After Laura Keir pays for her Club Med vacation, she receives another bill for $3,000. If she doesn’t pay, she can’t check in. What should she do?
Q: I booked a mother-daughter trip to Club Med Cancun. Before making the reservation, I spent two days working with a travel agency specializing in Club Med. She helped me with preliminary planning but did not review the airport I wanted or the type of room I mentioned.
I booked the trip online directly on the Club Med website and paid. I have the booking confirmation email showing that it has been paid in full with no outstanding amount or balance remaining. I also booked the flights myself.
I immediately contacted the travel agent and thanked her for her time. She asked for my reservation number and said she would get my file. I thought she would get a referral credit, and that was fine with me.
Somehow Club Med modified my reservation with a new reservation number and a deposit of over $3,000. The travel agent contacted me with the bill and told me it was due that day. But she wasn’t my travel agent. I did not give him my credit card information or my contact details. I haven’t signed anything with his agency.
I had paid $4,152 directly to Club Med. My credit card statement shows the payment I made. The travel agent’s invoice shows a different amount. Now I can’t reach anyone at Club Med.
I don’t know how it happened. The travel agent tells me that Club Med won’t let me check in unless I pay the balance. Also, I can’t cancel without losing the money I paid. I have to leave for Mexico in a few days. Can you help me fix this, please? —Laura Keir, Glen Allen, Virginia
A: I see what happened to you. You felt guilty asking a travel agent for help, but then booked yourself, so you thought you’d let the agent take a commission from your vacation. But then things took an unexpected turn.
I will come back to that in a moment. But first, let’s talk about travel agents, or travel counselors, as they are now called. Agents make most of their money by taking commissions from a travel provider like Club Med. (Club Med reportedly pays agents up to 15% on bookings.)
So when you asked an agent for help and they started offering vacation options, they weren’t doing it just because they were helpful. She wanted to book the vacation and get her commission. You knew that, so when you booked the Club Med stay yourself, you gave them your confirmation number and allowed them to take over the booking.
This is where this drama should have ended. But it looks like Club Med somehow repriced your vacation and then presented the new bill to your agent. I spoke with your travel agent and she didn’t know why Club Med was charging you an extra $3,000.
I publish Club Med executive contacts on my nonprofit consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/club-med/. You could have emailed one of the names and asked for an explanation. I think a quick, polite note might have solved this mystery quickly.
I contacted your travel agent, who contacted Club Med on your behalf. Apparently, Club Med’s accounting department made a mistake and “modified” the price of your vacation package (that’s industry parlance for charging more). The company has reinstated your original reservation – minus the $3,000.
Christopher Elliott is the Advocacy Director of Elliott Advocacy, a non-profit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or [email protected]