I need help un-joining a travel club

The letters between Michael Lefelstein and Island Trader Vacations are increasingly desperate.

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There’s one complaining that he couldn’t redeem his travel rewards. Another says he couldn’t get the service he’d been promised. And finally, there’s a letter asking for a full refund of the $4,600 membership fee and $199 annual fee.

You guessed it — Island Trader Vacations is a travel club.

Disclosure: I’m on record as saying the only legitimate travel club I know of is AAA. I’ve mediated numerous cases involving unhappy consumers who had purchased pricey travel club memberships and intransigent companies that refused to refund their money. This case does little to change my opinion.

Lefelstein says he wants me to help him get a refund, but I think the real reason he wrote to me was so that I’d write about his situation. I’m happy to do so, and if enough readers want me to pursue this case, I will also reach out to Island Trader Vacations to see what they have to say.

Island Trader doesn’t make any specific promises on its site. For example, if you try to get information about the “benefits” of your $4,600 membership, you’ll find this answer on its site:

Q: What does my membership entitle me to? Also, are there any guidelines I can refer to?

A: Your membership includes many wonderful perks and facets of savings! You can consult your Acknowledgement and Bylaws form that accompanies your membership materials. You signed and initialed this form as a part of opening a new membership. It extensively details the many facets of your membership. You may also check out your Certificate of Membership for additional information on membership benefits.

Well, that’s a non-answer.

What are Lefelstein’s specific complaints?

Where’s my “rebate”? He made two reservations — a trip to Monterey, Calif., and to Long Island, NY — and had been promised a “rebate” for the trip. He never received it.

Yosemite, not Joshua Tree. Lefelstein asked the company to send him information about a Yosemite trip. Instead it sent him information about packages to Joshua Tree. Oops, wrong park. “So much for knowledgeable agents,” he says.

I’m calling the media. Finally, an exasperated Lefelstein threatens to call a local TV station if Island Trader doesn’t cough up a refund. But it appears a deadline set by him has already come and gone.

Island Trader hasn’t responded to any of his letters, he says.

My first thought was that Lefelstein could either invoke a rescission period or initiate a credit card dispute to get out of the club, but a review of Island Trader’s information and his timeline suggests that’s not possible. The club takes its time (10 to 14 days) to send over membership material that could just as easily be sent electronically.

A skeptic might say the company is trying to run down the clock on any possible credit card dispute, but I will leave that for you to decide.

I receive emails from readers several times a week after they’ve attended a presentation for a travel club. My answer is always the same: Don’t walk away — run!

I also dedicate the last chapter of my most recent book to travel clubs. The advice is the same.

I’d love to help Lefelstein, but I’m also weary of warning travelers against these offers. Will a $4,600 refund change anything? To Lefelstein, maybe. But these schemes will continue as long as the law allows them — and readers continue to fall for them.

Should I take Michael Lefelstein's case?

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9 thoughts on “I need help un-joining a travel club

  1. These travel clubs are out of control. I bet there are enough cases for you to mediate just with these clubs alone. While at some point people need to stop joining these things, I think they still need help. Unfortunately, these clubs are so shameless, they are probably immune to pressure and bad press anyway. Perhaps there is another way to intervene- like against the facilities that host them, or the companies that sell them names of targets, etc. So long as people continue to buy these things, the clubs will keep suckering them in. I don’t know what the answer is here. At some point people need to take responsibility for their choices and avail themselves of the information this site and others provide before they sign over their bank accounts. I’m not sure if we have reached that point yet.

  2. Even if this advocacy gets nowhere with ITV, at least the name ISLAND TRAVEL VACATIONS is out there one more time to warn off ‘low information travelers’ if they would but do an internet search.

  3. “A: Your membership includes many wonderful perks and facets of savings!
    You can consult your Acknowledgement and Bylaws form that accompanies
    your membership materials. You signed and initialed this form as a part
    of opening a new membership. It extensively details the many facets of
    your membership. You may also check out your Certificate of Membership
    for additional information on membership benefits.”

    Translation: It doesn’t matter what us or our sales staff have told you. The benefits you get are few, and you can be sure that while our sales staff are free to endlessly run their mouths and make stuff up, the legal documents will be ironclad in expressing how completely without value your membership is.

  4. Ports of Call was the last good, honest, and reliable travel club out there. At least until they went public and lost their own air fleet. I suspect everything since then has either been a scam or a well intentioned business failure.

  5. I tried Googling Island Travel Vacations and got everything BUT that site. There is Island Travel, but it isn’t a club. I wonder if Chris’ piece today scared them off and they closed up and ran.

  6. Does nobody figure out how many trips you would have to take to even break even by buying through a “travel” club even if every promise these shysters make was true? If I’m going to spend $4600 I can assure you it’s going to be on a actual vacation and not on the opportunity to save money on said vacation.

  7. It appears the firm is based in Michigan. Michigan does not require a license or bond for sellers of travel so that rules out one avenue of complaint. If documents were received by mail and if it appears that the customer was defrauded a complaint to the USPSIS may be warranted.

    It appears that a related company Grand Travel Worldwide is based in Illinois which does require a bond and a claim could be made against that if it is truly based in Illinois

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