Travel Agency Charges For Airline Tickets, Cancel Tickets, Can't Be Reached For Refund

Dhanushka is having some trouble getting money back from his travel agent. He writes,

Last January I purchased two tickets from Kansas to Sri Lanka from a travel agent to go on a vacation in May to June. When I went to the airport with two paper tickets in hand I was informed that my tickets were canceled by the Travel Agent. This was due to the negligence of the travel agent. So I had to spend two nights in a hotel while they book me on another flight which was a much difficult route than the route that I was intended to fly.

So after getting back from my vacation I wrote them an e-mail asking for a partial refund of the tickets for all my expenses, trouble and lost two paid vacation days. This was about 2 weeks ago and after that I have given them 14 calls but they have been avoiding me. Telephone operator always tell me that currently the agents are unavailable and that they would get back to me.

This is a small travel agency based in NY, http://topholidaystravel.com, (not a big name like Orbitz or anything). They mainly cater to Sri Lankans who lives in USA and goes to Sri Lanka for vacation.

1. Is there anyway that I can persuade them to get a partial refund?
2. If that didn’t work out I’m filing a complain with BBB in NY. Any advice?
3. Is there a Travel agent association or something like that which I can report to?
4. Since it’s located in NY and I’m located in Kansas, I don’t think that I could go to Small Claim Court. Any advice o this too.
5. I’m planning on creating a web page with the whole story (in my web site) and e-mail the link to all the Sri Lankans I know and ask them to forward it to their friends as well. Am I doing anything wrong here? Can they take any action against me for doing this?

Normally I would just advise doing a chargeback. Unfortunately, Dhanushka paid by check. So then, to answer his questions:

1. Find somehow to get past the customer service line and reach an actual decision maker and pitch them your case. Don’t settle for a call-back. Demand to speak to a supervisor or manager immediately.

2. It’s a pretty straightforward process and you just fill in a few fields online. The complaint, beyond the satisfaction of warning other people, will only be effective if the place cares about its BBB reputation. Since it’s so small, I checked and it doesn’t even look like they’re BBB members. So this may be wasting your keystrokes.

3. Dunno, but I do know it would depend on whether they actually belong to one.

4. You can go to small claims, but you’ll have to take a trip to New York and file there, and then either hang around until or come back when you get your court date.

5. 100% protection against libel or getting sued is the truth. As long as you tell the 100% truth, you are fine. Here is an article I wrote about fighting back against companies by making a complaint webpage. You do, however, take a chance that it will blow all your chances of getting money back from the company (without an outside agency forcing them to). You might be better off finding a way to leapfrog over the customer service people to the real people in charge (either by phone or by letter) and tell them that if you don’t get your money back, then you will launch the webpage. A threat is much more effective if you tell them about it before deploying it.

Lastly, not to kick you while you’re down, but I checked out the travel agency’s webpage, and it was just a stock image and their contact information. To me, that screams sketchy. If a company doesn’t represent themselves professionally, it’s a pretty good sign that other parts of their business aren’t going to be professional either.

Good luck!

(Photo: Getty)