You open the mailbox and find a postcard offering a trip in exchange for you and your spouse attending a presentation. BEWARE! The trickery used by travel selling companies has reached an all time low. What sounds like a FREE trip almost never is. The presentation is also not straight-forward.
Deception and misleading advertising leave a lot of unhappy couples.
We recently received a postcard in the mail and decided, against our better judgement, to spend a rainy afternoon listening to a presentation that was supposed to be about deeply discounted vacations. When I phoned to reserve a time I asked if the presentation was about time shares on condos or other real estate and was told that it wasn’t. It was and then some. I was told it was a “Dream Vacations Presentation.” It turned out the company wasn’t Dream Vacations. It was Archer Travel Services of Montrose, CA.
After sitting through a 90-minute plus presentation and working hard to just get out the door with what we thought would be a free trip we were very disappointed to learn the truth. We had been taken advantage of. Thank goodness we were smart enough NOT to take the “deals” we were offered.
Archer Travel Services, based out of Montrose, CA was the REAL name of the company putting on the “Dream Vacations Presentation.” Apparently Dream Vacations isn’t the name of the company–though we were led to believe it was when we made our reservation. Of course, if we had been given the REAL name of the company our Internet search would have turned up the complaints against them with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Here are the details on the postcard, which I read several times, to be sure it was a free trip we would receive. The deceptive wording is guaranteed to fool the best of us.
Quote: “You are going to receive 2 round trip airfares on US Airways flying anywhere in the continental US and 3 days/2 nights at any Marriott or Hilton in the Continental U.S.”
Let’s first take a good look at this. It certainly sounds free, but do you see the actual word “free” anywhere? No. It says you will “receive” this trip. Next, ask yourself…receive it at what cost? When you ask this question with the person making the reservation you ARE told it is a free trip, but try going back and proving that conversation. It is a verbal comment. Nothing in writing.
The postcard also states: “Call within 48 hours. You will also receive as a bonus a 3 day rent-a-car by Alamo plus a $50 priceline.com hotel cash card!”
Once again…the word “receive” is used and not the word “free”. When you call for details and ask questions about the free trip, they never say it isn’t a free trip. They continue to let you believe it is.
In the fine print it states: “Certain restrictions apply. Call for details. Taxes & registration fees and/or processing fees are the responsibility of the recipient. This promotion not sponsored by US Airways, Marriott, Hilton, Priceline.com or Alamo. Not applicable to Alaska or Hawaii.”
Now, one would expect to pay sales tax, airport transfers and the 911 fee. This is normal in gift giveaways. However, note the registration and/or processing fees. Also, take note that none of the reputable companies listed on the postcard to gain your trust are sponsoring or have any part in this promotion. Neither do the hotels where they rent space for the presentations.
I will get back to the alleged “free” trip after explaining the presentation. It was held at a Red Lion in Olympia, WA. Only four couples were in our group. A man named Dennis led us through the history of the company, how travel is sold at a huge mark-up, then eventually the vacation club membership they offer, which included not the SELLING of timeshares, but rather the RENTING of timeshares.
The real name of the company wasn’t Dream Vacations. It was Archer Travel Services, which is based out of Montrose, CA. They allegedly started as a mom and pop operation in 1952. I have my doubts, but haven’t researched the company’s historical beginnings itself.
What they are trying to convince you is that they offer deeply discounted travel (anywhere from 4% to 80% discounts. They state a 50% average savings repeatedly) on travel anywhere in the world. Air, hotel, cruises, resorts, all inclusives and even gorgeous timeshares. They give examples and tell you there is a special website only members have access to, though members only need to call 1-800-Archer4 to book their travel.
It’s all a part of the Global Personal Service Network membership package, which starts off at $9,995.00. This was quite a shocker, judging from the dropped jaws in our group. We all felt like running at this point. However, the price of course, gets reduced and they begin sweetening the deal by making it a lifetime package and allowing guest use, etc.
Dennis stated Archer had an A+ rating with the BBB. I checked. At the moment their company does have an A+ rating. The BBB had accredited their company just over 1 month ago. However, they had six complaints listed (soon to be 7 once I file a complaint) and some were about the very issues I have concerns over.
Archer Travel Services also has a website where ANYONE can purchase travel through them. There is no place on their website to join this alleged deeply discounted travel club they were presenting, though I was told there was. During the one-on-one session of the presentation I asked if they could sign into the club portion and show me the discounted travel that was currently available there. Their first excuse was their laptop was “a piece of crap”. Later it was put off as they had someone with a computer in the hall and the topic was diverted until later. We never did see this alleged club website for discounted travel and I don’t believe it exists at all. I believe the only website Archer Travel has is the main home website I found that sells to the general public. So, the enormous fees paid in order to book travel through Archer Travel Services appears to be for another purpose altogether. What could that be?
Well…During the presentation we learned that club members also have access to timeshare properties and we were told the presentation wasn’t about timeshares. Dennis explained the process of how timeshares are sold. Property owners will sell 49% of the shares in a unit (condo, apartment, etc). They intentionally don’t sell 51% according to Dennis. Why is that? According to Dennis it is so the owner can retain controlling interest in the timeshare property. This makes sense so far. If I was an owner of a timeshare property I would certainly hold on to the controlling interest. Dennis also stated they are only allowed to sell 51 weeks and must keep 1 week for maintenance.
