Something about this deal just doesn’t smell fresh

When Barbara Smidt bought a Cyber Monday travel deal on FreshTrips for a five-star all-inclusive resort in Cancun, she thought she was getting a bargain.

She got more than she bargained for. And worse, she didn’t know she was in trouble until it was too late. Smidt contacted us on Feb. 7, two days before her trip was supposed to begin.
But first, let’s rewind the tape to see what happened in November. Smidt saw the FreshTrips promotion posted as a Cyber Monday deal through Travelzoo, one of America’s largest travel websites. She booked the trip, which included a 10-day all-inclusive stay at The Royal Sands resort in Cancun, plus airport transfers, and received a confirmation email from the company.

But it wasn’t a traditional confirmation email. Instead, it displayed the amount paid, the dates, and the number of guests. What it did not display was a confirmation number from the resort. And curiously, the email said that she wouldn’t receive a confirmation until 30 days prior to her departure date.


You probably won’t be surprised to know Smidt’s credit card was charged immediately for the full amount of the package. She booked and paid for airline tickets separately, directly with the airline, so she had committed to specific travel dates.

And she didn’t know anything was amiss — until Jan. 9, 30 days before her departure date, when the promised resort confirmation number never arrived.

What she did next is the natural response to any travel booking problem: she contacted the seller, FreshTrips. Tirelessly, in fact. And because Fresh Trips says it is a “travel technology” company, and not a travel agency, they aren’t staffed with phone representatives, and only take phone calls for a fee.

You know, in addition to the thousands of dollars customers have already paid.

The FreshTrips website smacks of a scam on a few levels. First, it says right in bold print: “OUR COMPANY IS VERY REAL and there’s no scam here!” Something about the all-caps vow of honesty written in purple font set on a backdrop of 1995 web design makes me feel like I’m visiting the blog of a 13-year-old girl — but rest assured, this business says it’s legit. Additionally, it name-drops Travelzoo all over the place, calling the travel giant its “partner” supporting their “mutual clients.”

Well, Smidt’s incessant emails to FreshTrips were met with vague reassurances of “just wait longer,” which understandably made her more nervous. She of course contacted the Royal Sands itself, which had no record of her planned stay. A TripAdvisor thread warning of the ongoing scam claim that customers who received confirmations were provided a physical resort address corresponding to a McDonald’s in Cancun’s Hotel Zone.

When Smidt contacted Travelzoo, surprisingly, she received emails written by its CEO Michael Stitt, who seemed to be in damage control mode. The emails addressed the debacle in vague terms, attempting to assure customers it would do everything it could to see that they were accommodated through another travel partner, Apple Vacations. Travelzoo was nevertheless trying to distance itself from the mess of a situation, which remains shrouded in mystery.

FreshTrips has issued an explanation — and a formal apology — not to its customers, but to Royal Resorts:

Our team at FreshTrips wants to issue a formal apology to Royal Resorts and their wonderful staff. A mistake was made between FreshTrips and a wholesaler we worked with on the Travelzoo promotion we offered on Cyber Monday.

We oversold the allotment of inventory we had surrounding the holidays, which was our fault and we take responsibility. We recognize that Royal Resorts is not at fault because we did not properly communicate this promotion, and we’re sincerely sorry.

We contacted Travelzoo, and in direct response to my inquiry, its CEO Michael Stitt explained:

We are upset about how FreshTrips has handled its promotion. We were in constant contact with the owners of FreshTrips in an attempt to help them fulfill their obligations in offering this deal.

Despite our best efforts, we determined that FreshTrips cannot, or will not, honor all of the bookings they have taken, so we switched our focus to securing a reliable, high-quality alternative.

On February 10, we notified all customers with upcoming travel of an alternative option that Travelzoo secured with Apple Vacations specifically for those impacted by the FreshTrips situation. The alternative offer is at the same price as the offer customers booked with FreshTrips.

Well, that’s nice.

As a courtesy, Travelzoo will sell you a package at the same price as the one you’ve already paid for. And seeing as how Smidt’s trip was supposed to start on Feb. 9, an offer of help on Feb. 10 is what we’d call “too little, too late.”

Smidt reports that Travelzoo’s customer service supervisor contacted her at our urging, but Smidt had already arrived in Cancun and paid out of pocket for accommodations at the Royal Sands. Travelzoo told us it could not help Smidt, because she already booked other accommodations.

I contacted the Royal Resorts, the company that owns several luxury timeshare properties in Cancun, including the Royal Sands. I know they’re a legitimate company — in fact, my family has been vacationing with them since 1988.

About a week after sending an email to Royal Resorts’ member services office, I received a phone call from the company. Royal Resorts told me that the responsibility for the booking problem rests entirely with FreshTrips, who is “taking care” of its customers. When pushed to define what exactly that treatment entails, Royal Resorts says customers will either receive the accommodations, or obtain refunds, exclusively through FreshTrips.

Royal Resorts denied any knowledge of a scam.

What nobody has explained is how none of the three companies was able to help Smidt prior to her departure for Mexico? Surely, they weren’t waiting for us to get involved?

Today, Smidt is on vacation, but paying more than she bargained for. And because I’m an optimist, I imagine she is currently sipping a margarita poolside or enjoying a massage at the Royal Sands’ world-class spa. Or maybe doing both at the same time.

Smidt told me she’d reach back out to Fresh Trips upon her return to the States, in an effort to pursue a full refund. As a last resort, she will file a dispute with her credit card company for the transaction gone bad.

All of the trouble, anxiety and time wasted on Smidt’s case should be a lesson to us all. When the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. But it is hard to know the difference between a credible seller and a scam artist, especially when the company is promoted by a known brand like Travelzoo.

We hope in the end that Travelzoo and FreshTrips come through for Smidt. Sometimes it’s better to leave those crazy deals to the next guy, and instead, go with a seller you know.

Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook
About the Author
A writer and natural advocate, Jessica joined our consumer advocacy effort following a decade of work on behalf of air crash victims at one of the nation's largest plaintiffs' law firms. She has lived in Europe and Asia, but now calls Charleston, S.C. home.
Posted in Commentary Tagged , , , , ,

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.