Travel Troubleshooter

My things are gone – why won’t Road Scholar reimburse me?

Q: I recently took a seven-day Road Scholar trip to the national parks in the Florida Keys. Travel insurance was included in the price of the trip.

Road Scholar contracted out the trip to a tour operator based in Orlando, which provided the vans and tour guides.

On the last stop of our trip before heading to the Miami airport, at Biscayne National Park in Homestead, we were advised by our guides that it was OK to leave our carry-ons in the van. When we returned to our van, it had been broken into, and several of us lost our bags. I lost my iPhone, iPad and jacket. National Park police investigated and reported to us that there were no security cameras in the parking lot.

When I returned to Boston, I was contacted by Road Scholar. A representative apologized for the incident and gave me a case number. She told me I would be sent forms by Aon Affinity, our travel insurance company, to fill out. She also suggested I contact my homeowner’s insurance company and the tour operator.

I spent $880 to replace my iPhone and iPad. My homeowner’s policy has a deductible of $1,000. I sent an email to the tour operator asking about its insurance, and returned the filled-out forms to Aon.

Aon denied my claim because the van had been left unattended. I am very unhappy with the way I have been treated. Is there anything else I can do, or can you be of help?

Patricia Hawkins, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

A: Your tour operator should have found a safe place for your carry-on items. But if it assured you that your items were “safe” being left in the van, then it should have accepted the liability for those items.

Then again, maybe not. A closer look at Road Scholar’s terms suggests that it isn’t liable. According to its registration and program policies on its website, Road Scholar neither owns nor operates any of the suppliers it works with; they are independent contractors. In addition, Road Scholar is ”not responsible for any injury, loss, or damage to person or property” – in other words, the fine print lets the organization off the hook.

Meanwhile, Road Scholar sold you an insurance policy through Aon that, it promises, is “an exceptional benefit and value.” Turns out the policy didn’t protect you as you believed it should have. Effectively, you were cornered between a restrictive travel insurance policy and a tour operator that only viewed itself as a middleman. Not an ideal place to be.

You might have appealed this to an executive at Road Scholar. I list their names, numbers and emails on my consumer-advocacy site: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/road-scholar/.

After we contacted Road Scholar on your behalf, the organization called you and offered to cut you a check for $1,000, which covers the cost of your lost items and your insurance.

Email Christopher Elliott at chris@elliott.org.

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