Why won’t Global Personal Services cancel my contract?

By | February 7th, 2013

hawaiiQuestion: We recently signed up for a membership with Global Personal Services (GPS), a company that offers travel concierge services and access to travel discounts. We paid $4,590 to join plus a $19.95 a month maintenance fee automatically collected from a checking account. We thought it was just the perfect time for us to enjoy our future plans traveling since I retired from work last year.

We were looking forward to our plan trips to Asia and Europe this year. In fact, the day after we became members I called and asked for a price quote vacation package to Hawaii in November. Our son lives in Honolulu.

Unfortunately, unforeseen things happened. My husband became very ill. He will undergo a heart procedure soon. Our plans suddenly came to a halt. With all these medical and hospital bills, we don’t know if we will be able to continue making payments to GPS. I’ve asked to cancel our account, but GPS will only “freeze” the account, which would allow us to continue paying for it later. Can you help us?

Dolly Hunter, Snohomish, Wash.

Answer: The terms of your agreement with GPS should have been included in the contract that you signed. I could not find any details about the GPS terms on its website, so it was impossible to independently verify any of the details of your agreement.

GPS appears to be a travel club that sells access to a travel agent and discounts as a club membership. I have three major problems with travel clubs: first, they’re pushed largely to retirees in a high-pressure environment. Second, most of the discounts they offer are widely available outside the club, and don’t justify the four- or five-figure pricetag. And finally, the ironclad contract makes it virtually impossible to get a refund and, sometimes, even to cancel.

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When I asked about the specifics of your GPS sale, you told me it was sold in a high-pressure environment, and of course the reason you’re contacting me now is that you’re having trouble canceling. That’s reason enough for me to get involved.

It is possible that the GPS membership would have worked out for you had your husband remained healthy; I’m willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt. But I think the fact that you haven’t booked a trip through the company yet — even the short getaway to Honolulu that you were considering — says something about the discounts. The fact that they were making it difficult to cancel the contract also does not help them, but that’s certainly their prerogative.

My advice? Be very careful about attending any kind of presentation for a “club” that offers discounts or services. You should take the contract home and review it with your attorney before signing it, and if they don’t let you leave the presentation with the contract, run. No legitimate business stops customers from reviewing a contract.

I contacted GPS on your behalf. A representative responded quickly (a good sign) and said that she believed you had asked the company to suspend your contract, so that you could transfer it to a relative. GPS agreed to cancel your contract “in sympathy” of your situation and it will not deduct any more money from your account.

Do travel clubs make it too difficult to cancel their contracts?

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  • technomage1

    I’m suspicious from the get go on things like this. Like the old adage says, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  • sirwired

    Frankly, I’m quite shocked the company gave in. These travel clubs are inevitably a horrible deal, and I’m surprised they even responded to your intervention at all. To anybody that reads this: Most Gold or better credit cards come with a similar concierge service, gratis, as to most trip insurance policies. And a competent travel agent can help you with trip planning, either gratis or for a small fee, depending on the nature of your trip.

  • m11_9

    A couple who cannot afford $20 a month lost 4500?? Am I reading that right or were they making payments on that part too?

    Were they relieved of the future $20/month, or the whole amount invested?

    Are there worse travel products than timeshares? I would have never thought that.

  • Raven_Altosk

    These aren’t “Travel Clubs.”
    They are SCAMS.

    Frankly, I’m surprised you were able to find someone to talk to and they “cancelled” the “membership.”

  • Thomas Ralph

    So, they paid $4,590, and then gave that up for the sake of $20 a month?


  • naoma

    These SCAMS have been around forever. You go to a “presentation” and maybe get a sandwich and tiny gift. Then comes the pitch for whatever. AVOID THEM AT ALL COSTS.

  • TonyA_says

    Yup is a “concierge” service. Whatever that means.

  • I’d be happy to plan their next two trips for only $2,000…

  • I assume the travel “club” kept the original payment of $4590? I’m surprised that people still join these things. How much would you have to spend to get enough discounts to cover your “membership fee”? Anyway, the company losing out on the $20 monthly fee is nothing compared to the initial cost.

    Just say no to travel “clubs” like these….

  • TonyA_says
  • emanon256

    My credit card offers a free travel concierge service. I tried it once out of curiosity and they actually got me a reservation at a restaurant that was full when I tried to get one myself. But someone could have just as easily canceled between when I called and when the concierge tried. Ill never know.

  • emanon256

    I am so sad that people still fall for these scams. And its a shame that they target the elderly.

    If I ever find myself in one, I will make a scene and try to get others to leave with me like I did in Hawaii when they were trying to scam us into helicopter tours for double the price.

    Edit: If someone wants money upfront for access to a non-material service that you still have to pay for, I believe it is most likely a scam.

