Is she out of luck on this Irish tour refund?

When Susan Danner cancels her Ireland tour after the COVID-19 outbreak, the operator promises a prompt refund. That was a year ago. Where’s her money?

  • Sunday, September 26, 2021 1:30am
  • Life

Q: Last year, I reserved a tour through Paddywagon, an Irish tour operator. I prepaid $1,219 for a two-day Wild Atlantic Way tour of the Irish countryside.

We could not go because of the pandemic. I sent an email canceling the tour in May, more than 28 days before the tour started. Under the terms of the tour, we qualified for a full refund. Paddywagon acknowledged the cancellation immediately but has claimed ever since that they cannot issue a refund until they are allowed access to their offices in Dublin.

I can see no reason that the company would not have access to their funds to issue a refund. I have emailed Paddywagon multiple times, and they always respond with the same excuse. Can you help? — Susan Danner, Healdsburg, California

A: Paddywagon should have refunded your tour quickly, as promised. By the time you contacted me, the company had been holding your money for nearly a year. That’s way too long, even in a pandemic.

Before I continue, I want to acknowledge that some may find the term “paddy wagon” disrespectful. As someone with Irish heritage myself, I understand. It is, nonetheless, the name of the tour operator.

By the way, you chose a terrific tour. The Wild Atlantic Way is a guided road trip through the Irish countryside. Highlights include Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, Killarney and Dingle Peninsula. I’m sorry you missed it, and I hope you get a chance to go back and see that part of Ireland.

I reviewed the paper trail between you and the tour operator. Paddywagon responded to all of your email queries, explaining that it couldn’t begin processing refunds until the Irish government began allowing people to return to work.

“Refunds must be done securely using the office equipment which cannot be removed from the building to allow for processing refunds remotely,” a representative explained. “We wish to assure you that your refund is in the queue and will be processed as soon as it is safe for us to return. Please note, due to the high volume of refund requests we have received, it will take some time to get through the backlog.”

You were losing your patience — and with good reason. By the end of the paper trail, you threatened to contact me. And that’s exactly what you did. I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, I don’t like to be brandished like a weapon, but on the other hand, I’m glad you reached out to me. One year really is too long for a refund.

Your tour operator should have had a mechanism in place for refunding that didn’t involve someone being in a specific location. Had this dragged on longer, you might have filed a credit card dispute. Although you only have 60 days from the time you receive your bill under the Fair Credit Billing Act, some credit cards make exceptions for refund cases like yours.

I contacted Paddywagon on your behalf, and it sent you a full refund.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or chris@elliott.org.

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