found out what they wanted to charge for modeling photos, two of us tried to convince the third that it was a scam. She didn’t listen. Yeah, she’s not a model. She’s successful, but that’s because she went to med school and became a doctor. Could you please address this? http://www.nbcnews.com/id/30156875/ns/dateline_nbc-the_hansen_files_with_chris_hansen/t/modeling-schools-steep-price/

  • Alan Gore

    If the missed flight was really due to the chaperone’s confusion, then this is Barbizon’s fault and they should pay up.

  • Kerr

    I vaguely recall their TV commercials from back in the 70’s and 80’s. Surprised to hear they are still around.

  • sirwired

    I agree that this was a clear case for the refund.

    On another note, how does one wait at the wrong gate for THREE HOURS? You’d think as it came up to a half-hour before departure or so, the chaperone would have noticed there weren’t any announcements about the flight, and the correct flight wasn’t posted on the gate board.

  • SierraRose 49

    Exactly what I thought. Atlanta is one of the world’s busiest airports. If the chaperone had to get their seat assignments in Atlanta, wouldn’t she get them at the gate for the next flight – which was to Mexico. I’m sure they had to change terminals from domestic to International. Still, how did the chaperone and the 7 modeling students all manage to sit for 3 hours at the WRONG gate? At least the parents were able to get their money back.

  • Rebecca

    Ok. I can’t even address the compensation, which I agree they were 100% entitled to, without waving the hugest red flag I’ve ever waved here.

    So someone thought it was a good idea to put hundreds/thousands of teenage girls that are obviously naive – they somehow convinced their parents to pay for a modeling cruise and think they’ll become famous actresses/models by taking an overpriced cruise with “industry insiders” – without their parents and with “chaperones” the adults in their lives have never met.

    Then, said teenage girls pay fees for “modeling competitions” and parade around a cruise ship. Again, without their parents. And meet “industry insiders”, who I’m sure are also charging ridiculous fees for some sort of promise of fame and fortune.

    While it’s awful they’re getting ripped off, that isn’t even close to my primary concern. Serial killers have used this very ruse to literally rape, torture and murder young women. You have obviously naive, immature teenage girls (and they have to be naive and immature to think going on an overpriced modeling cruise will result in their becoming famous models and actresses) ALONE IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS ON A CRUISE SHIP WITH STRANGERS. I’m so dumbfounded any parent would even consider allowing this. Cruise ships are known to have security issues, botching investigations and covering up employee/passenger crimes.

    This is a recipe for disaster. Who are these parents? Who in their right mind thinks this is a good idea? It’s bad enough they’re being blatantly ripped off for money. But this is a genuinely dangerous situation that an inexperienced teenager should NEVER be in. Adults should know better. I have never been so dumbfounded or waved such a blaring red flag in ALL the years I’ve been a regular reader here.

  • Rebecca

    What needs to be addressed here is how dangerous it is to put a bunch of incredibly naive teenage girls seeking fame and fortune ALONE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OCEAN with strangers looking to exploit them, financially and quite possibly otherwise. The parents literally never met the chaperone. For all we know, he’s a registered sex offender. And so could any other number of these “industry contacts” on the ship be registered sex offenders.

    I have literally never been so dumbfounded. Ever.

  • Flyonpa

    Atlanta all the Concourses (And the two Terminals) are interconnected via a underground train all inside the secure zone. All Delta International flights go out as “Domestic” flights. So a flight to Mexico can go out of any Delta Gate, (When the plane returns, it will go to a dual use gate) International passengers are sent thru a corridor to customs and immigration, After the plane is cleared, the gate/plane can then be used for domestic flights.

  • Annie M

    This is the luckiest thing that could have happened to these parents. This is a rip off and they would have wasted their money on a cruise that would do nothing for their daughters chance to break into modeling. It would have been better for them to hire an agent for her than waste $3,000 on a cruise.

    Even the website you have the crossed out link to is a scam.

  • Charles Owen

    It should have been pretty obvious when they suddenly are asked to cough up another $430. I’m willing to be they would have found reasons during the cruise to need additional money.

    In this day and age before embarking on any activity like this, just do a simple search of the company name and the word “scam”. Try it with Barbizon just for the fun of it. You’ll find a Dateline story of a family that had spent $30,000, and lots of other juicy bits. They were only getting started with this family.

  • scoosdad

    So allegedly this cruise was to get these young women jumpstarted into the world of modeling.