    I remember going to a home supply club presentation when we were going to remodel our kitchen, and for several thousand we would get access to cabinets and furnishings at their club price of more than 50% off. They showed us the cabinets we liked, and said the MSRP was $18,000, and the Club price was $7,995. When I said I wanted to leave and think about it, they said that if we didn’t join right now, we were banned for the next 18 months and would not be allowed to join. We left. Funny thing is, we got the exact same cabinets from a retailer, custom ordered, for about $4,000. So not only do they take your money up front, they still charge you more too.

  • y_p_w

    Sounds like a timeshare presentation.

  • TonyA_says

    You can sub-contract it to me for $1000 :-)

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I just don’t think you should have to pay someone an exorbitant amount of money to get a discount. In my head, that equates to paying a corporation a large amount of money in the beginning of adulthood to get coupons from them for life. These same coupons are available in the Sunday circular but that’s okay, now the company mails them directly to you.

    It’s sad, really, the OP also had to lose over $4000 in this.

  • Dutchess

    They stopped taking the $19 monthly payments? Or did the payments include financing that $5k initial membership fees? If it’s only the monthly maintenance fee then they’re still out $5k.

    Considering they could have traveled to Hawaii 2 or 3 times (assuming you’re staying with family) for $5k that club was a bad very decision. It sounds like all of those other “wholesale prices to the public” clubs. They all have the same MO. High pressure, buy now or you’ll never get this deal again and once they have your money they go MIA and the savings never materialize.

  • Dutchess

    I’m guessing if they can’t afford the payments that they might have financed the $5k initial deposit? I’m hoping Chris clarifies.

  • Chris Johnson

    I have yet to see the any travel club that made any sense at all to join. You’re better off just scouring the internet and looking at multiple sites for the best prices.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I wouldn’t use the “elderly” excuse to absolve these people of responsibility. The OP just retired last year; she’s probably not that terribly old. Irrespective of age, some people just aren’t very savvy and don’t protect their money very well.

    As for making a scene at one of these seminars, I don’t really follow that line of thinking since the only people there are willing participants. People go either because they like the sound of the deal or because they want the free dinner or whatever gift is being promised. (I’ve signed up for timeshare presentations before to get free lodging for the weekend, for example.) Rather than make a scene, just say “no.” Or don’t go in the first place.

  • Helio

    I believe I’m becoming more cynical… when I saw the health card, it started to seems to me “ops, I did a very big mistake, let’s try to reverse it, making people sympathetic to me”.

    Worse than that, I can’t believe that a couple, whom happily spent about 5K to join a vacation club, don’t have savings enough to cover an eventual health problem,
    in a way that 240 dollars/year should make a big difference in their budget.

    I really don’t want to believe that a couple whom can spend 5k and more in superfluity (because vacations trips are superfluity), also don’t have an health insurance plan good enough to cover heart procedures.

  • emanon256

    It wasn’t an excuse to absolve them. It just seems these types of scams tend to target the elderly more often than not. Chris even mentions that in his story.

    The whole “making a scene” story I posted a few weeks back. Maybe it was a few months ago, I can’t remember. Ill spare some of the details, but the jest is that I was staying at a hotel in Hawaii and the hotel stated that all new arrivals must attend their welcome breakfast/orientation. As they were telling us about the island and the hotel they did a drawing and someone “won” a free dinner cruise for one, but had to buy the second ticket through the hotel in order to use it, and the price announced as they tried to sell more was double what my guide book said, so I got suspicious. Then they started saying that most people don’t know this, but helicopter tours and dinner cruises and such book out month in advance, and so there is no way for any of to get them now. But luckily the hotel was able to hold reservations for their guests and they have a limited number and they will sell out this morning. They then started selling helicopter tours and I looked in my book again, and the going rate was about 1/2 what the hotel was selling them for, so I called a tour company listed in my book, asked them how much and what availability, and it was half the price, and they had a lot of availability that week, so I announced this to the whole room and was asked to leave. I am quite proud of my actions, and I know I saved a lot of people a lot of money. If I see people getting ripped off like this again, I will gladly make another scene.

  • bodega3

    I looked up the website and wondered it they really offer more service than a regualar travel agency. They are a travel agency that is offering something extra, but I didn’t really see anything that showed anything really special to pay this high fee for. We offer similar services but for a per service fee and most clients would never, ever get their monies worth with what I saw on the GPS website. I looked at reviews and posters said the company found international fares for a couple of hundreds less. Most TA’s can do that via consolidators, so not worth the fee charged by GPS.

    This company is located in CA and the Attorney General’s office in the State of CA has laws about travel clubs. I am not saying GPS isn’t following them, but did the OP do their homework BEFORE buying into this? What if the agency goes out of business? What protections are provided?

    I remember lifetime memberships for gyms, that have since closed. Photo processing companies, that have since closed. Nulk food stores, that have since closed. You have to look at these things at all angles and usually they don’t benefit the consumer. I have had sat through a timeshare presentation at a 4 star property only to be shown 1- 2 star places to trade for in foreign companies. That was fun giving the sales person a hard time and walking away!

    A fool and their money are soon parted and they weill never see their one time fee utilitzed to max benefit, but at least they are got out it on the monthly payment.

    BUYER BEWARE of any ‘club’ upfront fee to get into!

