5 summer travel scams no one warned you about — but should have

Watch your wallet while you’re on vacation.

You’ve heard that advice before, haven’t you? With the summer travel season in full swing, you’re likely to hear it again, from friends, family and the occasional consumer journalist.

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But the real danger isn’t from an overt scam like the “fake” front desk call at the hotel in the middle of the night or the spoofed Wi-Fi hotspot. It isn’t even the predatory timeshare salesmen that take money from you in increments of thousands of dollars.

I mean, let’s be honest: with a little common sense, you can avoid most of these swindles. Also, it’s unfair and a little misleading to say they’re “summer” scams because the bad guys prey on you 365 days a year. The real hazards are where you least expect them, and they affect you in less obvious ways.

Here are my top 5:

Practicing unsafe plastic. The truly effective scams depend on money being siphoned away in tiny amounts — $2 or $3 at a time — from a credit card whose number is compromised. When you’re on the road, your unsecured, non-chip-and-pin American credit card can be scanned, swiped and cloned by villains. Don’t expect to see thousand-dollar charges from Zambia (although that does happen from time to time). Instead, the scammers count on you not checking your card balance, and missing that dollar charge for a merchant you’ve never heard of.

The fix: Ask your bank for a safer chip-and-pin card and review your credit card statement at least once a month.

Death by a thousand fees. The travel industry, and particularly airlines, haven’t met a fee they didn’t love. Like the credit card scam, these “gotchas” don’t take you for hundreds of bucks at a time, although that does happen. Instead, it’s a few dollars here, a few dollars there. A $2 delivery fee at your hotel for a newspaper you never requested, a $5 candy bar from a minibar, a $20 fee to check your luggage; alone, these fees are chicken scratch, but put them all together and you’re spending more, maybe a lot more, for your vacation.

The fix: Always, always, always ask if the price you’re paying includes everything. A travel company won’t always volunteer that information. If you know, you can make a more informed purchasing decision.

“Conveniences” that aren’t there for you. It’s come to this: When you see the word “for your convenience” anywhere when you travel, it’s probably a scam. Consider dynamic currency exchanges on credit cards, which are billed as a convenience and often fraudulently implemented on your bill when you travel overseas. I covered this currency fiasco, which can happen on a Visa or Master Card bill, in a previous post.

The fix: Be wary of anything that’s advertised as a “convenience.” It’s probably anything but that. And don’t forget to check your credit card statement to make sure a business didn’t sneak the charge on your card, anyway.

Bad advice you shouldn’t take. Whether it’s that rack of brochures at the welcome center (ask yourself: who pays for those?) or the recommendations of a hotel concierge (follow the money, people) or the enthusiastic writings of a blogger hawking a destination or a travel company (again, mind those affiliate links), there’s no shortage of advice online. Is it any good? I dedicate the entire first chapter of my new book, How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle) to answering that question. Bottom line: In small and seemingly benign ways, the advice you get from user-generated travel reviews and so-called “experts” can be tainted. But add it all up, and it could make you spend more on vacation and get less.

The fix: When it comes to travel advice, trust your friends and double-check the others. They may have ulterior motives for pitching something.

A fake invitation to return. It’s easy to get sentimental on your summer vacation, isn’t it? You had such a great time, why not come back next year? That’s when they’ll getcha. You might get hit up to buy another cruise at the end of your vacation at sea, or a timeshare while you’re having a theme park vacation in Orlando, or to sign up for a scammy travel “club” that’ll let you return to the islands. They’re often couched in emotional language, suggesting that if you really never want the good times to end, it can happen — for the right price.

The fix: Never buy another vacation or travel-related product while you’re on vacation. It is almost always a scam, or close to it.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the real rip-offs aren’t in the places where everyone shines a light, but in places where no one looks, and no one expects them. The travel scams that will probably affect you are small, maybe not noticeable at all, but they can add up quickly and ruin your vacation. Learn how to say “no” and you’ll avoid the most common missteps.

Are you more likely to get scammed while you're on vacation?

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94 thoughts on “5 summer travel scams no one warned you about — but should have

  1. Chris-very disappointed in this article. I am a Concierge and your above stereotype is wrong. We have guidelines we must follow and I can tell you that my advice has zero to do with commissions. My coworkers and myself work hard daily to find the best prices and tours for our guests. To say we are a scam is just wrong and unfair. The Hotel Concierge can actually be the best advice you may take. I cannot tell you how many guests we assist a day and guide them to a great stay.

