By Luanne Kadlub
BBB Communications Editor
Not too long ago, I received an email from Roseann Guyette of Greeley regarding a letter she received informing her that she won two roundtrip airline tickets with a value up to $1,400 for anywhere in the U.S. The letter arrived in a plain, handwritten envelope and the letter was printed on plain white copy paper with US Airlines (never mind that such a carrier doesn’t exist) printed at the top to simulate letterhead.
In addition to informing her that she won two airline tickets, the letter further stated that several attempts had been made to contact her but without success and that the letter was their last attempt before issuing the ticket vouchers to an alternate. (Whoa! She better act fast!)
The letter included a phone number. Roseann didn’t call. But I did.
And this is when the fun started. I first called the number just to see how the business would be identified. “Travel Rewards.” Hmm, a travel club, just as I had surmised, I thought to myself. And hung up. Twenty minutes later I got a call at the office (never mind that I answered the phone “Better Business Bureau”) and the sales pitch started. “Can you tell me more about the offer,” I asked. Not without the claim number at the bottom of the letter. The call ended.
The second call arrived not much later. Followed by a third. Finally I told them – firmly – that I was no longer interested in their offer and hung up.
But I did glean this nugget of telling information: The airline tickets could be claimed only after I attended a 90-minute informational session about a travel club.
If you’re not seeing red flags galore, you should be. Why? It will be during those 90 minutes that hard-pressure sales tactics will have you signing on – for thousands of dollars – to join the travel club only to find out later that promised benefits and trips are either difficult if not impossible to attain.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, a common scenario is this: The travel club salesperson will request your credit card number to bill your account for the travel package. Once you pay, you receive the details of the “package,” which usually include instructions for making trip reservation requests, sometimes necessitating yet another fee. In addition, many offers require you to pay upgrade costs to receive the actual destinations, accommodations, cruises or dates you were promised. Some offers require you to pay even more for port charges, hotel taxes or service fees. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.
Before jumping at the chance to claim those two free airline tickets, consider these travelers’ advisories:
• Be wary of “great deals” and low-priced offers. Few legitimate businesses can afford to give away products and services of real value or substantially undercut other companies’ prices.
• Don’t be pressured into buying. A good offer today usually will be a good offer tomorrow. Legitimate businesses don’t expect you to make snap decisions.
• Ask detailed questions. Find out exactly what the price covers and what it doesn’t. Ask about additional charges. Get the names of the hotel, airports, airlines and restaurants included in your package. Consider contacting these businesses directly to verify arrangements. Ask about cancellation policies and refunds. If the salesperson can’t – or won’t – give detailed answers, hang up.
• If you decide to buy, check out the company first with the BBB at wynco.bbb.org. and the Attorney General in the state where the company is located.
Start With Trust. For trustworthy consumer tips and information, visit wynco.bbb.org or call 970-484-1348 or 800-564-0371.