  • How sad. People are just so naive. If you’re going to fork over $4K+ for gonnessake get some advice from an experienced person first!

  • TonyA_says

    Helio, here in the USA many families go bankrupt all of a sudden because of a major health incident. This is no joke.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Its not completely true that people are willing participants. I was at Planet Hollywood a few years ago and after checking in, they front desk said, “Oh, you’re a (SPG) platinum guest, go to such and such for your platinum benefits.” I went and was immediately accosted as they did a hard sell on me. I left and I was accosted my someone else who tried to get me to return to the time share presentation.

    A few years before, I was at a JW resort and I was told to do to the Concierge for my Marriott Platinum benefits. The concierge tried to hard sell me to attend a timeshare presentation. I declined. I returned a few months later and simply bypassed the Concierge. They actually called me in my room trying to get me to attend a presentation.
    Saying no simply that easy for most folks. That’s why the hard sell works.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Agreed. A major health incident can cost hundreds of thousands or more. One of my clients had to file bankruptcy. Part of the problem was that he was diagnosed with a very serious illness and he exceeded the 5 million lifetime benefit. He’s only 50.

  • TonyA_says

    Look at their business model. They have LITTLE or NO CONTROL of their costs – airline tickets, hotels, cruise, tours, etc. The are not anywhere as big as Expedia, Priceline or any of the major consolidators or consortium. That said, why would anyone join these clubs?

  • Daddydo

    “A fool and their money” In 55 years as an agent, I havenever heard of, I have never seen a legitimate travel club!

  • dourdan

    i had to give you a vote because the Casino time share people are the worst. some stay behind desks, but others will block the exit/entrance.

    But now i know to say “I don’t qualify”, because one guy talked me in to the wall and i was running out of ways to say no, so i agreed to answer his list of questions, one was “do you make over 40k a year?” I looked at the paper and it literally said “so not continue if he/she makes less then 40k a year.”

    “I am on medical disability” that was the end of that conversation.

    So the next 4-5 times someone corned me i would say “I already know I don’t qualify”. and walk as fast as i can

    I can very well see an older couple who are not rude enough to say no (over and over) getting roped in.

  • bodega3

    In the decades I have been selling travel, I have seen many travels clubs come and go. And the only one who benefited from the membership was the owner of the travel club, not the person who purchased into it.

  • Joshua

    This one doesn’t even seem too good to be true. It just sounds like a bad idea in the first place. You pay $4,590 up front, but who knows whether the travel discounts they claim to offer will really be available when you want to travel?

  • Nigel Appleby

    Some years ago we went to one of these presentations but when they started on the membership fee and monthly payments we couldn’t run fast enough to get out of there. We only went because it was the first time we had heard of anything like this or more accurately anything like it claimed to be.
    Now I’ve learned to just say no and if they ask why I say it’s none of their business why I don’t want to go. I’m also liable to hang up on telemarketers.

  • Helio

    Ok, different countries, different ways. Sorry for my wrong assumption.

  • Jen

    I’m new to this kind of thing. Thank you for the information. Ill know now not to join one of these clubs.

  • Carchar

    They block the exit? Then a call to 9-1-1 is probably in order.

  • TonyA_says

    No don’t be sorry you have public healthcare.
    I’m sorry we don’t in the USA.

  • typhn

    Oh – well done!

  • Deal!

  • Helio

    Despite of Brazil claims that our public health system is universal (what is indeed), there are so many problems, that
    everybody who can afford a private health insurance (like myself), does it.

    If you need an appointment (no emergency), it can take several months to be able to setup the date, which probably will be for several more months ahead. Complex procedures and exams can take more than a year to find an available date.

    Even for emergency services, you can wait hours in the line. This was a shocking example of the Brazil public hospitals (I didn’t find other text in English for this case, but the notice is accurate): http://www.blackwomenofbrazil.com/2012/12/after-being-shot-in-head-girl-in-rio.html

  • Helio

    The girl sadly died at Dec 31.

    This case may not be the rule, but unfortunately this was not an exception…

    This hospital is one of the major public hospitals in Rio de Janeiro city, which is the second largest city in Brazil.

  • DavidUK99

    Did they refund the initial $4590 fee? Or did you just get them to stop collecting the $19.95 a month?

  • Rick Smith

    Great post. I am
    really inspire with your post. Thanks for posting:)
    personal concierge service

  • oakley7247

    My experience is with another travel club, Travel Advantage Network. They are the arm that does the vacation “fulfillment,” while their sales partner Sundance Vacations does the selling. Same thing – lure you in with gifts to a high pressure sales pitch, you have to buy that night, won’t let you cancel your contract, all sorts of fees you are hit with once you join, and you can typically find the properties for cheaper on your own outside of the “club.” These two companies are particularly vicious and nasty about going after people who speak out about them though…so I did what anyone would do…made a video of their sales presentation and product. It’s 5 minutes long, but from what I’ve read about other clubs…probably a good insight into what to expect from vacation clubs:


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