    1. This was one of two comments Chris made that I totally disagreed with. The next time that a concierge gives me bad advice will be the first time!

    2. I was a valet in college for 3.5 years and can say I did get kick backs from places for recommendations. Specifically, there was a strip club in the area that had a $20 cover. I was given a stack of cards to give to business men and every time they went, the place kept a credit of $5 for me for each card used. Each card had an anonymous ID on it so I could go in to collect once a month or something. Worked out well for everyone involved I’d say.

    3. Sorry, I disagree. I have gotten nothing but bad advice from concierges for years. See my post below. I agree with Chris 100% on this.

    4. I don’t know what I’d have done without a Consierge’s assistance when I was visiting Washington, D.C, one time; another time the Consierge was very helpful at Disney World. They can’t all be bad.

    5. A lot of times I will ask the front desk clerk, “Where would you take your (wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend) for a nice dinner that’s around here?” You will almost always get a great recommendation that won’t cost you a fortune.

    6. Most hotel concierges are nice folks who gave great advice. But still, I found that somehow they often didn’t give me the best info on where to go. They often commuted from outside the area. Here’s what works: Find the strip shopping mall away from the main tourist drag and buy the locals a beer. They’ll dish you all the dirt: The best happy hours. The coupons. The days when the attractions are least busy. The best supermarkets.

      The coupon books in the racks aren’t that bad and I find great deals in them such as 2 for 1’s. I also found a nice coupon for a free coffee from the shop across the hotel.

    7. So glad you wrote this, Eric. Although I do a lot of research on my own, I still depend on a concierge to guide me to experiences and local gems that I may have missed in my research. I almost always ask for their opinion on the plans I’ve made.

  2. May I say that as a former guest relations agent in a major hotel, I am somewhat disappointed.

    Yes, we occasionally received “perks” from guided tour companies. Those usually were a free tour on one of their “buses” so that we could experience for ourselves what the guests would. That was it. It made our job easier, because we could tell the guests exactly what the experience was like, and we could also steer them to the best of the lot. No kickbacks, no nothing.

    Restaurants were not even like that. We would often go out as friends and try various places privately, and if we were happy with the food, service and the cleanliness (it did not have to be a 3 star michelin), we would recommend it if the type of cuisine and ambiance was what the guest was looking for.

    So, while I am sure that in some countries kickbacks from various companies may be the way it works, it certainly is not the case everywhere and I am disappointed that you are basically throwing everyone in the same pot.

  3. This was supposed to be ironic and tongue-in-cheek, with a book pitch embedded in the advice, right? Right???

    “Bad advice you shouldn’t take. Whether it’s that rack of brochures at the welcome center (ask yourself: who pays for those?) or the recommendations of a hotel concierge (follow the money, people) or the enthusiastic writings of a blogger hawking a destination or a travel company (again, mind those affiliate links), there’s no shortage of advice online. Is it any good? I dedicate the entire first chapter of my new book, How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle) to answering that question. Bottom line: In small and seemingly benign ways, the advice you get from user-generated travel reviews and so-called “experts” can be tainted. But add it all up, and it could make you spend more on vacation and get less.

    The fix: When it comes to travel advice, trust your friends and double-check the others. They may have ulterior motives for pitching something.”

  4. Your more likely to get scammed in unfamiliar locations. Your a traveler, and you don’t know the local environment. Back home there are just as many scams, but your aware of them, and filter out those scams.

  5. Reminds me of a call I got yesterday from someone trying to scam me on a car warranty. (Yeah, NEVER buy a third party warranty, but anyway)

    This witch didn’t realize I didn’t own the car anymore–probably scamming off some old DMV records or something. But hey, I let her talk (wasting her time, not mine) and then told her in some very colorful language that unless she was going to give me some “benefits” to take her scam elsewhere and leave me alone.

    She had her “supervisor” call back and threaten me for “sexually harassing” his employee and that my “warranty” was now going to expire. (What warranty? I never had a warranty with anyone but the manufacturer on a car I no longer owned? Ah, well…details. The bane of every scam artist!)

    So, I told him to do the same as her–yes it was crass and gross but I have no tolerance for idiot scam artists–and told them to take their scam to someone who cares. Not to mention, I’m on the do not call list, so they could get bent over that, too.

