High School Seniors Can’t Get Money Back

(WSVN) - It was a remarkable spring break trip for outstanding seniors. Of course, the coronavirus destroyed that, and now, the parents who paid for their teen’s trips are being told they can’t have their money back. It’s why several of them called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Most parents are proud of their children and like to brag about them.

Patricia can just quote others.

Patricia Escoffery, can’t get money back: “In the words of her vice principal, if there were ever a perfect child, she would definitely come the closest.”

As a result of her academic work, Sayidana was chosen to participate in a spring break trip in her senior year.

Patricia Escoffery: “It was for them to go to Europe. They were going to go to Germany, Berlin and the Alps.”

The $3,700 fee was steep for a single mom, but Patricia says her family felt Sayidana deserved it.

Patricia Escoffery: “My other daughter and I sacrificed having a family vacation this year because we believe in team, and so this was her moment to shine.”

Of course, you know what happened across the world. The coronavirus hit.

Patricia Escoffery: “We got an email saying the trip was cancelled, so I said, ‘OK, great!’ I called, ‘So, when are we going to get our refunds?'”

But the travel company said there would be no refunds for the 60 students and 10 chaperones who had paid around $3,700 each.

Patricia Escoffery: “We were told we would be given vouchers.”

Sayidana doesn’t want to go to Europe now and wanted the money back.

The travel agency said her only option: sell the voucher or give it to a another student to use next year.

Patricia Escoffery: “I’m not interested in regifting the voucher. Why should I be of the burden of trying to sell? I’m not a travel agent.”

At Help Me Howard, we heard from several other parents whose high school seniors booked trips. They all wanted the money back from the same travel agency.

Patricia Escoffery: “They are taking advantage of over 60 children and 10 chaperones. That’s over $300,000 that you are not going to have to pay for those accommodations.”

Well, Howard, the trip was cancelled. Can parents like Patricia get their $3,700 back?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “Yes, I think they can, but it’s a close call, and here is why. Their contract has a clause that says if the trip is cancelled due to a public health emergency, you do not get your money back. You get a voucher for a trip at another time, but in the parents’ favor, the law will not enforce an unconscionable clause. In other words, this is a one-sided contract that is not fair to a student in these circumstances, and that’s why I think the parents should get their money back.”

EF Educational Tours in Boston was not easy to deal with.

Back in March, they told us they were not giving any money back.

Then, later, they told us if Patricia didn’t want a voucher for a future trip, they would return $2,700 to her, but they were keeping $1,000 for costs they had already incurred.

Now, a law firm in California has filed a class action lawsuit against an affiliate of EF Tours that could help thousands of parents, like Patricia, get a full refund.

Patricia Escoffery: “Yeah, if you want to take a fee out of it to offset whatever expenses that you incur, but $1,000? That’s not fair.”

Patricia hasn’t accepted the travel company’s $2,700 offer yet because she is waiting, hoping to get her full $3,700 back.

Patricia Escoffery: “Thank you, Help Me Howard. A heartfelt thank you very much for your hard work.”

There are so many people trying to get refunds from trips, parties, day care, gyms, things that were shut down by the coronavirus.

A rule of thumb: if they cannot deliver, you get your money back, and you do not have to accept a credit.

Now, if you have problems, check out the other Help Me Howards. We have answered a lot of questions in each story, including how to check to see what happened to your wandering stimulus check.

Traveling on a long trip to solve a problem? Fear your destination will be a dead end? Let us accommodate you, and hopefully, book a first class solution for you.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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