Hey, where's my refund?

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Matthew Del Bontago finds a better price on his seven-day, all-inclusive vacation and cancels his initial reservation. But more than eight weeks later there's no refund. What's taking so long?

Q: I've read your columns frequently over the past several years and always wondered if I'd ever need your help. Well that day has come. I need assistance in obtaining a refund from Palace Resorts. I paid $2,785 for a seven-day, all-inclusive vacation at their Aventura Spa Palace resort in Cancun, Mexico a few months ago. I had no problems whatsoever with that reservation.

But last fall, the Palace had a sale, and I was able to cancel that initial reservation and book a new reservation for a cheaper rate, saving me $278. I was told by the agent that my refund would be processed in six to eight weeks.

It didn't happen. The credit card with which I made the original reservation was lost, so I had to send additional information to the company. Since then, I have not received any communication from anyone at Palace Resorts regarding my refund. I have sent multiple emails, and have been told each time that someone else who can help with refunds would contact me. I've tried everything, including contacting their public relations manager on Twitter and using "live" chat.

I've been promised that "someone" will get back to me very soon, but instead there has been zero communication in any form back from the personnel at Palace Resorts. Can you help? -- Matthew Del Bontago, Berkeley, Calif.

A: Your refund should have been processed promptly. Not in six to eight week or six to eight months. The process should have taken about as long as it took Palace to remove the money from your credit card -- that would be roughly six to eight seconds.

I'm willing to allow a little time for the credit card switch. Most travel companies have a policy that any refund must go back the same way it came. So in your case, they were trying to send it back to the credit card through which you made your purchase. But even the strictest policy must allow for credit card theft or loss. This can't be the first time Palace had to refund to another card.

You went to great lengths to get your refund, and you did all the right things, keeping a paper trail, always appealing to someone higher up -- and still nothing happened. By the time I got involved, almost three months had passed.

As an additional measure, you might have contacted your credit card company and disputed the first charge. The emails from Palace promising a refund might have been sufficient to push through a refund.

I contacted Palace Resorts on your behalf. It credited your card immediately.

(Christopher Elliott is the author of "Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals" (Wiley). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org. Christopher Elliott receives a great deal of reader mail, and though he answers them as quickly as possible, your story may not be published for several months because of a backlog of cases.)

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