I wrote this response earlier off line and had some of those little voices in my head delaying me from sending it…for multiple reasons. But I reached a tipping point with the recent comment from the OP who said, “I definitely feel they are an unscrupulous company and that I was taken advantage of”. That may be true but please tell us why with facts, not feelings.
Written earlier today:
I’ve only walked one Camino and I did not use a tour company and I never will. I have no dog in this fight other than the general principal Juno (post #13) makes about the ease of damaging a company’s reputation online. However, unlike Juno I think negative reviews can be valuable and legitimate but ONLY if they explain factually and specifically the failures of the company to deliver what they promised and very few negative reviews on any service or product do this well. This is a pet peeve of mine so buckle up as I express my concerns about this specific review and in general my concerns about hurting a business with a negative review that is not factual. We are all good at reading headlines and then making judgments without looking deeper. I think the OP’s criticisms could be very valuable if the criticisms are substantiated with details and objectivity. I hope she follows up with that.
It’s obvious the OP is very unhappy with the company and I feel for her but the complaints are neither specific or detailed enough to be actionable by the tour company or for us to know if they are even legitimate. Antonius (post #14) makes an excellent point – “for sure at least there was a lack of communication”. In most cases, a company that has been operating for 12 years (from trip advisor screen shot below) has the “boiler plate” information in their marketing materials and schedules/itineraries/communications nailed down pretty tight…mostly accurate. It is the nature of their business however that hotels & restaurants go out of business and re-open, sell out with new owners, have employee turnover so the desk person doesn’t always know the policy arrangement with Tour Company A, B, C…X, Y & Z. The other side of the communication issue is the customer has a responsibility to both read and understand their contract and itinerary and if there are questions or concerns to contact the company ahead of time (or at the time of the problem) to work it out. Waiting until after the trip to complain about a service that you did not understand does not give the Tour Company a chance to make things right at the moment of your concern. Maybe the OP did this, maybe she did not…she did not give us the details so it is hard for us to make an informed judgment of her criticisms.
Subjective statements like “They were very rude and a nightmare to deal with” is both suspect and meaningless without the honest details and examples. Typically, someone who is upset about a company product or service is unable to give objective, factual criticism due to their emotional involvement. And generally speaking, if they did, it would not support their argument.
The OP says: “On two days I had to walk several hours from the camino trail to reach my hotels”. A friend of mine is taking a Camino Tour using a different company this fall. She sent me a copy of her itinerary (see attachment below). On the bottom of the page is a note about accommodations….”it may be away from the route” but taxis/transfers will be taken care of and then a reference to another page is given to get more details about the process etc… This sounds like a standard practice for the tour companies and there are several reviews in Trip Advisor for this particular company the OP used that mention the use of this practice (see attachments below). Did the OP have this information in her paperwork?...did she read it? was it an option that she declined? If the info was there and she did not fulfill her responsibility to read it or to call the company when she had a problem is it then fair to criticize this company for her negligence? I do think it is appropriate for those exceptional conditions (hotel 2 hour walk off Camino path) to offer some kind of alert or explanation up front in large print bringing this to the customer’s attention. Maybe there was, I don’t know but ultimate responsibility is with the customer to be informed, review the itinerary, get questions answered ahead of time where the instructions and information are fuzzy.
“I did not receive what I paid for” – what hotels, restaurants, bag transfers, services, products, taxis to remote hotels did you not receive that you paid for and why were those services denied to you? Please tell us the specific details. This is useful information that is important to know when picking a tour company.
“They booked me in two hotels far away from the Camino & I had to walk for hours to them” – were they listed in the itinerary they sent you ahead of time? did they communicate if there was free or reimbursable taxi fare to get to the hotel from the trail and back to the trail the next morning? This appears to be the standard practice offered by this company for hotels off the Camino route.
“The hotels were not the quality I expected” – expected based on what? this complaint is subjective. If you looked up all of your hotels on the internet after receiving your itinerary to look at pictures and understand their amenities offered and they were then substantially different you would have a legitimate criticism. Is that what happened in your case? Which ones? What specifically was misrepresented by the old pictures and descriptions relative to the property as you experienced it?
“Their so called "detailed walking notes" turned out to be rubbish” – this is the only criticism you offered that I found partially substantiated in reviews from Trip Advisor. You also made some specific complaints which are helpful. I used the Brierley
guide for my Camino and thought it was great. I did not count but of the 20 reviews I read about your tour company where notes/maps were mentioned, maybe half offered some criticism and half said they were great. Sometimes the maps/notes are not so good and sometimes the notes/map readers are not so good.
“Used without permission copy righted Brierley
guide material” – are you sure or is this a supposition? Juno (post #13) said his experience was the Guide Company purchased and then gave you the complete Brierley
Guide when doing a “full” Brierley
route. The Brierley
Guide for the Portugese starts in Lisbon and lists 24 stages to Santiago. Eleven of those stages are the route you did, Porto to Santiago. Personally I think they should give you the complete guide instead of copied pages for Porto to Santiago. But you don’t know if this company has a specific arrangement with Brierley
& Co. that allows them to use a certain number of copies for the Porto route and label them with their company name as long as they buy a certain number of Brierley
guide books each year.
“Didn’t know I could use emergency number to solve my problems with the company at the time they occurred” – was the number described as a “Medical Emergency” number or just “Emergency” number? I guess I can understand how you might have some confusion here. “24 hour customer service number” might be a better label for your language and culture. I think if you travel internationally with the expectation that everything will be labeled to suit your language/culture and each experience will go as expected relative to all your past experiences you will inevitably be disappointed.
“They were very rude and a nightmare to deal with” - does this mean at the end of the trip I asked for a partial refund and they would not give it to me? Or, are there specific examples of their rudeness and was it just one way…unprovoked? You say “I write this to warn future potential clients. Save yourself a lot of time and hassel by not engaging their services” Well thanks for looking out for us but the details matter, the facts matter and not so much the emotion behind them so please let us know the facts and details.
The OP has the latest review on Trip Advisor for this company. The company replies to each review so eventually we will hear their reply.
I’m glad the OP had a good experience while walking the Camino. However, the disappointment of the accommodations must have taken a toll on her. I hope she goes back again and can experience it without those distractions.