Q: I have a problem with Civitavecchia Shuttle, a ground transportation company in Italy. We decided to cancel our vacation in Rome last September and tried to get a refund for our shuttle reservations from Civitavecchia to Rome.
I paid for all three reservations with my Visa credit card. But when I contacted Civitavecchia Shuttle, a representative told me that they were trying to refund the money to my PayPal account.
I never used PayPal to make the shuttle reservation. I never canceled any payments in PayPal or even know how to use it. I think I should be refunded to my original payment method unless for some reason they can’t reimburse after this long of a time lapse. Could you help me get my money back?
— Maureen DiNafo, Delray Beach, Florida
A: You’re right, normally a business will refund your tickets to the original payment method. But these are not normal times.
I reviewed the correspondence between you and Civitavecchia Shuttle. A representative kept asking you for your PayPal information, insisting that the refund was not a scam. (It wasn’t.) But it looks like you rejected the money coming back from Civitavecchia Shuttle to a PayPal account.
I think what makes this problem so interesting is that I have a pile of cases where companies insisted — insisted! — that they refund to the customers’ original payment method. They did that even when the customers had closed their credit cards. I believe that in some instances, it was a ploy to keep their money.
But to have the opposite problem — well, that’s a “man bites dog” kind of story.
As far as I’m concerned, you should be able to receive a refund any way you want. Cash, credit, gold bullion. It doesn’t matter. A company may choose to place restrictions on how it sends refunds, but that doesn’t make it right.
It’s important to be cautious about accepting money from strangers on PayPal. I have a lot of cautionary tales about scams like that on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. But it appears the company identified itself by name, so you should have known that it was Civitavecchia Shuttle. And the assurances offered by the representatives that it is not a scam were believable.
I think the pandemic just turned everything on its head, including refund processes. If I had to guess, I’d say Civitavecchia Shuttle made some changes to its credit-card processing systems, which meant that it had to find another way to send refunds.
Incidentally, this is not just a pandemic issue. When you receive compensation for a delayed flight in Europe, the airline will ask for your bank account information. That’s common in Europe. Readers often ask me if that’s a scam. It isn’t.
I reached out to Civitavecchia Shuttle on your behalf, and it initiated a refund again. This time, I recommended that you accept the money. You figured out how to use your PayPal account, you accepted the money and now you have 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.