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Horrible customer service experience

My wife and I went on the Heart of Ireland tour late last June. The tour itself and the guide, Steve, were fine. On our last night, Steve took a picture of our group with a Dublin landmark in the background, and said he would "post" it the next day. I never saw the picture posted anywhere on this website, so I emailed the Edmonds customer service department. A rep emailed me back, saying he would email Steve and get the picture to me. Several weeks and no response later, I emailed again, and the rep again told me he would email the guide, but I might have to wait until later in the year to get the picture because the guide was so busy then. Later in the year, still no response, so I emailed again, and this time a rep emailed me back, apologizing for the delay and promising to get the picture; she also said the guide would be in Edmonds in January and she would ask him personally about it. By early February, still no response, so I emailed again and asked if Rick Steves could be advised of this issue. This time, I received a picture from the spot where my group photo was taken; unfortunately, it wasn't my group. I emailed the rep again so advising, and as of today I have received no reply. This situation, for my wife and I, has ruined what otherwise was a lovely vacation. So, be forewarned, if you have any problems during a Rick Steves tours, don't be surprised if you are treated as though they hope you will just go away, and get no resolution of your issue.

Posted by
2904 posts

I realize this seems like a major issue to you and I am sorry that you did not get the resolution you desired.
Did you get the email addresses of others in your group? Have you tried to contact them to see if one of them has the picture?

It may be that there were some communications issues with the guide or, more recently, the tour company has had some pretty serious issues to deal with.

My personal experience with Rick Steves Tours is that they have been quite helpful. I am glad that you said that you enjoyed the tour itself.

Posted by
2282 posts

This situation, for my wife and I, has ruined what otherwise was a lovely vacation.

Really? We’ve been on many RS tours and have some of these group pictures. We never look at them and if we do it’s a game of “who’s that?” I don’t want to say you are over reacting, everyone is different, but it would be nice if this was the worst thing that ever happens to you in your entire life.

Posted by
9389 posts

Why would you let this ruin an otherwise lovely trip? Stuff happens to us every trip that we could get upset about, but if you cannot fix it and you still have your health, why waste energy on it?

Posted by
760 posts

Others may be more knowledgeable than I am. However, as a veteran of 11 RS tours, I can report that I have never seen an informal snap of a group posted on this forum. Maybe in the alum scrapbooks, but not on the website. I believe the photos you observe on this site are taken by a professional photographer accompanying various groups. Don't ask me about what kinds of tour member agreements are required, but there must be some.

When your guide said he would post the group pic, he most likely meant via email. Note, to ensure tour member privacy, RS does not share tour member emails. If sharing is done, it is by other tour members and is generally not attributable to RS tours. I have been on tours where the fellow tour member spearheading collection of emails has somehow damaged the only copy of the email list we all painstakingly wrote up while on the bus. And this may be a stretch, but if the tour members were gathering an email list, most likely the guide's email would be written down on it, too. Do you remember a list circulating? Did you get any other emails specifically from your guide?

It sounds to me that various RS staff have tried to be accommodating, but who knows: perhaps the guide erased the pics from his phone? Maybe he posted or not. It would be lovely if the guide or a fellow tour member located the pic, but if not, it just does not boil down to horrible customer service on behalf of RS tours. Sorry that you find your experience was ruined.

Posted by
915 posts

I'm sorry you're disappointed but maybe he tried and you didn't have your phone on? On our South of Italy tour our guide Tommaso airdropped pictures to us, a group picture and scenery pictures. We also airdropped pictures to each other on the tour. Those who were advanced technology wise helped those of us who weren't. I have an iPhone. I guess this would work with Androids too? Can you email someone from your group and ask them to email the picture to you? I took so many pictures which included someone, multiple someones or everyone in the group at some point on the trip. I sure wouldn’t let this spoil your memory of a great trip.

Posted by
5 posts

to Carol, thank you for your suggestion. Re: the recent travel issues, this situation has been going on since long before the coronavirus issue.

to the other 3 respondents, you may have different expectations for customer service than I do. I have an issue with getting a runaround and no satisfaction on a problem with a trip that in total cost around $5-6000.

Posted by
11417 posts

Sorry to sound unsympathetic but if one unposted photo is enough to ruin an entire trip, maybe a read through some of the REAL travel nightmares happening right now will have you counting your blessings instead?

In the face of so many travelers not getting to go on their trips AT ALL, so many in the travel industry (like the RS staff) working their tails off dealing with an onslaught of calls/emails from panicked clients, and the dire situation for so many with livelihoods tied to the hospitality industry, a reality check might be in order here?

Posted by
896 posts

That’s too bad! Mine got lost in my junk email. Try not to let it ruin your trip memories.