    It couldn’t have meant that much to this family since the Hanson’s daughter was going to college the next year anyway. Would she have given that up for a modeling career?

  • SimoneNY

    There was no question that the family deserved a 100% refund, and shame on Barbizon for even trying not to pay for the mistake of their chaperone. I agree with people here that I would not allow a teenage girl to go alone on a cruise like this. Sadly, we’ve all heard about rapes and other crimes aboard ships that go unpunished because of the ships being registered in foreign countries. All that said, I googled reviews of Barbizon modeling school and didn’t see anything negative. I’ve been in the fashion business for over a decade and work with many models on fashion and beauty shoots. It’s true that when a potential model gets signed to a legitimate modeling agency they take care of a lot of details for her or him, – but that’s really only for those who live in cities such as NY, LA, or possibly Miami and Chicago. When you live in places like Iowa, where this is no fashion/beauty industry or model business, you really do need a professional to teach you the ropes. You need great photos, need to learn how to walk a runway, makeup and hair tricks, how to contact potential modeling agencies, what to do at a go-see, etc. If Barbizon provides this service, then it’s a legitimate business. Sure, a potential model can come and live in NY and learn it on her own, but the cost of photos/portfolio, rent and living expenses before they even finish the learning curve can be outrageous. Just to be clear, I’m not recommending Barbizon and I’ve never dealt with them. my only point is that if they teach a potential model the ‘tricks of the trade’, it’s schooling, and who’s to say that’s a scam? It’s not any different than acting schools, singing schools or public speaking coaches – there’s no guarantee that the student will be a success. Some people go to law school and become a Supreme Court judge, while others graduate and pass the bar and then flounder and barely make a living – they both still paid a lot for law school.

  • Rebecca

    I vaguely remembered these from my 80s childhood. I’d highly suggest a google. There were some pretty hilarious ones up on YouTube.

  • Rebecca

    You reminded me of a very important adage i learned from my father:

    What do you call the person that graduates medical school ranked lowest in the entire class? A doctor.

    A reminder to never take school too too seriously when life is going on around you. I used this as an excuse to party in college. I spent a long time as a perfectionist, then realized I can have a lot of fun and still get a B.

  • Bill___A

    Glad that it was refunded, which is what should have happened in the first place. How much time did they waste of theirs and others when they should have paid up in the first place…

  • SierraRose 49

    My error. Thank you for setting me straight. My memory banks are cleared. Connecting to our international flight in Atlanta were not a problem. But coming back from Rome a few years ago, we had a rather unpleasant experience in Atlanta going through customs and TSA.

  • C Schwartz

    I think a lot of parents accompany the kids on the cruise — I think this is just a money maker to separate people from their money — taking advantage of aspirations of the children and the parents. I hope the money is used for the college education and not for more “classes: for modeling or acting

  • Altosk

    Yeah, I hope someone was fired over this. Sitting at the wrong gate? Really??

  • Rebecca

    100% agree there.

    The very scary part is that this “chaperone” was entrusted with 8 naive teenage girls. I don’t even want to think about the bad things that could happen here. It sounds like how an episode of Dateline should start. Although I’d love to hear Keith Morrison interview these people.

  • AAGK

    Why isn’t Mr Hanson upset about the $3k Barbizon “models” scammed from him in the first place.

  • AAGK

    I thought that as well. Since Barbizon is obv a scam, these girls sound very naive. What father dumps his daughter on a boat that is more likely a prostitution ring since modeling student is just not a thing.

  • PsyGuy

    Why does a 17 year old need a chaperone to catch a flight, and why would anyone trust a model to do anything.

    Aside from that the real scam is that Barbizon is still in business and still peddling that they can make a model of anyone, that’s the scam.

  • PsyGuy

    I doubt they were naive.

  • PsyGuy

    It was probably more a “Okay you can do this modeling thing if you go to college next year”. So many girls think they have “it” when they don’t.

  • Rebecca

    A group of teenage girls looking to become famous by taking a modeling cruise? And let’s not forget all of them sat at the wrong gate while their plane took off without them. I stand by that one.

