I am writing this post in the hope of preventing other Oz-travellers from losing their hard-earned money the way I did. In the beginning of February 2011 my mate and I spent a couple of days in beautiful Byron Bay. As we were walking along some street, we came across a travel agency with the promising name Wicked Travel. Since they offered free Internet, we decided to live up to the stingy backpacker stereotype and save a couple of dollars. Little did we know about the price we were going to pay for pressing a couple of “Like” buttons on “The Social Network”.
As we made our way to the computers, we were approached by one of the salespersons. He kindly enquired whether we had already booked any Fraser Island or Whitsunday Tours on the Australian East Coast. As we told him that we planned to book trips for these two destinations in the next few days, we unfortunately triggered the mean salesmen in this seemingly friendly and attentive Englishman.
He pointed out that Wicked Travel offered very good package deals, which would save us some money. So we sat down and took a look at the wall of brochures. Once our faces seemed to be filled with enough confusion, our savior in red came back to redeem us. He went through the different offers on Fraser Island and the Whitsundays. Following his sales manual, he made use of every technique he could, in order to make us buy one of the numerous package deals. He broke the ice by telling us about his own experiences when traveling the east coast as a backpacker a couple of months ago. He even showed interest in the customer by asking about our great adventures along the road. And as we were all best friends he went back to business.
Firstly, he stressed out how important it was to book these tours well in advance, since the “good products always sell out very quickly”. But of course this was not enough sense of urgency and his greedy nostrils already smelled the big fat provision. So he made us believe that only two places were left on the Avatar, the Whitsunday sailing boat we chose. To this day I still can’t understand why I fell for this trick. Dizzy from the stream of words that left his mouth and reassured by Wicked Travel’s “lowest price guarantee” we decided to book a Fraser Island and Whitsundays package deal with Wicked Travel. As our friendly salesmen was in high spirit and we were still suffering from the spirits of the previous night, he additionally sold us a 3 days 2 nights canoeing tour at the Gagaju Bush Camp in Noosa. So we left the travel agency with a total of 3 tours and a bill of $800 plus another $170 in form of additional fees, which were to pay upon arrival.
And that is how two overly relaxed travelers became Wicked Victims. Let me explain why.
We first did the canoeing tour in Noosa, where we met an English girl, who told us that she booked the same 3 tours at the same price with Wicked Travel in Byron Bay. According to her description, we even spoke to the same scrounger. Therefore, we felt quite confident in our decision to book with Wicked Travel. At least until the next day when we were briefed by the cook and learnt that we were to paddle on our own for 3 hours in 2 teams of 3 people. However, since our group was quite relaxed and easy-going and we managed to arrive at the destination and back to the base camp without causing a search operation, we just had a laugh about it. Nevertheless, it left a bit of a bitter aftertaste, since the guy at Wicked Travel strongly emphasized the quality of the “products” they sell and how carefully selected they were.
Ok as I can already sense your impatience, let us finally come to the last chapter - The Inconvenient Truth. No, I am not going to try to save the planet from evil humanity, but from another devil in red, Wicked Travel.
It was on our second trip to Fraser Island where we had to realize that we were properly ripped off. First of all, we had to part with the belief that we snatched the last two seats on our Whitsunday sailing boat, the Avatar. As we were told by our group members, they could buy the Whitsunday tour without having to chose a specific date. Moreover, it turned out they even chose the final date of their Whitsunday trip almost a week later than we did. So we came to realize how much of a showman the guy at Wicked Travel was, when he called the tour provider to hold the last two precious spots for us during the time of our consultation.
But, the real shocker is yet to come. As we spoke to our fellow travelers it turned out that we massively overpaid for the 3 tours we booked back in Byron Bay. Like mentioned before, we paid $800 for Fraser Island, the Whitsundays and the Canoeing Trip in Noosa. However, most of our group members paid $615 for Fraser Island and the Whitsundays and received the Canoeing trip in Noosa for free. This means a difference of a full 30% for the exact same products.
Some of you may think of an apparent explanation for all this, namely that we booked with a different company. As you may guess, I have to disappoint you. The only difference was that my mate and I booked with Wicked Travel in Byron Bay and our group members with Wicked Travel in Sydney. At this point I would like to point out the big fat “lowest price guarantee” decorating the front window of Wicked Travel. Isn’t it interesting that a company is (not) able to beat its own price?
Frustrated by the blatant lying of our cherished friend at Wicked Travel, I decided to call him up, in order to ask for a refund. Of course I was aware of my chances to see any of my precious money again, however, I just had to confront him. For the 1000th time I had to hear about the quality of the products we bought, which strangely didn’t have the calming effect he expected. He then told me that the two offices in Sydney and Byron Bay operated independently. Which again did not quite lead to an immediate decrease in my blood pressure. How can Wicked Travel as a company advertise lowest rates and at the same time sell the same tour package with a price difference of 30% and explain it with different locations? Still unsatisfied I asked if there is really nothing he could offer to compensate for the price difference. He then suggested to send us some hostel vouchers, which we gladly accepted. However, since we still had a massive hole in our wallets, my mate and I could not really call this result a success. In the end we had to accept the fact that we were fooled out of our cash by an unscrupulous, money-grubbing ex-backpacker.
Alright, dear reader, we finally arrived at the end of my attempt to deal with my Wicked Travel trauma. I hope sharing my experiences will help other travelers to be more careful and to prevent them from absorbing too much of the hot air leaking from the common (Wicked Travel) salesman.
To make a long story short, compare a couple of different travel agencies and let them know that you do so. I bet you will be surprised about how “flexible” the pricing can be.