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Vacation Woes -- If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is!

Man with suitcases on Bad Vacation

by Joyce Moseley Pierce

Protect yourself from vacation scams.

I wish I could use the real names of the companies I'm writing about, because I would like to warn everyone about the unethical practices that some vacation/travel companies are using, but in order to protect myself from a lawsuit, I will not. I know there are legitimate companies out there offering wonderful dream vacations but unfortunately, the one we dealt with was not! This is just to educate you and help you to be more aware before you sign anything promising something that sounds too good to be true!

Here is the sequence of events:

1. In February I received a phone call from a woman who was absolutely giddy about the fact that her office had been open for about a year and she wanted to personally invite us to take a tour of the facility. In exchange, we would receive a FREE 3-day package to Las Vegas or Cancun. Our choice.

2. We committed to going and had to schedule an appointment for our tour. My husband and I agreed that no matter what, we would not buy anything! As we suspected, we had to listen to an hour-long presentation on a lifetime vacation package that would save us thousands of dollars in our lifetime. We were pretty proud that after 3 closers were sent in, we were able to resist and walked away only with our vacation voucher in hand.

3. What they didn't tell us was that in order to plan our vacation, we had to complete some information and mail it to them with a $100 postal money order. The small print said that the $100 would be refunded after our trip was completed. Although skeptical, we decided to go ahead. I sent everything certified mail - just in case I needed proof.

4. I patiently waited.March. April. May. June. Still nothing from them. We were planning a trip to Vegas in August and time was running out. Fortunately, I had kept good records! I called the woman who extended the invitation. No big surprise when I discovered she was no longer there. I remembered the agency that hosted the actual presentation and started calling. No answer. I called for several days at different times of the day, and finally decided to drive over there to see what was going on. When I got there, I discovered they had been ocked out for non-payment of rent! I went to the property management office and was told everything was still locked inside the suite and they, too, were looking for the responsible parties.

5. I called telephone assistance for a phone number in Florida for this vacation company. I couldn't get through to a real person - their automated message told me to put in my information, and it would tell me the status of my vacation. Well, I punched in all of the numbers I had, but guess what? The certificate number was invalid.

6. I looked online and found the name of the company on the brochure. To my surprise, they did have a website and it looked professional. It even gave phone numbers. I felt a glimmer of hope! I called and had someone search for our record. Of course there was nothing. I faxed copies of the money order receipt and the certificate. They still couldn't find anything. They told me I had sent a money order and not a "postal" money order and although they had no record of me in the system, they assured me that when my request came in, they would have returned it to me because it was only a "money order" and not a "postal money order." I assured them I had never gotten anything from them. If I had, I wouldn't be going to all of this trouble! They asked me to put a trace on the money order and see if it had been cashed.

7. The bank put a trace on the money order and the good news is that the money order has not been cashed. I will be able to stop payment on it and get at least some of my money back. The bad thing is that I have wasted a lot of time for nothing! Not only the time we took off to go listen to the presentation, but the time wasted waiting to hear from them and missing opportunities to purchase tickets at a lower price than is available today; the time I have spent chasing down the company and trying to resolve this problem; and now the fee I will be charged to stop payment on the money order.

I guess it was worth the $25 in stop payment charges to learn a valuable lesson. I know someone who actually bought the program and after repeated attempts to get this company to book vacations for them, they have never been able to find what they want. They recently spent $2200 for a condo in California for a week by booking something on their own, while they are making payments on a grand vacation package that is supposed to "solve their vacation problems forever."

We work too hard for our money to throw it away. While vacations are advertised as a time to get away, enjoy, relax, spend time with the family, many times they are stressful not only because of the hassle of making the arrangements, but because of the cost involved. You're better off driving home to visit family and knowing where your money went than signing away your life for that dream vacation that may never happen. Before you sign anything - vacation package or whatever - do some research and make sure the company is legitimate. If the company you're dealing with is legitimate, they won't have a problem with waiting on you to make up your mind. They will still be in business when you decide! It's those who pressure you to sign right now, before you walk out the door, that should scare you. They know they better get the money today, because they may not be there tomorrow!

© 2002 Joyce Moseley Pierce mailto:joyce@emersonpublications.com Joyce makes it her business to help improve your family life. Visit www.emersonpublications.com and learn how you can earn money at home through MomsWIN, sign up for the Family First Newsletter, and how to guide your loved ones in your absence.

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