Is this a scam? Travel To Go leaves one couple disappointed

By | May 24th, 2012

Should I renew my membership - or not? / Photo by tasuki - Flickr
We’ve talked about vacation club scams in the past — and I’m on record as saying I’ve never run across a legitimate travel club — but what happens to the folks who plunk down thousands of dollars for a membership?

Well, meet Cheryl and Don Harvey, who were vacationing in Branson, Mo., with friends last March when they were approached by a salesman for a company called Travel To Go.

“We were asked if we wanted a way to travel cheaper,” says Cheryl Harvey. “In return for listening to this information, we would be given dinner out and maybe some theater tickets. We agreed to go the next morning.”

Theater is exactly what they got. In the sales meeting, the couple heard a brief but compelling sales pitch. I’ll hand the mike to Harvey to explain.

You buy a membership for over $3,000, which will entitle you hotels and weekly vacations at a very discounted rate.

After some deliberation the sales person also offered a free cruise, and discounted airfare package if we were to purchase the vacation membership.

We were also told we could add our grown children’s names and any family members or friends to this list so they could benefit as well, with cheaper travel.

They insisted we pay for the full package that day with offering to take a credit card. We purchased the program.

So the Harveys paid $3,000 for their club membership. And here’s what happened next.

Upon trying to use their “hot weeks” — the so-called “discounted” travel weeks — we realized that you can go on the Internet and get the same deals without any costly membership.

The so-called ‘free’ cruise ended up costing us extra money to hold it and extra money for port fees. Also, it was a inside cabin in a not very desirable part of the ship. We were told that we probably would not get to travel with our friends.

The cruise came with many restrictions, including giving 90 days notice as to when we could go and dates that are blacked out. We are finally scheduled to take the cruise in a month, during hurricane season. The airfare voucher didn’t save us any money.

In other words, the Harveys are disappointed — very disappointed — at their $3,000 membership.

Now, Travel To Go wants Harvey to renew his membership for $200, which is just a fraction of the $3,000 he and his wife paid.

“Is there any recourse for scams like this?” she asked me. “We understand they are still selling these vacation packages in Branson and probably other cities.”

I don’t think renewing your membership is a good idea, I told her. Given their disappointing experience and all the strings that came attached to their offer, I think another year would yield similar results. Plus, Harvey believes Travel To Go is a “scam” — and who wants to do business with someone they believe is a scammer?

Travel To Go, for its part, sees itself as not only offering a legitimate product, but also being an outstanding corporate citizen. It claims to have an A+ rating with the BBB and to be active with charities, such as a fundraiser for breast cancer survivors. However, it is vague about its product, and it is not difficult to find other customers with complaints that are similar to Harvey’s. (You’ll pardon me if I don’t link to its site from this post.)

Emails sent to Travel To Go asking for comment on Harvey’s case were not returned.

But is Travel To GoTravel To Go To Go a scam? It did offer the Harveys something for their money. Worth $3,000? Probably not. Sold under suspicious circumstances? Probably. But that doesn’t necessarily make it a scam.

Or does it?

I have a stricter definition of “scam.” If Travel To Go had taken their $3,000 and given them nothing for it, then that would be scammier. But in some respects, that’s exactly what the Harveys are saying — that they could have saved the $3,000 and gotten the exact same thing.

So which is it?

  • sirwired

    For the price of something to be fair, the value of having the thing must be roughly equal to the price paid to acquire it.  (Note that this is different from the cost to create it; the difference between the cost to create and the price to acquire is called Gross Profit.)  Both parties getting a fair deal is the very bedrock of well-functioning capitalism.

    The value of this thing (the club membership) is far below the price charged for it.  The price charged was unfair by a huge amount, probably an order of magnitude.

    Is this legal?  Probably.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not a scam.

  • I’m not sure it’s a scam as much as a horrible buy. The company probably likens itself to a travel agency where members can do one stop shopping. How much is that worth?

    But the OP only thought to comparison shop AFTER plunking down the money? The foundation of a free market economy is that prices for certain things are subjective. Someone can charge $5 for a painting and someone else 5 million. If there weren’t any yahoos who fell for this, these would quickly go out of business. (And if they’re even CONSIDERING re-upping for $200, after all they’ve been through, there truly is no hope for them…)

    That being said, I think these pseudo-travel agencies would be imminently difficult to regulate, though. How would you define the value of a service? Would the government now need to start regulating the cost of memberships to country clubs, dog associations and other groups? I’d advocate though maybe a 24-48 hour cancellation window for these types of “purchases”, as long as you haven’t used their service (but then again, most of these gullibles only realize it’s a “scam” after trying to use the service and getting very little value in return. Catch 22 anyone?).

    Remember, every vote for me is a vote against pesky travel club scams!

  • Though some might consider it just a marketing cheat but yeah considering that amount they juice from people it should be considered a scam already.

  • finance_tony

    No it isn’t.  Your vote has nothing to do with voting against travel scams.  It has to do with voting for a spammer. 

