Milwaukee, Wis., April 30, 2013 – A Better Business Bureau investigation concludes that while law enforcement organizations and marketplace advocates have made efforts to keep the worst in the travel club industry from flourishing, questions and complaints from consumers show that travel club schemes are thriving.
Consumers are flocking to the internet to find out if they’ve really won a free cruise or airline tickets as claimed by a telemarketer or in a mailing. The short answer is “no,” as BBB’s Consumer News and Opinion Blog has warned consumers four times within the last year about the offers.
Better Business Bureau serving Wisconsin 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.
“Consumers are very curious about the schemes’ promotional mailings,” said Ran Hoth, CEO/President of the Wisconsin BBB. “But they are often disappointed when they find out the ‘awards notifications’ are merely promotions to get consumers to high-pressure sales pitches for expensive travel club memberships that don’t deliver on promised savings.”
In 2012, BBB received over 200,000 inquiries nationwide regarding businesses in the travel club industry, and over 2,000 consumer complaints on industry members during that same time period. The BBB summary notes that “many of those complaints provide a glimpse into a complex network of evolving and widespread travel club schemes that deceptively operate throughout the country."
The summary includes information on several earmarks of the schemes which include: 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.
To avoid the negative experiences of those consumers already taken by this scheme, the BBB offers the following tips:
· Check www.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.