Consumer Alert

Be leery of 'travel club' promises


Are you a skeptic? It pays to be one. Drop your guard and you can be out a lot of money.

When you get an offer that sounds fantastic, ask yourself if it could could really be that good. Question why you need to pay money upfront. Ask what guarantees you’ll get. Then take a timeout before you commit and do some research. If you aren't allowed time to check out the offer, run away.

Unfortunately, a lot of trusting people don’t employ skepticism when they get carefully crafted and well-rehearsed sales pitches. I recently received a letter from a couple in Braintree who sat through a presentation that promised wonderful travel opportunities. Sit through the presentation and you’ll be rewarded with a free trip. Pay a fee to the travel club and you get a lifetime of opportunities to stay at properties coast-to-coast.

As thousands of others who have sat through such sales pitches have discovered, the est part is how they make it sound. Reality is quite different.

They'll likely find a catch to deny your “free” plane travel or cruise, including a staggering number of blackout dates. If you do get the trip, rest assured it won’t be free.

For one thing, you won't be handed a plane ticket. Instead you'll get a voucher to submit to another company. The voucher will be riddled with conditions to collect that ticket. Whether it’s taxes, government fees, or any other charge they come up with,they're going to try to get money from you.

What will you end up with if you buy in? Less money and a lot of aggravation whenever you try to book a trip through them. They won't have places to stay where you want to go. If they do, brace for blackout dates and other impediments.

The Braintree couple that wrote to me paid nearly $9,000 and don't have anything to show for it.

The best defense against these shady outfits is to avoid them altogether. If you happen to have gone down the same path as these folks, file a complaint with the state Attorney General's office and Federal Trade Commission.

But it's better to be a skeptic than to try to get back money already spent.

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