Advantageous exchange rate

By Ron Merlo
This item appears on page 12 of the August 2021 issue.

In October 2019, I booked back-to-back, 8-day tours in Italy with the British company Travelsphere (Unit P, Welland Industrial Estate, Valley Way, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 7PS, U.K.; phone +44 1858 415 128,

Scheduled for September 2020, the first trip was to the island of Elba (from where my maternal grandparents emigrated to America in 1907), and the second trip included the Cinque Terre on Italy’s northwestern coast.

In July 2020, when the balance for my trips was coming due, I emailed Travelsphere requesting a refund because American travelers were not welcome in Europe at that time because of COVID-19. A quick response indicated that a full refund would be provided.

Over the next 10 months, I did not hear anything more from the company and wasn’t sure if they would survive the loss of travel business. On May 13, 2021, however, I received an email from Travelsphere indicating that they were in the process of arranging to refund my booking deposits (£400 for each tour) by wire transfer. All I had to do was tell them where to wire the money.

I chose the option to call the company rather than enter that information on a website, but, with the 8-hour time difference, I only had a few hours each morning to make the call, and my attempts were met with busy signals.

On May 20, after I sent an email requesting that someone call me in the morning, an agent called and took my bank information. A few days later when I checked my account, I saw that the transfer had taken place. However, I had two booking reference numbers, and only one of the tours had been refunded.

I emailed the agent and asked if a second payment was coming. She responded quickly and apologized for the oversight, and two days later I got the balance of my refund.

I was glad to have gotten the full refund and was out only the cost of the travel insurance I had purchased from Travel Guard (about $120) to cover my deposit, but there is more to my story.

When I compared my two refunds, I noticed that I had gotten about a dollar more on the second one. This must have been due to a change in the exchange rate that happened in the few days between transactions. This got me thinking about what the exchange rate had been when I paid the original deposit.

After a little investigating and number crunching, I discovered that I had gotten more dollars back than I had originally paid. As it turned out, the difference in numbers was big enough to cover the cost of my travel insurance, so I ended up recovering all of my trip expenses, plus a few dollars more!

Glendale, CA