NEW YORK -- A Staten Island travel agent is suing a tour operator
in small claims court to recover $216 in out-of-pocket expenses
that he incurred chasing after a refund.
Sherman Gottlieb, owner of SMG Travel, said the case involves a
booking at Sunshine Vacations, a Caribbean operator in Westbury,
N.Y., that took a $1,000 deposit in May 2002 for a client trip in
Gottlieb said Sunshine did not pay the hotel, so the client
ended up at the destination without a room. Gottlieb said he
refunded the money to his client, but incurred so many delays
getting a refund from the operator that he went to small claims
Earlier this month, after what he called "an unbelievable amount
of wrangling and going back and forth," Gottlieb said he picked up
a check for $1,000 from Sunshine's office.
But Gottlieb said he is not dropping the case because he wants
to recover the expenses he incurred running back and forth to the
Sunshine office trying to retrieve his refund.
Andrew Cummings, marketing director at Sunshine Vacations, said
he considered the case closed.
"We paid him his $1,000; we're not going to pay him any more,"
Gottlieb appears to be one of a number of agents involved in
money disputes with Sunshine.
Irina Gruman, a travel consultant with Travel World in
Philadelphia, said Sunshine owes her $7,962 for a hotel reservation
that was not paid for.
Linda Rosenberg, office manager at the Travel Store in Trenton,
N.J., said Sunshine owes one of her clients $4,758, plus her
Darlene Sheppard, an agent with Paradise Travel in Lincoln,
Neb., said Sunshine owes her about $600 in commission and owes
eight clients about $6,500.
Meanwhile ASTA is wrangling with the operator over a statement
on the operator's site that it is an ASTA member.
Rick Schoen, the Society's senior manager of consumer affairs,
said in a letter to Cummings last September that "Sunshine
Vacations is not and has never been a member of ASTA.
"Although you have applied for membership, we have not received
payment. If there is an error in our records, please let us
As of Feb. 25, Schoen said the claim about ASTA was still was on
the operator's site at www.sunshinevacationsfun.com and Sunshine
still was not a member.
According to the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New
York, Sunshine Vacations has "an unsatisfactory record."
The bureau's Web site lists five unresolved complaints in the
last 12 months concerning credit and billing issues, failure to
provide service and failure to provide promised adjustment.
Queried for a comment, Cummings told TravelWeekly.com he would
resolve those issues.