OAT warning

Dec 18th, 2004, 05:34 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Sure I agree with you 100%. Note, I didn't say it wasn't an economically sensible "short end of the stick". By your own posting, NYFS, they are even limited to the actual tours and tour companies they are able to choose from. Surely that IS being given the short end of the stick.
Patrick is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 05:34 AM
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I think NYCFoodSnob has summed it up pretty well.

As to any sort of legal recourse I am certain the attorneys have been over that "legal boilerplate" language about the company having the ability to cancel anyone at any time for any reason a hundred times so unless you want to spend a lot in legal fees to ultimately lose it isn't worth it.

They've lost your "goodwill" which is probably the most damage you'd ever hope to do to them.
Intrepid1 is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 06:01 AM
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I don't think anybody mentioned lawyers and they're the last folks that should ever be called in a travel dispute. However, writing the CEO is something I always recommend, whether you're looking for a response or not. Business owners NEED to hear from their customers, especially when they've let one down.

Single people don't get anywhere near the benefits that couples do, especially married couples. Don't get me started on the state of civil unions in this country. What a moral disgrace.

Life was never fair and there are plenty of people getting the short end of the stick.
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 06:22 AM
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I wouldn't take MikeBuckley's recommendation to send daily copies of this thread.

NYC's thinking about my comment is SO true. If we appear irrational, we won't get the desired response and deservedly so.

I used my words too casually and I didn't take the time to procvide the context. So ...

I would explain to the CEO that I am happy to occasionally provide updated copies of the full thread as a means of providing him or her an easy view of consumers' view of the situation. I would emphasize that it's not a threat, rather that is an opportunity for the CEO and travellers to be mutually informed.

On the subject of lawyers, just because they have poured over everything doesn't mean they have missed something (otherwise, there would be no need for governmental consumer affairs agencies that keep corporations in line), that the power of consumer activism isn't more important than the legal issue in question, or that the company's practices might not be aligned with the owners' values and might indeed be subject to change.

One thing we know for sure: this company has a business practice of treating its bumped customers rudely. Otherwise, they wouldn't have waited until four weeks prior to departure to bump the person, especially after having put the customer through the details of making special flight arrangements.

Contrast that with the one and only time I signed up with a tour group. It was advertised as a newly launched tour. The company emailed me at least four months prior to departure to inform me that bookings were running much slower than anticipated and that there was a strong possibility that it would be cancelled due to lack of interest. The email offered all sorts of alternatives, including immediately returning my deposit. And it ended with profound apologies. OAT apparently didn't take such admirable action.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 06:47 AM
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NYC: find out how much revenue is lost on single travelers, even with the supplement

I can't think of a business model that would render that to be true when taken literally with no other context. If the money is expected to be lost forever there would be no logic to making the offer unless it is a nonprofit corporation that intentionally sells its services at a loss (which indeed does happen).

I don't know the business models of the travel industry, but I suspect that tour agencies offer singles their services for several reasons. Allowing a single to travel would allow three people to travel together, the point being that making a trip available to a single traveler also allows the agency to sell services to the single's friends. Knowing there is a good chance that a single might return with a travelling companion in the future is making an investment in the future. There is no better advertising than word of mouth and a happy single traveler will spread the word among his or her friends that travel in pairs.

Though I can certainly understand that there is an opportunity cost of selling services to a single traveler instead of a pair of travelers, opportunity cost is not the same as losing money.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 07:50 AM
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SusieQQ, this is very surprising. My image of OAT/Grand Circle has always been that it is a very reputable organization.

If this happened to me, I would write a letter to the CEO and perhaps the senior marketing executive of OAT/Grand Circle expressing my disappointment. I don't think it is unreasonable to ask for a clarification of their policies so that you can understand how this happened and where in their marketing or trip documentation this is explained, and to let them know of the financial and other consequences you have incurred as a result. I also agree with NYCFS that threatening to publicize this will do little to help you.

I am surprised to hear that the practice of overbooking/bumping is routine with tours; waiting lists, certainly, but this?

Did you pay a single supplement? For the record, I had some discussions last year with OAT about a potential three-person trip to Thailand (which ended up being a two-person trip, on our own, to Hawaii -- go figure). Because of the accommodations available on that particular trip, it would have required one double and one single room. They were up-front in telling me that they could NOT offer a single supplement on the trip in which we were interested. We had some discussion about the risks involved, which were clearly presented to me as "the single can book at the standard price and may, at our discretion, end up sharing the room with another single traveler." Nothing was said about the potential of the single being bumped.

Thanks for sharing this, and good luck.
ms_go is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 07:52 AM
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Are you still hoping to book a trip during the same time period? Here are some other adventure travel agencies to consider: exodus.co.uk (I used them for a trip to Spain and was very impressed; they have trips to the Amazon) and sherpa.co.uk (we're planning to book a trip to Morocco with them in May - have received very good reviews).
Kate_W is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 08:34 AM
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First off Suzy, my condolences on what must have been a disappointment.

