For the past several months, complaints have been accumulating from boaters booking a sailing cruise with the online broker Zizoo. In practice, crews are forced to pay twice or even skip their vacations.
The worst nightmare for those who decide to treat themselves to a nice sailing cruise by taking a charter boat. Close to departure, or even while checking in at the dock, you discover that the amount you regularly paid in advance is nowhere to be found, and you are forced to shell out the full amount again to save your long-awaited vacation.
This is what has been happening for the past several months to dozens of boaters who book a charter on the platform of online broker Zizoo. The script of this veritable nightmare is always the same. The crew chooses the destination, books the boat to cruise with, then pays the expected deposit in advance. Shortly before departure, however, he learns from the company that owns the chartered boat that the deposits paid to Zizoo have not been received. Result: cancelled rental contract and two options, pay the full amount again to complete the vacation or stay home and cry about the damage and the hoax. In fact, the scam.
Renowned company, how is this possible?
The affair is somewhat sensational given that Zizoo is one of the world’s leading online charter agencies. The company was founded in 2015 by Croatian Anna Benicevic and in recent years has raised about $30 million in capital through funding from international groups such as Axel Springel, Revo Capital, Aws Founders Fund and Liquidity Group. Being a broker Zizoo aggregates charter offers in all destinations and allows clients to book the cruise, somewhat like the “Booking” platform does for hotels and lodging facilities.
It then collects the various security deposits and fees from the charter contracts entered into and then pays them to the various local charter agencies that physically make the booked boat available. He cannot in any way keep those sums for himself, as he seems to have done in recent months.
Angry customers and bad online reviews
In the worst cases, customers only discovered the catch once they arrived at the departure boat base and were about to start their vacation. Resulting in nerve-wracking waits, phone calls, discussions with local staff, and threats to take legal action. There were those who decided to pay the rental amount a second time in order to save their vacation and those who refused to submit to such an abuse of power by demanding the immediate return of the deposits paid. Many have reported their misadventures among the reviews on Zizoo’s official website, on Social channels or on online rating platforms such as “Trustpilot” and “Tripadvisor.”
Zizoo admits technical problems
The editorial staff of the German magazine Yacht also questioned the managers of the Austro-Croatian agency based in Berlin, Germany.
After several attempts to contact them, they finally received an email response from CEO Anna Benicevic regarding the complaints they had collected that admits the problem: “The summer season was exceptionally busy for us, with high demand for boat vacations in Europe and the Caribbean. Due to increased demand and a change in the internal system, unfortunately there was a small percentage of customers who experienced disruptions in the quality of our service, alongside thousands of positive experiences. We take this problem seriously and are working to improve our processes. As for the customers mentioned, I confirm that these cases have already been dealt with and there are no outstanding refunds.”
In fact, some of the customers after the bad experience received their money back through the cashback function of their credit card. However, bitterness remains, and there are those who still seek damages for the ruined or missed vacation. Sailing and going to sea should be a pleasure, not a nightmare.