I might have been born yesterday: is a free trip a free trip?
July 8, 2015 10:36 AM   Subscribe

I spoke with a woman from Global Travel Network who says I won a free vacation after entering a contest recently. I did sign up for the contest, and she had my correct information. The claim is that this should be thought of as a bribe so that I would use them in the future.

Supposedly, I "won" a "free" trip for 2 adults w/ RT airfare to an all-inclusive in Mexico. We would have to pay $195/pp in taxes when we book. In order to receive the trip, I would have to go to a showroom to hear a presentation. The internet tells me that the presentation will be for a travel membership, which sounds a lot like a timeshare but isn't called a timeshare. At the end of the presentation, I can still receive the free trip to be taken within 1 year, even if I don't sign up for anything else.

I have been doing a lot of day-dreaming lately about being beach-side with a cocktail. Snap me out of it: this is a scam right? They will somehow take all my money and not give me a trip? My trip will end up at a sleezy hotel in Jersey instead of a resort in Mexico?

If you have been in a similar situation, please share your horror?/surprisingly-pleasant? story.
posted by kmr to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I did this years ago. It's not a scam scam, but it's definitely hyped up to be a better trip than it is. And the "presentation" will be a hard-sell timeshare (yeah, it's a timeshare) sales pitch that will last for hours and hours. I wouldn't bother.
posted by Etrigan at 10:48 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

Snap me out of it: this is a scam right?

Sorry, but yup. BBB sez:
This company has a pattern of complaints alleging misrepresentation during initial contact with the representative as consumers allege being offered several different incentives for attending a presentation such as gas cards, cruises, round-trip airfare, free vacations, etc. with promise that nothing will be required out of pocket and there are no black-out dates or restrictions. Once consumers receive said incentives or attempt to book their vacation they find that what was initially promised to them is not what has been received. There are additional fees required or difficulty booking the vacation.

While the business has responded to the BBB's concerns and stated all terms and conditions of the offers are disclosed and that additional training has been set in place to ensure that this no longer occurs, BBB has continued to receive complaints with the same underlying issue.
More: NBC 9News, Consumer Affairs.
posted by divined by radio at 10:49 AM on July 8, 2015 [10 favorites]

Certainly everyone that passed a cursory credit screening "won" the contest. If you're real tough about resisting sales presentations (4-6 hours with very persuasive lovely friendly folks) it's possible you'll get out with a deal. Unfortunately it will still likely be a poor deal not free.
posted by sammyo at 10:51 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've been in a situation very similar to this. We won a "free" trip to Florida. Hooray! But we had to listen to a timeshare presentation. Boo!

The hotel we stayed in was NOT the timeshare hotel, but a shady motel across the street. There was a neon sign that read LIQOUR (yes, misspelled) that flashed on and off in our window all night. We were allowed to go over to the timeshare hotel to use the pool and bar.

The timeshare presentation was a super hard sell, and it went on for hours. HOURS. It took an entire morning and went over into the afternoon. When we said "no" to the first guy, his boss came out. "I wouldn't normally do this, but I'm going to offer you a great deal...". Then the other boss came out. There were tears. There were slimy smiles. There were thinly veiled threats. When we were finally released I was so mad and frustrated that I hated everyone and everything and just wanted to go home. "I am NEVER doing that again!" I shouted. "not even for a free trip...never, never, never." I should point out that I hate the hard sell and I feel sorry for the poor slimy salespeople and their totally innocent families that will go without new shoes because I didn't sign up for a time share. And then I hated myself for being such a sucker and a sap and ugh.

Anyway, it totally destroyed our "free" vacation. If you're the sort of person who can tolerate a nightmare morning from hell in order to enjoy a holiday, you might be okay with this. I was not. I wish we'd never gone.
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:57 AM on July 8, 2015 [31 favorites]

We went on such a trip years ago and resisted the sales pitch. He then asked us if we came to get the free trip, we replied in the affirmative. We had to walk several miles back to the hotel.
posted by SillyShepherd at 11:24 AM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]

I sat through one of these presentations once, though not one for a free trip, it was a free dinner cruise or something like that. First off, they lie to you about how long it will take. They lie by a lot. They also don't tell you that you can't just say "no". They won't give up until time is up, no matter what you say. You can't just get up an leave the presentation, or you will forfeit your prize. Once they're sure you are a "no", you become the absolute last priority, everyone who is a yes will get out of there before you do. It's really boring, really rah-rah, let's all get excited, inane bullshit. And long. And the dinner cruise sucked.
posted by skewed at 11:28 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

To my everlasting shame, I used to be the office manager/administrator for a company that sold these things.