    Here’s the phone number that came up on my caller ID if anyone wants to have some fun with these clowns: 713-343-7274

    1. Interesting, isn’t it, how that wondrous Do Not Call law has mysteriously stopped working? It seemed so great at first, but now the telemarketing crap is back. Sometimes I get calls from the same company five times in one day. More people should try your technique. It seems to have hit a nerve.

      1. Yeah, I’ve noticed that too. When Do Not Call first came out, it was great! My phone when as silent as the grave (except for political crap), but in the last six months, the telemarketers are slooowly easing their way back in. 🙁

        1. you’ve been lucky, grant. i’ve been getting them for over a year. and the majority have been recordings rather than actual people calling. (don’t think i could ever be as brazen as raven apparently was, tho…lol)

      2. Since the Do Not Call lists came out in Canada and USA, I am sure that Canadian telemarketers are calling numbers in the US and US telemarketers calling numbers in Canada. In which case how do you enforce the Do Not Call lists?

      1. I filed a complaint when AT&T kept calling my work number, even after multiple requests to remove me. They wanted me to sign up for home phone service. I actually got a call from an attorney at AT&T who said they got fined and wanted to know why I field the complaint so they could investigate. I explained it and she said that the number calling is registered to them, but not in use. Finally they tracked it down to a range of stolen numbers being used illegally. Then I got a case report back from the FTC telling me that AT&T was fined, but their investigation reveled the numbers were being used by a fraudulent front in Atlanta that was running a scam, and they were able to shut it down. I thought it was pretty cool.

        1. That is a cool story and good for you!

          A co-worker did something similar: His wallet was stolen out of his glove compartment in his car. I’m amazed he would leave it in there, but he decided to do some investigating. He looked up the fraudulent charges and contacted the local police to subpoena Walmart to get camera footage of the thieves using the card. From there, they ID’d him and busted the whole ring. He even got all of the stuff from his car back.

          It’s fascinating that these crooks of yours hijacked AT&T’s number and then posed as them. Was it an elaborate ID theft scam?

          1. Actually it wasn’t ID theft as fas as I know. It was a shady VoIP company pretending to be AT&T providing actual home phone service.

    2. I have a different routine for tele-scammers. I act interested for about 30 seconds or so, then, in a slightly paniced voice I say something is burning on the stove and I’ll be right back. I then lay the phone down and return to what I was doing before they called.

          1. I have a friend who always turns the table and tried to sell them a made up religion. He often kept them going for a while. He has actually had someone ask if they an call him after work and they did when he told them it was a joke.

  6. Accepting freebies is as much our fault as it is the scammers’. Keep your head about you even when you are tired and away from home. Take nothing unless you have time to read it all and photograph any sign that seems to offer something special. I am a great believer of using the on line chat if available, even though it is awkward. You can copy and paste the whole conversation to prove what you were told. And most of the little stuff we do not follow up on. Again our fault for not being energetic about rip offs.

  7. I think the “secure” chip and pin card will only help you if you are outside the United States. Asking for one and using it inside the United States still exposes you to the swipe process.

    1. How will you be exposed to the swipe process? I have a reader at the office that accepts either chip or swipe, but if it is chip, it is not swiped. Now with that said, most US banks do not offer chip and pin, most in the US are chip and sign, but there are a few who are pin based.

      1. I’ve got chip and pin cards. I’ve never encountered a machine in the USA which accepts chip and pin, it is always swipe, hence my comment. If they are getting chip and PIN enabled machines in the United States, that is a great step forward.

        1. They are getting chip and signature machines in the US because Visa and MasterCard said so. But it will be years before they are common.

          US banks are refusing to support chip and PIN for many strange reasons.

          1. I may tell you that I have a chip and pin card, and a lot of times the purchase was processed without typing the pin…
            It never happened to me at home, always overseas (in US and Europe)

  8. Actually, I don’t think once a month is enough. I check my credit card activity online almost daily. I’ve spotted fraud before while it was still in the temporary authorization stage. A quick call to the credit card security dept, and it is nipped in the bud before any further charges are incurred.

  9. Chip and PIN cards are not issued by US based banks to US customers (with only one or two exceptions).

    The US has adopted the Chip and Signature model. But this is only useful outside the US in countries that have adopted the chip technology. While the US will eventually use the chip cards, just try and find a chip reader at any merchant you visit today in the US – ain’t gonna be there. The added security of the chip is only available to the card user when the device used to read the card is a chip reader. That is not one where you slide the card’s magnetic strip through the reader but instead click it into the card reader where it stays until the transaction is complete.