Posted by
2232 posts

Sorry that you have had this upsetting experience, taojoe2002, and I hope that you can focus on all the positive memories of your tour and guide, and not let this post-tour hassle ruin the overall experience.
I want to add that over many years and 11 RS tours, I have contacted RS customer service many times with questions, concerns and problems, the last time being just yesterday when I needed to “pull the plug” and cancel my tour #12 in Italy. Every single contact has been positive and resolved my questions and problems. Every single rep, many different ones over these years, has been helpful, friendly, well-informed, and working on my behalf. My own RS customer service experience has been “excellent”, very different from your”horrible”.

Posted by
1384 posts

While I can understand your interest in having the picture - which may have special memories for you of a group that you particularly enjoyed spending time with, a place you particularly enjoyed visiting and a moment in the time of your life that you particularly want to remember - I hope those people, places and moments are fond enough that you would not let them be compromised, much less ruined, by the issue of obtaining the photo.

Posted by
177 posts

I had been disappointed not to get a group picture on my first two RS tours. (But would classify it as a disappointment or regret, not an event that ruined the tour.)

On my first RS trip, no group picture was taken. On the second tour, the guide took a picture and promised to email, but did not even after I emailed her and she responded to the email, but didn't send the picture. (I was in contact with other tour members and they didn't get either.)

It took me twice, but I learned my lesson.

On my third tour, I mentioned to the guide I would like to take a group picture when we went to the final dinner. He kindly had us stop on the walk to the dinner and I got a picture, and he said that he planned to arrange a group picture at the restaurant, which he did. The result was two group pictures. I emailed the pictures to everyone on the tour that had given an email.

So just a heads up.....if that is something you want, try to get a group picture on your own camera/phone.

Posted by
73 posts

I have been on several RS tours and we took a group photo which was emailed to us after the trip once we gave the tour guide our email before the trip ended. The photos were nice to have but in my case I have not kept in touch with my travel mates and if I somehow did not get the photo I would not think it was that big of a deal because now we are strangers. I can tell you are disappointed but it's not like you paid precisely for the photo or were promised one in the tour brochure. My photos were a
surprise extra touch to me. This is not what I would call "horrible customer service" by a long shot.

Posted by
7540 posts

My computer crashed and all my photos disappeared. I was able to recover all my photos, except those of my trip to Ireland. I don't have a single picture of Ireland. I certainly haven't let that ruin the memories my trip.

Posted by
114 posts

With what people are dealing RE the coronavirus, trip cancellations, travel bans, and uneven refunding of paid trip costs, I find this thread amusing to say the least.

Posted by
5552 posts

Email other tour group members as one of them may have it. I never keep those group photos myself. You are making a big deal out of something that doesn’t merit such anguish. The whole travel industry industry, Rick Steves included, is going through a demanding and stressful time as the Coronavirus is affecting traveling. Cut them some slack.

Posted by
915 posts

If you don’t have email addresses, you can post here asking someone from your tour to PM you.
Do Not post your email address.

Posted by
330 posts

Wow, that is incredible. A missing group photo "ruined" the whole vacation!

Good thing you were not on my most recent European vacation, where we were targeted by criminals who slashed a tire and then stole my bag containing our only cellphone, drivers licenses, cash and credit cards. Despite the extended hassle of recovering from that experience, I would never say that the theft "ruined" my whole vacation. It did not. It even had a bright side - I got to put my Spanish to the test in going to the Guardia Civil to report what happened. The officer did not know any English at all and I managed OK.

Perhaps you need to learn to let go of small things that don't work out?

Posted by
631 posts

Hi taojoe,

Allow me to respond as I know that the news of the day is requiring our Tour Sales staff to prioritize handling those issues. I understand this problem started before the prevalence of the coronavirus. I'm with you in that it is sincerely frustrating to repeatedly not hear back about something you've asked for. If I may say from my personal experience, I don't think anyone here hopes you will go away (quite the opposite), but I can easily see how this may be tricky for our Tour Sales staff to deliver. I can confirm that our Tour Sales staff did connect with your guide and that he provided the photo which ended up unfortunately being the wrong one. I am not a direct representative of our Tour Sales staff, but I do lead tours and understand the program. I think I may be able to help.

First, I think some miscommunication may be at play. When your guide said he would post it the next day, know that we do not have a place on our website where images are posted. We don't have an online system in place to keep track of that sort of thing for 30,000 people. As such, providing photos to tour members is not something we ("we" as a company) can promise to deliver (there are actually some crazy legal issues with doing so), though we'll typically do what we can to handle requests like this. Ultimately, providing a group photo is up to each individual guide. Let's see if we can track this down.

The first thing I thought when reading that he would "post" it is Facebook. I know who your guide is and that he is active on Facebook, so I would recommend looking there first (simply head to that website and search on his full name, then browse his photos). I'd do it for you given the trouble you've gone through, but I wouldn't be able to identify the photo of your tour.