  • Elmo Clarity

    “I have a stricter definition of “scam.” If Travel To Go had taken their $3,000 and given them nothing for it, then that would be scammier”

    I would say they fit your description then.  They paid $3000 but didn’t get anything they couldn’t have gotten on their own as they stated.  So basically, you are paying them $3000 to make reservations for you on an internet travel site it sounds like.

  • Oh, that’s funny. Fly, you are shameless! :-)

  • I would say unequivocally that its a scam.  In my boat, a scam is when the item sold is materially misrepresented.  Hallmarks of a scam are high pressure tactics used to prevent the purchaser from critically thinking about the purchase or comparison shopping.

    The implication here is that by purchasing the package, the OPs would be able to have access to exclusive discounts unavailable to them without the club purchase.  This apparently was not true. According to the OP, these deals were easily accessible through the internet without the need of a vacation purchase.  That’s why the high pressure tactics to get the OPs to purchase immediately.

    It is made further into a scam because of the onerous restrictions placed on the usage of the package that a reasonable person would not anticipate.

    This is not about valuation nor fair pricing.   Those a red herrings.  Its about getting what you were lead to believe you were buying and being able to use it in the normal manner.  Valuation is legitimately subjective. The difference between a bad deal and a scam is that in a bad deal you still get exactly what you expected. 

    For example, if you rent a vacation rental and the pictures were photoshopped, outdated, or simply didn’t accurately reflect the condition or the property, that might be a scam depending on the intent of the owner.

    However, if everything is as represented but its just expensive or overpriced, C’est la vie.

  • You’re right, they probably do. Just giving them the benefit of the doubt. And I want to know what everyone else thinks.

    All of these operators can, at some point, show us a list of happy customers. That may be an interesting post, at some point. Do happy customers mean it isn’t a scam?

  • Raven_Altosk

    Never trust a salesman who approaches you on vacation. Period. This includes the street hustlers in Vegas who approach and ask, “How long are you in town? Do you want a free dinner at XXX?”

    If you have to be trapped in a room to be sold something, it’s a scam. High pressure sales are a hallmark of a scam.

    If you have to buy something RIGHT NOW it’s a scam. Scammers don’t want you to comparison shop at all.

    Therefore, with my Raven sense, I conclude this was indeed a SCAM.

  • MarkieA

    This is a question for the lawyers in th group. Isn’t there, by law, a built-in grace period – a Buyer’s Remorse clause, if you will – for all contracts of this type? I thought it was around 3 days.

  • john4868

    I’d say this is a horrible,stupid purchase but not a scam. They did receive a cruise and they were able to purchase travel through the club. Now the cruise was limited to when no one else wanted to travel and in a cabin the cruiseline had to give away to sell. The travel wasn’t much if any savings over what they could have found on their own but they did receive some benefit.

    The “club” doesn’t return phone calls and you receive no benefit… Scam. A club that gives you the same benefit you could purchase on the internet if you looked hard… stupid buy.

    There are other places in the travel world where you pay a third party to find you deals and book travel. The only difference here is the size of the fee.

    I’m with a lot of other people on this board though. If I can’t think about the purchase before I make it, I’m not making it. Sorry. If it has to be done before I leave the room, its not getting done.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Not spam, but a request for community support.  Go back and read the comments section from yesterday’s article (one of the oldest comments).  It’s a vote for a picture F,I,F took and entered into a contest. 

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    “Happy” doesn’t necessarily mean informed nor savvy.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Darn, how do some people get all the super powers?  Raven-sense and Snarkiness both!

  • backprop

    I will say, today’s wording makes it sound like something other than what it is.

    I’m not a big fan of panhandling for votes on the message boards, but usually don’t say anything because it’s so ubiquitous. 

    But this message, while perhaps trying to be tongue-in-cheek, is misleading and inappopriate.

  • BillCCC

    I am not sure if it a scam or more likely taking advantage of someone. Insisting that they pay immediately is usually a clue that what you will receive is not worth the price. 

  • mbods

    Sure sounds like a scam to me and honestly, in this day and age, folks ought to know better, don’t you think?

  • sirwired

     Someone can indeed think a $5M painting is worthless because art is indeed subjective.

    But in this case, we CAN place a rough dollar value on a fair price, and that price is nearly $0.  The identical service is available for low, or no, cost from any number of online, phone, or in-person travel agencies.  The only part of the package that was worth anything was the cruise, and it sounds like that would only have been a few hundred bucks, tops, for the fare.  (I’m guessing it was a 3 or 4-nt Carnival, which routinely sell for no more than $2-300/pp for lousy cabins in the off-season; less if it’s a bulk group purchase.)

    But you are correct that people making stupid buying decisions is tough to regulate.  Not all scams are illegal. 

    Your cancellation period idea is a good one; there are specific rules allowing the prompt 100% cancellation of in-home purchases and gym memberships.  I see no reason why this could not be extended to travel clubs.  (It’d be nice if that also extended to time-shares, given the way they are usually sold, but alas that is deeded real estate and purchases cannot be undone with the wave of a regulatory hand.)