    I practically begged banks for a chip and PIN card to take with me on my European vacation this summer. The best I could get was chip and signature. This worked great at the hotels and restaurants (although some of the restaurant clerks were confused when the hand held card machine asked for my signature instead of for me to enter a PIN). Where it did not work that I really needed it to was at gas stations and buying subway, train and bus tickets at unattended kiosks. Those require the PIN option. I just can’t understand why US banks are fighting this other than it wash’t them who came up with the technology.

    1. As a Canadian reader, my understanding is that US banks aren’t issuing chip and PIN because they are more expensive to produce than swipe only cards. Having said that we in New Zealand and Australia at the beginning of last year the POS terminals would not recognise our chip and PIN cards although ATM’s did. Luckily I had a swipe only card with me. So chip and PIN isn’t perfect.

      1. Yes, the chip cards (regardless of the type of chip) are about US$1 per card more to issue than the standard magnetic stripe card with no chip. Doesn’t seem like much, but when you think of the millions of cards the large banks issue it adds up. I understand that aspect and the cost concerns of the banks. However, studies have shown that the chip cards significantly reduce the fraud losses that the banks have which more than covers the cost of the cards. But the attitude seems to be why change.

        1. Keep in mind, Mark, that ATM’s were invented back in the early 60’s but weren’t adopted until decades later. Banks are just uncreative. I’ve worked for them. They LOVE IBM!

          A buck isn’t a lot, really. Keep in mind that it costs money to mail the standard cards and then additional money to activate them. A properly chipped card would reduce remailings.

          I think another factor is the prestige kick. It’s been suggested that credit cards become more manageable. Maybe standardize them and stick them all on one (if they’re visa, why carry 5 cards?) How about keychain tags?

          I suppose the answer is that they’ll be smartphone enabled in about 5 years and this discussion will be moot. You’ll have a pin for the card on your smartphone and the credentials will be locked on it. But I don’t want to pay $50 a month for a smartphone so I don’t have one.

          1. The US banks want to move to the smartphone option instead of physical cards thinking that is what their customers really want. There are and will continue to be issues with that approach – like people not wanting a smartphone.

            The first ATM was introduced by Royal Bank Scotland and used cards that were one use. That is, you put the card in the machine and a packet of cash came out. The card was not returned to you by the machine. Next business day all of the cards were retrieved from the machine and the respective accounts were debited manually then the cards were mailed back to the customers. We have come a long way since then.

            And I love IBM too. Mainframes are still in more places than you would imagine. 🙂

        2. American banks that operate in other countries are using Chip and Pin, for example Capital One Canada and UK —> it took Capital One Canada a long time to do it and the way they did it was a lot more cumbersome and expensive. For example, they did it in batches. So if you got a new card, and it wasn’t in the right batch, it would come out as a stripe card, then 3 months later they’d send you a chip and pin one. They spent a lot more than a dollar, doing it that way.

          1. I tried getting a chip and PIN card from Capital One explaining I was going to Europe and needed/wanted one. I was told no because I am a US resident. If I had a Canadian mailing address I could have received one.

          2. I believe Bank of America gives chip and pin cards when asked…for their credit cards anyway, not debit.

          3. Also asked B of A. I was able to get a chip and signature credit card from them which they initially pitched to me as a chip and PIN.

          4. Chip and signature makes no sense to me. The intended setup was for chip and pin, and if you are going to have a chip on the card, a pin should be used. I notice that many of the chip and pin readers are American made. They are making it harder for those Americans who travel outside of the USA.

    2. There are MANY chip readers in the US. Target, and Wal Mart are the two major retailers that come to mind right off, all of their stores are chip capable. Our little office with one reader is chip capable. Most retailers are actually capable of accepting them, and most US banks that issue the cards still put the magnetic strip on the chip cards too so they can be used virtually anywhere.

      1. The question is, are they enabled? I will visit both a Target and a Wal Mart the next time in the USA – I am reasonably certain that it is not going to work except with a stripe.

      2. Never shop at Wal Mart so I don’t know about them. Target in my area does not have chip enabled terminals to read the chip and PIN or chip and sig cards. They do have the contactless wave-to-pay readers. These are not the same.

