Pocketmint

small change toward a rich life
3
July
2009

Travel ‘protection’: a predatory scam

Considering travel insurance? Make certain that you get terms in writing before you pay — terms that prominently include the word ‘refund’.

That’s the takeaway message from the latest ‘Haggler’ column in the New York Times, where journalist David Segal goes to bat on behalf of beleaguered consumers. I was particularly appalled by the story of a cruise agency which markets its ‘protection plan’ to vacationing seniors for a 10% upcharge:

The plan is described this way: “In essence, should you have to cancel your cruise for a covered medical reason — anytime prior to departure — you need not worry about forfeiting the cost.”

If you read these words without appreciating that the world is a dark and cynical place, you might think “protection” amounts to a money-back guarantee. But the world is dark and cynical. The verbiage here implies “refund” without saying so.

What does the protection plan really offer? A voucher for future travel — not so much use in this case, since one of the vacationing seniors suffered a heart-attack and died, and presumably his widow is Not in the Mood to be trolling online dating sites for a replacement travel partner.

The writing, by the way, elevates this from a merely useful column to a thoroughly delightful one:

“… one of the more entertainingly combative lawyers the Haggler has encountered. Mr. Nashawaty, bless his contentious heart, howled at the unfairness of a universe in which the Ms. Bendors of the world can badger the likes of Vantage Travel.”

I really enjoy Segal’s cynical, biting style and will be watching for future columns. “The Haggler” appears in the Sunday New York Times every other week.

(Photo by ecstaticist.)

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