That said, we don’t know that financial gain was the reason why SuzyQ was bumped. Nor do we know that Suzy was the only person bumped, Suzy might have been one of several, including couples, who had to be bumped. Maybe the company’s suppliers were unable to supply as many hotel rooms as originally anticipated, or maybe the vehicle to be used was substituted by the supplier for a smaller one, who knows.

I do wonder why this cancellation took place at such short notice, but even if the reason were known, the fact remains is that Suzy’s vacation is shot. Sorry, Suzy, better luck next time.

Regarding the issues of singles and the short stick, a few observations:

A single room is not ½ of a double room, unless the room comes with shared bath or someone has figured out a way to plumb in ½ a toilet, ½ a sink, etc. etc. Thus, the cost of a single room is not ½ of double occupancy, but more like 2/3 (or greater if no single rooms are available at some of the hotels.) Thus the single supplement.

Bookings per se have a flat-fee cost associated with them, be this a booking of a entire tour or just a car rental. The paperwork and other costs (e.g. sales and advertising and other administrative overhead) associated with single bookings is often the same, or almost the same, as for double bookings, but the revenue generated is only ½ that of a double booking. Again, this means that single bookings overall are less profitable than multiple bookings.

Nonetheless, singles are a fact of life, and companies have to factor this into their overall business plan. A company doesn’t necessarily lose money if it books singles: obviously percentage occupancy is the greater if one books 20 singles than 8 doubles. If a company’s profit margin is so slim that they are bumping the 19th single in order to fill the 19th and 20th spaces with a double, particularly at the last moment, then something is wrong.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 09:09 AM
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I am absolutely shocked that this would happen. They accepted your reservation in good faith (and took your money!), and it's reprehensible that they would bump you at the last minute like this.
They should offer you MORE than your money back. At least the airlines do that when they bump someone! What if you had penalties for cancelling airline ticket? What about the cost for your shots? Plus all the other inconveniences you may have suffered with arrangements for the trip. I would
NEVER use this company in a million years.
Sue4 is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 09:37 AM
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Well...since the last three paragraphs of Sue_xx_yy's 12:34 pm post were well written, I must direct MikeBuckley to accept her comments as my own in response to his recent question on "business models." In a new effort to control my verbose nature here at TT, I don't feel inclined to write and explore all possible contexts to explain every comment I make, generally speaking or not. Forgive me. I assume everyone is intelligent enough to work these things through (unless I indicate otherwise).

The truth behind SusieQQ's last minute cancellation doesn't really matter. What's done is done. How the company responds to a well written complaint can often determine a longer lasting reputation.
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 10:07 AM
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Wow! There sure are a lot of Susans (Sue, Suzie or whatever) participating in this thread.

Sue xx yy: we don’t know that financial gain was the reason why SuzyQ was bumped.

If we are to believe SusieQQ, we do indeed know that's the case. She reported that they always overbook this trip and there were no cancellations. Thus, the decision by OAT is for financial reasons.

Nor do we know that Suzy was the only person bumped

Why would the number of people being bumped matter?

Sue 4: They should offer you MORE than your money back. At least the airlines do that when they bump someone!

Is that really true? Years ago I was bumped and nobody offered me anything for having been bumped. The airline had had my money and reservation for more than six months. I finally received compensation but only because I was patiently persistent at the airport, which was use of my time and their time that could have been put to far better use if the airline had simply done what was right in the first place.

NYC: In a new effort to control my verbose nature here

Obviously, I have made no such effort.

MikeBuckley is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 11:28 AM
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If you're making a bid for the verbosity crown, need I say that I plan to be a contender.

I stand corrected: SusieQQ did indeed report that the company told her that they made a point of overbooking. My bad!

However, we still don't know enough about the situation to conclude that the benefits of overbooking reside solely with the company, or in other words, that this situation is solely to their gain, financial or otherwise. Deliberate overbooking is generally done to maximize occupancy. However, maximizing occupancy might not just be in the company's interest, it might also enable this company to offer their service at a lower price than what might otherwise be the case. Of course, the advantages of this arrangement only apply to the consumers of the service as a whole: unhappily, the disadvantages have to be borne by specific individuals. This time around, SusieQQ was the, or at least one of the, unlucky individuals. She did indeed get the short end of the stick this time around.

As to the matter of why it would matter whether SusieQQ was the only one bumped, I was simply responding to the insinuations in subsequent posts that the OP was bumped because she was a single, along with the suggestion that this was just more proof that singles get the short end of the stick. As I said, I agree that SusieQQ got the short end this time round, but the reason for her getting it doesn't necessarily follow from her being a single.

Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 12:15 PM
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I somehow got on the OAT mailing list and have considered their tours often, but haven't yet done one, mainly because of lack of time. But I'd be a single traveler and SusieQQ has made me afraid to book with them. Thanks for the head up. I think I'll start tossing their brochures into the trash.
Dec 18th, 2004, 01:46 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 715
Makes sense, Sue xx yy.