You didn't win anything. You're getting a cheapass trip with a crappy flight to a terrible resort that's been overhyped just so they can stuff you in a room and hardsell a timeshare at you. The key thing to note with 'taxes' having to be paid on winnings is that those taxes are being paid to the IRS, not to the company that has called you.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:30 AM on July 8, 2015 [9 favorites]

Yeah, pretty much everybody falls for this at least once. Expect to spend most of a day listening to the high-pressure sales pitch.
posted by tamitang at 11:43 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

They told you that you had won something, but if you then say, "Fine, if I won it, go ahead and let me have it," their reply is essentially an hours-long "Yeah, but—". The very first thing they said to you was a deception. Everything that comes after that should be immediately suspect.
posted by Flexagon at 12:00 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, worth pointing out: if they actually told you that you won, they were almost certainly breaking the law by doing so.

If you want more information, just plug the company name into ripoff report and watch how many results come up.

The way the company I was at worked, you'd get a night in a hotel, a shit-ass cruise to the Bahamas, be there for a day, then come back and another night in the hotel. 4 days/3 nights I think. You had to go to the timeshare presentation on arrival, and didn't get your boarding passes for the cruise (on, reportedly, a rusty, dingy, barely seaworthy boat) until the sales pitch was over. If they're making you go to the presentation before even flying anywhere, they will absolutely and assuredly try to screw you out of your 'free' trip when you say no.

Have you already paid these people? If not, wait for them to call back (because they will, oh I promise you they will) and say "No. I am not purchasing anything from you. Remove my name from your list immediately." Play broken record every time they try to redirect you.

If you have already paid them, call right now and cancel. Again, broken record. "No. I do not want this trip. I want my money back." Depending on specific circumstances, they may be legally required to give your money back within a certain time period from initial purchase. They will, if you speak to them on the phone again, hard sell you, probably put a 'manager' on the phone to hard sell you, try to tell you that you can't cancel, etc. You can. Stick to your guns. (Or, if you can swallow the hit, it might be better for your sanity to just chalk it up to a life tax and move on.)

There is nothing about these outfits that isn't sleazy and scammy from top to bottom. One of the proudest moments of my life was the day I said enough and walked out (after they tried pulling sleazy scammy shit on me regarding my paycheque. I was young is my only excuse and I wish I could go back and stop myself from having worked there).

'Travel membership' is absolutely code for 'timeshare,' as the latter word has become (rightly) so poisoned.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:27 PM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

Oh, and even if you do go to the presentation and if they honour their committment to the vacation, you will be subjected to a bewildering array of conditions, vast swathes of blackout dates, etc.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:28 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

As a kid my parent did a timeshare pitch/discounted vacation. When we got there they tried to put us in a crappy 1 room motel (there were 6 of us). However it was a smoking room and my parents absolutely refused to stay there. There were no other crappy rooms, so they moved us to one of the actual timeshare properties. It was really new and really nice, with multiple rooms and a full kitchen. It worked out really great, but only due to circumstance.

As an adult I have done 2 discounted vacations with Marriott's version of time shares. It was only discounted, not free, and totally worth it. The sales pitch didn't take very long (2-3 hours) and was one-on-one. The resort was great and the discount was totally worth the sales pitch time.

My point being, sometimes these things can be okay, but you do need to be very careful.
posted by Shanda at 1:37 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

We once got to stay in some fancy hotel on a "free trip," but we wasted an entire day of the trip when we were driven out to the ass end of an industrial park and they would NOT LET US LEAVE until my mother paid them more money.

posted by jenfullmoon at 6:37 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

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