  • Nikki

    I look at it like this:  if certain regulars on this beat say it’s a scam, I’m liable to believe it.  Raven will argue with a stop sign, Tony_A will beat you over the head with experience, and Carver will have us wondering if the OP’s suffering from a case of “the wheel’s spinning, but the hamster’s dead.”.  So, with that consensus, there goes. 

    The OP needs to just chalk that 3K off to experience and leave those people alone.  Post complaints in the appropriate forums so people can see what they’ve had to experience, and hope for the best. 

    Unfortunately, as long as there are people willing to buy, there’s a tool with a hard-sell scam.  I’d say mediate it, but to what end?  It’s the same old story – the scammers pack up and get out of town, and they open up shop somewhere else under another fancy new name.

  • I DO try! I thought I was being funny yet inconspicuous, but I guess not everyone thought so. Sorry if I offended! Jeanne, thanks for having my back!

  • I do think it’s preying on the gullible, but I think it boils down to exactly what was promised. Wording like “exclusive deals” or “significant discounts” are hard to pin down because they very well may provide that. For someone not willing to do an internet search or follow TravelZoo type sites, it may be worth it to pay someone else to do it. But 3K? Definitely not.

  • emanon256

    I could not agree more.  Any time someone says, “This offer is good right now only” It’s a scam.  I have kicked many a sales man out of my house for saying that.  These were ones I invited in.  Like bathroom out fitters that advertise in the mall and offer a free $50 gas card.  They always give the same pitch. “I am the manager, so you got lucky you have me, I just have my employees pushing around brooms right now, so I’ll drop the $5,000 price I just showed you to $3,000 if you promise not to tell anyone and put a sign in your yard.”  Then they say it’s only good right now, and they won’t put anything in writing.  So $3,000 to put an insert over a crummy bath tub?  Guess what it cost when we hired a general contractor to rip out and replace the tub and re-tile the shower, it was closer to $1,700 parts and labor.

  • I think he was bitten by a mean, radioactive bird… haha

    This topic is an interesting one, though. Say you walked away from a totally legit used car sale only to later find out you paid way over the blue book value. Did you get scammed? Or was it a matter of not knowing the value of what you were buying? (Which in this case was very little?) Is it only a scam when you overpay by a whole lot?

    I have a feeling these types of companies exist because they can prove they’re delivering what they say they are. Someone needs to go on a presentation and record the pitch and / or pdf their promotional material so we can all see. Any takers?

  • Sad but true, methinks.

  • Bill Armstrong

    Scam or not, it is definitely not a wise buying decision.

  • Asiansm Dan

    The best thing is NOT to renew the membership and forget the whole affair for good. Turn the page, enjoy your life, don’t look back. 
    May be legally not a scam but ethically and professionally, an intended deception advertised sell pitch with all the restrictions and fine-prints not clearly disclosed.
    The Harveys had an expensive lesson, but on the other hand, may be it will help them made better decision process on all future bigger purchases like car, house, boat, etc…

  • HomeyDont

    A scam is when you are promised something that was not delivered.  They were given everything they were promised – the cruise, vouchers, and entry into their plan.  What they probably didn’t realize was that the discounts were off the retail prices of the properties.  Now the fact that you can do your own research and find similar prices is really irrelevant. 

    This is not a scam, but simply a stupid, uninformed purchase.  And really, how many people in 2012 do NOT know that these are high pressure sales pitches???  Do they live under a rock?

  • emanon256

    Cool, it says I can vote once per day!  You got my vote again :)

  • HomeyDont

     Some states allow three days to rescind purchases when the sales people come to you.  Like door to door.  You go to them it shows you are a willing participant.

  • HomeyDont

     So if I’m unhappy with a purchase it’s a scam?  Sounds like a line an ambulance chaser would use to drum up biz.

  • HomeyDont

     All due respect you don’t know how it was represented.  In most situations people hear what they want to hear, read what they want to read.  Look at all of the people starting a class action suit against Facebook.  Their premise is that the stock dropped because of facts not represented or misrepresented.  Over and over again you can read analysts saying it was all out there.  In fact, some of the headlines days before the IPO screamed about falling earnings projections.

    When you listen to them more carefully, they say “How can a company with 900 million users not be worth more?”  And then you realize they only read whet they wanted to read into it.

    Same situation here.  They got their air vouchers.  They are getting their discounted rates.  The fact that I can get similar rates for free on my own time is really irrelevant.  They got what the company promised.  They just didn’t listen and engage their brains.

