Travel agency refuses to reimburse customers for canceled vacations
Pressure is mounting on a Gold Coast family whose travel company is refusing thousands of dollars in refunds for unused vacations two years after they were canceled due to the pandemic.
Checkmyfares.com has been the subject of scathing reviews online after dozens of customers struggled to get refunds.
Jonathan Sanderson is a customer who is still waiting, two years later.
READ MORE: Floodwater engulfs man’s newly built mansion two weeks before he can move in
“I want my refund and I want it now,” Mr Sanderson said. A topical matter compared to vacation in Fiji, he spent $3200 but couldn’t take after the borders closed.
“I think it’s disgusting. I can’t believe a company like this can operate in Australia and get away with it,” he said.
Fifi Sajuit is awaiting a refund of $6,700 for a canceled trip to Canada.
READ MORE: Residents of the heights threatened by landslides threatening to swallow houses
“It’s not their money, it’s my hard-earned money,” she said.
“They treat me really badly, every time I emailed them with the subject ‘refund’ they didn’t reply.”
Ms. Sajuit even received written confirmation from Air Canada that her tickets had been refunded, but still has not received any funds.
READ MORE: Devastated locals say second flood in a year is a ‘man-made’ problem
Consumer advocate Adam Glezer described the company’s treatment of customers as “an absolute joke”.
“You shouldn’t hold onto anyone’s money for a long time,” he said.
“If any travel agent receives money, they should return it as soon as possible.”
The travel company lists a small office in Coomera on the Gold Coast as the address, but on several visits over the course of a week, A topical matter found him unattended.
A former company director Manne Padowitz, who is now a Gold Coast wedding officiant, said: ‘They would have gotten all their refunds as far as I was concerned.
He went on to say, “we didn’t misappropriate any client funds”, also saying the company is “very creditworthy”.
Rimona Padowitz is his daughter-in-law and the current manager of the company.
She was a regular on the Gold Coast social scene, pictured at high-end lunches as well as at polo with her husband Lenny Padowitz, Manne’s son.
The couple reside on the exclusive and expensive Hope Island on the Gold Coast.
ASIC’s research lists Rimona as the current manager, but Manne said she does “administrative work” and her son Lenny runs it.
Lenny was hailed as a business guru six years ago after a travel agency he founded with his father Manne was bought by Flight Center in a multi-million dollar deal.
News reports at the time refer to him as being born in South Africa, but ASIC’s research reveals some irregularities which are currently being investigated by the regulator.
The name “Leonard Gavin Padowitz” is found on a series of ASIC documents but is attached to three different countries of birth and three different dates of birth as well as a multitude of former names.
The South African-born Padowitz as well as the Malaysian and Israeli versions all have a common connection to a company called Escape Lounge.
A topical matter cameras filmed Lenny visiting his father’s property on Hope Island, but he declined several interview requests.
“They try to dodge and weave as much as they can,” Adam Glezer said.
His company Consumer Champion tried to help Checkmyfares.com customers get refunds.
A few hours before A topical matter released, a statement was sent attributed solely to the “management of Checkmyfares” claiming that the company values its customers.
“Our customer service center has been open to assist our customers without office closures throughout the pandemic,” the statement said.
“Our customer service center, like many agents, is based overseas.”
Mr Sanderson, who is still awaiting a refund, said there were few consequences for companies that appear to be able to ‘take your money and run’.
“I think there’s no excuse, it’s a shame and it’s very disappointing,” he said.