This thread reminds me that I had forgotten that I actually took a tour once. It was a 75th birthday present for my mother. Not to bore anyone with the details, but I can't imagine how we would have coped had we been bumped at the relatively last minute as has happened to Susie.

If OAT regularly overbooks tours, I'd be willing to bet that they aren't the only company that does so. Buyer beware!
MikeBuckley is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 02:47 PM
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OAT is related to Grand Circle as someone pointed out. We had a TERRIBLE time with them in Sept. 2001. Lots of people (including me) didn't want to leave on trips that were leaving immediately after 9/11. But they didn't permit cancellations. People spent hours holding on the phone for info. When we arrived in Amsterdam to board the boat for river cruise we found a boat full of people in open revolt. Think GC has changed some of their policies since then... but I've been wary ever since. Too bad, because the river cruise itself was very nice. Bottom line, I think, is...they have a nice product but don't expect much hand holding when things go wrong. Oh yes... letters to the CEO went unanswered or were responded to with form letters touting their virtues.
Grandma is offline  
Dec 19th, 2004, 07:58 AM
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Mike, I wouldn't be surprised that other tour companies practice overbooking either. It's certainly the case that airlines practice overbooking, too, although they tend to put out a call for volunteers first (with compensation packages offered). On that note, I wonder if OAT would at least consider implementing such a 'bump-volunteers-if-possible' clause to their policy. Who's to say someone, in response to a general emailing from OAT, wouldn't have voluntarily bumped themselves in exchange for a substantial discount off their rebooked tour? People vary in their ability to reschedule vacation time, so there might have been someone on SusieQQ's original tour who might have been a more suitable candidate for bumping, and a more willing candidate into the bargain.

Meanwhile, SusieQQ, I would say you have a claim to having 'paid your dues' and ought to be excluded, by default, from any further bumping from OAT, at least in the near future. So while I wouldn't blame you for not wanting to do business with OAT again, consider that you do have some leverage with them now, leverage that you don't have with other companies (and who might just practice overbooking too.)

SusieQQ, I do wish you luck, and I do feel for the frustration and disappointment this fiasco must have caused you.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Dec 19th, 2004, 08:31 AM
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You're right. There are times when someone might welcome the chance to choose to be bumped. I traveled to Turkey with OAT in October and I loved my trip. But up until less than a week before my trip I was considering canceling because of a knee problem, and I would've been very very happy to have an option to give up my space and re-book for the following year. (The only reason I didn't cancel was I was I was afraid there would be some snag with the travel insurance provider re their interpretation of the date when my knee problem started, since I'd had some sort of problem for several months, but not a critical problem until a week or two after I bought the insurance.)
cmt is offline  
Dec 19th, 2004, 10:31 AM
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I can't believe people are actually advising you, SusieQQ, to try again with this OAT company!

They had an obligation to you, as you did to them. You fulfilled your end, they did not---and for no reason, you believe, other than greater financial gain. The very best companies know that it is in their long-term financial health to use business practices that are fair, ethical, and open to scrutiny. This travel company---REGARDLESS of how much some posters might have enjoyed their tour that they were't capriciously bumped from---falls far short of that standard. I hope you would not ever consider booking with them again. As one who has heard your story, I would never consider doing business with them. In the short run, companies can make more money, quicker, by cutting corners on ethics. But they will not, and should not, survive. The real power of the marketplace is in the hands of the consumer, who can politely, but firmly, tell the company where to go by keeping his or her checkbook closed.
kswl is offline  
Dec 19th, 2004, 03:14 PM
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Of course SuzieQQ has the option of not choosing this company again. However, there is little to be gained by encouraging her or anyone else to believe that a boycott would, in and of itself, encourage the company to have its policies better serve the interests of all concerned. Driving a company out of business, even if it were as easy as many on this board seem to think, doesn’t magically lead to the remaining companies in the industry doing business more effectively. What’s more, driving companies out of business amounts to reducing the amount of competition, which isn’t necessarily good for consumers either. One might just jump out of the frying pan, and into something worse.

It can be frustrating when someone breaks a contract, but not necessarily unethical. Besides, if every contract into which we entered were signed in blood, few of us would want to entertain entering into any contract at all.

Going back to threats and punitive measures, consider that these are some of the most abused tactics in business (and we won’t even get into politics, particularly the international variety.) Strikes and boycotts not infrequently cost their participants more than the results achieved. Employers who make a practice of firing their employees on the slightest pretext soon find that the cost of hiring and training a new candidate can be prohibitive.

Consider that ‘teaching them a lesson’ might in the long run not be as much to anyone’s benefit, as doing what one can to efficiently improve the situation.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Dec 19th, 2004, 05:28 PM
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What you say simply does not apply in this situation. Boycotts, on a large scale, are a remarkably effective way to change a company's behavior---as are strikes. In this case, I am not advocating a "boycott" per se; rather, that someone who has been abused by a tour company simply refuse to use them again. How would that be harmful to her in the long run? There is nothing as personally satisfying as refusing to "play" when the game is rigged. In my opinion.
kswl is offline  

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