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Is asking for a refund for insurance on a broken train car reasonable?

Is asking for a refund for insurance on a broken train car reasonable?

Aug 22nd, 2007, 12:39 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 25
Is asking for a refund for insurance on a broken train car reasonable?

The situation: We had Eurail Selectpasses for our Europe trip that we took on July 22-August 4. We also purchased tickets for double deluxe sleepers for Paris to Munich on our third night in Europe along with insurance to cover theft or loss of the sleeper tickets. When we arrived at the train, we were escorted to a compartment with six upright seats - three on each side facing each other. The seats did not recline. There were four of us, so it was obvious we would not be able to lie down there. We were told that the train car that we were to ride in was broken and that we should contact our travel agent for a refund. Instead of a two deluxe sleeper cabins with private bathrooms and showers, we got standard seating with a stinky bathroom down the hall. (If we had purchased couchettes, which were cheaper, we would have had beds that night.) By the time we were told that there was no way we were getting a sleeping cabin, the train was in motion.

When we arrived in Munich the next morning we immediately went to the Eurail Aid office and were told that it was known a few days before our scheduled train ride that the car was not available.

I wrote a letter to the travel agent (Rail Europe) requesting a full refund of both the sleeper car tickets and the insurance. My rationale for asking for a refund on the insurance is that it was insurance on a product that, in essence, did not exist. I was promptly given a refund for the tickets, but not for the insurance because "a refund is not available on this product, even though exceptions are made to refund such vouchers only when returned to us prior to the US departure date. Not upon return home."

If I had been notified of the nonavailablity of the train, I would have asked for a refund before departure from the US but there is no sign that there was any attempt to notify me. I did have insurance on the Eurail passes and I could have easily gotten to Munich in the same manner as I did with only my Eurail pass.

Rail Europe is also saying that they did me a favor by refunding the price of regular seat reservations, which we would have incurred if we had not reserved sleepers. That makes sense EXCEPT that I would not have taken that train if I knew beforehand that there were no sleepers available.

I don't know if I'm being unreasonable in this request. I would appreciate any thoughts on this. Also I'd like to know for future travel if it would be better to purchase rail tickets through a different agent.
KatherineAM is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 12:50 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
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Ideally, it would be best to purchase tickets directly from the railroad involved (which can be done) on-line or otherwise.

Be aware that RailEurope is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the SNCF and the Swiss National Railroad system and serves as their marketing arm in North America.

I'm not sure there is much else you can do. I believe they market that "insurance" as covering loss or theft of a pass and not much else and, of course, they have all sorts of boilerplate stipulations for it which they will say you have agreed to.

perhaps others can be more helpful but in the future, if you are wiling to deal directly with the railroads I think you'll be better off, especially financially.

Recently we missed a GermanRail connection in Hamburg because the night train from Paris arrived one hour late. We had 1st Class seats reserved on the ongoing segment. No First Class seats were available on ANY of the subsequent ongoing segments so we rode in 2nd.

When we got home we mailed our receipts and documentation to the GermanRail office in Hamburg and they cheerfully refunded the difference in fare price, no questions asked.
Dukey is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 12:55 PM
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Posts: 3,789
Aside from taking Dukey's advice, I think I'd file this under "life's too short", and just let it go. In all sincerity.
Holly_uncasdewar is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 01:04 PM
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This is concerning a railpass, so the idea of buying tickets from a national railway isn't relevant here. The passes are the same price whether Raileurope sells them or anyone else.

To be honest, I consider myself rather a good reader and pretty sharp, but I couldn't follow your story. Maybe if I read it more times. I understand you didn't get sleeper cars because none were available and they refunded the diff. for a sleeper and a regular seat or something, which I think you were do.

I'm not sure about the insurance thing, but think I do and agree with you. YOu only bought insurance (I personally think insurance on rail tickets is something no one should ever buy, people try to insure every piddly little thing, it's not a good idea -- I'm in the insurance business, sorry, that's a professional rant) because of the sleeper tickets and there was really no sleeper car. If you hadn't bought those tickets, you could have sat in a regular seat with no extra fare, I guess, and would need no insurance.

So I agree with you, but it doesn't really matter if they won't give it to you and say they have a policy that insurance cannot be refunded. I suspect that may have been in the terms on the policy you bought, insurance does have terms always. If so, then you are being unreasonable to demand something that you agreed to buy, if you were given terms in writing before buying it (and you always should--that's another thing that amazes me is how many people buy insurance, like on SNCF, with no idea whatsoever what it covers).