        1. I am not sure of Target’s phase in plans…we have one of the newest target stores here in our area, their readers actually have you insert the card in a slot and then return the card at the end of the transaction. I have a friend who uses her chip card, so I know they work, and I use a swipe. Same process for both cards. As for Wal Mart, I live in Arkansas, and our stores get the newest technology first, the new readers that have gone in at our stores are side swipe, or a slot in the base for the chip cards.

    3. I bank with USAA. They’ve just started offering chip and pin cards. I got one shortly before my July vacation in Scandinavia. My experience was okay. There were a couple of times when the card was rejected for no apparent reason. On the plus side, it made it so much easier to be able to use the kiosks in train and subway stations.

  10. Half the ‘scams’ are even semi-legal. Like being in a foreign country where you don’t understand the language well and don’t know that you have to go into the back of the bus to stamp your bus ticket (and despite your questions, no one tells you this), then a police officer “just happens” to get on the bus to check tickets and you are hit with a $20 violation for not stamping your bus ticket.

    1. This is especially difficult to get right in countries where most of the bus riders are commuters and have passes that don’t require the stamp. They just get on and off. I have learned to always look for the validating machine.

  11. You mean like the pop-up that covers the entire page when I get to the end of column touting how I can get insider info and always be in touch if I’d only subscribe?
    You learned well.

    And, I’m sorry, but the concierge at my hotel knows a lot more about the area than my friends and neighbors do…

    1. Hi Dave,

      Chris has nothing to do with those pop-ups, and takes action whenever he hears about them. In future, if you would, please let him know at [email protected] whenever you see one. Thanks.

  12. The concierge’s drive me nuts these days. Every time I ask for restaurant recommendations I am only given chains. I specify no chains and they often won’t budge. Sometimes I think they budge a little and recommend a place that doesn’t sound like a chain, but still turns out to be on, just not one I am familiar with. I kid you not, when we were looking for our place in Memphis and staying at the Memphis Marriott, I asked the concierge to recommend a local Memphis BBQ joint, all he would recommend for BBQ was Texas Roadhouse.

    They are just as bad with tours. I was in Phuket and kept asking about small private boat tours and kept getting told the best tour is this massive corporate looking tour. I said I want a full day tour with no more than 20 people in a boat with a guide. They kept telling me those tours are no good, and the big tours are the way to go, that I would see more and enjoy it more. I gave up and found a tour on trip adviser that advertised a full day tour on a private sail boat, limit of 8 people, and an on board cook all for half the price of the big tour. I went back and asked the concierge and she told me that was a bad tour and that I would not be happy. I called the owner and he was very nice and told me what he did on his tour (which was far more than the massive tours), so I decided to book it. It was absolutely amazing!!! When I got back I shared photos with a college who went to Phuket and he went on the big corporate tour the hotel kept pushing, I saw twice as many things as he did. He said his was so crowded and so rushed he hardly saw much at all. I was on the water 4 hours longer, saw twice as much, had two authentic Thai meals, and paid half the price by not using the concierge.

    I was on a flight with a concierge once after that. I asked him why they only recommend chains and big corporate tours. He told me they get a kick back from the chains, big resturants, and big tour companies; typiclaly $10 to $20 a person, so they won’t send people to places that don’t give them a kick back. I no lonegr trust concierge. BTW, on my recent tip to Hawaii, I asked fro restaurant recommendation just to see and got a hard push on signing up for a timeshare presentation.

    1. My success with concierges seems to depend on the star level of the hotel. Someplace like the Ritz I usually can get real, decent, dependable recommendations. At the level of a standard Marriott, Hyatt, or lower, I get the same useless chain restaurant and huge corporate tour recommendations. Unfortunately I don’t get to stay at places like the Ritz that often so I am stuck finding things on my own using the internet searches.

      But Texas Roadhouse for barbeque? We don’t even eat there in Texas. That’s got to be the worst ever recommendation!.

      1. The hit and miss experiences that I related (separate post) were in 5 star hotels. At the standard chain hotels I ask the people at the desk or the bellmen rather than the concierges. I tell them I didn’t travel to {insert city’s name here} to eat at an Applebee’s – unless of course that’s the only edible food around! They generally laugh and tell me the name of a good place. Like the diner I would have never entered on my own in Cheyenne, but had to-die-for sausage gravy and biscuits. Or the Farmer’s Market stalls in Austin.