  • HomeyDont

     Why do people continue to think they can get something for free in life?  I am simply amazed at the genius of PT Barnum every day…

  • emanon256

    Car salesman hate me.  I show up knowing what car to buy, what my trade in is worth, and I already have the NADA values, KBB Values, and Edmunds values.  When you say to them KBB says its work $X, they always reply, well we use NADA.  When you go in saying NADA says…They say they use KBB.  When we bought my wife’s car, the dear even showed us a print out from KBB saying the value and what deal we were getting and I made him re-run it on the KBB website in front of me, the value was quite different from the print out he initially showed.  And even when they drop the value to a closer to fair price, I always walk away.  If a manager doesn’t follow me to the parking lot with a better offer or they don’t call me back with a better offer that same day, it wasn’t meant to be. 
    I bought a used car two years ago and traded it in this last August for $2,000 more than I bought it for.  I usually keep car longer than that, but needed a more family friendly car. 
    I must disclose, I got a job as a car salesman back in 2001.  Though I got fired 6 week into the job for refusing to lie to a customer, I kid you not.  It’s a shady business, but I learned a lot of their tricks.  I don’t know how the sleep at night.

  • HomeyDont

    If everyone is commenting this is a bad purchase and not a scam then why the vote tally???

  • mythsayer

    Double post… the other one is down farther. It’s late where I am… should probably stay off message boards until the sun comes up here… (Japan… middle of the night….)

    Oh, but thanks for the people who liked my original post :) It’s still here… just down a couple.

  • mythsayer

     Usually only for purchasing real property.  This club isn’t giving them any interest in real property.  It’s just supposedly giving them access to discounts. 

  • AAmerican1

    There are recission periods, especially with time-shares, governed by the state laws where the property is either purchased or located. The recission period can be as little as 5 days up to a maximum of fifteen again depending on state law. People who purchase “pie-in-the-sky products based on the offer of of a free meal or theatre tickets get exactly what they deserve.

  • mythsayer

    The real issue isn’t that the club could give discounts.  The issue with this scam (yes it’s a scam in my opinion) is that this club is basically representing that you CANNOT get these deals on your own.  I can almost guarantee they said something like this at the pitch. 

    Is this illegal?  Ehhh… most things aren’t illegal as in “criminal activity.”  Is is civil fraud? Yes, I think so.

  • naoma

    Never, ever get involved in these sort of things.  This includes “time share presentations.”  JUST SAY “NO.”

  • Emanon, you sound like a nightmare customer!

    How do car salesmen sleep at night? Why, with travel club saleswomen, of course! haha

  • AAmerican1

    The reality is who goes on vacation with the intent of making a major purchase? Do you go to Vegas and all of a sudden decide to buy a new car? Where ever you vacation it’s a “tourist trap” to the extent there will be people there who want a percentage of your money. If you make a major purchase while on vacation where you have to decide to purchase on the spot then you have been scammed by your failure to act in a rational manner. Being on vacation is not an excuse to make stupid decisions. I have no empathy for people who travel and leave their brain and common sense at home and then whine about the stupid decisions they made.

    These people are taken advantage of because they allow themselves to be based on the enticement of “free”. There is NO free lunch. These people do not need an advocate they need a babysitter. 

  • 46Shasta19

    People need to think about what they are doing.  Why would anyone spend 3,000 on something that they never have time to check out?

  • john4868

    This wasn’t sold in CA so CA law isn’t relevant. In fact, I rarely here any of these “deals” being offered in CA because the law doesn’t favor them so a CA jury instruction doesn’t apply.

    Missouri would be interesting…

  • NotThatBrooklynGuy

    There are two kinds of people who have bought into vacation clubs:
    1)The ones that complain it is a scam.
    2)The ones who are too embarrassed to admit they fell for the scam.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I voted yes on this one but, truthfully, I don’t know the OP doesn’t bear some of the responsibility.  Some fast research would have taught them this.  Also, caving to the pitch that they MUST do it right there…  That’s usually the first sign something’s amiss.

    Like you said, they DO offer a service but then so do cab drivers who “get lost” or take the scenic route when you use them.  

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I voted for you, Fly.  Good response here and good for you doing everything you can to win!

  • mythsayer

    I just said, I’m using California law because it’s what I had available.  I didn’t feel like looking up Missouri law at the time.  I ALSO said that the law was probably similar elsewhere.  Since you wanted to know:

    Fraud in Missouri is broadly bifurcated into two categories: intentional
    misrepresentation and negligent misrepresentation. Intentional
    misrepresentation consists of: (1) a representation; (2) its falsity;
    (3) its materiality; (4) the speaker’s knowledge of its falsity or
    his/her ignorance of the truth; (5) the speaker’s intent that his/her
    representation should be acted on by the hearer in the manner reasonable
    contemplated; (6) the hearer’s ignorance of the falsity of the
    representation; (7) the hearer’s reliance on the representation being
    true; (8) the hearer’s right to rely thereon; and (9) the hearer’s
    proximately caused injury. Clark v. Olson, 726 S.W.2d 718, 721 (Mo. 1987).

    It’s the same.  Most laws I’ve seen are more or less the same everywhere.

  • Michael__K

    There are other places in the travel world where you pay a third party to find you deals and book travel.


    Except that wasn’t how this was represented (according to the OP’s):

    You buy a membership for over $3,000, which will entitle you hotels and weekly vacations at a very discounted rate.

