9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013
Brian Durbin's destination wedding is off to a bad start. His travel agent isn't returning his calls and he and his fiancee are afraid everything isn't going to run smoothly. What do you do when your travel agent goes AWOL?
Q: My fiancee and I are planning our destination wedding in Jamaica this summer and are using a travel agent to book our guests and us. We're also using the travel agent for our honeymoon at a different resort on the island. We will be in Jamaica for two weeks. There are about 40 people booked at this time, with only a couple more to book. She has been going through Apple Vacations to help book the flights and hotels.
Our problems began back at the beginning of this year. Our agent had a couple of relatives pass away. We have tried to call and email the agent several times with little or no response. We even went to her house (she works from home) and talked with her in person, voicing our concern of the lack of communication.
We also have asked her, on a couple of occasions, to charge part of our stay to our credit card. She has not done this yet. We would like to space out the charges so we don't get hit with it all at once.
We have also requested that we be included on correspondence with our guests so we know who has booked and who has not. The lack of communication from her is very frustrating.
What can we do? How would we go about firing her? -- Brian Durbin, Terre Haute, Ind.
A: I'm sorry to hear things aren't working out with your travel agent. A honeymoon is probably one of the most important vacations of your life, so you want everything to be perfect. That's why you use a travel agent to make arrangements.
For years, I've recommended using a competent travel agent for a honeymoon. But that doesn't mean every agent will do a good job. In your case, unfortunately, the agent appears to have had a series of personal problems that sidetracked her from doing her job. That can happen.
You did the right thing by bringing your concerns to the agent first. She should have realized that she couldn't provide the level of service you needed for a destination wedding and honeymoon, and offered to transfer your reservation to a colleague. But that didn't happen.
Your next step would have been to appeal to Apple Vacations. It could have also transferred your reservation either to another agent or turned it into a direct booking, which doesn't use an agent.
I asked Apple about your reservations. It reviewed your file and contacted the agent on your behalf. Your agent has since then "stepped up," according to Apple Vacations, and is taking care of your reservation -- an assessment with which you agree. Enjoy your honeymoon.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.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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