Consumer Complaints Pile Up Against Tom Harper River Journeys
A Newton, Mass.-based company called Tom Harper River Journeys has apparently abruptly closed down, leaving travelers in the lurch and out of thousands of dollars.
The Better Business Bureau posted an alert saying, “According to information in BBB files, this business is no longer in business.” Calls to the company during business hours got a voicemail greeting with a menu. Clicking on reservations and customer service resulted in a message saying the office was closed and listing hours of operation. The voicemail then clicked off before messages could be left.
The BBB website listed seven complaints made May 20-26 by consumers who said their trips were abruptly canceled and their calls to the company unanswered. The office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has received 60 complaints about Tom Harper River Journeys, according to Deputy Press Secretary Chloe Gotsis.
Tom Harper booked space on other companies’ river ships and bundled them into tour packages. Founded in early 2013, the company was led by chairman and CEO Bret Gordon, who previously was COO at Vantage Deluxe World Travel from January 2011 to September 2012, according to his LinkedIn profile. The company name combines those of Tom Sawyer and his friend Joe Harper from the classic books by Mark Twain.
A May 26 complaint on the BBB website says: “My wife and I paid in full for a trip to Scotland 7/2014. The trip was to depart 5/8/2015. On 5/7/15 I was emailed that the trip was cancelled. I received an additional email 2 days later stating we would be refunded within 30 days. I have attempted to reach the company by email and yesterday by phone, with no luck. The phone message said they were closed. It was midday on a business day. I am concerned that they will not refund my $13,170.00. I am reaching out for guidance as to what steps I can take to collect my money.”
Cathy Miler, a 71-year-old retired teacher from Seattle, said she booked a May 9 trip to Scotland through Tom Harper River Journeys and received a “robocall” on May 7, followed by an email the next day, that the tour was canceled. She is trying to recover the $8,400 she paid but hasn't been able to reach anyone at the company.
“First, I want you to know that Tom Harper is a solid business with trips operating as scheduled, and this situation that has impacted your travel plans is an unfortunate anomaly,” read an emailed letter Miler received, which was signed by Gordon. “Second, in this unique instance, we failed not only you, but also missed an important deadline in our contractual obligation with the owner of the ship in Scotland. We worked tirelessly and up to the last minute to resolve the matter with expectations that the trip would operate as planned. This is the reason we notified you at such a late time, and we are very sorry for this inconvenience. We have taken immediate corrective action within the company to assure this will not happen again.”
The letter goes on to offer a full refund and a $1,000 cruise-tour certificate toward a future trip, or the ability to transfer the money paid to the same trip in 2016 or any other trip and a $4,000 credit.
Tom Harper River Journeys is not listed as a member of the U.S. Tour Operators Association or Cruise Lines International Association. To join USTOA, tour operators must have been in business at least three years and provide 18 industry references. Additionally, the company must participate in USTOA’s Travelers Assistance Program by posting a $1 million letter of credit to be used solely for reimbursing consumers in the case of bankruptcy or insolvency.
More by Theresa Norton
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