Almost a year to the date from when they hit the Upper Midwest last summer, suspicious travel offers are once again landing in area mailboxes. Consumers in our area are contacting Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) to say they’ve been offered two round-trip airline tickets from Cheap Tickets – although a disclaimer on the mailer says “This promotion is not sponsored by or affiliated with Cheap Tickets.” BBB is advising people to watch out for high-pressure sales tactics and be aware, based on the Cheap Tickets distinction alone, there is likely much more to this offer than meets the eye.
“Mailings like these have been going around for the last few years,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Experience has shown us these offers always come with strings attached and consumers trying to redeem their tickets – or travel vouchers – find the process is anything but straightforward.”
The BBB employee who received this mailing secret-shopped the company via telephone recently and the representative that answered identified the company as Grand Travel Worldwide, which purportedly offers discount travel services. As stated in a disclaimer on the company’s mailing, the company’s customer representative said people have to attend a 90-minute seminar at a Twin Cities-area hotel to receive their travel vouchers. They must also bring their spouse or partner and a valid credit card.
Though the representative said repeatedly there is no obligation to purchase anything, the company passed through the Spokane, Washington area last fall and attendees of seminars in that area reported rude behavior and poor customer service to the BBB in that region.
A review of the company’s mailing reveals that ‘Certain restrictions apply” and “Taxes, deposit, fees and/or surcharges are the responsibility of the recipient.” The mailing also says “Because previous attempts to reach you have been unsuccessful, this will serve as your final notification. If (we) do not hear from you within 10 days these travel vouchers will be given to an alternate.” However, the BBB employee who received this mailing said no other attempts had been made to reach them. A disclaimer very similar to this one appeared on the travel mailings which hit our area last year. There is also a disclaimer which says, “Promotion may be canceled at any time.”
“There are a lot of unknowns here and that always gets our wheels turning,” added Badgerow. “Past offers similar to this one have led to headaches; people being pressured to enroll in pricey travel clubs or finding themselves beset by hidden charges and poor customer service.”
Grand Travel Worldwide’s customer service representative directed the BBB staffer to the website “Tripz4U.com” for more information on the company. However, it offers little in the way of additional details. BBB is currently developing a file on this company.
Here are some BBB tips to avoid suspicious travel offers:
- Don’t be afraid to say no. If you’re feeling pressured or if a company representative asks you to make a decision ‘now,’ they may not be a company you want to transact with.
- Never give your credit card number, Social Security number or bank account information to pay for fees, taxes, or shipping costs for anything that you may have ‘won’ or are getting for ‘free.’ If you have to pay something to collect a prize, you haven’t won anything.
- Ask a lot of questions and get all the details. Make sure you’re clear on contract terms and all stipulations.
- Do the math. Monthly fees add up over time. Also, make sure you understand what you will need to do should you sign an agreement and then decide to cancel within three business days, per the FTC’s 3-day Cooling Off Rule.
- After attending a travel club seminar, check your bank statements and credit cards for unauthorized charges.
- If a company name is provided, go to bbb.org and research the business.
The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.