Kosher food 311.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Revenge is a dish best served cold. But like all good tales, this one should
start from the beginning. The names have been changed as getting another
threatening letter from a lawyer is not my cup of tea.
Melinda and Jay
enjoy travelling. More often than not, they prefer to make their own travel
plans and arrange for local guides to shepherd them around. Still, an organized
tour to Vietnam and Cambodia was something they felt they would
Debbie’s Catering had a sterling reputation inside Israel and had
in the past arranged mouth-watering tours abroad. They promised a small tour
group, that would stay at first-class hotels complete with kosher food, with no
travelling on Shabbat. Melinda had used the company for catering events in the
past and knew they had an excellent reputation.
And to the company’s
credit the cancellation policy was crystal clear: “Debbie’s Catering reserves
the right to cancel the program for any reason. If the program is cancelled, all
monies will be refunded and such refund will release the company from any
liability. If you wish to cancel your registration, you must send written
notification. Monies paid by you will not be refunded once the trip is confirmed
unless you find someone to take your place.
“As soon as we confirm the
tour you will be liable for 100 percent of the payment, even though we take it
in installments. Therefore you should buy travel insurance as soon as we
notify you that the tour is on.”
Truth be told, I have not found many
organized tours that take a 100% cancellation fee but if this is their policy
and the client is told in advance, then it really is a case of “buyer
They paid the hefty deposit on a tour that was listed at $5,250
each and began the preparations for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
nagging doubt that they might have leaped before they looked came when they
reserved their plane tickets. Preferring to book with their regular travel
consultant, they found that Clive at Debbie’s Catering was rather slow in his
e-mail replies to their enquiries. Just finding out the exact schedule of the
planned group’s flights took several days, but with the intervention of their
travel consultant, the information was provided and the plane tickets were
Weeks passed and their travel consultant innocently asked who
was arranging their visas to Vietnam, and once more it took far too long, in
their opinion, to get the answer.
Which brings us to the recent past when
Melinda sent an e-mail to Debbie’s Catering asking if their exclusive tour was
similar to the one advertised by Dave’s Travel, a leading kosher tours company.
In fact, on the Dave’s Travel site an identical itinerary was shown, with no
mention whatsoever that it was being run by Debbie’s Catering.
Clive took his time to reply to their e-mail, until finally their own travel
consultant prodded him into action by opining that he was fairly certain it was
the same exact tour.
Once Clive confirmed that they were marketing their
tour through another tour operator, Melinda decided that she wanted
Her travel consultant tried to reassure her by pointing out that
both of the companies involved had an excellent track record of running good
tours, but in the end she elected to go with her instinct.
Clive tried to
talk her out of it, promising her that group would not number more than 30, but
to no avail. He then demanded, as per Debbie’s Catering policy, that she pay the
entire amount anyway.
A quick perusal of Dave’s Travel site showed a
completely different policy. In fact, Dave’s Travel’s site states that “60-90
days prior to departure there would be a $500 + $100 per passenger cancellation
fee.” Or in Melinda and Jay’s case, $1,200. Clive wanted over $8,000! When she
pointed out the huge discrepancy Clive peevishly stated it was a mistake and
that she had already signed a contract requiring her to pay a 100% cancellation
fee unless she could get someone to replace them. She begged him to accept her
offer of the $4,000 deposit she had already paid, which would still leave him
with a huge profit. She was rebuffed.
He volunteered that his profit was
$800 per person (a tidy amount on a $5,000-plus tour). He suggested she may wish
to file an insurance claim, stating that they had had to cancel for health
reasons and should thus be reimbursed by the insurance company. I’d like to
believe he wasn’t inviting her to commit insurance fraud, but in any case she
wisely decided not to take that course of action.
Melinda was at her
wit’s end and realized that she had been duped from the outset into agreeing to
such horrific terms and that the company would not accept any
Refusing to capitulate to his capricious demands, she came up
with a devious solution.
Going on Facebook, she simply offered the tour
to the highest bidder, found eager and enthusiastic travelers to replace herself
and her husband and extricated her from the situation.
accepting a reasonable settlement, Debbie’s Catering got exactly what they
wanted: Two new people to join their boutique tour. And two more people who no
doubt paid an expensive price for their error but learned a valuable life
lesson: It takes a lifetime to build up one’s business or personal reputation;
it takes one misguided person’s stupidity to tear it all down.
line to Debbie’s Catering: let them eat cake.Mark Feldman is the CEO of
Ziontours Jerusalem. For questions & comments, e-mail him at