Billed for tour before accepting it

This item appears on page 31 of the May 2009 issue.

In December 2008, I called Grand Circle Travel to arrange March 2009 travel for two to Sicily. GCT calls the basic trip a “14-Day Extended Vacation.” They also offer a 6-night pretrip to Malta and a 7-night post-trip on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. I had hoped to arrange for air transportation and all three trip elements, which would include hotels and some meals plus travel insurance.

I provided credit card information, then asked to review the charged elements of my trip. As I was given the elemental costs, I challenged the travel insurance at $475 per person and the post-trip cost of $995 (listed in their catalog as “from only $795”) as being more than I wished to pay.

The agent said, “I must talk with Customer Services to resolve the matter.”

After a considerable wait on hold, the quoted costs were confirmed by a second GCT rep. When I requested that my trip arrangements be canceled, I was informed that my Visa account had already been billed $1,650 (a $350 deposit plus $475 in insurance times two). I could expect a refund within 30 days.

I had been on the phone with GCT continuously for less than 20 minutes, yet I could not cancel charges for a trip I had decided not to take. GCT has “order takers” and, in a different department, “order cancelers,” and only the former have instant access to Visa.

The lessons — do not provide credit card information to a tour company until you are fully satisfied with ALL arrangements and costs. And do not allow yourself to be put on hold or transferred to another party lest THEY decide your deal has been concluded.


West Hills, CA

ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Grand Circle Corp. (347 Congress St., Boston, MA 02210) and received the following reply.

Mr. Walton should not have been charged for his trip before he had given us permission to do so. Our sales associate must have assumed that when Mr. Walton provided his credit card information, he had intended to book the trip.

Mr. Walton has traveled with us several times, and we appreciate his business. We have provided him with a travel voucher as a gesture of goodwill and hope that he will choose to travel with us again.

PRISCILLA O’REILLY, Director, Public Relations, Grand Circle Travel