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How do you know if a tour company is reputable?

How do you know if a tour company is reputable?

Old Jul 28th, 2006, 06:16 PM
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How do you know if a tour company is reputable?

I'm planning to sign up for a photography tour to Venice. I found the company doing a web search. They appear to have been in business a number of years, and I have no reason to believe they are not reputable...but, I feel it prudent to do my research. Are there websites you would recommend to check out a tour company? Whether there have been complaints against them?

I was hoping they would take a credit card deposit as there is a little protection there, but they are requesting a cash deposit. I have never taken a tour so I don't know what is standard operating procedure. The tour looks fabulous and I may hate myself later for passing on the opportunity.

I would appreciate your advice.
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Old Jul 28th, 2006, 06:52 PM
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Hi LUVTOTRAVEL,

ASTA is a good place to start. You can also ask the tour company if they're affiliated with any particular organization. Many like to brag about that if they do! I'm a former travel agent and do still get a lot of publications, what's the name of the company?

I don't know company you found but if it's by chance Toscana Photographic Workshop, they are a reputable company.

http://www.tpw.it/

The have some great examples posted online---it always inspires me and makes me think, "why didn't I take that shot?"

I can tell you that it is common for tour companies based in Europe to ask for a cash deposit or a wire deposit and many don't deal in credit cards at all.


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Old Jul 28th, 2006, 10:14 PM
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Hi ILUVPARIS. How fortunate that you were a travel agent -- with all the travel perks, I hope.

The tour company is www.light-fantastic.com and they are located in California, like me. The tour is in Venice during Carnivale. In addition to photo instruction, they hire models in costumes. I haven't found any other photo tour like it, and I haven't been able to get my mind off it. I was on a business trip last week to Alaska and bought a hat with a cold Venice in mind.

I will check with ASTA -- I knew there was something out there with four initials -- and I'll ask the tour company about their affiliations. Good advice. Thanks. By the way, I love Paris too.
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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 12:50 AM
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If you are that concerned, Luvtotravel, I would check with the local Better Business Bureau and ask if any complaints have been filed against the company.

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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 01:54 AM
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Hi luv,

I took a look at Ms Perry's website.

Very impressive. Rates are not bad.

I hope that this works out for you.

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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 04:28 AM
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With all due respect, nobody, in any meaningful sense, can be his/her own reference, and even the testimonials of former clients ought ideally to be somewhere that is at least nominally independent (e.g., tripadvisor - and even that site requires a little skepticism.) It isn't just a matter of trust in someone's honesty, it is also a matter of trusting in their competence to provide the service. (For example, one might trust one's clergyman with one's life and and even one's immortal soul, but not necessarily with one's financial investments.)

I would repost using a heading with "photography tour" in it. There are shutterbugs here, including some from the photography trade, who are 'known' well enough on this board to suffice as a reference, and who might have heard of a given tour. You might also try boards and websites, not to mention magazines, specific to the photography trade.

As I have never used PayPal, I cannot comment as to whether this service offers protection similar to a credit card, but you might wish to look into it. It might be worth it to you to underwrite any associated costs with using this service.

Okay, all of this aside, you might want to take a chance on your gut, depending on the size of the deposit and any back-up plan you might be able to devise in the event of a hitch.
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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 04:34 AM
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lightfantastic-It's not ethical for you to come onto a forum like this and answer questions about your service.Too much like advertising.Leave it to your happy clients to rave about you.
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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 04:43 AM
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Personally, I would not deal with any US based company that did not accept credit cards. Credit cards offer an added layer of protection for the consumer.

Non delivery of services doesn't have to be from disnhonesty. It can occur due to business errors or from problems beyond the company's control.

It certainly is a professional looking website. However, I would go to photosig ( http://www.photosig.com/go/main) and post a message in the forums section asking for experience with light-fantastic
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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 06:23 AM
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Hi Luvtotravel,

I'm sorry, can't help you out on this one. I've never heard of Light Fantastic but, that doesn't necessarily mean anything bad because there's probably lots of small niche tour companies that I'm not familiar with.

I agree with Dukey, try the BBB and make sure there are no complaints. I have to think if they're US based and don't take credit cards, that indicates this is a real small operation. I don't know how they survive on cash only. I know of a few tour operators that prefer cash and they charge a surcharge of 3% for paying by credit card but at least they take them!

If you decide to take the this photo tour, or any other, please post back because I'd love to hear about it!

Sadly, I got into the travel business in the late 90's and was an agent for a couple years. This was long after agents were getting the real good deals. I'm now back in the business world doing finance but at least I can afford to travel!

Let us know what you decide to do!
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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 07:38 AM
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I never meant to imply that I thought the company a sham. I have every reason to believe they are reputable. I've never taken a tour and threw out the question on how to research a company -- just as I throw out many questions as I plan my trips. The advice I've received on this board has been of great value for many years.

massagediva, I don't see Gale's post as advertising -- just responding. I'm thrilled to know that she is also a Fodorite--I've never met anyone else who's active on the board.
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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 09:22 AM
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If they do not accept credit cards, you absolutely should not under any circumstacne book the tour. If they stop operating, (and companies 50 times large than this one have stopped operating) your money is gone and you have no protection. If you use a credit card you stand a decent chance of getting your money back. Not to mention what it says about a company that does not accept credit cards
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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 10:09 AM
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Know nothing about this company in particular. But any company dealing with significant amounts of money - $100 up - that doesn;t take credit cards is questionable. (After all would you buy anything sizeable - furniture, appliance etc - from a company that wouldn;t take a credit card?)
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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 01:52 PM
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luvtotravel-Think about everyone who asks for an opinion about a certain hotel.Do we want the hotel owners responding with how great they are?
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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 04:25 PM
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yes, actually I would, because owners may know things that a random person on Fodors does not, and perhaps can explain the way things work. You don't have to believe them, if you don't want, but I want all the input I can get. In this case, the owner explained things about the company, and also explained that they are not a travel agent (I never thought they were, from the description, tours are not).

I don't call that advertising, either, just responding to a query. If a person starts initiating their own posts or mentioning their company in every post not even barely related or asking about it, that is advertising.

You never know about the credit card thing. I do know some companies don't take them to keep the cost down, as they do cost the vendor money, but sometimes charge you the fee if you want to use them. It's funny how when you see the difference, a lot of people don't want to pay it. I know people running small, niche tour companies and they don't take credit cards, either.
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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 04:28 PM
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Isn't it Gale who is the owner of Light Fantastic? I thought I read that here and she did post to advertise. At least it seems that way. It's on another thread, but I don't recall which one.
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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 05:11 PM
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francophile03 -- Gale did post here and it appears that Fodors pulled it off. Shame on them as she said nothing inappropriate.

I would like to see this post fall to the bottom, and, quite frankly, I'm sorry I posted it. It was never meant to be personal. If you look at her website you will see the most absolutely wonderful travel photography and you will want to run out and buy a plane ticket to somewhere...anywhere.

Diane
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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 05:37 PM
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I know that when I reading her post it read like an ad. At least another person thought so too and noted it.
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Old Jul 29th, 2006, 05:39 PM
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I don;t think anyone here is claiming that this company/person has any evil intent. It's just that stuff happens (often due to no one's faul) especially connected to travel. And if you have not paid via credit card you have no protection.

It's not just this company or situation. But I would never buy anything more expensive than a dinner except with a credit card.
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