  • naoma

    WHEN OUR DAUGHTER (NOW AN ADULT) WAS A BABY AND WE LIVED IN NEW YORK CITY SHE HAD AN ENGLISH “PRAM” — A LARGE BABY BUGGY. I WHEELED HER AROUND NEW YORK
    and people wanted to look inside the pram. Many said “Is she on the Ivory Soap box?” No, she was not, but I thought “Well maybe she could be.” I took her to a modeling agency for children and
    the woman asked what could she do?” I said “Smile — any time she sees a camera.” Well, they
    accepted her and she earned $45 an HOUR (she was paid for an 8 hour day even though not on camera for very much time). Relatives originally said I was “exploiting” her — until they learned the salary. She did it for a while and then I decided we’d had enough of it. I saw too many overly madeup kids who were very arrogant.” But, I didn’t want her to be like some of the other kids I met. She is very happy as an adult working as a secretary to a magazine editor. One photographer (very famous man) said she was the “most beautiful baby he’d ever seen.” Nice compliment. She smiled because her Father took pictures of her and when she saw a camera it was “smile time.” It is a good story and people enjoy hearing it. No exploitation at all. And it was not a scam.

  • PsyGuy

    I was going to post a witty retort, and while I can think of several different terms other than naive that are less generous, I must cede to your point.

  • naoma

    sorry I hit the wrong button.

  • JewelEyed

    I feel like both should be addressed, frankly.

  • JewelEyed

    Even if a lot of parents accompany the kids on the cruise, it would be easy for people who work for the company to find out who is alone and take advantage of that fact.

  • JewelEyed

    You didn’t find anything negative? Seriously? Check my comments, I provided a news story. There is plenty negative about them online.

  • joycexyz

    There are arrivals and departure boards everywhere. Who doesn’t check? Apparently, not that clueless “chaperone.” In addition, there are signs at each gate giving the next departure, and they also announce imminent departures over the PA. But even if the chaperone ignored all this, why didn’t the wannabe model take notice? Seventeen is not a child.

  • The Original Joe S

    It could be the chaperone’s fault, but it also could be the fault of airline personnel who gave bad information.
    In Venice, Italy, 1977 we were going to take the train from Venice to Vienna. Ticket and board said track #1 at 2306 hours. I was assured numerous times by the Eye-Tal-Yan guys in the station that the train would be leaving from track #1. By 2304, no train. The Eye-Tal-Yan guy then told us excitedly that it wasn’t #1, but #25 way down the other end of the station. We RAN, dragging the luggage, and I tossed it on to the train, and pulled the wife in as the train departed precisely at 2306. People 15 meters behind us missed the train. Of course, being It-lee, the train went down the track about 2 clicks, and stopped for an hour. But, we made it on. Poor people behind us missed it.
    Did I mention that it was an Austrian train? Austrian = Cherman, and they are on time. Always. One thing the Eye-Tal-Yans can miss about Benny is that the trains ran on time when he was around………..

  • The Original Joe S

    see my post above

  • The Original Joe S

    see my post up above

  • SierraRose 49

    I agree, Rebecca. Almost sounds like a possible plot line for yet another Liam Neeson “Taken” movie. “Taken #4” – models adrift at sea sold to the highest bidders … well, you know the rest of the story.

  • Rebecca

    Yes, I completely agree. I apologize. After I reread it I realized the way it came out wasn’t exactly nice. I didn’t mean it that way. This company is verifiable ripping people off for money; I read your link and that’s a good scam. Parents all want to hear what they’re selling. Most of us aren’t dumb enough to drop thousands of dollars, but I can see how this has worked for 70+ years. The point I was trying to express, but came out wrong, was that these girls could be exploited for more than just money. That’s scary. What I still don’t understand is how any parent would think it’s a good idea.

  • AAGK

    Can you blame them for being clueless with these parents?

  • AAGK

    I feel like the universe was looking out for them here.

  • LonnieC

    And part of this trip involved being in Mexico. I love Mexico, but a bunch of teen age girls without their parents????

  • PsyGuy

    Well yes I can blame them, you don’t need to be right to blame someone.

  • Tricia K

    My daughter got an “invitation” to model with Barbizon when she was in hs in Memphis. I agreed to check it out, but warned her it wasn’t likely to happen as I had friends who had bad encounters with Barbizon and their daughters. As expected, they offered to work with my daughter, for a cost. And those costs kept adding up. They must have learned their tactics from the Time Share communities. Bringing all of this up with my daughter sitting next to me, begging me along with them was a low point. Naturally I was the bad guy until my daughter finally came around to my way of understanding after reading a few horror stories on the internet. Sad to see they haven’t changed their approach.

  • JewelEyed

    There’s the dual horror, though, of being paid for your daughter to be put in the vicinity of potential predators while it’s in the best interest of the cruise line, the modeling school, and everyone else aboard to say nothing and convince the victim to stay silent. My goodness, that’s horrifying.

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.