Group Disaster, What Would You Suggest?


By Tom Ogg

“A client in Alabama booked group space, however her relative in Las Vegas wanted to join the group and booked 5 cabins for she and her other relatives. This is a 4 day Carnival. Not like I am going to get rich off of it. Against my better judgment I allowed a reduced deposit. It is time for the final deposit and those 5 cabins all called with different reasons and wanted to cancel after 5 months of dealing with their numerous phone calls at all hours of the day and night. This has now caused the entire group to cancel.

My first conversation with the client in Las Vegas included her concerns about ‘what happens if my husband has to work and I need to cancel’. I explained to her Carnivals cancellation policy and also explained to her my company’s cancellation policy and directed her to our website to review our terms and conditions. A few days later after she had thought about our conversation and spoke with her family, she called and booked into this group space. Our T&C on our website clearly states that by not signing this, does not void the T&C. 99% of our conversations have been by phone, only 5 emails. When she called to tell me she may have to cancel due to her husband’s work, I again reviewed Carnivals cancellation policy with her and explained that I would reduce our fee of $50pp to $25pp. This has caused a huge uproar with her and her family which includes screaming on the phone, threats of lawyers, BBB, police officers and defamation of our company to the cruise lines. I have sent emails to everyone wishing to cancel and explained that I will be happy to cancel their cruise with Carnival once they have paid my cancellation fee. I instructed them how to go about paying this fee. I feel that my service of numerous phone calls at all hours of day and night, Making deposits in the group account, emails and giving this client my knowledge is more than worth what I am charging for a cancellation fee. I also feel that the verbal abuse from them has exceeded that amount. In 28 years I have never had a client act so ridiculous over $25. pp.

My question is this, what is my position in this matter? I am in Ga. This group was for an Alabama client who was referred to me by one of our really good clients. Her family in Las Vegas joined and has really caused more problems than this whole situation is worth. They are definitely fired as clients; however what is the best move for me in this situation?”

I am not familiar with Georgia’s laws, but I suspect that without a signed T & C Agreement, you are simply out of luck. Verbal representations regarding cancellation and change penalties are reduced down to “she said, he said” disputes and are rarely enforceable against a client

In the future, use either a “Plan to Go Agreement” or “Agency Retainer Agreement” (copies of both are available for free in the forms group at TravelProfessionalCommunity.com) and get each party to sign up-front with their deposit. This will lock in your remuneration no matter what the clients do. Also, when dealing with multiple clients in different areas or states, also have a “Choice of Legal Venue” clause in your Agreement. This will allow you to settle any legal action that arises in your back yard, not theirs.

Without a signed legal venue clause, the group members can sue you in their respective small claims court and get a judgment against your agency.

Given your circumstances, I think I would give them a full refund and take the lesson forward with you.

I would also really think twice before booking 3-4 night cruises without some sort of service fee on top of the cost of the cruise to handle these types of disasters. I know that this isn’t what you would like to hear, but it would be my best advice..