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Some travel companies prefer phone contact

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By Christopher Elliott
Published:
Question: Travelzoo ran this deal a few weeks ago that offered two nights in Palm Springs, Calif., including dinner for two.
My mother bought three vouchers and I purchased one so that our entire family could take a three-day trip to Palm Springs together.
One of my brothers found out he had to work, so my mother called to cancel one voucher with Travelzoo within the time period allowed.
Last week she received her credit card statement and realized that Travelzoo had not just canceled one voucher, but all three. She called the number on the Travelzoo voucher and a representative admitted that it was their mistake as the cancellation said it should have been a "partial refund." She told her she would receive a call back from Travelzoo in three to five days.
After not hearing back from Travelzoo after five days, my mother called them yesterday. The person she spoke to looked into the issue, but nothing had been done, and she was told it would be another three to five days before anything would happen. This time my mother was told to call Travelzoo after this period of time.
I loved Travelzoo ... until now. I can't believe that they have such poor customer relations. Could you possibly help?
Christina Conte, Los Angeles
Answer: Travelzoo shouldn't have canceled all of your mother's vouchers, only the one she had requested. And when this was brought to its attention, the company should have reinstated the vouchers right away, instead of making your mother wait and call back repeatedly.
I always advise travelers to put their grievances in writing, but I can understand why your mother didn't.
I tried to find an "email us" page on Travelzoo at the time I helped you mediate this case a few months ago, but couldn't. It seems the company prefers to be contacted by phone. (In fairness, Travelzoo offers a "suggestions" form, but it specifically says it is "unable" to address questions about trips purchased through the site.)
I've encountered this kind of strong preference for calls with cellphone companies too. Seems they would prefer to keep their customer interactions by phone, which the company can easily tape, but which you don't have any record of.
That kind of arrangement only benefits the company but puts customers like your mother at a disadvantage.
What do I mean by that? Well, show me proof that Travelzoo promised a resolution in three to five days. Or even that it agreed to reinstate the vouchers. You don't have it, because you called Travelzoo.
I contacted Travelzoo on your mother's behalf, and it reinstated the vouchers.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. He's also the author of "Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals." You can read more travel tips on his blog, www.elliott.org or email him at celliott@ngs.org.
© 2012 Christopher Elliott/Tribune Media Services, Inc.
Story tags » Travel

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