Travel Troubleshooter: Voucher wasn't a deal
- Article by: CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT
- August 17, 2013 - 2:00 PM
Q: I’m writing to you in the hope that you can help resolve a dispute I am having with Living Social.
I purchased two Living Social vouchers for a Costa Rica trip, for $1,799 each. According to the advertisement, the voucher represented a 40 percent savings over the regular price of the trip. I purchased the vouchers specifically because they represented a significant savings.
After I booked the trip, I contacted the tour operator directly. I asked for a breakdown of the costs of the excursions on the trip. When I conducted my own research, I found that the total price of the trip was approximately $200 less than I had paid.
The tour operator refused to provide a breakdown, but agreed to cancel the reservation and waive the cancellation fee since, in a representative’s words, we “bought something different to what you thought you were purchasing.”
Living Social has declined to refund the voucher, since the 30 days we have to ask for a refund had already passed. Now they are both marked as “used” so I can’t even take a vacation. I think Living Social misrepresented one of its vouchers. What do you think?
A: If Living Social promised you a deal, you should have received one. But this one’s a little complicated. Bear with me while I break it down.
According to Living Social, you inadvertently bought two vouchers. You needed only one. So when you contacted the company the first time, describing your problem, someone should have mentioned that you bought more vouchers than you required.
If your voucher was really saving you 40 percent, then your math should have added up, even if the tour operator didn’t reveal the exact cost of each component. Tour operators rarely do that, because they make money by buying in bulk, repackaging the tour and selling it to you. (You still save money, because you’re often paying less than the list price.)
Of course, the time to research whether a deal’s a deal is before you buy the voucher, not after buyer’s remorse sets in. You might have been stuck with two useless vouchers, but you got lucky. It turns out the tour operator has gone out of business. Living Social offered you a full refund on both vouchers.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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