Our tour group coordinator

While at a conference last February, one of the vendor booths advertised trips to the Inauguration. In April, I made initial contact with companies requesting written quotes. In June, I thought I signed a contract.

I had until June 19th to submit our group’s deposit. I overnighted payment which was signed for on June 16th. On June 23rd, our coordinator called to say that since payment wasn’t received, she canceled our tour. Huh? After an hour on the phone, the coordinator re-instated our tour, only the return date would be a day later. In an effort to compromise, we sacrificed a free spot to cover the hotel costs for the extra day.

Our participant manuals gave payment schedules saying final payment was due today. Anyone who hadn’t paid in full by the end of today was subject to cancellation. A month ago, I was quite concerned that 5 participants would be dropping out. I emailed the coordinator my concerns and she reassured me what would happen.

At the time I also asked for an accounting so I knew exactly how much each person still owed. When I signed the contract, I signed that the individuals would pay the company directly, so I had only a partial list of payments. On Dec. 1, I contacted (in writing) all the participants letting them know how much they still owed and to contact me if their records differed than mine.

So today is the deadline. As of this morning, three participants haven’t paid their balance. One owes 70%; the other couple never paid beyond their $100 deposit even though they sent emails saying they were paying.

Our coordinator sent an email saying if they didn’t pay, each member of the group would be responsible for an additional amount to cover the cost. I replied that our contract doesn’t say anything of the sort. The contracts signed by individuals says they are responsible for X amount for themselves. Since the contract is between the company and the individual, they have the recourse for non-payment, not us. In other words, I can’t go after the three who didn’t pay; the company has to go after them. I just can’t imagine calling all these people who paid on time and explaining they all owe another $100 to cover someone else’s spot.

The coordinator’s supervisor called my co-chaperone. Following their conversation, the chaperone sent an email saying the three would be canceled and no airline ticket would be issued.

A few hours later (but before I saw the email), the supervisor calls me. She told me they already issued the airfare and our group had to pay the full amount. I tried to politely explain to her, that that wasn’t what our group agreed to. Her accounting and our accounting aren’t too far off (but for different reasons). Rather than listen to me, she wanted to yell and name-call. She informed me that they have families and are just trying to earn a living. She also said that the difference has to come from somewhere such as our group’s coordinator’s salary. She also said that the airline tickets we’re already issued, so we’re now on the hook for the canceled participant’s airfare.

That’s nice. Based on all of our emails, phone conversations, signed contracts, etc., we are in the black $3.50. Of course, unless we pay for these three people plus another $800 (because they’ve overcharged us for hotel upgrades and promised to credit it back but haven’t), they’re not going to issue our tickets.

I’m really frustrated that our signed contracts don’t mean anything. A month out, they’re telling us we still owe thousands of dollars for their accounting errors and for participants they’ve canceled. (At least they informed us in writing they were canceled.)

Any suggestions? We don’t want to lose out on this trip. Our congressman came through with our request for tickets so this is going to be quite memorable for the students going.