Cox and Kings, one of the oldest travel companies in the world, shut its office in Kolkata's Russel Street on Tuesday, 1 October, citing its inability to operate tours.
The company has cancelled over a dozen tours after collecting nearly Rs 10 crore from customers, according to latest estimates.
Around 1,000 customers, who had booked international tours with the travel agency, have been left in the lurch.
Sources told The Quint that more than 20 complaints have been filed in the Shakespeare Sarani police station. A case of fraud to the tune of Rs 7.5 crore has been registered as well.
They also said that the company has sent a memo to its 2,000+ employees in Kolkata, asking them to resign as it is ‘unable to pay dues for the last 3 months.’
Some reports also said that many Cox and Kings customers were forced to return from the airport at the last minute after not finding their names on the passenger list.
Customers Left High and Dry
The Cox and Kings crisis has cost thousands of customers lakhs of rupees. They were, however, given a letter by the company, promising a refund – along with interest – within 90 days.
Many customers, however, feel that the letter is not good enough and have unionised to approach the consumer forum regarding the matter.
We talked to a few of the customers, who told us that they got to know about the issue less than a week before they were supposed to fly out for their respective vacations.
Colonel Soumen Basu, who was supposed to travel to Europe with a few of his friends, said that the company put people in groups (of upto 30-40 customers) for the travels. Basu’s group, comprising nine people from three families, paid Rs 2.5 lakh per person for the trip.
When he went to Cox and Kings’ Salt Lake office to inquire of the details of the trip, he found out that the office had been shut, which is when he went to the main Russell Street office.
“Upon reaching, we found out that hundreds of people had gathered there, and were trying to enquire about their tours.”Colonel Soumen Basu
Basu said that he was then assured that at least his trip would remain unaffected.
“We never got a reply from the company. On 1 September night, we got a letter of cancellation of our trip, which was supposed to begin on 6 October. It was a big shock. Nine of us had paid roughly Rs 22 lakh.”Colonel Soumen Basu
He said that after compiling the figures for 15 batches of 35 people each, he calculated an amount of close to Rs 7.2 crore.
Another traveller, Himanshu Kumar Das, said that his family paid Rs 7.5 lakh for a trip to Europe. He said that the company insisted on making the full payment in advance but never came through.
Jishu K Barua, who is a government employee in Kolkata, told The Quint that he paid Rs 2.53 lakh per person for a trip to Europe.
Joyjit Bhattacharya said that the booking was made in May while the payment was made in full in August. He said that the problem started when he started looking for tickets (in the third week of September).
From that time, he said that everyone gave different accounts of what's happening. Bhattacharya, however, said that the visa did come on time.
He said that it was only on 1 October that he was told that the tour, along with other major tours organised by the company, stood cancelled.
“After a lot of persuasion, the company finally sent out the letters (assuring refund) to the customers.”Joyjit Bhattacharya, customer
He said that about 20+ tour programs were cancelled by the company.
Taslim Arif, who was also scheduled to depart for his holiday on 6 October, said that he was not provided with anything – stay, tickets, visa. After not being able to reach the company officials, he went down to the office on 2 September, only to find hundreds of people gathered outside the premises in protest.
He said that the office is now closed, with a notice redirecting customers to a defunct phone number.
Taslim had paid Rs 1.04 lakh per person for a trip to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Franchise Owners Hint at Larger Crisis
As customers shared their ordeal, franchise owners hinted at a larger crisis within the company. They said that the company had stalled their dues and the salaries of its employees for the past few months.
One franchise owner, Beeba Sahani, told The Quint that the company ceased operations without letting them or the customers know. She also said that there is no one to take charge of the situation.
Sajid, another franchise owner, said that salaries have not been paid for the past four months and even their commissions and dues had not been cleared.
They also alleged that the security amount they paid while buying the franchise has also not been returned and there is no word about the same.
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