Buyer beware: OAT does not value its customers
Along with two friends, I was scheduled to leave Dec. 30, 2008 on a 3-week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia with Overseas Adventure Travel. This was to be my third trip in four years with OAT, chosen in part for its good value without expensive fringes. Since I've never had to cancel travel -- whether for business or pleasure -- I did not purchase trip insurance which would have added another 10 percent onto the trip cost.
Unfortunately, on Dec. 1, I had emergency retina surgery. My surgeon advised I not take this trip because of airplane cabin pressure vis a vis my eye pressure. Once there, I put myself at risk of infection as health care facilities in Third World countries could be questionable. I made several calls to OAT to see what options I might have. OAT reps lectured me about my failure in not buying trip insurance. On Dec. 16, I wrote a letter to the Chairman and CEO of the parent company, Grand Circle Travel, informing them the reasons I could not make the trip, asking for some customer consideration.
Their response from a Quality Management representative repeated yet again that I should have purchased trip insurance. Meanwhile, OAT is offering huge discounts to future -- and new -- customers. They obviously were able to make a profit in my not joining the tour: rooms not slept in; meals not consumed; an add on trip not taken and more. Legally, I realize the company did not have to send me a voucher toward a future trip. That said, in this perilous economy, shouldn't a company make some gesture of good will?
OAT purports to be a company with a strong customer focus. They market themselves in a folksy, friendly manner. Yet the cold formality and dismissive tone once they have received your full payment belies their advertising and marketing. Indeed, OAT is truly a huge corporation with the bottom line in mind. The customer is no longer valued once the customer has paid for the trip. Buyer beware!