        And sometimes, we end up eating at the Applebee’s. 🙂

        1. Applebee’s is a chain I do my best to avoid. They’re not “bad” but ok, IMO, they’re bad: unhealthy food and unmemoriable.

          But the chain that’s hit or miss (and great when it hits) is Red Lobster. My wife loves it. But that said, I prefer local seafood places and do a tripadvisor to find them. Even if they’re not all I hoped for, I get some local color when I go to a local family place. Basically, if a family runs it, there’s love in the place and that’s what I travel for.

          1. We avoid chain restaurants whenever possible, but I have say that I’ll go to Applebee’s any day for their wonton tacos. Those are so darn good!

          2. The Hilton Hawaiian Village Concierge kept recommending I got to Red Lobster or Outback Steak House. I asked where the locals go, and was then told The Yard House. All chains. Ugh.

        2. I did that at a Marriott in Long Island I was trying to stay equidistant between relatives and wasn’t’ familiar with the local area. I asked for a place within walking distance and the concierge suggested Applebee’s. Then I asked the front desk guy who I had spoken to a few times already, he was really nice. He sent me to several good places within walking distance.

      2. That’s a valid point – the chains are dealing with middle of the road requests, while upscale resorts/hotels have a more savvy traveller usually, so the concierge there has to be on top of his game – I know some fabulous ones I will work WITH to ensure a client has a fabulous visit.

      3. I usually stay at full service Marriott’s and Hilton’s. So maybe that’s why. Though the one in Phuket was a JW Marriott, I expected more of them. The concierge I met on the plane worked for the Weston. I was still referred to chains and known touristy places at the Waldorf Astoria once in NOLA. That shocked me. I found a place on Yelp and the concierge recommended against it, I went anyway and it was one of the best meals of my life.

    2. They don’t make concierges like they used to.
      If someone in Memphis told you to get BBQ in Texas Roadhouse, then he should be brought straight to Shelby Country jail and locked up for good 🙂
      The guy is probably not FROM Memphis.
      I think you know Memphians take the BBQ seriously. And not just in May.
      I really miss Memphis BBQ. Glad I learned to smoke baby back ribs but hickory wood is not easy to find in Connecticut.

      I have had great concierge experiences in Italy, France, and Spain. I think people there really know how to live. They really despise franchise- food chains and GMO crap. Europeans seem to ENJOY food more than we do and their concierges also do. Over here all the concierge needs to know is which celebrity has visited which joint.

      1. Did I ever tell you my wife did competency evaluations for the prosecutors office there? I think recommending Texas Roadhouse would be grounds to be deemed not competent to stand trial.

        My favorite place was The Barbeque Shop, home of the dancing pigs 🙂 I even had them rub and smoke a thanksgiving turkey one year. I need to make some ribs again, I make decent ribs, but not Memphis decent.

        I also need to go to Europe more often.

        1. I just looked up recent articles to remind me how old I am.

          I lived in Memphis during the 80s and worked at the airport area so the joints I know are near MEM airport. Republic Airlines was still alive in MEM at that time.

          Jim Neely’s Interstate was very good. (Not a good area alert)

          There used to be a BBQ joint that burned down near the entrance of the Private airport hangars at Winchester Blvd. I think it moved near the Red Roof Inn and Cracker Barrel across the Mall in I-240.

          It may have been Gridley’s

          Corky’s (the original one in Poplar) is good but Corky’s expanded everywhere and I hear it is not that good anymore.

          I don’t like Rendezvous – too touristy. Not for the locals. But they have dry ribs for those who want them.

          I remember going Tops and Cozy Corner but some of the other joints are really quite “dangerous” in the evenings. I think you know what I mean.

          Germantown Commissary is good and if you live in East area it is convenient.

          Bozo’s in Mason, TN is also excellent.

          Never heard of Dancin Pigs (Bar-B-Q shop) since that was born 1995 according to their website. I was already back to NYC by that time.

          1. The original Corky’s is still pretty good (or was). It’s the Memphis standard. Any other Corky’s just doesn’t seem very good to me. I agree on Rendezvous, I had to try it, but I wasn’t impressed. The beans were good. I seem to remember Neely’s opening a new location when I was there, I only tried them once, and thought the meat was too fatty. I feel like I tried Central BBQ, but didn’t remember it being spring breaky like the article says. It was new when I went. I think that was the place where I bit through a rib bone, the bone was so tender my teeth went right through. I felt odd an never went back. But the pork was good.
            My family used to keep semi Kosher (no pork). My wife ruined it for me when she introduced me to pulled pork and I never looked back.