    If that’s what they were told, it was a lie.  As you point out, the $3,000 was for paying the third party to search for deals that every Tom, Dick and Harry are already entitled to.

  • mythsayer

     As I said in another post… if the club TOLD THEM they were getting the same thing from the club that they could get on their own, THEN it’s a stupid buy. If the club represents that they can only get the discounts through the club, it’s a scam.  Further, just because you wouldn’t buy it doesn’t mean that other people wouldn’t.  The law (and I mean civil, not statutory violations that result in fines by government agencies or criminal activity) protects the reasonable person, who is, like I said somewhere else, pretty stupid most of the time.

  • mythsayer

    Oh and although it could be argued that I should have just looked up
    Missouri law before posting, I will say that I’m in Japan (I am from
    California and my office is in California, but I currently live in Japan
    just in case I started getting questions…) and it’s past midnight here.  I’m tired so I forgot that they were in Branson when they bought
    this.  Either way, intentional misrepresentation applies and the
    elements are pretty standard no matter the state, which is the points I
    was trying to make, but apparently didn’t make well.

  • Interesting post.  You begin by claiming that I don’t know what was represented, which is true as I wasn’t there, but at your conclusion somehow you are able to determine what was represented.

    Neither you nor I know exactly what was represented.  You are assuming that they got what the company promised.

    I assume that you only skimmed my post and didn’t read it carefully.  I specifically pointed out that valuation generally doesn’t make something a scam, only a bad deal.

    The nature of these products is that they are sold specifically under sketchy circumstances so that they buyer is deterred from making rational decision with cool calm reflection but rather in the heat of the moment.  These salesman manipulate the buyers using everything from pressure:”You’re a fool to pass up this opportunity” to guilt,”Why did you come here, you wasted my time and stolen the free dinner”.

    Its further a scam because the travel comes with so many restrictions that no one would reasonable expect.


  • TonyA_says

    We just drove near P.T. Barnum’s grave yesterday in Bridgeport, CT. Didn’t he say “There’s a sucker born every minute”? He’s right. And, this time the Humbug is pitching vacation clubs.

    There’s more to this story

  • I’d agree except for the high pressure tactics designed to limit the buyers ability to get information.

  •  Excellent legal analysis. Need a job?

    You hit the nail on the head that the likely representation or misrepresentation is that by joining the travel club they would received “exclusive” deals.  That’s the linchpin here.

  • bodega3

    They just didn’t listen and engage their brains.

    Yes, they heard discounted, free and fell for something without taking time to research it.

    This isn’t a scam, but it certainly is a bad deal and these people were just stupid to fall for a lousy sales pitch.  I had to sit in on a timeshare sale pitch when we stayed at friend’s timeshare using their bonus time.  By attending the sale pitch the owners got a credit so sadly we had to it.  It was interesting to see the sales person look when, as an agent, I called her bluff on the benefits of using their services at the various international locations in their ‘5 star’ properties.  I had actually seen serveral of them on FAM trips and they certainly were not 5 star.  More 2-3 star.  What a freaking joke!  Of course we had to ‘jump’ on any deals she presented before we checked out. 

    There are suckers born everyday and you can legislate stupid!  These people made a purchase without checking ti out first.  Who is really at fault here?

  •  Shannon used California law, but the law of fraud arises from common law and is substantially similar in the 48 states that were historically common law jurisdictions.

  •  These scammers are pros.  They attend seminars to make them more than a match for most.  I was at the Planet Hollywood a few years ago. They told me as a Starwood Platinum member I was entitled to certain amenities. All I had to do was go to the preferred desk.  Turns out it was a scam to sell me time shares.  And they wanted to me put down a deposit for the privilege of taking a time share presentation.  I was floored that people fell for that, but yet there they were.

  • emanon256


  • Joe_D_Messina

    Lighten up, dude. He’s one of the more helpful posters on this site. If he had a contest every week, it’d be different. But I say his productive comments have earned him the right to ask for some votes in his contest.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Exactly my thoughts.  I know these things can be high pressure and they sound so good at the time, but shouldn’t it have set off some alarms when this supposedly already fabulous deal suddenly was opened up to their adult kids and “any family member or friends” at no extra charge?  

