Diary: Trying to Book a Bike and Barge

TLDR; Tour company can only accept payment via wire transfer.  Bank says some required information is missing.  Multiple back-and-forth with tour company, and multiple visits to bank.  Finally get all the information needed.  Visit bank one final time.  Wire transfer successfully sent.  Bank did not use all the information they insisted they needed.

April 19, 2022

Brent and I decided to do a trip to Germany sans bicycles (gasp) this year.  It is an opportunity to do some things that would be difficult with the bikes along, such as visiting some long-lost relatives, and going to Barcelona (which doesn't seem to have a safe cycle route into the city).

Brent researched a number of Bike and Barge options, and we selected a trip along the Oder river, from Stralsund to Berlin.  We're going to be flying in and out of Berlin this time, so how convenient is that!?

There were a few tour companies that offer the tour we want, but I noticed they're all on the same boat and same date, looking suspiciously like they're all resellers of a single tour.  Now, when booking flights I prefer to book directly with the airline.  If something goes wrong it's just so much easier to get customer service.  So I suggested booking directly with the tour company themselves instead of with a "reseller".  

I found the tour company and made a reservation for us, and then the real adventure began.  In trying to PAY for our tour, I'm just not feeling the German efficiency...  

April 20, 2022

I received an e-mail confirmation of the tour, including an invoice and terms and conditions. We are required to pay a deposit by May 3rd, and pay the final balance three weeks prior to departure, but neither document was clear on how to make payment.  The invoice includes some banking information, but that was it.

I replied to the confirmation e-mail asking about refund practices in the case that the tour doesn't get enough participants and they have to cancel.  I hear back directly from nice Tour Lady explaining their refund practices, and assuring me that they have already met their minimum participants for the tour we've chosen.

April 21, 2022

My fears assuaged, I e-mailed Tour Lady about how to make payment.  

Me: "I see that you provided bank information in the invoice.  Is it possible for me to send you an e-transfer or is there some other way than sending direct to your bank account to make payment?"  

April 22, 2022

Tour Lady: "Can you please explain in more detail what you mean by an e-transfer? We don't have paypal or anything like that.  If you transfer via normal bank transfer, we will cover the fees or anything else.  Otherwise, many overseas customers use their credit card for payment. We can make that possible as well."

Me: "Using my credit card would be great. How do we do that?  Over the phone?"

Tour Lady: "We have a credit card form for this purpose, which you are welcome to fill out and return to us!  I will then timely debit once the deposit and then once the balance!"

So, I'm not happy about putting all of my credit card info (including the security number) on a form and sending that in but I guess that's the path of least resistance, so I fill it out and send it in.  

April 26, 2022

Tour Lady: "Thank you very much for returning the form! Everything is filled in correctly."

May 2, 2022

Me: "I haven't seen a charge come through yet on my credit card.  Is there any problem with taking the payment?"

Tour Lady: "The debit of the deposit is scheduled for tomorrow, as it is listed in the invoice. If it does not work, I will get back to you!"

May 3, 2022

Tour Lady: "When the deposit was to be debited today, an error showed up. Unfortunately, I cannot explain to myself why this did not work, since the information is all complete.  I was also just in our accounting department and they said you should check with your credit institution.  Maybe it's just a mistake in the numbers?"

Now, admittedly, sometimes I do transpose numbers, so I double-checked everything I sent in.

Me: "I have checked the numbers that I sent you and they are all correct.  I always get a notification from my bank when my credit card is used (or declined) and I did not receive a notification.  Are you sure you entered the numbers exactly as I provided them?  Do you have to identify what country the bank is from?  I am Canadian, not American, so maybe you identified it as an American bank not a Canadian bank?  If you cannot resolve the issue on your end, is there some other method we can use to have the payment processed?"

May 4, 2022

Tour Lady: "I spoke again with the head of accounting at our company. She said we should wait a few more days, maybe the money will arrive after all. That can always take a while and if you have not received any notification of a rejection, that may also be the case that it worked.  Otherwise, there is always the way of normal bank transfer."

May 10, 2022

Me: "It looks like the charge just did not go through.  I guess I have to go in to the bank and send the money that way?  Can you please confirm that my booking has not been canceled nor has my deposit been received?  Upon your confirmation, I'll go in to the bank and send the funds.  I am sick with a head cold right now so I won't be able to go until I'm feeling better.  I don't have Covid but I still don't go out in public when I'm sick."

Tour Lady: "The payment has not yet been debited, so it just didn't work. I agree that going the simple bank transfer way will make for quicker resolution."

May 13, 2022

Finally my head cold clears and I head in to the bank to make a wire transfer.  Bank Lady looks at the information provided and says she needs more information:
  1. The tour company's full name and address;
  2. Their bank's full name and address; and
  3. Their bank account number
I look up the tour company's address online, and send off an e-mail to Tour Lady saying that Bank Lady needs more information, and asking:
  1. Confirm their name (from the invoice);
  2. Confirm their address (from my Googling);
  3. Confirm their bank's name (from the invoice);
  4. Provide the bank's address;
  5. Provide the bank account number.

May 17, 2022

Tour Lady: "The company name and address is correct. The bank details, account numbers and everything else you need for a bank transfer is on our invoice, which you have already received. It is attached again."

Me: "I already have the invoice but my bank says it does not provide all the information needed.  They want Bank Account # and Bank Address which don't seem to be on the invoice.  Can you send me those things so that when I go back to the bank I will have all the information they say they need?"

Tour Lady: "Here is the exact address of the bank. Is there anything missing?"

Me: "My bank lady says she also needs your bank account number.  She looked at the IBAN, but still said she needed the bank account number.  I'm not sure why.  Is there another bank account number you can give me?  If not I'll try again with the information provided."

Brent and I are going out anyway, so I take the paperwork, with the updated information, off to the bank.  Bank Lady says she still needs the bank account number.

Me: "I went to my bank for the second time and she says I have all the information I need EXCEPT for your bank account number. She needs that before she can set up a wire transfer.  Can you please send?"

I'm considering canceling the reservation with Tour Lady and going back to one of the resellers.  I'd probably be able to pay in 30 seconds with an online form.  

May 18, 2022

Tour Lady: "Maybe this is the missing number: Konto-Nr: 99999-9999."

May 20, 2022

I head back into the bank (third time's a charm, right?  RIGHT?) with all the info this time.

Bank Lady: "Have you got the beneficiary name and address?"

Me: "Right here."

Bank Lady: "Have you got the bank name and address?"

Me: "Right here."

Bank Lady: "Have you got the bank account number?

Me: "Right here."

Bank Lady: "All right!  Let's set up your wire transfer."

Wire transfer sent and receipt received.  She did NOT use the bank account number.  She used the IBAN number that had been available all along.  Not feeling the Canadian efficiency here...

I will have to send a second wire transfer to pay the balance before we leave for Germany in mid-August.  At least I have all the information now... including all the information that the bank needs, plus all the information that the bank doesn't apparently need but insists that they do.

From time of booking to time of deposit paid: 31 days.  If we'd just gone with a tour reseller, we likely would have had it done in five minutes.  For future reference, consider booking with a tour reseller rather than directly with the provider...


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