I don't think telling them that Christina on Fodors forums says they should refund your money is going to scare them too much, but feel free to try.
Christina is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2007, 11:10 PM
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>No First Class seats were available on ANY of the subsequent ongoing segments

Just curious - where was this connection to? I have never ever seen first class completely filled, even on the worst days.
altamiro is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 12:21 AM
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First of all, I want to answer Christina...my response is totally relevant because the OP asked about future travel and if it would be, "better to purchase rail tickets through a different agent?"

IMO the answer is "yes" and I suggest that agent be the railroad itself.

Altamiro, the ongoing segment was to Copenhagen and if you've ever taken those trains, as I have in the past, you'll understand they are limited in size by the necessity of being rolled onto the Puttgarden-Rodby ferry.

When you've ridden the rails as much as I have you eventually run into just about everything including people who don't believe you when you post things.
Dukey is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 02:48 AM
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Sorry, I think your insurance money is doomed. Insurance is more like a service than a good; you start 'consuming' it the moment you buy it. At best, one sometimes hears of pro-rated arrangements. For example, let's say I cancel my annual auto insurance after selling the car. I might get the remaining time left on that year's policy at least partially refunded, but not the whole thing. In this example, just as in your sleeper car case, the automobile for all intents and purposes doesn't exist any longer, at least as far as I am concerned. But I still wouldn't get the entire cost of the insurance I took out on the auto back.

Additional factors also apply in your case. You bought a product, a rail pass, that unlike a car cannot be sold or returned partially used, if memory serves. It's an 'all-or-nothing' arrangement. Whether you use only part or all of it makes no difference. The insurance in turn covers an entire package - you can't select out those portions you want and expect not to pay for the rest. I agree that this makes both the pass and the insurance an expensive deal.

Thank you for telling us your story. The idea that sleeper cars can be rather capriciously taken out of service at virtually the last minute has given me just one more reason not to try overnighting on trains - although I know others have done so and found the experience positive. ( I also dislike the idea of using hotels as transportation, even more than the idea of using trains for accomodation.)
Sue_xx_yy is online now  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 03:04 AM
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I've used sleeping cars many times throughout Europe, and only once had this problem: the schedules had been disrupted by blizzards and the overnight train from Milano to Paris had only seats. It was the sort of weather that closed roads and airports, so no form of transport would have been easy. I had bought the sleeper ticket in Italy so wrote to the Italian Railways' refund department. My refund arrived in the post 20 months later, long after I had forgotten about it.
The insurance, as I understand it, was to cover loss or theft of the sleeper tickets. The tickets were not lost or stolen, so I don't understand why the insurance money should be refunded. How much does it cost to insure a train ticket?
GeoffHamer is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 03:27 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
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Your experience is a real bummer.

Did you purchase the sleepers on your third night in Paris or purchase them earlier in order to travel on your third night?

Is asking for a refund for insurance on a broken train car reasonable?
You will have to read the contract. Does the policy cover this?

If we had purchased couchettes, which were cheaper, we would have had beds that night.
I guess that the couchette was full. Otherwise I would have expected them to at least give you a couple of bunks in there.

hopscotch is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 04:49 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 170
I have purchased a 1st class Eurail 2 country pass and tried to get reservations in 1st class for a train from Amsterdam to Koblenz and only 2nd class is available (for Sept 7). For our return from Koblenz to Amsterdam on the 11th, 1st was available.

On the refund of insurance issue - only my opinion, but if I understand you correctly, they refunded the total cost of your train tickets - not just the difference between what you bought and what you got -- to me that was pretty decent. I know you would have taken a different train all together, but I think a full refund was good. Again, just mho.
queener is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 04:57 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi K,

Sorry to hear abut your bad experience.

I think that you're lucky that you got any refund at all.

ira is online now  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 06:30 AM
Original Poster
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Posts: 25
I think the consensus here is that I should not persue the refund on the insurance.

To clarify things, I had two separate sets of tickets: 1) The Eurail Selectpass covering five days of travel in France, Germany, and Switzerland in first class for my family (two adults, two youth) $1477 plus $17 each for insurance on the selectpass. 2) The sleeper cars $408 plus $40 for insurance on the sleeper car tickets only.

We bought both sets of tickets before departure from the United States.

In effect, since there was no sleeper car, the sleeper car tickets were not used at all. Our Eurail Pass is what got us from Paris to Munich that night. I hope this clarifies things.

So we are out $40 and a night's sleep. I can live with that. Lesson learned.
KatherineAM is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 06:36 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 64,251
Unless you mis spoke, they refunded both the sleeper fare AND the "price of regular seat reservations" - so they refunded everything but the insurance. I really don't see what else you expect.

The tickets were not lost/stolen, which is what you insured against.

You traveled for free, albeit not in the comfort you expected. I think you are already ahead in this deal.

janisj is online now  
Aug 23rd, 2007, 06:37 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 64,251
oops - our posts crossed.

I think you are wise to leave things as they are.
janisj is online now  

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