Q: I booked a weekend train trip from Portland to Brunswick, Maine, last year through Show of the Month Club, a tour operator. They contacted me in June to cancel the trip due to the pandemic. In August, they contacted me again to verify my address so they could issue the refund.
I’ve received no money from Show of the Month Club. It’s been nine months. Can you help me get my $600 back?
— Mary Roberts, Plaistow, New Hampshire
A: You’re right — that’s way too long to wait for a refund.
Typically, a refund should take about two to three weeks. During the pandemic, you might give a company a few extra weeks. But nine months? That’s really testing your patience.
My readers have had this problem time and again during the past year. I can understand why a business, particularly a tour operator, would be slow to issue a refund. Some of the money you paid to the company may already have been paid out to a rail operator or hotel. And even if it’s still with the tour operator, that business might need the money to make payroll or cover other operating expenses.
The long-term solution is for firms to improve their business processes to issue a fast refund while not endangering the company. It’s a discussion that’s way above my paygrade as a consumer advocate.
Could you have avoided this? You had no way of knowing we were about to have a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. And Show of the Month Club seemed like a reputable operator, from your perspective. No, I don’t think there was any way you could have seen this coming.
What about a credit card chargeback? You can dispute your credit card charges under the Fair Credit Billing Act. You have to notify your bank so that it reaches the creditor within 60 days after the first bill. But for a transaction like this one, where you booked a train excursion months in advance, it probably wouldn’t work. Some banks will accept the dispute, but most won’t.
I contacted Show of the Month Club on your behalf. It refunded your $600.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Contact him at elliott.org/help or email@example.com.