  • emanon256

    I think it’s a scam.  “Scam: A company that fraudulently misrepresents a product is trying to scam you or deprive you of your money by deceit.” Elliott, Christopher (2012) Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
    My interpretation is that Travel to Go misrepresented the product by stating that they could get them discounts in order to deprived the OP of their money.
    I booked my first trip to Hawaii many years ago through Pleasant Holidays.  They had us attend a mandatory breakfast with a travel agent the first day.  At the breakfast they told us that everything in Hawaii books out months in advance and that we probably didn’t know that. But it’s okay, because of the buying power of Pleasant Holidays, they had special spots reserved just for their customers.  They also had prizes that they would give out for free just for pleasant holiday’s customers.  They did their first drawing and I won a free pass to a sunset dinner cruise, yay!  They said after the presentation is over I could book a second ticket for my then girlfriend now wife.  I flipped through my guide book which said the dinner cruise was $30, but the pleasant holidays price was $60 on the ticket I won, so I had to pay another $60 for my wife?  Hmmmm.  So if I had bought it, I would have paid full price for both of us.  I didn’t really win anything, did I?  Then they told us helicopter tours book out years in advance, but they had just 5 spots specially held for this week only, and only for Pleasant Holidays customers.  They would give them out by a show of hands until all 5 were gone, and we could pay after breakfast.  And their price was only $300, they said these typically run $400 or more.  I looked at my book again and it said $160 for the same vendor.  I snuck to the back of the room, called the number in my book, and booked a helicopter tour for two for $160 each for the very next day.  I then went back to my table and told the guy next to me who was a lucky recipient of one of the only remaining spots for $300 and told him what we paid and gave him the phone number.  At the end the guy next to me said he didn’t want it anymore to the agent and she got mad. Then I told her that I wanted my free dinner pass, but I would book my wife’s on my own.  She said I had to book it through them since I won.  I said its only $30 through the tour operator why would I pay you $60 for the same thing.  She said I must have called another tour company with an inferior tour.  I told her it was the same name on the ticket and showered her the book.  She said if I didn’t buy it through her; I had to return the free one that I had won. I then told the people on line to buy their items that they can get them for about half price by calling the travel providers directly, and that helicopter tours are only $160 at Blue Hawaii (Same Company) and they have plenty of space.  A bunch of other people walked out with me and the sales person yelled after me that I can’t do that, but I kept walking, with a big smile. 
    Was I a jerk, yes.  Was this a scam, I believe so.  Sadly I was the only one on the room who brought a travel guide, and a lot of people believe this sales pitch.

  • TonyA_says

    Voted for your pic again. And thanks for the advice about my next Africa vacation this coming December.

  • AAmerican1

    Carver, you are correct but if you think through what they are doing you can prevail. Case in point, Vegas several years ago my wife wanted to see Barry Manilow and I was not willing to pay close to $500 to see him. We were accosted by a time-share salesperson on the street to attend a TS presentation for free tickets to Manilow. Well that was worth 90 minutes of my time. At the 90 minute mark I got up and said “times up, I want my tickets” and even though I was told what they were offering would never be offered again I took the tickets and walked out.

    Now, for the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say. That night I researched the TS and what they were offering and it was not a bad deal except for the price. So two days later I went back and even though I was originally told the deal was off the table they sat down with me. I got the deal for ten percent of their original asking price plus a 7 day vacation to Hawaii and another 7 day vacation to St. Martens. Those 14 days would have cost me more than what I paid for the TS deal.

    I have never stayed in the TS property I bought in Orlando, it is so popular that I rent it evey year and the rent income I receive not only pays for the annual maintenance fee but also for the maintenance fee on another TS I purchased. In addition to the vacations we take annually using our other TS property, we go to Vegas several times a year and stay at the Grand Desert in a 2BR suite that we pay no more than $28 dollars a night for and they pick us up at the airport in a stretch limo at no cost.

    One does not have to be scammed if they use common sense and don’t accept the first offer because “it is only good right this minute”. Sales people are pros but they are in the business to sell and they will sell whenever the opportunity is available.

    As far as time shares go. They are not a financial investment but an investment in vacationing. And if you buy the right TS, at the right price and the right maintenance fee then they are not a bad deal. Again, you have to do your homework and have good common sense. If you maintain those two criteria then you will not be the victim or feel as though you have been scammed.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Like X10000

  • Joe_D_Messina

    It’s darn hard to mediate away somebody’s gullibility and that’s the crux of this case.  The topper for me was how what they’d already been told was a great deal expanded so they could add their adult children and any other friend or family member they wanted for no extra charge.  Shouldn’t anybody at that point have wondered “How could that possibly work as a business model if I sign up a ton of extra people for these amazing, supposedly limited deals?”  

  • GKR

    It is not a scam, just expensive.  Like Dave Ramsey says: [paraphrasing] “It is called a ‘Stupid Tax.'” 

    And we have all paid into that tax at one time or another. 

    And are the Harvey’s all that pure in their motives?  They wanted “free” stuff or “highly/deeply discounted” stuff for themselves [and their family AND friends] for a [relatively] small cost.  I would bet that they would be both surprised and upset learning that a Rolex watch they purchased from a Cairo street vendor was a knock-off.

    I wonder if they would be interested in purchasing a timeshare condo in beautiful Paris, KY or Hollywood, SC?

  • wiseword

    Of course Travel to Go is a scam, but they bought it in Branson, MO. Doesn’t that tell you something?  And why can’t grown-up people say “I’ll get back to you later,” and then check fares, etc., on the internet?

  • Chris Johnson

    In my opinion, the only travel club that is not a scam would be AAA.  Membership is cheap, you get 10% discounts at hotels and sometimes discounts at sightseeing attractions, and all the free travel guides and maps you ask for.  That’s the only “travel club” I’ll ever belong to.

