Barbara Baker has tried for months to solve her Vantage refund problems. When she canceled her cruise back in January, she sought reimbursement for her vacation costs. But nobody appeared to be listening — and her money seemed to be lost at sea.
Baker asked Elliott Advocacy to help her retrieve her refund. Yet one look at her paper trail made it clear why her reimbursement requests capsized. Her case is a strong reminder that using aggressive language will sink self-advocacy attempts. The three P’s of self-advocacy — patience, politeness and persistence — are your best means of keeping a request for help afloat. Baker didn’t follow this advice, and her refund quest sailed off course into stormy waters.
Her Vantage refund problems predated the coronavirus pandemic
In September 2019, Baker purchased an “Ancient Wonders: Egypt and Nile River Cruise” package for over $6,000 from Vantage Deluxe World Travel. The package included the cruise fare, airfares, port charges and a nonrefundable Travel Protection Plan (TPP) from TripMate. The TPP included a cancellation penalty waiver. This would reimburse Baker for nonrefundable costs if she canceled for a covered reason.
The cruise ship was scheduled to set sail in September 2020. But on January 3, Baker called Vantage to cancel her cruise for a reason she didn’t disclose.
She requested a refund of all her costs at that time. Vantage’s agent instructed her to file a claim on her TripMate policy. She followed the agent’s instructions. But by March, all she received was a $300 reimbursement for the cruise cancellation fee.
Out of patience…and politeness
Baker then contacted Vantage’s customer care department, requesting the remainder of her refund. Vantage’s agent informed her that the company was processing her refund. According to the agent, she should receive it in six to eight weeks.
But Baker didn’t want to hear that she would have to wait longer for her refund. Two months had passed since her initial refund request. The agent pointed out that many other travelers were dealing with Vantage refund problems in the wake of the pandemic.
Then Baker emailed customer service again. She was understandably angry at Vantage’s delays in refunding her cruise costs. But the hostile tone she took didn’t do her case any favors:
I said that I had canceled way before all this virus stuff started happening. A few strokes on the keyboard and I should have my refund. Vantage is so quick to take my money, but having to wait 16 weeks for a refund is uncalled for.
And five days later, she followed up with:
For all this inconvenience, I should be refunded my cancellation fee AND my trip insurance fee. This is NOT acceptable and I will probably never use or recommend Vantage Travel in the future. … Terrible customer service!
Baker’s use of all caps (the written equivalent of shouting) and threats caused her case for a refund to go aground. We never advise these actions because they alienate customer service executives. Why should they help a disgruntled consumer who has assured them that she will never return?
That third P: persistence
Still, Baker wasn’t ready to give up trying to solve her Vantage refund problems. After she reached out to us, our advocate Dwayne Coward contacted Vantage on her behalf.
Even then, Baker waited more than two weeks without receiving her refund. Dwayne promised to follow up with Vantage. He explained that the pandemic has created a great deal of confusion in the travel industry. Many travel companies need additional time to respond to cancellations and complaints.
Despite Dwayne’s promise to contact Vantage, Baker made a final attempt at self-advocacy. She contacted one of the Vantage executives we list on our website. Two days later, she had received all but $1,000 of her refund. We don’t know why Vantage didn’t refund the remaining $1,000, but Baker was satisfied. At long last, she had solved her Vantage refund problem.
Getting a stuck case off the beach
Observing all three P’s in her communications with Vantage might have given Baker a lifeline in receiving a full refund.
If you need help resolving a consumer complaint, the following course of action will help keep your case on a smooth and even keel:
- Maintain a solid paper trail of your communications with the company, including emails, contracts, receipts, and confirmations. This establishes written evidence of the company’s promises to you. Third parties, including us, need it in order to advocate your case.
- Write to the company’s primary contact, usually the lowest-ranking customer service executive, to ask for assistance in resolving your case. (Our Contacts section contains executive contact information for many companies.) Use polite language that clearly and concisely expresses what you need from the company to make you whole. Give that person a week to respond. If you don’t receive a satisfactory response, escalate to the next highest-ranking executive.
- Review your contracts and other paperwork carefully. Limit your requests to what you’re legally and/or reasonably entitled to receive. And observe company procedures for assistance claims. Many businesses won’t reimburse customers who don’t follow these procedures.
- Keep your cool. Your correspondence with the company is not the place for rants, sarcasm or aggressive language. Don’t make accusations, shout, call names or threaten the company with a legal action or bad publicity.
- Remember that the pandemic has upended many normal business practices. Companies will need additional time to resolve complaints. Patience will enable you to resolve your issue sooner. And our advocates stand by to help you speed up the process.