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Cancer patient fought cruise line, Costco for refund

"I just don't think it's right for a company that big to refuse. It's like nothing for them. It's morally wrong, as far as I'm concerned."

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Two years into this pandemic, nearly everybody has a story about how hard it can be to get your money back from a trip upended by COVID-19.

But one Massachusetts man refused to take no for an answer after receiving a devastating diagnosis as he fought to get a refund from a cruise.

He reached out to sister station WCVB for help.

Arnie Pressman would much rather be with his family on board a Caribbean cruise, reliving fond memories. Instead, he's fighting the fight of his life.

Two-and-a-half years ago, in June 2019, Arnie booked a Celebrity cruise for him and his wife, his daughters, their husbands and grandkids. He says he spent about $6,000 on the cruise packages. The family was supposed to sail in April 2020, but as the pandemic set in that March, Arnie canceled the trip and accepted a credit from the cruise line, Celebrity. Eight days later Celebrity canceled the cruise and gave everyone still booked a refund — but not Arnie.

In the nearly two years since, Arnie says he's tried several times to get his money back — including after his wife had a hip replacement this year — and was denied.

But then came the unthinkable.

"I've been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. My general practitioner told me that I've got anywhere from two months to two years to live," he said.

Arnie's chemotherapy and radiation began this past week. About the only certainty in his diagnosis: no travel. His doctor spelled it out clearly in a letter.

"I don't know what the future holds for me now," he said. "I just don't think it's right for a company that big to refuse. It's like nothing for them. It's morally wrong, as far as I'm concerned."

arnie pressman
Hearst Owned
 

Arnie reached out to Costco Travel, where he originally booked the cruise. They told him they'd look into it but did not give him an answer.

"What I'm doing is something I don't want to do but I have to do. I'm not going to be taken advantage of," he said. "I hope to get my money back. And I'm not going to stop until I get it back."

WCVB's NewsCenter 5 reached out to both Celebrity and Costco. Costco would not comment, but within days, Celebrity called Arnie and smoothed the waters by offering a refund.

In a situation like this, it's generally best not to pick up the phone. Instead, track down email addresses for a company's executive team and send an email. Be persistent. Multiple websites list this contact information, like the consumer organization Elliott Advocacy.

Company executives are actually in a position to make an exception to the rule, something a customer service representative likely will not be able to do.