Hey, where’s that Bahamas cruise you promised me?

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By Christopher Elliott

Maybe you think you’ve heard this story before. It involves presentations with aggressive salesmen, lofty promises made and allegedly not kept, and fingerpointing — lots of fingerpointing.

But you haven’t heard this story. Not the way Troy Bryan tells it, at least.

He recently received a phone call from someone representing a company called Premiere Discounts.

“A representative indicated that I had won a prize from a contest that I had earlier entered,” he says. “I don’t recall entering this contest.”

The dubious prize

Bryan took careful notes during the conversation. The representative promised him one of four “prizes”: A 2013 Dodge Durango XT SUV; $2,500 in cash; a Bahamas cruise or a Toshiba laptop.

The catch? He had to attend a sales presentation.

“When we checked in at the hotel, they verified our annual income,” he remembers. “We also had to show them our driver’s licenses and credit cards.”

The spiel was for a condominium offer made by a travel club called Gold Crown Resorts. There was pressure to buy, of course. When it was over, a representative gave him a cardboard pad with a gray circle. Bryan was invited to scratch the circle to see what he’d won.

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The prize? A “vacation package” offered by another company, Choices Election, Inc. (confused yet?).

The fine print on the offer said he had to pay for all taxes and port fees, gas surcharges and a “processing” fee of $70 that had to be wired to the company — no checks or credit cards.

Bryan thought there was something fishy about the offer. (Here’s how to spot a travel scam.) If he’d won a real prize, it would be given to him without strings attached and any taxes would have to be paid to the government, not to the company.

He contacted me, hoping I could persuade the company to honor its offer of a “free” vacation.

My advocacy team and I asked him if he could establish a better paper trail in which he asked the company to honor its promise, and it responded. And here’s where things begin to fall apart.

A tangled web

The response from Gold Crown seemed almost rehearsed:

Gold Crown Resort did not solicit your attendance at the presentation, nor did we offer any type of promotional gift to you.

Gold Crown Resort is not in any way involved in sales or marketing. We are a travel and accommodation service provider. We were contracted by Premier Marketing Concepts to provide these services to their registered clients. After careful review of our systems, there is no registration existing in your name.

It is important to understand that Gold Crown Resort did not issue a voucher to you and plays no role in the promotional item that you may have received.

Gold Crown Resort is a separate and distinct company from the entities you have mentioned including Premier Discounts, Premier Marketing Concepts and www.ChoiceSelectionInc.com.

For these reasons we respectfully request that you direct any further inquiries to the appropriate parties.

Thank you for your understanding.

So Bryan called Premier and spoke with a representative. “She said basically the company did nothing wrong,” he says. All of the fees had been adequately disclosed before the presentation, and if he didn’t like it, he should take it up with the other parties. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

Around and around we go.

I’m fascinated by this case. I agree with Bryan that this is a questionable offer, at best. But it’s interesting to dissect a pitch like this, peeling back all the layers to see who is involved. There are at least three separate companies at work here, apparently. And they’re playing off each other in a way that would make a customer like Bryan give up and walk away.

After he pushed Gold Crown to honor its offer, Bryan received the following offer:

We are in receipt of your complaint letter regarding the promotional incentive.

Premier Marketing Concepts, LLC would like to offer to reimburse you for any standard fees associated with processing the promotion; however please understand that Premier will not take responsibility for any upgrades nor additional costs you should elect. Any fees above and beyond the base promotion is your responsibility.

Lastly, reimbursement will only be made once we have received receipt of payment to be provided by you.

He’s not sure if he should trust this offer, and would be happier getting the vacation outright — no strings attached.

Should I mediate Troy Bryan's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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