Club ABC Tours customers await answers

By Michelle Baran
Club ABC Tours customers continued to scramble for answers and refunds last week, as hundreds of vacations vanished into thin air with the quiet shutdown of Club ABC Tours earlier this month.

“I’m out over $3,000,” said an audibly upset Perry Shapiro, a New Jersey traveler who was supposed to depart for Morocco with Club ABC Tours on Nov. 8. “All that money is gone, lost.”

Club ABC Tours is a direct-to-consumer, member-based vacation packager founded in 1966 and owned by Crown Travel Service of Bloomfield, N.J.

Robert Paris, co-president and owner of Club ABC Tours, emailed Travel Weekly that a statement about the company’s operations was “forthcoming,” but Travel Weekly has not received that statement nor any other public statement from the company.

Club ABC Tours is believed to have ceased operations, according to the Better Business Bureau of New Jersey.

“The BBB received numerous calls from concerned consumers who had booked tours with the company and are reporting canceled tours or nonresponsiveness by the company to any inquiries,” the bureau reported on its website.

The bureau alleges that Club ABC ceased operations on Oct. 1. The Club ABC Tours website (clubabc.com) is down, and repeated calls to the company lead to a message that the office is currently closed. Emails yield an automatic response that the company will be in touch. All websites of associated ABC businesses, including the Women’s Travel Club in New York (womenstravelclub.com), and ABC Destinations (abcdestinations.com), are also down.

The bureau advised consumers who paid for their travel arrangements by credit card to contact their credit card company and alert them about the status of Club ABC’s operations.

“Unfortunately, many travel clubs require payment by check, which is good for the club because it gives them almost instant use of the money without a merchant fee but in turn it makes worse for the traveler because they become an unsecured creditor and with little hope of recovering their money,” John Cook, president of travel insurance comparison site QuoteWright.com, wrote in an advisory email about ABC’s closure.

Furthermore, those who purchased travel insurance through Club ABC Tours will not be covered in the event of a default.

Trip Mate is the claims administrator for the travel protection plan that Club ABC Tours offered its customers, and “the plan offered by Club ABC Tours does not cover loss caused by the company’s default,” according to Linda Finkle, executive vice president of Trip Mate.

“While I do not know exactly how many Club ABC travelers had policies when the company ceased operations, I can advise that we’ve received about 150 inquiries thus far,” Finkle wrote in an email.

Travel Weekly spoke with another impacted customer who had a two-week trip to Turkey canceled on Oct. 2, 24 hours prior to departure. The customer had paid for the trip in cash and was awaiting word about how to get a refund.

“We were notified on Friday, Oct. 7, by email that our London trip was canceled. Over $9,000 lost by two couples, all paid by checks!!” wrote one traveler in a comment to Travel Weekly’s initial web story about Club ABC Tours ceasing operations.

Shapiro has been a member of Club ABC Tours for 20 years, paying a $35 membership fee every two years for access to the operator’s brochures and deals. He has been on about 17 trips with Club ABC Tours and had never had a problem.

He had always paid using a credit card in the past, but this time he paid with a check because of a 10% discount incentive to do so.

“I’m going to be very leery about booking with anyone ever again,” said Shapiro, who despite having lost $3,000 was looking into alternative suppliers for his vacation next month. “My friend who’s a travel agent said I should always pay for everything with a credit card. What else can you do?”

Club ABC Tours sold air-inclusive packages to Europe and other international destinations. Members booked directly with Club ABC by phone, online or by mail.

Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.
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