I should add that the below is my opinion, feel free to skip to the end to see various links and comments that give more information for you to make your own mind up.
So my friends and I saw an opportunity to drive something that can only be classed as one of the most unsuitable vehicles on the planet through the challenging terrain of Peru. What was better was that this could be done for charity and it looked like a genuine adventure for us. Even better there’s a company that was organising the trip, called The Adventurists, basically they look after the paperwork and vehicles leaving you to pick your own route between the start and finish of the ‘moto taxi junket‘
The MotoTaxi Junket
So we went away and did some research, the vehicle it’s self is a moto taxi / tuk tuk. Basically it’s an underpowered knock off motorcycle converted into a trike with a shabby roof on top. We read up on a lot of issues people had had with them, mostly mechanical and due to poor construction but also down to user error and lack of understanding/ training – people not even having used a motorbike before wondering why their chain breaks or why they break spokes in a wheel.
This sounds like an horrific idea to knowingly rely on something that is most certainly going to break down, but being a motorcycle mechanic to me this didn’t seem like any kind of issue that couldn’t be handled without some basic preparation. Next we read up on some horrific injuries and incidents and decided first aid classes would be the way to go along with learning the language along with emergency paperwork, funds and tools to help us avoid these kind of issues. We were getting prepared…
It should be noted that we had this figured within 3 months of booking with The Adventurists, though you would have thought we’d have had this kind of information from them by now on what we need to do for the mototaxi junket, at least a ‘thanks for giving us your money’ or a ‘here’s a check list’ etc… but nothing arrived (and it never did). So we were left to figure all this out, what did our ‘entry fee’ buy except their lunch? We hunted around on the site and finally found a very poor PDF file called the ‘team handbook’ which promised on one page a cost breakdown but gave nothing, along with very little useful information. What were we paying them for?
This started to spook us somewhat, here are these guys ‘organising’ our trip, vehicles/ mototaxis and paperwork but had failed to organise anything except taking our hard earnt money and leaving anyone on this trip to fend for themselves under the guise of ‘it’s an adventure’ rather than a lack of their organisational/ operative skills. The lack of organisational skills really hit home when we attended one of their afternoon tea’s which considering there was a free brewery involved (Hendriks Gin), they couldn’t organise a piss up and the event soon descended into a big unorganised amateur mess leaving us disappointed. Also turns out that most of the other attendees seemed to be rather richer than us and dare I say it, upper class, it must of seemed like a jolly good hoot to spend mummy and daddys money – from the ones I talked to or overheard, not one of them had any idea of what they were getting in to and the lack of support they would get. I guess for them, they wouldn’t miss the money they paid if they decided later they didn’t want to take part.
The MotoTaxi Junket is an “Adventure”
Did we really want to trust even our own paperwork to The Adventurists let alone our lives? I think not. During this time one of the events already running couldn’t finish on schedule and the routes had to be altered, it was really hitting home that these guys had taken our cash and given nothing in return, not even an email or event information and then left the participants at the mercy of their lack of organisation claiming that this makes it an ‘adventure’. It makes it a nightmare but tally ho, the entry fee is only the average lunch bill for most of them anyway.
At least when you hire a car you get some form of paperwork, we didn’t even get that, just a Google Checkout receipt on email for a cost paid for the mototaxi junket and nothing else. If it was billed as a rally event etc… then yes, you’d expect to do all the planning yourself but you’d still be provided some basic information as well as legislation etc… – you’d also have a pretty big team to manage everything, but as a small team of 2 or 3 people you rely on The Adventurists to organise things a bit more and do some of that work for you.
So it was time to chase these guys up, we’d had nothing, they clearly can’t organise anything so what were we paying them for except our own funeral in a flaming roadside wreck in Peru? What was the fee paying for, if it was passports, visa paperwork, medical insurance, vehicle rental etc… it was leaving it a bit late to sort out and it blatantly wasn’t going to get done by them. If we were doing all the work then why pay them? I can sort out a similar trip, granted not the mototaxi junket, to Peru and not only get the transport but I can get my flights and accommodation sorted out into the bargain as well by the operator with not much extra to pay. Now that’s organisation!