  13. There’s one travel scam I see every September. Customers will come to me saying they vacationed without taking any computer of their own. They don’t want the airport hassle of a laptop, and all they needed to do was “check emails occasionally” using a hotel computer. When they come back from vacay they find that all of their friends have gotten en email saying the vacationer was robbed in London, and needs to have to money wired right away so they can “make it home”. Typically, three of four friends will have sent money and will never speak to you again. Your email account, meanwhile, has now been taken over by the scammer who ran a keylogger program on the hotel computer. If the account was through your ISP, you can get it back because your physical billing address ties you to the account. If it was one of the ever-popular third party email systems, the scammer has now changed your password, personal prifile and security questions, and the account is gone forever.

    Folks, when you see one of those public computers at a hotel or library, imagine it leaning against a lamppost in the bad part of town. If you use it for anything more personal than browsing public websites, you’re going to catch a disease.

    1. I got an email from an acquaintance from a long time ago that she was held up in London at Hyde park. I emailed her back asking if she was ok and she wrote back immediately to say she was robbed. I didn’t email her back (she wasn’t THAT close of a friend to send money to).

      I wonder… was this a scam? I haven’t talked to her since due to the awkwardness!

  14. Chris . I have always received great info from concierges and never a bad restaurant. Read the menu before enjoying in room snacks. They are expensive but are not hidden.

  15. After several years of reading travel advise information, I’ve become more aware when I travel. After one time of paying with a check, and being scammed, I now ONLY pay with plastic. On the road, I check my credit cards frequently. I believe that I’m more likely to be scammed at home where I’m more trusting. I still check my cards (I only use 3 and for specific reasons) a couple times a week, but just like auto accidents are more likely to occur near your home, I think we’re less diligent near our home base.

  16. In answer to the poll question:
    1. We are in a spending mood on a vacation. The plastic comes out frequently for meals, attractions and so forth. We are in a “spending” mode. At home we would never get our cards out so often.
    2. We are unfamiliar with the locale, hence don’t understand the lay of the land unless we do very careful research on impartial and consumer-review-oriented web sites.
    3. We might be eating and drinking more than we do at home. “Good Time Charlie” becomes very good time Charley, and more susceptible to sales spiels.

    A good way to not fall prey is to prepay for things which are known quantities, but not necessarily your hotel or airbnb, or stay at a very well regarded all-inclusive resort. Always stay sober for any presentation. And do some simple 30-minute research for everywhere you go, such as on legit travel sites (Lonely Planet, DK, Frommers) and on TripAdvisor. Scan the reviews to read what the writers hesitated in telling you up front.

  17. My experiences with concierges have been hit and miss. My most recent experience was with a higher-end hotel in New York City: it was obvious that the concierges there were getting kickbacks from restaurants, theaters and tours, after listening the advice they were giving to the people ahead of me in line and when I spoke directly to one. I declined to have a reservation made for me, went down to the ground floor, Abe and I chatted up one of the bellmen and ended up eating at one of the best family-run restaurants I’ve been to in Manhattan.

    But a trip to another hotel from that same chain in Chicago netted me a free pass to a blues club that we had planned to visit from one of the concierges on duty. But the concierge on duty the next day gave me bad information on the bus system; she wanted the bellmen to flag a cab for me. Thank goodness for smart phones!

  18. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with the concierge in most hotels I’ve stayed at. I’ve never been scammed by them and have only been helped.

  19. Having had my cards used fraudulently, last time just 3 weeks ago, I check ours almost daily while on vacation just to make sure it can still be used. We always travel with more than one card due to an experience we had in Costa Rica.

    1. Funny story: While on vacation in florida and on the resort’s wifi, I spotted a deal too good to miss: Aeroflot international tickets for $700 bucks each. The price didn’t last long (it was gone within a week after booking). So… I did it. I used my Amex through hotel wifi to Moscow (but on the american facing site, that way I get protected by what little American laws apply in the case) and… my credit card rejected it. So I called Amex to authorize, then it went through.

