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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rail ticket reimbursement running slow


I am waiting for a 313-euro refund from Eurail for a lost ticket, which was fortunately covered under a ticket protection plan I bought when I made my reservation. I filed the claim with the appropriate paperwork but didn't receive a check.

I subsequently got in touch with Eurail via e-mail, but they have since been ignoring all correspondence from me.

I am at the end of my rope. I have contacted the Better Business Bureau, but they found no valid address for Eurail and so couldn't complete my claim. I have since e-mailed the BBB two times with valid addresses, but they have not responded to my correspondence.

This matter is of the utmost importance to me. I hope you can help me.

—Stephanie Sanzo, Hartford, Conn.

A: Eurail should have refunded your lost ticket promptly. You paid extra to insure your ticket against a loss, and the least the company can do is honor your claim.

Your policy, which is referred to as the "Rail Protection Plan" promises you'll be reimbursed for a pass or ticket "that is lost or stolen while traveling in Europe," adding that it will refund the unused portion of the lost or stolen rail ticket or the cost of replacement, whichever is of lesser value. But it doesn't indicate how quickly you'll be reimbursed.

Since Eurail never rejected your claim, I had to assume it was still being processed — even though it had been more than a year since your initial claim. Delays like that aren't uncommon, but there's no excuse for them. Companies that take your money in a split-second should be able to return it just as quickly, if you ask me.

Paper tickets shouldn't be used in a place like Europe, which in many ways is more technologically progressive than the United States. Which is to say, if you can do a paperless airline ticket, why not a paperless train ticket — and certainly a paperless Eurail pass. I'm not going to call the ticket insurance a racket (I'll leave that to you to decide) but in 2011, I think it should be unnecessary.

Also, I'm not sure if you want to take up a problem with Eurail with the Better Business Bureau. The BBB would have a limited influence on a European company.

If you paid for your pass with a credit card, you might have checked to see if you had any additional protection. Some payment systems will guarantee purchases made through them, and depending on the kind of plastic you carry, you might have been able to make a claim to recover your lost train ticket.

I contacted Eurail on your behalf. A few weeks later, you received a check for 313 euros.

I have an update on last week's Troubleshooter column, which featured Esther Mikula's problem with an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. After she contacted me and the case was resolved by Marriott, her online travel agency, CheapCaribbean.com, also responded to her and refunded the extra fees she had to pay for her all-inclusive stay.

Christopher Elliott is the author of the upcoming book "Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals" (Wiley). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. You can read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at celliott@ngs.org.

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