Within the last year, I have been notified no less than 5 times that I’ve been selected to receive free airline tickets and cruises.
Even though I’d like to tell you that I’m relaying this message from a mile high or a mile offshore, the reality is that I, like many other consumers, have come to realize that the award notifications are most often too good to be true. The mailings are actually solicitations that are part of a complex nationwide travel club scheme.
A recent Dallas BBB investigation has found that consumers are very curious about the schemes’ promotional mailings, but they are often disappointed when they find out that the awards notifications are merely promotions to get consumers to attend high-pressure sales pitches for expensive travel club memberships that don’t deliver on promised savings.
Earlier this year, Better Business Bureau serving Dallas and Northeast Texas undertook a study to determine the structure and methodology of some of the most popular travel club schemes. BBB’s investigative summary, “Travel Club Schemes: Inside the Promotion Commotion,” is available online at http://tinyurl.com/cqxtftx.
The summary includes information on several earmarks of the schemes including deceptive advertising, hard-sales practices, and poor customer service.
Several consumers report that they have paid between $7,000-8,000 for a travel club membership that provides little value over more prominent free discount travel websites, BBB Dallas reports.
To avoid the negative experiences of those consumers already taken by this scheme, BBB offers the following tips:
- Check bbb.org prior to attending a travel club presentation;
- Be wary of offers that claim you’ve won a contest that you did not enter;
- Be wary of solicitations that fail to disclose the name of the soliciting company;
- Be wary of sales staff who use high pressure sales tactics or tell you that the offer is only good that day;
- Be wary of suspiciously high savings claims that you aren’t able to verify prior to making a purchase;
- Research your right to cancel prior to going to a sales presentation;
- Only attend a presentation if you are actually interested in what the company is offering, not solely for the promise of a gift;
- Be wary of companies that don’t use letterhead in formal communication. This could be a sign of a fly-by-night distributor; and
- Be wary of companies that use generic names or work out of what appears to be a short-lease office space. This could also be a sign of a fly-by-night distributor.