Question: Back in 2007, you interceded with Expedia for me after I had an accident that left me unable to fly. With your help, I was given a case number and a phone number, and I was told I could call anytime to claim the $782 (Canadian) voucher.
I tried to claim the voucher two years ago using the number I was given. The person I talked with said she would consult her supervisor and get back to me. That never happened, so I booked that trip with someone else.
Recently, I have been trying to get a hold of that department again. But the toll-free number no longer works, so I am forced to go through the regular Expedia call-in number. After I have provided the information they request, they terminate my phone calls without resolving this issue. What do I do now?
—Michael Todaro, North Vancouver, British Columbia
Answer: When does a voucher with no expiration date actually expire? It's a legitimate question, but one Expedia doesn't want to answer.
Five years ago, Expedia issued Todaro a supposedly open-ended credit toward a future trip. But when he tried to use it, Todaro says he was told that he waited too long.
Back in 2007, Todaro was unhappy to learn that an airline ticket he'd booked with Expedia for a trip to Europe had expired. He had canceled his trip due to an accident. Due to series of miscommunications and confusion about the rules of his ticket with Expedia, Todaro missed the deadline to rebook it. His ticket became worthless. Because of the communication breakdown, Expedia agreed to extend a credit to Todaro so he could book another trip.
Todaro reported that an Expedia representative told him over the phone that he didn't need to worry about deadlines, because his credit would not expire. But once again, Todaro's take on the timeline and Expedia's don't match up, and once again, it appears that the disconnect happened over the phone, not in writing.
"Credits of this nature are always subject to time limitations, and while Expedia.ca documentation notes this information was shared with Mr. Todaro through discussions over the last few years, it seems he was still unclear about this stipulation," says Expedia representative Mallory Seubert.
Expedia says it already went above and beyond for Todaro. It worked with the airline to allow him to rebook his nonrefundable ticket back in 2007, says Seubert. It made another exception after his ticket expired by giving him that original $782 credit. Expedia's customer-service notes indicate that Todaro said he would call to book a trip in April 2007, but the company didn't hear from him until 2010. It also says it didn't hear from Todaro again until I sent them his new complaint.
After I sent Expedia Todaro's complaint, it offered to extend his now-expired credit through 2012. Todaro wasn't pleased with the time restriction.
Todaro insists he was never told about any time limitations, either verbally or in writing. I asked Expedia to show that the original $782 credit had an expiration date, and to prove that this deadline had been disclosed to Todaro in some manner. Expedia declined.
"We are pleased that Expedia was able to reach a resolution with Mr. Todaro, however we're not able to comment any further on this matter," says Seubert.
Rather than issue another voucher, Expedia agreed to give Todaro something that truly never expires—a refund of $1000 in cold, hard cash, to cover the cost of his original booking plus interest.
How can you avoid trouble?
•Get it in writing. Read the terms and conditions and don't rely on conversations about expiration dates or any other important details.
•Don't delay. As Seubert pointed out, travel credits always have an expiration date. Find out what that date is and use the credit before it's too late.
Linda Burbank first began troubleshooting travelers' complaints for the Consumer Reports Travel Letter. She now writes regularly for Consumers Union publications and is a contributing editor for National Geographic Traveler. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your question may be used in a future column.