  • mom_in_amarillo

    My mother had a saying:  “If it looks like goat, eats like a goat and bleats like a goat, then it’s a goat.”  Translation for all of the non-goat lovers out there:  “if it looks like a probably is one.”  Sorry for the OP…but I agree with others on this one….SCAM.  

  • MikeInCtown

    Its not a question of being happy or unhappy. It is a question of charging someone an amount of money for something that costs nothing. In this case, they were charged $3k for supposedly being able to buy a product or service that was available through others on the internet, or through the company that sells the product for the same or less.

  • I think it’s a scam.  But, I also think the Harvey’s must have some responsibility.  When will people realize you get what you pay for.  They weren’t forced or tricked into buying the package.  

  • Nikki

     rofl – would loved to have been there to see the look on that gal’s face…

  • bodega3

    Is there a crime in this?  I belong to COSTCO and their prices are often higher than local grocery stores.  Buyers need to do their homework and if they don’t see the value in joining in and paying a membership, they don’t have to.  Prices fluctuate and what is good today isn’t good tomorrow as others price match.  This couple got burned due to no fault but their own.

  • Nikki

     Unfortunately, the salespeople involved in these things make it sound like something you HAVE to do right then and there, no questions asked, no exceptions, do not pass GO, do not collect $200, ad nauseum. Their motivation is simple – sell hard, and sell NOW.  I mean, they seriously know how to hit the guilt trip button.

    After thinking about this, I remembered that a close friend of mine had been hooked into that sort of sales thing in Vegas (Luxor, I think it was)… he wound up purchasing a timeshare from one of those “meetings” – and had to go through some timeshare sales group to get rid of it.  Meanwhile, he’s out the $3K they took him for, and all the maintenance fees and other assorted “fees”, real or imagined.  I felt bad for him- but even he chalked it off to a lesson learned.

    Just wish their sales pitch – the hard sell part, anyway – was illegal to some degree.  There’s way too many people out there that aren’t as savvy as some of you guys. :D

  • But that’s why its a scam.  She is materially misrepresenting the quality of the property as well as the benefits of using the services presents.  Any scam can be defeated through due diligence.  Its still a scam.

    When you use phrases like “What a freaking joke”, “suckers”, and “stupid”, its clearly not an up and up transaction.

  • I agree with of what you state except, “As far as time shares go. They are not a financial investment but an investment in vacationing.”

    Time shares can cost a ton of money.  My former law partner bought one for 19k.  At that price point, I think you have to consider the financial elements of purchasing a time share v. other vacationing means and see if it pans out.

    Curiously, that’s exactly what you did. :).  You made sure that you got a price that allowed you to have a positive cash flow through renting as well as access to a 2BR suite for $28 a night.  Sounds like a financial investment to me :)

  • I strongly disagree.  LOL. You weren’t a jerk. Kudos to you for having the cajones.

  • AAmerican1

    If all your friend paid for the TS was 3K, they got a good deal. Their mistake was in not learning how to use it properly. Time shares get a bad rep because people pay way too much for them or they don’t spend the time after the purchase to find out how they can maximize the benefit of owning a TS. It’s that old addadge of getting out of something what you put into it. If they had exchanged their TS for another at a location they wanted to go, Europe, Africa, Australia, they could have recouped their $3K within a few years just in hotel room savings. Then if they no longer wanted to use it they could have rented their week and used the rental fee to pay their annual maintenance fees. Everyone buys a “pig” at sometime in their lives and when they do they have to either live with it or find a way to live off the “pig”.

  • AAmerican1

    I agree 19K was outrageous and yet sadly I’ve seen people pay 3 and 4 times that amount for a TS. Although on the surface it may appear to be a “financial investment” we don’t consider it to be because there is no “capital gains”. :0 We genrally breakeven at the end of each year with the only benefit being a vacation that only costs airfare, meals and or gas if we drive. Since our TS usually includes a full kitchen we save quite a bit on meals by not having to take all our meals in restaurants.  So we don’t make money but we are able to vacation more for less expense. :-) 

  • Nikki

     lol – yeah… I think he didn’t know what he was getting himself into.  I don’t think he feels like he was scammed, more like misinformed.  If anything, he falls into the category of not knowing how to use it after purchasing it.  The unfortunate part is that he’s an easy mark, and I’ve told him time and again that it’s his issue, not the fault of anyone else.

    Now that I think of it, I probably should be the one to pour a bit of concrete into his spine…

  • veloris

    If they had said they wanted to think about it they would have probably been told, “once you leave, this deal is no longer available”.  A good sign that it’s time to leave.  If you haven’t done your homework, don’t accept an offer – especially that expensive!

  • bodega3

    I would love time shares to go away as they are not worth the paper you sign but people buy them.  Travel clubs are well known for not being a good deal.  I wish I could feel sorry for these people but I can’t.