If an owner sells 49 shares (49%) with 1 week of vacation per share–that leaves 3 weeks leftover, or 2 weeks left over if you deduct the week for maintenance. According to Dennis their membership club has access to over 7500+ properties for members only.
What it boils down to is this. The presentation is really all about RENTING timeshares to members. Here’s how it works:
- You pay $9,995.00 to join the club and allegedly receive deeply discounted travel and access to timeshares (the 51% the owners are holding and NOT selling or perhaps it is from the 100% they hold). It appears the alleged discounted travel is the fluff and lure and the real target is the “renting” of timeshares.
- You pay $299.00 per year to keep your membership active. Stop paying annually and it could go up when you resume paying the membership fee. (Note: If you BUY a timeshare you pay maintenance fees instead.)
- You pay $595.00 for processing and documentation fees. We were told it was quite a process putting your name in five different computer systems. Not really sure what this is for. Perhaps their fee for signing you up. It was non-negotiable.
- If you join (please don’t), you can then book travel to the timeshare properties. Of course, you PAY to stay there.
This sounds like a sweet deal for the property owner. If a person owned a timeshare property it would be much more beneficial for them to go this route rather than SELLING their interest in a property. Compare the two.
You pay big $ to get in. Pay annual maintenance fees to maintain said property. Receive interest in the real estate you can later sell. Use your 1 week per year at no additional cost.
RENTING TIMESHARE THROUGH MEMBERSHIP:
Pay big $ to get in. Pay annual membership fee. Hold no physical interest in property and have no option to resell membership or recoup your initial investment. Pay to rent the property if you want to use it. You don’t even get a free week.
So…what exactly are you paying for? I believe that is where the “fluff” of the alleged deeply discounted travel comes into play in trying to sucker people into this scam of renting timeshare properties. It is certainly a sweet deal for the property owner of timeshares. They could actually hold 100% of a timeshare property and through membership deals like this one they could then collect enormous amounts of money (same as they would if they sold the timeshares) as people signed up for the travel club.
Once we figured out the scam we were ready to leave. Of course, the prices went down and they kept sweetening the pot by adding a few perks, like allowing your family members to buy travel through them as well (oh boy!). When they saw we weren’t interested in the timeshares at all, they then offered one final deal for $995.00 (plus 595.00 for processing fees) and the same $299.00 per year membership fee. This offer had no option to rent the timeshares, but we could still use the allegedly deeply discounted travel club website–a website that they NEVER showed us even though we asked repeatedly to see it. They were quite pushy at this point, but we were firm and asked for the free trip and left.
Back to that allegedly free trip. We received vouchers for the air/hotel and one for the car rental. This was NOT a free trip.
You had to send a $100 deposit (cashier check/money order ONLY) in with an activation form to receive a travel planning package. Notice they don’t take credit card–that would be too easy to dispute.
There were also other fees for taxes, surcharges, airport fees, etc. And a special $75.00 per person reservation processing fee. Surcharge fees say they range from $25 per person to $75 per person.
The vouchers are through a company called Smart Travel & Incentives, Inc. A quick search on the Internet showed 27 BBB complaints (the Lake Mary, FL office alone) and it’s a non-accredited company. Numerous complaints and scam warnings are found all over the Internet regarding the voucher issues people experienced. Some lost money.
If you felt like a victim of deceit and fraud after the presentation and fell for their trickery of trying to claim what you thought was a free trip–you became a victim once again. This is NOT a free trip. If you read the postcard it states you will “receive” this trip-BUT it doesn’t state at what cost to you. This is the loophole these deceitful, misleading companies are using to get out of providing you the trip. If you want the trip you will buy it.
If you ever get through the hassle and paperwork demands stage of trying to claim this trip, you will receive an “allegedly” discounted price for the trip. One complaint I read stated the price for his “free” cruise was over 1700.00. He priced the same itinerary online and found it cheaper than what the voucher was offering. He lost money trying to cancel this even prior to booking it. Once you send in the voucher activation with your deposit you are at their mercy.
The voucher states right on it: “This is an offer to sell travel. This contract is for the purchase of a vacation certificate….”
There is also language within this voucher that has cancellation fees and possibilities of losing your deposit, which could leave the victim losing money just to attend the presentation and try to claim their trip.
No Free Trip. A complete scam. If you don’t believe me, then try reading this article and watching the video at their website. A Texas news reporter went undercover and found the same deceitful tactics–step-by-step as the presentation we attended but with different price ranges. The Texas BBB President agrees and says the companies simply change names when they get too many complaints against them and open a new company.
I wonder what happens to people’s vacation club memberships when the company goes out of business? Not that they really had anything of value to begin with.
LESSON: Beware postcards offering anything for “free” and travel presentations. Travel is known to be one of the top fields for scams to occur.
- Don’t go to these presentations.
- Never buy anything without thoroughly investigating the company, product and reputation.
- Never buy spur of the moment–a better deal will always exist.
- When in doubt–listen to your gut and head for the door.
LINK TO TEXAS REPORTER ARTICLE