Need a tour refund? Try These Expert Strategies to Get One
Do you think you deserve a tour refund? Maybe not.
That’s what Robert Grabe discovered when he booked a Rocky Mountaineer tour before the pandemic.
Rocky Mountaineer offers rail tours in the Canadian Rockies, with stops in places like Jasper, Whistler, and Kamloops. There’s also a can’t-miss adventure from Denver to Moab, Utah through the legendary red rocks.
Grabe put down a deposit of $3,618 for a train trip in Canada. Then the pandemic hit. Rocky Mountaineer canceled his trip and rescheduled it for 2021. Then he canceled his 2021 trip Again and tried to reprogram it.
“Every time they rescheduled a trip, we asked for a cancellation,” he says, “without success.”
Grabe wants his money back. It’s a common request even today, years after the outbreak. Tour operators have rescheduled their trips, often without giving their customers the option of refunding their trip. Can they do this? And what are Grabe’s options?
Yes, a tour operator does not have to refund your money
Unfortunately, tour operators box keep your money. Or at least they think they can.
Why? Because they say so. It’s written in the contract.
This includes Rocky Mountaineer.
But the 2019 contract – the one Grabe signed – suggests he should get a tour refund.
Rocky Mountaineer may, in its sole discretion, cancel a tour or part of a tour at any time prior to departure. In such event, Rocky Mountaineer will refund the deposit or tour fees or, if applicable, a reasonable pro rata share thereof.
However, in 2020, the company amended its contract to say, “Except in cases of force majeureRocky Mountaineer will refund the deposit or route fee or, if applicable, a reasonable pro-rated share thereof. »
A “force majeure” is a fancy way of saying an event beyond their control. This means that Rocky Mountaineer could hold a customer’s money indefinitely and offer a return visit or credit at their discretion. How smart.
So could Grabe get his money back? I’ll tell you in a second.
Is it legal for a tour operator to keep your money?
Maybe not. Some states and countries have consumer protection laws that do not allow a tour operator to hold your deposit, even during a pandemic.
For example, if Grabe lived in Massachusetts, he would be entitled to a tour reimbursement no matter what the contract stated.
Under Mass 940, the state consumer protection law,
(l) the seller will reimburse the consumer in cash an amount equal to the fair market value of any travel service purchased but not delivered, such reimbursement in cash and not exceeding the total amount paid by the consumer for the travel package and such money refund to be delivered within 30 days…
But if there is no such law in your state, you are bound by the contract you signed with Rocky Mountaineer – or any other tour operator.
Unfortunately, many tour operators quietly changed their terms after the pandemic. They basically gave themselves a license to keep a customer’s money and reschedule the trip as often as they wanted. But no tour refund.
I have more information about the tours and their particular refund policies in my guide to booking a tour.
How do I get a tour refund anyway?
From a commercial point of view, it is easy to understand why tour operators have decided to add a “force majeure” clause to their contracts. They never want to face another situation where everything of their money could be siphoned off after a pandemic, war or natural disaster.
It is a valid concern.
But as a consumer advocate, I have to say: who cares?
A company can’t just take your money and give you nothing. This is why laws like Mass 940 are needed. Companies write contracts that allow them to keep your money but give you nothing. (And really, isn’t that the perfect business model – nothing for something?)
There are strategies that can help you get a refund from a company even if they don’t want it:
Study your contract carefully and find the escape clause
Here’s another common scenario: A tour operator tried to keep a customer in a 2020 contract when they signed a 2019 contract that didn’t include a “force majeure” clause. Good try. But unless the clients have carefully reviewed their agreement very Be careful, they wouldn’t have known their rights. I’ll let you know if it worked for Grabe in a bit.
Invoke your personal situation
After the pandemic, many travelers were unable to make their replacement trips due to declining health. Tour operators and cruise lines have handled these requests on a case-by-case basis, quietly offering qualified customers full refunds. Note: If you go this route, make sure you have enough documentation of your medical condition. It may not be enough to say that you don’t feel up to it.
make some noise
Tour operators are notoriously sensitive. As a last resort, you can take your case to the Social Media High Court and argue your case on Twitter. Most tour operators will respond quickly and try to convince you to settle. Of course, social media has absolutely no legal status. But you’d be surprised how influential a tweet like, “HEY, @Mountaineer why are you keeping my $3,618,” maybe?
File a complaint with your state attorney general
It can work. I remember writing a story about a tour operator called Voyageurs International in 2020. It had canceled music tours for high school students. I remember a student who asked her for $4,445 in return. The company retained a cancellation fee of $1,900, arguing that it had to cover its expenses and pointed to a clause in the contract that allowed it to charge the fee. The California attorney general eventually stepped in and negotiated a full refund for the students.
Of course, you can always reach out to my advocacy team for help or contact one of the Rocky Mountaineer executives. I list the names, numbers, and email addresses of Rocky Mountaineer officials on this site.
If I want a tour refund, can I dispute my credit card charges?
If you live in the United States, you can use the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) to dispute your credit card charges. But should you?
The FCBA allows you to dispute the debit of an undelivered good or service. Technically, if you paid for a tour to start on a certain day and the tour operator did not provide it, you are eligible for a dispute.
But the FCBA also has some limitations. The law gives you 60 days from receiving your credit card statement to dispute a charge. Most credit card networks will give you more time, as I note in my comprehensive guide to credit card chargebacks.
I know of several travel attendees who have successfully filed credit card chargebacks when their tour operator tried to keep their deposits – yes, even with the contract. The FCBA does not allow a merchant to promise a product and not deliver it.
Rocky Mountaineer Responds
My team and I had already successfully negotiated a Rocky Mountaineer refund for another drive, so I thought we could help Grabe.
Here’s what a Rocky Mountaineer spokeswoman previously told me about cases like Grabe’s.
“As far as privacy is concerned, I am unable to provide specific information to individual guests,” she says. “But I can share that travel during the 2020 season has been suspended due to the pandemic and related travel restrictions.”
The pandemic and the government restrictions imposed in response are a Force Majeure Event, beyond Rocky Mountaineer’s control.
Force majeure events are dealt with in Sections 11 and 12 of the Terms and Conditions. In accordance with these provisions, Rocky Mountaineer has offered future travel credits, so that customers can receive the same rail pass at the same price after the Force Majeure Event has passed.
The company tried to accommodate customers.
We have recently added greater flexibility to our booking conditions to provide customers with greater peace of mind given the uncertainty they may experience when travelling. With this increased flexibility, customers benefit from:
- Two free date changes, available up to 60 days before travel
- Flexibility to move the trip to any available date up to and including the 2023 season and reschedule the promotion they booked with to the new date.
- An option to change names on the reservation, up to 30 days before travel, if some of the participants cannot travel (note: an original name must remain on the reservation).
Rocky Mountaineer says the pandemic has been “incredibly difficult” for the company. Not only did he suspend the entire 2020 season, but he also permanently laid off nearly half of his full-year workforce. A representative said the company hopes guests understand that it is doing everything in its power to get through a difficult situation.
Is there a tour refund on the track for this customer?
But what about Grabe?
Rocky Mountaineer offered him a 110% credit after he canceled his first tour, which he accepted. This meant the 2020 terms now applied to his tour and Rocky Mountaineer could keep his money indefinitely.
I contacted Rocky Mountaineer on their behalf several times to request an exception to the rules. The company did not respond.
But losing her $3,618 offers one final lesson: Always read the terms and conditions before booking a tour. Otherwise, you risk ending up with a worthless deposit – or a visit.