Getting a Refund from the Adventurists
So first contact after the initial 6 months, we enquired about refunds, just stating we needed to pull out and what could we do as to our statutory rights as consumers, nothing nasty. Nothing, a month passes. Chase up again. Nothing. We call a few times. Nothing. Ok, now time to threaten to put it officially in writing with legal advice. Now we get a response, however, they seem upset as to why we’re threatening them and say there’s no chance of a refund since they state there’s the ‘standard’ 28 day refund policy. Standard for who? when you lease a car or plan a trip or event, the refund policy normally works by notice of cancellation prior to the event. They had 6 months notice! Further more, we’d booked via credit card which, in the UK, grants us under section 75 of the consumer credit act financial protection if goods have been paid for and nothing received which seems very apt, since we’d paid and received nothing. So we threatened with taking this to our bank, and lo and behold something could be worked out, relying on another team falling for the con and we recieving our entry fee from this team.
So why couldn’t we get this cash ourselves from The Adventurists, why should we as the consumer wait for another team. If you were getting a refund for services not delivered by a builder, you would be irate that you’d have to wait for them to charge another customer before they could refund you so why is this OK in this context? “We’re only a small company” is the excuse given, which is pathetic. But still we wait for the cash to be nice and give them a chance.
This goes on for months, chasing, chasing, chasing and hearing nothing back. Only recieving the occasional vague reponse and being fobbed off. Time to threaten again and finally we get the refund. So why couldn’t they have done this to start with, seems like their financial as well as organisational skills are flawed. Yes, they maybe a small company, but that doesn’t mean we have to put up with poor customer relations, product and a lack of services. It took 6 months in total for a refund. 6 months!!
Have an Adventure with anyone but The Adventurists
All in all I am very happy to be not using their services, I think I dodged a bullet there. I will admit that perhaps for other people involved this wasn’t a concern for them and I’ll be denounced as being over cautious or being against the ‘spirit’ of an adventure. But hey, I’m weird like that, liking to have a plan for traversing a country I’ve never been to before and getting something for the money I’ve paid in good faith. I’d like to think that I’m one of very few people that had any issue with The Adventurists and perhaps this was a one off experience for me, however the 6 month back and forth and poor communication along with snide remarks from them just made me want to publish my thoughts on the experience for others to learn from.
If anyone is considering booking with them follow these tips:
- Make sure to read all the information up front and ask the questions before giving your cash away
- Make the booking on a credit card as you’ll have some level of protection
- If you receive nothing after paying, contact them in the first instance asking for refund and then go direct to your bank – do not bother to wait for them, just get your bank to do it on your behalf
I would really have liked to have done a diary or write up of the mototaxi junket and taken part in the event but instead I’ll do something similar via another operator – take a look at riding motorbikes through Peru, plenty of operators, they may not have as flashy a site as The Adventurists but I’ll bet you have a far better time.
To all the teams entering, good luck and I hope it’s worth it.
In the comments below, Richard was kind enough to explain the breakdown of the fees paid – something I never got from The Adventurists but it’s worth reading to help you make up your mind in case you wanted to know. Also it’s good to know that I am probably one of the very few people who had any issue with them and that it may just be down to the company growing in size.
Just for the purposes of additional information to follow I’d like to list below various blogs and sites detailing experiences good or bad with the Adventurists so that you can make your own mind up. Feel free to comment and post links and I’ll add more as and when I find them, but I’m specifically looking for sites that talk about dealing with The Adventurists rather than the just the adventure itself, actually, scratch that, I’ll chuck up links to anything that’s worth a read if it helps anyone else out.
Good diary/ write up of the Mongol Rally experience: http://team-mongolian-job.blogspot.com/
“A blog to uncover the truth about how the Adventurists are run. Teams are unhappy, Visa service was a joke, borders didn’t let cars through. What do we get for our entry fee?” http://adventuristswatch.blogspot.com/
“Mongol Rally and the Visa Machine (thank God for The Adventurists)” http://thesocialmediasyndicate.com/visa-machine-mongol-rally
Detailed write up of the Mototaxi Junket: http://www.trackpete.net/2009/11/motoventure-day-25-to-la-paz-end-of.html
Diary of the Trans India Rickshaw run: http://bircho.co.uk/Trans-India-Rickshaw-challenge.php