      2 months later, Amex emails me that a fraudulent charge was detected. I can’t blame the wifi or Aeroflot because I had clicked on a spyware ad on the computer a few months before (Yes, I should know better) and after running my system through anti-virus, it seemed clean but who knows? I reformatted the system and did a painful reinstall of everything and restore of data.

      This should be easy to fix for the CC companies. How about an RSA style system that generates a new CC number each time customized to you? You can only use it once and then it’s regenerated.

      1. That system was tried by all the major card companies a few years ago for online purchases. The number generated had no real link back to you except internally within the card issuer system. It was a bit too convoluted and the credit for returns was difficult since the card expires immediately on use. Don’t think any are still supporting this option.

        There is a new system called V.me (from Visa) that provides a button to click that merchants can place on their web page during checkout. It fills in all your mailing info and the merchant never sees a card number. There are internal links that allow for returns and adjustments still without the merchant seeing a card number.

  20. I know a concierge that told me he and others get free or heavily discounted meals at places that want referrals. There are concierge associations that get invited to restaurants as a “learning” experience It makes sense. Just follow the money.

    If a concierge wanted to learn all the best establishments in a major city, like LA, NY, Chicago, or SF, he or she would spend their entire salary, eating out, attending attractions, etc.

  21. I don’t want to call this a scam, but rather a highly avoidable expense:


    Don’t get me wrong. My wife loves a nice restaurant and we consider it a treat but just that: a treat. It’s expensive to do all the time and for food that’s not memorable or healthy. We always have a hotel/resort with a fridge and microwave available and we buy bread, cheese, meat and alcohol and enjoy them on the patio of the hotel or park we’re visiting. We enjoy a nice lunch (not dinner) with local specialties that we can’t get at home. Other than that, we avoid restaurants like the plague especially the ones near the beach or hotel. Always pack a corkscrew and bottle opener (or use the side of a table facing the wall to open up the bottle if you have to!)*

    *joke, although that was the solution of my train conductor to my bottle opening conundrum.

  22. “Conveniences”
    that aren’t there for you.

    This reminded me of the story, surely apocryphal but never the less funny, about a traveler who when looking at his bill, saw a charge of $25 for the health spa. Protesting the charge, the manager’s explanation was that the Spa was available and therefore the traveler was responsible, whether or not he took advantage of the service.

    The traveler told him the hotel therefore owed him $25, explaining that he was charging the manager $50 for his wife’s services. The manager protested and the traveler explained that his wife was available and therefor e the manager was responsible, whether or not he took advantage of the service.

    One has to have eyes in the back of one’s head today. Perhaps it’s best to ask the question when making a reservation, “Are there any mandatory charges or fees?” I
    noticed a $10 fee for the safety deposit box in the room of a motel at which I
    stayed. I protested and they immediately removed the charge and didn’t even attempt to explain.

    1. Priceline.com bidding offered me some protection from the safe charge
      and even resort fee scam since they were usually all-inclusive but not
      sure if that’s the case anymore. The one thing wasn’t included was
      parking for places that had a separate parking fee. I got them to
      update their disclaimer on their site! Looking back, I would have
      parked around the corner but they snuck the parking pass into my hand
      without telling me it was a charge.

      Before I book ANY hotel, I
      google them and find their front desk. Not an 800 number, but the local
      number. THEN I talk to THAT guy. I tell them how much the website is
      charging (no doubt getting their commission) and can we make a deal? I
      say I want the whole enchiladas for that price. Lock, stock and
      barrel. Also, any changes to the reservation are a lot cleaner and I
      think they treat me better seeing I’m a direct reservation.

  23. ok not all travel clubs are bad.
    Some of them are using closed charter flights to get you cheaper airfares at peak times, when airlines make their only profits.

  24. Don’t forget about the timeshare scams Those timeshare folks on the street and in the stores and restaurants are NOT timeshare salesmen. They are officially OPCs—Off Premises Contact persons—and they earn a small commission merely for getting you to sign up for and going to a presentation. Since this commission is much smaller than an actual salesman would get, they are VERY aggressive in order to earn as many commissions as possible. The only thing they could be called “salesmen” for would be for “selling” timeshare sales presentations

  25. I’m with Eric on this one, I’ve had wonderful assistance from Concierge’s and just because they may sometimes receive something in exchange for their recommendations doesn’t mean they give bad advice. Chris I’m sure many of the travel services you and your family receive are comped, but that doesn’t mean you would mislead your readers, right?

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