Travel Company Closes Suddenly, Stranding Some Customers Mid-Trip

Talk about throwing a kink in your plans: A New Jersey travel company that had been operating for 47 years shut down without a warning this month, stranding customers with unfinished travel plans and in some cases, whisking their money away into the unknown. Just two days before the shutdown, the company was asking customers to pay in cash for a discount. Now, many are complaining that the company never paid for hotels, airlines or other accommodations.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger says the sudden shuttering of the company has prompted a flood of complaints from customers who used cash to pay, and now aren’t covered like they would be if they’d paid with a credit card. But when the newspaper reached the owner of the company, he didn’t explain what had happened.

“We hate what’s transpired,” he said. “We let them down.”

But for travelers like the woman who was stranded in Rome with her boyfriend in the midst of a $6,000, 10-day tour of Italy, that’s just not going to cut it. They paid cash to get a discount, and used airline points to pay for air fare. One day into the trip, the travel company closed down.

“They knew that we were going to be stranded and they let us leave,” the woman told the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

On the third day of the trip, their tour group was told to attend an “emergency meeting” at the hotel lobby, where a guide told travelers none of their reservations had actually been paid for. Including the hotel they were currently staying in, which posed quite a conundrum.

“She said, ‘Nothing has been paid for and everything has been canceled and this hotel has been booked up so after tomorrow, I don’t know where you’re going to stay,’” the women explained. She ended up having to pay $1,000 to settle the hotel bill.

The owner replied to the Star-Ledger via a LinkedIn message after the story’s reporter tracked him down on the social network.

“Unfortunately, a very tough market inhibited cash to the point that we were unexpectedly deluged with demands from Suppliers who also had bad economies to contend with,” he wrote in the message.

At least 166 travelers have filed complaints with the Division of Consumer Affairs since the shutdown on Oct. 2. The company that provides insurance on those trips says it has received 200 inquiries from customers of the travel company, regarding policies they thought they’d bought but had never been paid for.

Interestingly enough, neither the company nor its parents has filed for bankruptcy. Which means there could be money somewhere. One thing is clear, however  — that money hasn’t gone toward travel plans for its customers and isn’t back in their pockets where it should be.

Travel company shuttered with no warning, leaving N.J. tourists in vacation limbo [New Jersey Star-Ledger]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.