The Travel Troubleshooter: Is my lost train ticket a lost cause?

Question: I am writing to you in hopes that you can help me receive my refund for a Eurail ticket, or find a way to receive a refund, as I am a student and have no funds to cushion this loss.

I am waiting for a 313-euro refund from Eurail for a lost ticket, which was fortunately covered under a ticket protection plan I bought when I made my reservation. I filed the claim with the appropriate paperwork, but didn’t receive a check.

I subsequently got in touch with Eurail via email, but they have since been ignoring all correspondence from me.

I am at the end of my rope. I have contacted the Better Business Bureau, but they found no valid address for Eurail and so couldn’t complete my claim. I have since emailed the BBB two times with valid addresses, but they have not responded to my correspondence.

This matter is of the utmost importance to me. I hope you can help me. — Stephanie Sanzo, Hartford, Conn.

A: Eurail should have refunded your lost ticket promptly. You paid extra to “insure” your ticket against a loss, and the least the company can do now is honor your claim.

Your policy, which is referred to as the “Rail Protection Plan” promises you’ll be reimbursed for a pass or ticket “that is lost or stolen while traveling in Europe,” adding that it will refund the unused portion of the lost or stolen rail ticket or the cost of replacement, whichever is of lesser value. But it doesn’t indicate how quickly you’ll be reimbursed.

Since Eurail never rejected your claim, I had to assume it was still being processed — even though it had been more than a year since your initial claim. Delays like that aren’t uncommon, but there’s no excuse for them. Companies that take your money in a split-second should be able to return it just as quickly, if you ask me.

Paper tickets shouldn’t be used in a place like Europe, which in many ways is more technologically progressive than the United States. Which is to say, if you can do a paperless airline ticket, why not a paperless train ticket — and certainly a paperless Eurail pass. I’m not going to call the ticket “insurance” a racket (I’ll leave that to you to decide) but in 2011, I think it should be unnecessary.

Also, I’m not sure if you want to take up a problem with Eurail with the Better Business Bureau. The BBB would have a limited influence on a European company.

If you paid for your pass with a credit card, you might have checked to see if you had any additional protection. Some payment systems will guarantee purchases made through them, and depending on the kind of plastic you carry, you might have been able to make a claim to recover your lost train ticket.

I contacted Eurail on your behalf. A few weeks later, you received a check for 313 euros.

I have an update on last week’s Troubleshooter column, which featured Esther Mikula’s problem with an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. After she contacted me and the case was resolved by Marriott, her online travel agency,, also responded to her and refunded the extra fees she had to pay for her all-inclusive stay.

(Photo: Alain Sto ll/Flickr Creative Commons)

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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  • BillC

    Why does it usually take a consumer advocate to convince a company to do what they should have done in the first place?

  • cjr001

    It’s good to hear that they finally got their money back, but I’m scratching my head over why this person would bother going to the BBB for a European company.

  • Billgoco

    For the same reason that a health insurance company finds loopholes to deny health claims.
    Businesses talk a good game but, when it comes to walking the talk…it takes a BIG STICK to keep them in line. I once worked for a software company where the VP of Sales told a sales meeting “Don’t confuse selling with installing.”…implying that don’t worry if the product doesn’t work as advertised…just sell it, get the revenue in the door.

    Typical “Business Ethics”…. just rely on Caveat Emptor -“Let the Buyer Beware”. Without advocates to monitor and catch these corporate abuses, things would just continue to devolve and worsen with every passing day.

  • Jjweldon

    Anyone who recommends the BBB should read the series recently from the NY Times.

    Looks like the BBB has become a shill for Businesses that “support” it. Is nothing sacred anymore?

  • Christopher Elliott

    @d965d6b1861c3f6ce429c120bd9e566f:disqus I wish I didn’t have to get involved. They should have done the right thing a year ago.

  • BrianCPVD

    Not sure there is a good mechanism for making Eurail passes electronic. It’s been a few years since I have ridden a European long distance train, but it doesn’t seem like there is a decent enough infrastructure for that to happen. Maybe that’s different in the era of cellular technology.

    Nonetheless, a Eurail pass is not the same as an airline ticket. It is single piece of paper valid on several national railroad companies. A piece of paper is an unequivocal record. Technology, particularly wireless technology, or technology which requires multinational cooperation, is prone to failures.

    The Eurail pass is a travel document that allows travel at will, without reservations (except for high speed rail). I challenge you to find an airline that allows any passenger to board any plane in any city and fly anywhere they want at will.

    Rant aside, if someone’s going to sell a “protection plan,” they’d better be willing to pony up when there’s a legit claim.

  • Dan

    This is true, but not new. David Horowitz called the BBB “toothless” in his 1979 book “Fight Back!”