Michael, a 26 year old from Melbourne, Australia, has recently had an unpleasant experience with Groupon resulting in a $3,500 debt on his credit card.
The Aussie native planned on going on a trip, with his girlfriend, to Nepal in October and early November of 2012. The all-inclusive trip (accommodations, meals, flights, international flights) had been put together by Groupon and participating merchants. Since Michael had planned the trip over four months in advance, with specific dates locked in, the itinerary provided by Groupon was very specific.
The trip was to start with a trek, a long journey on foot in areas where there are usually no means of transport available, down to Lukla, a town in the Khumbu area of the Solukhumbu District in the Sagarmatha Zone of north-eastern Nepal, where the couple would spend the night and prepare for the 7:45 a.m. flight out the following morning. This is where the problems began.
“With 2 days to go on our trek, our head guide and Sherpa got off the phone to the group who organized the tour (Groupon’s merchant), only to tell us that they’d made a mistake and booked our flights a day early, despite us booking almost 5 months in advance. Consequently we missed our flights and found ourselves stranded for 3 nights in Luka,” Michael explained.
Because the couple missed their flight when they got back to Lukla, at around 6 p.m., their Sherpa and head guide went straight to the
offices of the airlines to try and put them on the next available flight.
According to Michael, there are no systems in Lukla, no airport staff, the place is run by locals from nearby lodges who help out. There only flights that are coming and going to the town are between 8 a.m. -2 p.m..
The problem lied that after 2pm the clouds that rolled in and the conditions were too dangerous to fly in.
“If you miss your flight, you have to wait until a clear enough day so that they can put on more afternoon flights, so you’re completely at the mercy of the weather. The day we were supposed to fly out, there were 22 flights that came and left but we missed ours because we were still hiking, due to Groupon’s wrong itinerary,” Michael went on to explain.
Whiler the couple was stranded in Lukla they didn’t have access to an ATM and were running out of cash. And because the tour company failed to help them out, Michael and his girlfriend has to pay for their own accommodations, meals, and the ability to charge their phones.
“Our Sherpa’s who were in touch with the tour company told us that Groupons merchant weren’t going to do anything for us, we’d have to fend for ourselves,” Michael said.
The only suggestion the head guide and Sherpa gave the couple, after informing them that they were not expecting to be able to get the couple on another flight for at least another 6/7 days was for the couple to shell out $3,500 Austrailan dollars, which is almost $3,700 American, for a helicopter charter to Kathmandu.
“That was our only option,” Michael explained. “It was either that or miss the remaining pre-paid/booked few days of our trip along with our international flights home,” He added while explaining the only thing running through his mind was how he was possibly going to contact Thai Airways and explain why they were going to miss their flights.
Both Michael and his girlfriend had careers to get back to and no cash left, so consequently Michael had to put the large bill on his credit card in order get out of Lukla, meaning the helicopter ride cost more than their entire trip, which was $950 on Groupon. (see here: Groupon Nepal: See Mount Everest)
“When we finally got back to Kathmandu we approached the organizer from the tour company, he pretty much sat there with a big cheesy grin on his face telling us that sometimes these things happen,” Michael said. “They assumed zero responsibilities for the fact that despite us booking 5 months in advance, they booked our flights on the wrong day!”
When Michael returned home, he immediately tried contacting Groupon. During the duration of the holiday, and a $3,500 debt on his credit card, Michael received no feedback from emails or phone calls that were sent to the company.
As of seven weeks later, he says he has no idea where they are in the process of helping reimburse any of the trip.
“As far as I’m aware, I’m no further along than I was when I first made the complaint over 6 weeks ago,” Michael said.