DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I booked a mother-daughter trip to Club Med Cancun. Before making the reservation, I spent two days working with a travel agent specializing in Club Med. She helped me with preliminary planning but did not look into the airport I wanted or the room type I mentioned.
I booked the trip online directly through the Club Med site and paid for it. I have the booking confirmation email showing it paid in full, with no outstanding amount or remaining balance. I also booked the flights myself.
I immediately contacted the travel agent and thanked her for her time. She asked me for my booking number and said she would get my file. I thought she would get a referral credit, and I was fine with that.
Somehow, Club Med changed my reservation with a new booking number and a deposit due of over $ 3,000. The travel agent contacted me with the invoice and said it was due that day. But she was not my travel agent. I did not give her my credit card information or contact information. I did not sign anything with her 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 not reach anyone at Club Med.
I do not know how this happened. The travel agent tells me that Club Med will not let me check in if I do not pay the balance. Also, I can not cancel without losing the money I paid. I’m supposed to leave for Mexico in a few days. Can you help me straighten this out, please?
– Laura Keir, Glen Allen, Virginia
ANSWER: I see what happened to you. You felt guilty about asking a travel agent for help but then booking yourself, so you figured you would let the agent take a commission on your vacation. But then things took an unexpected turn.
I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, let’s talk about travel agents, or travel advisors, as they now call themselves. Agents make most of their money by taking commissions from a travel supplier like Club Med. (Club Med reportedly pays up to 15% to agents on bookings.)
So, when you asked an agent for help and she started pulling up vacation options, she was not doing that just because she was 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 her your confirmation number and allowed her to take over the booking.
That’s where this drama should have ended. But it looks like Club Med somehow repriced your vacation and then presented your agent with the new bill. I spoke with your travel agent, and she had no idea why Club Med wanted another $ 3,000 from you.
I publish the 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 there and requested an explanation. I think a quick, polite note might have solved this mystery quickly.
I contacted your travel agent, who reached out to Club Med on your behalf. Apparently, Club Med’s accounting department made a mistake and “repriced” your vacation package (that’s industry-speak for charging more). The company reinstated your original booking – minus the $ 3,000.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their issues. Elliott’s latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or email@example.com.