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"Rip Off!" "Scammed!"... Not Really. Did You Do Your Homework?

I read so many posts here about being "ripped off" or "Scammed", many written in righteous indignation, anger and the hope of putting people off of using this Airline or that Cruise Line with pretty much the same litany of complaints. If looked at carefully these posts often turn out to shed much more light on the OP's behavior, naivete and lack of travel "Savvy", as RS might say, than they do any malfeasance on the part of the company in question.

Now don't get me wrong there are some posts that really do enlighten us about potential problems out there but they tend to be in a completely different tone without the "Click Bait" headlines of the others.

What strikes me so often about these kinds of posts is that it is common for the first few respondents to take the "Bait" and fully agree with the OP about how bad the company in question is, seemingly without any independent critical thought about what is written before more thoughtful and logically critical responses are posted by other writers.

If you book a cruise in the northern latitudes of this planet in the Early Spring or Fall time there are two things to keep in mind...one; it is the very beginning or End of Season and the weather will be miserable most likely. If you book that trip on a discount or Mass Market discount Cruise Line your experience will most likely not be the first class dream you had in mind.

Also as my experience two summers ago working with Holland America/Princess in Alaska taught me the customers who book in the shoulder season do so primarily for economic reasons...saving money. They were also the most likely to complain...about almost everything. The Buses aren't running into Denali Park yet? Rant Rant Rant! (If only they had read the brochure which clearly states that some things might not be open or fully operational on certain sailings/tours.) We cant take that flight to see Denali? "Sorry Ma'am the flights havnt started yet". Rant, Rant Rant! And I can tell you from experience they don't tip nearly as well as those who come during the "main" season sailings (and paid more).

So if you are booking a cruise in the shoulder season to snag a bargain, and there is nothing wrong with that, be sure you do your homework. Realize that some ports may not be visited, that some attractions may not be open yet, or already closed for the season. And keep in mind that in many places, like Alaska, or northern Europe the weather may not cooperate, the sailing rough or just bad weather for that shore excursion or ground segment of the tour. A certain amount of self education is called for here. Ask smart probing questions of the company before you book.

And if things work out not to be the sunny perfect experience you had in your pre-trip dreams think twice about posting negative threads here blaming the cruise line or Airline trying hard to adversely affect their business. That's not really fair play. Especially if you didnt do your homework.

"Shoulder season" travel can be enjoyable and rewarding, as can getting a great fare on a discount Airline to a great place. But the traveler must keep their expectations in line with reality and do their homework.

Posted by
5926 posts

Yeah, and those speeding tickets you got in Italy/France/UK/Germany/Spain, where the camera caught you - and then you got dinged by the rental car agency who tacked on a fee for processing? An outrage!!! Caught by a ZTL in the old center of some Italian city? Write your Congresscritter!!!

Posted by
3294 posts

I'm finishing up a short trip to Germany that has had its share of travel misadventures. I'm considering writing two Trip Reports -- one that retells the trip in histrionic, over-the-top, "one hit wonder" complaint style and one that retells it in my own chuckle-at-the-misadventures voice.

*one hit wonder" = someone whose first and only post is to complain about something, usually a company or a government organization (e.g., for the latter, when it enforces its own laws).

Posted by
4843 posts

I see that this forum's most unluckiest traveller in regards to the numbers of scams he (and close friends and relatives) has fallen victim to in Europe has disappeared and deleted his posts. Part of that reason may have been a result of the criticisms he received (not entirely unfair I'd add) and that may sometimes be the reason why some people prefer to give the benefit of the doubt rather than go straight in for the kill....

"What strikes me so often about these kinds of posts is that it is common for the first few respondents to take the "Bait" and fully agree with the OP about how bad the company in question is, seemingly without any independent critical thought about what is written before more thoughtful and logically critical responses are posted by other writers."

Such unthoughtful and illogical respondents are actually probably being polite and not wishing to alienate what are often first time posters and likely don't deserve such a patronising appraisal.

Posted by
3294 posts

I'm not convinced that a good number of these first time posters are interested in contributing to the forum community. Many of them seem to have yelled into a phone that they are going to write negative reviews everywhere on social media and on the web they can find unless their demands are met. When demands are not met, hell hath no fury like a consumer scorned...

Posted by
8820 posts

Once in a blue moon, one of the Scam-shouters comes around and understands their own responsibility for the problems encountered. More often unless the responses bootlick to the OP’s liking, the OPs accuse respondants of being trolls or working for the company or swear they’ll never look at the Forum again. If any of us bothers to answer or clear the air, it’s to leave a corrected record so newbies checking posts can learn from the situation.
Since you focused on the Breakaway post, many of the early respondants are not regular cruisers. However, contrast that thread with the Alitalia thread and you’ll see that the responses were immediately on track. I’d never generalize that all Scam posts are at first greeted with sympathy rather than cold reality.

Posted by
1427 posts

But I stayed in an Italian villa and was gassed! Do not belittle my experience1

Posted by
2115 posts

Oh, thanks, Dave! I was about to give a like, thumbs up (I wish!) up to sharYn's post when I got to your final one. Off to read your report! Thanks in advance for the laugh(s). I know there will be some!

Posted by
546 posts

Thanks for all the comments.

