Travel

Travel Troubleshooter: Wine tour was overbooked

Q: On a recent trip to New Zealand’s South Island, I booked a wine tour through Viator.com. My husband and I were contacted by Kevin at Canterbury Wine Tours the day before and informed that the tour was overbooked and that they could not accommodate us.

I immediately contacted support@viator.com to request a refund. I received a response indicating it would take seven to 10 days. It’s been more than 10 days, and Viator is not responding to my messages.

Anne Komarinski, Auckland, New Zealand

A: A tour operator should accept only as many bookings as it can accommodate. When it couldn’t fulfill its contractual obligation, you should have received an immediate refund.

Here’s how I see it: It took seconds for Viator to remove the money from your account. Isn’t it reasonable to expect a refund to be just as expeditious?

Actually, the money can take days, weeks and, in extreme cases, even years to get back to you. Businesses invest a lot of resources in technology that can take your money in the blink of an eye, but they have no reason to put the same resources into a speedy refund.

So when Viator says it will refund the money in seven to 10 days, that’s just an estimated timeline.

Normally, when refunds are delayed, companies claim they sent the money but blame your credit card. (“Did we say two weeks? We meant two credit-card billing cycles.”)

Bottom line: You have to be patient when it comes to a refund. You don’t have much of a choice.

Viator should have responded to let you know that your refund was on the way. Instead, you heard nothing. You also could have turned to the wine tour for a better idea of when your money might be refunded. But the silence was unacceptable.

I contacted Viator on your behalf. It claims it already had told you by email that a request for a refund was “in queue” to be processed. A representative confirmed that a full refund for the cost of the tour was being sent to your credit card “within the next three to seven business days.”

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, elliott.org, or email him at celliott@ngs.org.

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