I also just sent your guide an email asking him for this photo if this is something that he can find from June. I'll also email you a photo that I found posted to Facebook that came from one of his tours in June. Look for that shortly.

EDIT: I just heard back from your guide and, while he's certain he sent the photo to your group via email, as a Webmaster I know that it's all to easy for an email to bounce, end up in junkmail, etc. This is to say that we're working on finding this so we can try re-sending it to you.

Posted by
2232 posts

My gosh Webmaster, that’s quite excellent customer service that you provide!

Posted by
227 posts

I agree Larry! It seems to me that Webmaster is going above and beyond. The customer service that I have received while booking, cancelling due to injury, and just assisting with questions etc. has been exceptional. But it seems that that issues such as pictures from a tour really belong to the tour member.

Posted by
1841 posts

I agree that some pretty awesome customer service is going on here.

Posted by
1451 posts

...I'd do it for you given the trouble you've gone through, but I wouldn't be able to identify the photo of your tour.
I also just sent your guide an email asking him for this photo if this is something that he can find from June. I'll also email you a photo that I found posted to Facebook that came from one of his tours in June. Look for that shortly.
EDIT: I just heard back from your guide and, while he's certain he sent the photo to your group via email, as a Webmaster I know that it's all to easy for an email to bounce, end up in junkmail, etc. This is to say that we're working on finding this so we can try re-sending it to you.

And, that is why the Webmaster is The Webmaster! A little kindness goes a long way.

Posted by
328 posts

Oh, my gosh. I clicked on this thread expecting to read about something really terrible. Glad it was just hyperbole.

Posted by
187 posts

I think this underscores how great the customer service experience at Rick Steves is.

Thank you to the webmaster for tracking down a picture.

Can I remind the OP that not only are the RS employees juggling cancellations, reschedules etc of customers due to the Corona virus, not only are they managing the guides living in Europe and their well being, they are living in ground zero of the outbreak

Our Governor just banned gatherings of 250 people or more, the Archbishop has cancelled mass at Catholic Churches, universities have closed for the foreseeable future, schools are closed and people are scrambling to find childcare, retirements homes aren’t allowing visitors, restaurants are closed, communities centers are closed, companies are trying to figure out how to have employees work from home while still servicing clients, bank branches are closed.

Posted by
3906 posts

I think I would have given up on stage one and moved on.

Posted by
848 posts

I wonder if the OP knows about checking their email junk folder when an expected email doesn't show up. Happens all the time.

Posted by
915 posts

I wonder if the OP will come back to this thread to say “thank you” to the webmaster and to all who made suggestions.
The picture may be very important to him and his wife as a memento of their tour and for reasons we do not know. But with the current global pandemic, travel bans, cancelled trips, refund difficulties...

Posted by
1451 posts

I think some have missed the point with Andrew posting publicly. He could have easily PM'd the OP.

What is wrong with a person showing some kindness?

And the Webmaster's post will get lost in a sea of harsh criticisms.

It was the Webmaster's choice to take a bit of time to do some troubleshooting and sleuthing. Andrew chose to put a positive spin on something -- even if some think the OP's complaint is trivial.

The OP probably got scared away now with the sarcastic comments and rudeness.

Posted by
5 posts

Hello All!
So, after 7-8 months of having my polite email requests about an issue essentially ignored by customer service and the tour guide, it seems as though posting a complaint on the travel forum was all I needed to do to get a truly helpful and prompt reply...who knew?

For those of you've who been asking if I have thanked Andrew (the webmaster), please be advised that I have in fact expressed my gratitude to him, and continue to work with him via private email to try to resolve the issue.
To those handful of responders who offered constructive advice, I thank you.
To those, the great majority, whose responses were less than helpful, snarky, judgemental, etc., I understand that those comments were the best you were capable of at the time, and so I appreciate your responses as well.

Namaste and safe travels to all.

Posted by
3306 posts

Hopefully you'll get the photo eventually. I don't mean to sound snarky or judgmental, but try to put it in perspective. If the rest of the trip was "a lovely vacation" then you are really very fortunate. Shalom.

Posted by
631 posts

Hi everyone,

The OP and I are in direct communication and I hope to have it resolved as soon as reasonably possible. I'm not cleaning out all replies here, but I have removed a few of the... less patient replies. I'm with everyone on the lines of today's context as it is truly hitting our industry and our company as hard as I've ever seen it. I also clearly believe that someone who has been working at this for months deserves the right resolution. Well before working for this company, I learned that some of the greatest takeaways from travel aren't the things you see and do (which are all great), but the people you meet. I'd be sad not to have photos of the people I've met in my travels, whether they be locals or fellow travelers.

As the OP has posted graciously in reply here, I think it's right to close this thread.