Just one thing I might clarify...I don't think there is anything in my post that is negative to the cruise industry. In fact I think it can be a great way to travel. But to get the best possible experience it helps to understand the cruise industry and do a fair amount of research before your trip.

I enjoyed working (as a summer "work camping" type job) for Holland America/Princess in Alaska and found their dedication to their passengers and their needs to be extraordinary.

But I also realized that those who had the best experiences were either return cruisers or those that did their homework and had expectations in alignment with reality. ....and those that came in the "high" season.

And really this is a template for any kind of trip not just cruising.

Posted by
3398 posts

i realize that I am an obsessive over-planner, but I don't understand people who don't do due diligence to research their trips themselves before getting on this forum and a) as you said, complaining that their trip didn't meet their unrealistic expectations or b) expecting strangers to completely plan their trip for them or c) being disappointed that they can't get tickets to such sights as the Anne Frank House or Harry Potter studios that require tickets to be purchased months in advance.

Posted by
4684 posts

Absolutely:

Speeding charges are not a "scam".
Vehicle-restricted areas are not a "scam".
Being expected to have a valid train/bus ticket is not a "scam".
Tourist taxes are not a "scam".
Restaurant cover charges are not a "scam" (in countries where they are routine).

Posted by
7139 posts

There's a whole world of people out there who don't know what they don't know, and can't really be bothered to research. If you can't find out in a few google searches, or get a group of anonymous strangers on a travel forum to think for you, you're going to be unhappy.

Posted by
381 posts

And I'd be willing to bet that if some of the know it all posters actually visited some semi-challenging or actually challenging locations (e.g. not England, Italy or Germany for the 20th straight time) they might have a different perspective on what can be known and prepared for easily and how easy it is to differentiate scam from unknown weirdness.

Hear, hear.

There's way too much "blame the victim" going on here. It's possible to do a ton of research and still encounter befuddling circumstances in a foreign country. You sometimes don't know what you don't know until you run across it. For example, I am a very experienced traveler and read a lot before my trip this fall, but it was literally unimaginable to me that even four-star hotels would not be providing heat to guests in cold weather until some date regulated by the government. I never called this a scam, but quite a few people scolded me for my concern about this. This makes me want to be more cautious about the perspectives I share here.

Posted by
546 posts

There's way too much "blame the victim" going on here. It's possible to do a ton of research and still encounter befuddling circumstances in a foreign country. You sometimes don't know what you don't know until you run across it

The only victims I see here (the forum) are those that inflict that status on themselves and wallow in its comfort. The cult of victim-hood is alive and well in America for sure.

I have lived in Asia, Africa (Egypt and Sierra Leone) and Europe. There are of course things you cannot know or fully realize before you go. Most of us take those as a matter of course and move on. For instance, when I was in the Peace Corps in West Africa in the 70's no one warned me nor did any of my research reveal that when I took my shower in a tiny palm frond enclosure with no door near the back of the village that the entire village would turn out to watch me like television. Thankfully after a week they mostly all lost interest.

The vast majority when faced with disappointment or changes don't immediately shout SCAM! or Rip off. And that is the key to the difference.

Posted by
3493 posts

Being disappointed things didn't go as planned on your trip is understandable when bad things happen. Claiming the entire travel industry and law enforcement is out to get you is just not true or even a sane way of looking at things.

Posted by
1561 posts

Part of the fun of travel is the adventure and the unknown. And part of the adventure is things not going as expected or the opposite of the expected. Something I learned as a kid 50 years ago traveling around the US with my 4 brothers in a station wagon were that the mishaps were the story headlines. In hindsight, I’m still not sure how my Mom did all the planning without the internet!

When things do go wrong you can get more with sugar than lemons. We recently crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2 with our dog. Well, the wrong dogfood was ordered and we had a stressful and not happy week for our Barley’s digestive system. A few weeks later I wrote an email to the cruiseline’s customer service, just stressing the importance of buying correct dogfoid, or informing owners to bring their own on board. Someone called back, apologized, and offered some cruise credits for our next crossing and a review in their process for dog food purchases.

Posted by
1979 posts

Karen, I am so glad you posted. Sorry Barley had the mix-up the the dog food. But, just this past weekend I was randomly thinking of you (when I was asking my husband if he thought we should take our dog on a cruise sometime), thinking I should dig thru old PMs to find your blog and get caught up. Thank you! And, yes, we would definitely have to lug our pup's dog food...not a common brand. Now off to click on your blog and read all about the adventure.

AArthur, interesting and thought-provoking post....a lot of validity to your line of thought.

Posted by
3398 posts

@Marcia, I appreciated your warning about heat. I would never have realized that either and it's not something I would expect to find in a guidebook.

Posted by
1220 posts

I'll offer up a dissenting view that sometimes shoulder season is actually the good season. I live Florida panhandle beach town-adjacent and 'the season' is Memorial day to Labor Day. The thing is, summer is actually pretty miserable down here- not only huge crowds but also typically 95F highs and 75F dew points when it's not raining.

But what the TDC doesn't tell you is that the northern Gulf Coast is one of the wettest parts of the country (we get 65-66 inches of rain a year; Seattle averages 38 inches of rain a year) and most of that rain falls in the summer. Spring and fall have cooler enough air temperatures to be pleasant while the Gulf is still swimmable, and it's also the dry season when you're not going to have 5 of 7 beach days rained out on you, as often happens for a July week.