Sunday, May 25, 2014

Be a knowledgeable travel consumer

As I promised in my last post, when I settled my dispute with Cunard then I would come back to my readers with the result of my diligent use of what is available in my state to address consumer issues—I started with Better Business Bureau, and I found using this method is not going to help resolve an issue with a travel agent, or any other business, this is a business site, and they favor the business you are complaining about.  I sent through 3 rounds of answers and after the last round the Better Business Bureau mediator asked me if I was satisfied with the travel agents reply.  I wrote back to say that Direct Line Cruises has not offered a settlement, and I was not satisfied since that the agency claimed they aren't responsible for what happened when I was on board the Queen Mary 2.    

I waited a few days before I went online and put in the name of the travel agency site in my search engine, and then I saw the Better Business Bureau listing below had given Direct Line Cruises an award for customer satisfaction—they listed 3 complaints as satisfactorily settled—I used the link and saw that my complaint was listed as advice:  DON'T COMPLAIN TO THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU.

The next source I used was my state Consumer Fraud Bureau—I filed an online complaint, and within a week I received an email from the clerk who was handling my file, and the clerk suggested that the Attorney General would be the best source of help for me.  I called the Consumer Fraud Bureau and gave them the file #, and I was connected to the clerk who wrote me the e-mail.  I asked if she could forward my file to the Attorney General's office, and she said she would.  I waited 2 weeks and then I called the Attorney General's Consumer help line, and I advised the lawyer who answered what the Consumer Fraud Bureau clerk had told me—that's when I learned that the Consumer Fraud Bureau had not sent my file, and I was told that this is the usual result of filing a complaint with the Consumer Fraud Bureau. 

I was advised to write the Attorney General's office in my area and send all the particulars with copies of whatever will prove my claim—I must have been lucky at that point—the lawyer told me that the travel agency's compliance would be voluntary and that they hadn't had too much success in settling claims.  He told me to try the US Federal Maritime Agency, and gave me a telephone number that was at no charge to me.  He also noted that I should make a complaint to the Maritime Consumer Line, since the Maritime Agency established a special department to resolve lost cargo and baggage shipped by sea.  And he suggested that it wouldn't hurt to send them a complaint as well.

A number of lucky coincidences aided me to get a settlement from Cunard that was more acceptable that the $100 check they sent me, which I sent back.  With the US Federal Maritime Agency's help, my complaint re the contract with Cunard to store my luggage for which I paid, was diligently handled by the lawyer in charge of the Consumer department, her assistant contacted Carnival's law department.  The Carnival lawyer resubmitted my claim to the Cunard dba Princess Cruise claim department, and I received another interpretation of baggage loss which made no sense insofar as the explanation—Cunard dba Princess Cruises Claims Manager listed the Athens 1979 Convention's baggage loss compiled in Euros and then converted to dollars, which was considerably more than the original $100 sent to me so disdainfully.

My loss was not completely covered but the settlement offered was almost the price of the one-way transatlantic cruise—I was sent a legal document to sign that absolved Cunard from any legal action on my part, and absolved them from any wrong doing.

All in all, my pursuit for justice took 7 months, I still haven't received the check, but Carnival must be holding their money for accounting purposes, and it may take a few months before I receive it. 

And, the Attorney General in my state forwarded my complaint to one of their offices in the same county as Direct Line Cruises, I still haven't heard, perhaps something else will develop re a settlement for my considerable loss, this time maybe the travel agency will step up to their responsibility.

Watch for my next post...

The motto of a knowledgeable consumer should be, ask questions before you book a cruise, keep in mind what happened to me, and ask questions before you book a tour—it's a good idea to check out what the airline you book will pay for lost baggage, and what they are willing to do in the event your flight is cancelled and you are left stranded at a stopover.