Customer complaints mount against Centralia travel company

Customer complaints mount against Centralia travel company
CENTRALIA, Wash. -- A consumer advocacy group is sounding the alarm on a Lewis County travel company, arguing customers - mostly senior citizens - aren't getting what they pay for.

"A lot of the folks that contacted us thought they were going to get their dream vacation," said David Quinlan, spokesman for the Better Business Bureau."(They were promised) incredible trips at a fraction of a cost, and, come to find out, (the company) ends up canceling the trip, or (customers) have to reschedule.

"They're extremely angry. They're extremely frustrated, and they feel helpless," he added.

The Better Business Bureau has 16 complaints against Centralia-based Discovery Tours, while the Washington state Attorney General's office has an additional 45 complaints, a spokesman said. All of the complaints deal with canceled trips, money that was never refunded, or deposits that took a long time being returned to the customer, representatives for the agencies said.

Most of the complaints come from senior citizens, like Leslie Pfaff, a retiree who travels primarily to historic locations throughout the United States.

Pfaff, who lives in Tumwater, said he and his wife paid the company $1,100 to go to Ashland and the Oregon Coast on two separate trips, but that the trips were canceled within two weeks of booking. He said it took about 10 weeks - and countless phone calls - for him to get his money back.

"It's a lot of money, whether you're on limited income or not," he said. "Plus, I had better things to do with my time than being on the phone all the time. It's just not a good feeling."

Owners for the company didn't return phone calls from the KOMO 4 Problem Solvers, but a representative for the American Bus Association did. The group is a trade organization representing more than 1,000 tour companies nationwide, and Discovery has a solid record with the association, said Dan Ronan, a spokesman for the ABA.

"(Discovery) does 14,000 passenger trips a year," Ronan said. "They're certainly trying to deal with complaints and any issues, but this is a small percentage.

"(Discovery) is a member in good standing with us," he added. "They have to comply with our standards, which are pretty rigorous."

But Quinlan said the company refused to address customer complaints with the Better Business Bureau, or even talk with the consumer advocacy group.

"This is extremely unusual," Quinlan said, "and what raised a real red flag with us is that we wanted to resolve these problems between the company and the consumer but the company just didn't want to play ball."

Pfaff eventually got his money back. His patience, however, is another story.

"It was just a bad experience," Pfaff said. "Definitely frustrating."

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Editor's Note:

After KOMO 4 aired the original report, Discovery Tours faxed a stack of customer reviews to the KOMO News offices that they say show a number of positive reviews about their service and “We have several thousand more,” reads the note on the top.

A spokesman for the Better Business Bureau says the agency still has not heard from Discovery in response to the 16 complaints filed against them.