My recent overseas holiday was planned to within an inch of its life thanks to my BFF who organised everything on my behalf. She wasn’t able to come with me, so decided to live vicariously through me and immerse herself within the planning phase. Because she wanted me to get as much time in San Francisco as I could (because she was sure I’d fall in love with the city, which I did!) she created a tight schedule for me to follow half way through the trip to ensure that happened. The question was, could I stick to it and keep my sanity?
After three full days in San Francisco I was due to check out of my hotel at 11am on the fourth day, Thursday 27 August 2015, and occupy myself until my flight to Toronto at 10:30pm. Upon landing in Toronto at 7am I had an hour to clear customs, get my bags and find where my day tour to Niagara Falls started. Given the tour company hadn’t offered any detailed information about the tour location, I was hesitant about the whole thing. I then had to be back at the airport by 7:30pm on Friday 28 August 2015 in order to catch my flight to Vancouver which would see me arrive at 10:06pm the same night. The wedding I was going to Vancouver for started 17.5 hours later so it was imperative things went according to plan. Knowing that I would have no sleep for almost 48 hours and my base in Toronto was the airport I thought to myself “what could possibly go wrong?”
After a wonderful afternoon spent by the Bay and on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco I went to catch the Muni back to the hotel where my bags were being stored and where the airport shuttle would pick me up. The problem was the first scheduled bus didn’t arrive. Neither did the second, or the third, or the fourth. For some reason, still unknown to me, no buses came within the span of an hour forcing me to catch a taxi. I made the hotel shuttle with ten minutes to spare.
On the Air Canada OVERNIGHT flight to Toronto they failed to dim the cabin lights. At all. Superhappyfuntimes trying to get any sleep on that flight.
In Toronto airport my phone with compatible US/Canada sim decided not to work. I had no cellular internet connection and wasn’t able to text.
After complete confusion, asking for directions and a train ride to the Sheraton Hotel, I finally made it to my limousine… wait what? I thought I was going on a bus tour to Niagara Falls. It turns out the limo airport pick up, which was not an airport pick up at all, drove me and another guy downtown to where the tour bus departed from. The ride downtown was almost an hour-long in morning peak hour traffic. This concerned me predominately because of the journey home. The tour bus was supposed to arrive back at the airport at 5-5:30pm. Given the fib I’d uncovered about the airport pick up, I assumed (correctly) that there would be no tour bus airport drop off either which meant a drive back via limo in afternoon peak hour traffic. In prior email communications with my BFF the tour company guaranteed I’d make my flight so in theory I shouldn’t worry. Right?
Once downtown the limo driver helped me with my bags to the tour bus, but when the bus driver saw them he questioned me as to when my flight left that evening. A conversation ensued. I confirmed I had received assurance this tour would meet my needs and have me safely back at the airport in time to catch my flight to Vancouver…aaannnd I was refused entry to the tour as the driver couldn’t guarantee that. He handballed me to the office staff.
With the limo driver in tow still carrying my luggage we went to the office approximately twenty meters away. They had locked the door on me and refused to speak with me. After five minutes someone, whose name I intentionally forgot, came out questioning what was wrong. The limo driver relayed my story as I was deciding whether or not I would cry or stab the office guy. When I composed myself I explained that given the only reason I came to Toronto was to do this tour and my intelligence prevailed enough to obtain written confirmation from the tour company that they could accommodate my flight times I was a tad pissed off at being refused entry. I demanded a refund of the tour, my flights, and a ride back to the airport. This is where the fun began and the lies continued.
After deleting the confirmation emails, the ones which I couldn’t access on my phone or tablet due to having no internet connection, the office guy showed me what emails he chose for me to see regarding tour arrangements. He assured me nobody would guarantee that I’d make my flight to Vancouver because it is a guarantee that could not be made and sure enough the selected emails I saw did not comment on my flights. I assured him I was not stupid and would not dare arrange to come to Toronto for less than 24 hours to only do this one tour without a guarantee I’d make my flight to Vancouver at the conclusion of it all. We hit a stalemate. I cried. If logic wasn’t going to make a liar bend then perhaps I could appeal to the scamming bastard’s emotional side. Err, no.
The owner walked in. The story was relayed again, I cried some more. A deal was struck. The tour company would pay the limo driver $250 (in addition to them still pocketing my $110 for a tour I didn’t go on) to take me on a private tour of Niagara Falls. It was either that or spend a day at the airport waiting for my 8pm flight.
The limo driver and I left the office when suddenly the office guy came running out. He handed me a Trivago card and asked if I would please rate the tour when I finished. I think everyone within a mile radius heard the sound of my jaw drop and hit the floor at that precise point in time. I told the dumb son-of-a-bitch that I would review the tour.
Over the course of the next few hours I got to know a truly lovely gentleman by the name of Jeya who drove me to Niagara Falls, bought me lunch and made the only low point of my two weeks away bearable. I also established that Jeya was an independent contractor, not affiliated with the tour company and that he was missing out on $150 for taking me on this private tour.
I did get to see Niagara Falls which was a phenomenal sight to behold and being the sleep deprived, emotional person that I was gave Jeya the additional $150 because he was collateral damage in the events of earlier, plus his presence in the office played a big part in having me heard at all.
After a whirlwind trip I left Toronto for the divine Vancouver with a very bad taste in my mouth about the overall experience. Upon my return home to Australia the emails from the tour company which guaranteed I would make my flight to Vancouver were forwarded back to the tour company. To date I still have no reply from them.