Gulf Tour Agency Reels from Refund Requests
SHEILAH KAST, host:
Two weeks ago, Liane Hansen spoke with Donna Johnson, the Alabama manager of Trinity Travel, a tour operator with offices in Mobile, Alabama, and Spring Hill, Florida. An office in Biloxi, Mississippi, was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The office in Mobile was damaged and since the storm Donna Johnson has consolidated much of the company's operations in the living room of her home in Mobile. She was still working out of her living room when we called her earlier this weekend and she told us it was busy.
Ms. DONNA JOHNSON (Alabama Manager, Trinity Travel): The phones are ringing off the wall now from Biloxi and all over.
KAST: Ringing off the wall from customers, from...
Ms. JOHNSON: People wanting to know if we're all right and if we're still in business.
KAST: So are co-workers and customers coming to your house or is mostly by phone?
Ms. JOHNSON: Mostly by phone right now but people are worried about their trips they had booked and a lot of them are needing their moneys refunded because of damages they've suffered and are needing repairs on their buses, which we have a shop--or used to have a shop that serviced equipment on the coast.
KAST: So what do you tell them on the money back question?
Ms. JOHNSON: Right now we have salvaged a few trips, if they still want to go. They are going. And we've had a great deal of response to that. We've canceled several trips that were going, like, in September and October. But our December, January, February trips seem to be coming along OK. And anyone who's in need of refunds, we've been giving the refund.
KAST: How are customers reacting to all this?
Ms. JOHNSON: Everybody that calls has a story of their own to tell unless it's someone from away from this area and then they just can't conceive of what we've gone through, and it's affected, in a lot of different ways, more than what you would have thought. It's been a spiral effect. People losing their jobs because they don't have a company to work for anymore, or they're on hold until they can be rebuilt. Insurance companies not covering you because you didn't have flood insurance so therefore your hurricane insurance was no good and a lot of people are camping out in tents, still waiting for help to come. You know?
KAST: When do you expect the Mobile office might reopen?
Ms. JOHNSON: We are regrouping. Mobile has got a good foothold. If people continue to travel, and, obviously, they are, we're going to be just fine. It's going to take a little while to build it back up to the volume that we had at one time. But once we get our foothold, we'll be fine, and because of the quick acting of having those phones transferred to Mobile enabled us to stay in touch with our clients in Mississippi and other areas and they're re-booking, as well. So it's coming; it's just slow.
KAST: Is it hard running an office out of your living room?
Ms. JOHNSON: It is kind of hard, and the phone rings 24-7. But at least it gives you an insight that people are still interested in going and doing and there's a lot of people out there that still have the means to do so, instead of focusing so much on the disaster, you know. Because there's not a minute or an hour of the day that a repercussion or a story or something does not hit you again in regards to it.
KAST: Donna Johnson is Alabama manager for Trinity Travel. She spoke to us from her home office in Mobile. Thank you.
Ms. JOHNSON: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.