  • Raven_Altosk

    LOL. I approve my characterization. ;)

  • Lindabator

    Hmm… good point.  There’s an agency in NYC that charges clients $10,000.00 for the privelege of booking with them in the future.  Very upscale, very hands-on, but you know you aren’t getting anything for that first 10K.  And they have a waiting list for clientele to book with them.  So I guess it does come down to how many times they use the service over the year, and what they THINK they saved – it that made them happy, who are we to argue.  (But I still think this is a scam myself!) 

  • Extramail

    That is an understatement, Chris!

  • HomeyDont

     “You are assuming that they got what the company promised.”

    No, the OP said as much. 

    “You buy a membership for over $3,000, which will entitle you hotels and weekly vacations at a very discounted rate.
    After some deliberation the sales person also offered a free cruise,
    and discounted airfare package if we were to purchase the vacation


    “… we realized that you can go on the Internet and get the same deals without any costly membership.”

    The OP said in the article themselves that they received the discounts and the airfare vouchers as promised in the sales pitch (I did assume you actually read the article).  They determined they could have found the same deals without the club.  Those facts are in the article – I assumed nothing.  I was merely pointing out that they perceived a value that was not there, not that they did not get what was promised. 

    Sketchy conditions?  Manipulation?  Pressure?  Certainly, but they ADMITTED they got what as promised and they put themselves in that situation.

  • Thanks, Joe! Exactly how many days of vote begging do you think I’ve earned? Throw out a number… haha

  • Thanks so much. I’m gonna give it my all so I have no regrets. It’s all part of the excitement of just being involved, I think… Thanks for voting!

  • Several months ago I received a postcard with Southwest
    Airline’s name and logo on the front. The back of the card said: “Congratulations. 
    You have been selected to receive 2 Round Trip Airfares to anywhere
    A BONUS 3 DAY 2 NIGHT HOTEL STAY!” The postcard said
    neither a timeshare nor a “land sale” was involved.


    I was too busy at the time to check out the offer, so I
    threw the postcard into the trash. When a
    second postcard came in the mail a couple of months later, I contacted
    Southwest’s press department and was told that the airline was not connected
    with the offer.


    Since November 2, 2011, over 5,000 people have read “Consumer
    Alert: ‘Southwest Escape’ Offer Grounded,” a story which I published about that
    postcard. My readers have reported receiving similar offers bearing the names
    and logos of several other airlines including Air Tran, Alaska, Allegiant,
    British Airways, Delta, Hawaiian, “US Air” and United. After I told Chris what
    I was hearing from my readers, Joshua Floyd wrote a January 16, 2012 post about
    these “Fly Away Escape” offers for Chris’ “On Your Side” blog.


    Most of my readers assumed that they were being scammed and immediately
    tossed out the postcard. Others phoned the contact number on the postcard and
    were told it was “an opportunity to buy ‘vacation packages’” or that they would
    have to attend a “seminar” but that it didn’t involve timeshares.


    Some readers planned to attend a meeting to find about more
    about the offer and promised to report back what they learned. On Monday of
    this week, one did and said that the pitch was to join a “travel club.”


    Apparently Randy was told that club members would be able to
    purchase travel at the club’s cost, presumably discounted from rates quoted to
    the general public by travel providers. The catch: He’d have to pay $8,995
    ($1,000 off the “customary” membership fee), a $350 “processing fee” and a $199
    annual “subscription fee.”  He decided
    not to sign up, and is now waiting to see what “free trip” he will be given in
    return for sitting through the sales presentation with his wife.


    As Chris points out, “travel clubs” may not be taking
    members’ money and giving them nothing in return. Unfortunately, unless you
    attend a sales presentation, you probably won’t be able determine exactly what
    a club is offering and what it will cost you to join.


    We consumers have been conditioned to respond favorably to “Sale”
    or “Discount” or, better yet “Free.” So we look for those magic words whenever
    we are shopping for travel services.


    Airlines, car rental agencies, hotels, tour operators, and
    third-party booking sites dangle “deals” in front of us like anglers using bait
    to lure a fish into biting. They hope that we won’t bother to check the “fine
    print” details on refunds, cancellations, or additional fees, taxes or other
    expenses that we would have to bear and which, if known to us, would make the
    offer seem less appealing.


     “Travel clubs” simply
    follow this same marketing approach. It’s up to you, the savvy traveler, to
    figure out whether you are purchasing a pig in a poke or actually saving money.

  • jet2x2

    It depends on state law and if it exists, it should be stated in the contract document.  

  • So sorry for the Harveys disappointment but companies like that of Travel togo don’t really end up well. Always costumer satisfaction should be the first policy…

  • I hate this company I was told they would sell my other timeshare that I have which I should keep. They NEVER ever return a phone call and I call almost everyday. I wish I would have never done bussiness with them I could have used the money towards my other timeshare. I HATE THIS COMPANY.When I signed up in JAn they was suppose to sell my other timeshare. When I calledin May I was told someone dropped the ball and was not working on it that he would and he hasn’t either. This company is full of crap.

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