FALMOUTH, Maine — CBS 13 investigated several complaints from customers of a local tour bus business who said trips were canceled months ago, and they’re still waiting for refunds.
Sisters Brenda McGovern and Bonnie Chisholm and their cousin Sharon Madreega said they’ve always wanted to visit Nashville, Tennessee. So when they saw a flyer for a nine-day, eight-night trip with Falmouth-based Tour BUSters, they quickly signed up. Checks show the family trio paid Tour BUSters $1,980 last July. According to the flyer, the September trip was supposed to cover transportation, hotel and more.
But days before the Nashville trip, it hit a bad note. They said they got a letter from owner Barry Somes postponing the adventure two months. Then that re-scheduled trip in November with Tour BUSters was a bust, too.
“He said we would refund our money within three weeks to a month,” McGovern said.
Nearly a year after they booked and paid, the trio said they’re still waiting to get that full refund. To date, they’ve only received $350, less than 20 percent of what they paid.
“It’s very frustrating. It’s my hard-earned money,” McGovern said.
“Where is all that money? Where is my money? Where is my sister’s money? Where is my cousin’s money?” Chisholm asked.
CBS 13 passed those questions along to company owner Barry Somes.
“Cancellation fees, office overhead, rent, phone — just keeping the business open,” Somes answered.
Somes told CBS 13 he had to cancel trips last year, including the Nashville trip, because not enough people booked to fill the bus.
“I’ve been doing this 30 years, and I ran into a case where several trips canceled all at once, economy, high oil bills put me behind,” Somes said.
He said customers will get 100 percent back, but it’s going to come in installments.
With two dozen complaints, the Better Business Bureau gives Tour BUSters an “F” rating. Records with the Maine attorney general’s office show nine complaints in the past year.
Somes said he’s focusing on shorter trips, closer to Maine under a new business name: “Great Escapes Tour Company.”
Asked if potential customers should be wary of booking a trip with his company, given the previous complaints with the attorney general’s office and Better Business Bureau, Somes said, “No.”
“No, no, and another thing: I discourage people from paying in advance. A modest deposit is all I need,” Somes said.
Somes estimated that he owes at least 25 customers refunds for trips that didn’t happen. He said he’s doing the best he can, but he wouldn’t commit to when customers can expect to get a full refund. He said he’ll continue to make refund payments when he can.