Marlborough, MA - Better Business Bureau (BBB) is advising consumers to be on the alert for recent mailings marked "US Airlines Award Notification," which include vouchers for round-trip airline tickets to anywhere in the continental United States.
BBB believes these mailings are connected to a new discount travel company called Access Travel Deals. Access Travel Deals (accesstraveldeals.com) appears to have ties to a Scottsdale, Arizona, business called American Travel Deals, which has an “F” rating with BBB, the lowest rating possible.
Access Travel Deals’ website is virtually identical to the websites of several other travel companies, including globalvacationdeals.net, selectedvacations.com, lifetimetraveldeals.com and reliabletraveldeals.com. All sites have nearly identical home pages, testimonials, and other information.
Paula Fleming, vice president of the local BBB, said the mailings mislead the public, using a business name similar to US Airways. “People have every reason to be wary of these mailings. There is no business called US Airlines,” she said.
“It appears that the sole purpose of these letters is to get people to attend meetings to listen to sales pitches for a travel club,” Fleming said. “There are simply too many questions to believe at this point that this is a good deal.”
Several consumers have contacted BBB in recent days, asking about the tri-fold mailer. The mailings have no return address and typically are marked “Final Notice” and “Personal and Confidential” on the outside. The mailings include vouchers valued at $1,450, which closely resemble checks. They note that each voucher “must be redeemed for travel certificate and has no cash value.” The only other identifying information on the mailers is Travel Union, Scottsdale, Arizona.
Customer service representatives who answered a toll-free phone number included with the mailing said the business had been hired by a St. Charles, Mo.-based wholesale travel sales firm. They identified the company as Access Travel Deals and referred a caller to the website www.accesstraveldeals.com.
A check of the company’s website registration shows that accesstraveldeals.com was registered in January.
One of the representatives asked the caller a series of qualifying questions, then said that the travel voucher could be redeemed during a meeting with company sales representatives at a hotel. He said the sales presentations would not include “bullying” or “high-pressure” sales tactics.
Appointments were available the weekend of Feb. 28 or during another period beginning on March 13. The customer service representative said proof of identification and a credit card would be required to attend.
The website for Access Travel Deals calls the business “the nation’s leader in discount travel agency promotional appointments.” The site says that it has more than 28 locations. That same information is on the websites for Global Vacation Deals, Selected Vacations, Lifetime Travel Deals and Reliable Travel Deals.
BBB noted that Selected Vacations, US Airlines and Travel Union are alternate names for American Travel Deals.
BBB has recorded 65 complaints against the business. That number excludes dozens of reports to BBB that are considered informational. Most consumers complained that the mailings are deceptive or misleading.
BBB says it has been unable to confirm a physical address for this company after numerous attempts to locate it. Phoenix BBB made several attempts to reach principals of the company, but did not receive a reply.
BBB offers the following tips when receiving unsolicited mail offers:
Do your research. Make sure you know exactly who sent the mailing. If you can’t identify the business or individual, you should not give them any personal or financial information.
Be wary of high-pressured sales tactics. Do not be pressured into doing business with a travel sales firm and do not enter into any agreement without understanding it completely.
Ask for references. Always ask for references of previous customers and contact them before doing business.
Pay by credit card. Whenever possible, pay by credit card in case you need to challenge the charge if the business doesn’t come through.
For more information on travel deals, visit us at bbb.org/boston.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses and brands they can trust. In 2014, consumers turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses, all available for free at bbb.org. BBB Serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont, founded in 1912, is one of 112 local, independent BBBs across North America.
Paula Fleming is VP of Communications & Marketing for Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern MA, ME, RI & VT. Find Paula on Google+.