NORFOLK, Va. — Phillip Coe, an Army veteran, says he was looking forward to escaping the day-to-day by taking a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
He booked the trip in 2019 with a travel agency that specifically helps military members and their families.
Coe says the final cost, including airfare and a hotel, came out to $1,137.65. However, before the 21-year Army veteran could make the trip, there was the pandemic and then he was diagnosed with cluster headaches, in addition to his leukemia.
“They call them suicide headaches and if you’ve ever had one, you know why,” he says. “Cluster headaches are very painful. They come on one side of your head, and you never know when you are going to get them. It just ruins your whole life.”
He shared a medical statement from his neurologist with me, which says
“Mr. Coe is an active patient at this facility’s neurology clinic due to a diagnosis of cluster headaches. Traveling at high altitudes affects cerebral blood flow and is known to trigger an attack of cluster headaches. Due to this condition, Mr. Coe was advised and will no longer be able to fly on any aircraft.”
Coe told me he contacted Delta asking for a refund.
An email exchange shows Delta issued a refund on April 17, 2023, to the company that booked the trip. Coe says he had until December 2023 to re-book either for himself or a family member, but September was the last time he says he heard from the travel agency.
“They worked with me for a while and then all of a sudden, they just cut me off and just wouldn’t help me anymore,” he says.
For months, I tried contacting the company. I called several times, emailed, and stopped by the office. I never heard back.
“I hope they didn’t close down,” Coe says. “Something is going on over there.”
I started wondering: what happens if they did shut down and what happens if other companies close, or file bankruptcy, while customers are waiting for a service?
For answers, I turned to Jim Pedigo, a bankruptcy attorney in Norfolk. He tells me it is complicated.
“You’ve got to determine whether or not is it going to be worth it to exert these resources: time, effort, and energy to recover this amount of money,” he says.
Pedigo says a company can file a Chapter 7 and liquidate or a Chapter 11 and attempt to reorganize.
If you are their customer, he says, “filling out the ‘Proof of Claim’ form and filing that with the court would be your best remedy.”
And if you are trying to figure out what is going on with a company, your best bet would be to contact the attorney representing the debtor. In a Chapter 7 case, he says you would contact the trustee for more information. There is also the United States Trustee’s Office that oversees bankruptcy cases.
For insight on what to do if they did not file bankruptcy, I called Fredlena Cosby with the Better Business Bureau.
“If they have not filed bankruptcy, then you have a couple of different options: First, you can send a certified letter. You can also call your bank and submit a dispute. I would read all the complaints as part of my research,” she says.
You may even find out that other people are having the same issue.
If a company does shut down, Cosby and Pedigo say the chances of you getting money back are small.
“Even sometimes good, stable, companies that are stable now – you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” Pedigo says.
Coe says regardless of what is going on behind the scenes, a lack of communication from the company is not right.
“I am 64 years old. Why would you take advantage of a veteran – let alone a senior? And a disabled veteran at that,” Coe says.
This is not the first time I have reported on an issue like this. I am following up to remind you that you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
How to navigate unexpected medical bills
10:00 AM, Jul 11, 2023
While you may not have an answer right away, if enough people complain, experts say it could put pressure on the state and federal powers to act.
Can we solve a problem for you? Let us know!
1:04 PM, Jul 25, 2023
Brianna Lanham contributed to this story.
- Alex Jones' attorney Norm Pattis wants out of Sandy Hook case
- WEA Trust, Health Tradition Health Plan leaving Wisconsin's insurance market by end of 2022
- Washington AG wins sanctions against attorney behind voter fraud lawsuit
- Attorney Lin Wood loses appeal over state bar's mental health probe
- Viewpoint: What kind of deal is attorney Billy Gibbens cutting for DA Jason Williams?