Vi­a­tor re­fuses to is­sue re­fund for can­celed tour

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - TRAVEL - By Christo­pher El­liott

QA: So let me get this straight. You showed up for a tour that never hap­pened and then Vi­a­tor re­fused to is­sue a re­fund? Come on.

Vi­a­tor is a site owned by TripAdviso­r that hosts an on­line net­work of qual­i­fied lo­cal guides. I’ve writ­ten about Vi­a­tor in the past, and it’s a use­ful site for book­ing an in­de­pen­dent tour when you’re on va­ca­tion.

The “Eat Like a Lo­cal” tour looks like a lot of fun. It’s a 2 1⁄2 hour walk through the bustling Ala Moana neigh­bor­hood to sam­ple food from “lo­cal hid­den gems.”

“Taste an ar­ray of sa­vory and sweet dishes with a small group of 12 peo­ple or less, en­sur­ing an in­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence,” the list­ing says. “Try a va­ri­ety of Hawai­ian treats dur­ing tast­ings that in­clude up to six hearty sam­ples.”

Mmmm. Ac­cord­ing to Vi­a­tor, you’re en­ti­tled to a full re­fund if you can­cel at least 24 hours in ad­vance of the start date of the ex­pe­ri­ence.

I re­cently booked an “Eat like a Lo­cal” walk­ing tour in Honolulu through Vi­a­tor. I ar­rived early at the orig­i­na­tion point and stayed there for half an hour after the agreed-upon time. The tour guide never showed up.

I spoke with the restau­rant where we were sup­posed to meet and the em­ploy­ees knew the guide but said he was not there.

Now ev­ery num­ber I call at Vi­a­tor just gives me an an­swer­ing ma­chine. I would like a re­fund for the tour. Can you help me?

Prob­lem is, you didn’t know the tour had been can­celed. Nei­ther the tour guide nor Vi­a­tor said any­thing.

Vi­a­tor seems to be silent on its obli­ga­tion to in­form cus­tomers when it can­cels a tour. I couldn’t find any lan­guage ad­dress­ing such a sce­nario in its terms and con­di­tions. So it ap­pears that Vi­a­tor is deny­ing your re­quest for a re­fund be­cause you didn’t can­cel within 24 hours — which is ab­surd, of course.

Mak­ing mat­ters worse, Vi­a­tor didn’t an­swer its phones. Funny how a com­pany is happy to an­swer the phone on the first ring when you call to make a reser­va­tion. But when you have a prob­lem, your call goes to voice­mail.

I list the names, num­bers and email ad­dresses of key TripAdviso­r cus­tomer ser­vice ex­ec­u­tives on my con­sumer-ad­vo­cacy site. I con­tacted Vi­a­tor on your behalf.

“On the day of the tour, the tour provider con­tacted us to let us know of the can­cel­la­tion,” a rep­re­sen­ta­tive told me. “At that point, we im­me­di­ately pro­cessed a re­fund for Char. Un­for­tu­nately, there was a mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion on our end, and we didn’t let Char know about the can­cel­la­tion. We ab­so­lutely should’ve and we’re very sorry for the in­con­ve­nience this caused.”

Char, you should have your money back by now. To make up for your ex­pe­ri­ence, Vi­a­tor has of­fered you a credit to use for a fu­ture tour.

“We’ve also re­viewed the in­ci­dent, and have ad­dressed the mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion in­ter­nally,” the Vi­a­tor rep added. “We want ev­ery traveler to have a great ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with us, and we’re sorry that wasn’t the case for Char.”

Christo­pher El­liott is the om­buds­man for Na­tional Geo­graphic Traveler mag­a­zine and the au­thor of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, el­, or email him at [email protected]­

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