Before we get into the seedy details of all these travel clubs let’s be clear. You don’t need to join a Travel Club to get a great deal on a vacation. Those days are gone with the economic challenges felt throughout the world the travel industry has been forced to adjust their pricing and any commission they might charge to keep consumers travelling and now Travel Clubs are only able to save 5-10% over a normal travel agency and in some cases not even that. So then they tell you that their biggest savings are in condos anyway. Now remember they are charging anywhere from $3000.00 to $8000.00 for a membership the average being $5000.00…..well let’s look at that, following are some condo comparisons:
Buganvilas Resort Vacations Club- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico –1 Bedroom Sleep 4– Check in November 13/2010 for a week.
Travel Club Price–$325.00 Shop Around Online: $450.00
Mayan Palace Puerto Vallarta- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico—1 Bedroom Sleep 4—Check In November 28/2010 for a week.
Travel Club Price–$500.00 Shop Around Online: $675.00
SVC Mountainside Lodge-Whistler, BC—Studio Sleep 4—Check In April 1/2011 for a week.
Travel Club Price–$824.00 Shop Around Online: $750.00
Silver Lake Resort- Kissimmee, Florida—2 bedroom Sleep 6—Check In January 14/2011 for a week.
Travel Club Price–$675.00 Shop Around Online: $725.00
So on 3 of the weeks your combined savings is $350.00 and the 4th week you would of saved $50.00 booking elsewhere not exactly the kind of savings you would want when you paid your $5000.00 to join and your $250.00 a year in member dues. Certainly not what you were promised on the night you joined. What they do is take some of your $5000.00 membership fee and buy down the price of your first booking so the savings look better and then when you try it again the savings look like the ones above but by then you are outside your cancellation period!!
The names change but the process is the same we are going to talk about all that I can find so people reading this from anywhere will find or can add relevant content but I will pick on a few specifically for no other reason but that they brought it on themselves.
THE PROCESS (HOOK)
It begins with a survey and of course there is no obligation they are just trying to determine consumer travel trends and for your time you can be entered to win a prize. The survey is just an opportunity to qualify if you vacation or spend money on vacations if you are employed and a homeowner to determine if you have the income to support them trying to get you to spend some of that hard earned money at their presentation that you will be invited to pick up your “free gift”.
The gift let’s talk about that there are usually 4-5 gifts that you will “draw” for and you will receive one of them.
It looks like this:
1) Big Screen TV 52”
2) Trip To Hawaii/Mexico etc.
3) Cruise to Eastern Caribbean
4) Weekend For Two Las Vegas
5) $500.00 Travel Certificate.
You will also get a free dinner which is really a coupon for a pasta entrée and can you guess which gift you get….that’s right ladies and gentlemen a $500.00 travel certificate is yours. By law there has to be one of each of those gifts in the draw bin and on the first 4 gifts there is LITERALLY ONE OF EACH. But the travel certificate there are 3000 of those tickets in there….notice how full that draw bin is when you pick exactly wouldn’t want anyone to actually win something of value now of course every once in awhile one get’s thru and they look credible or they just grab a picture of a winning customer from their last travel club(we’ll get to that) that won and post it for all to see.
So you do that survey and hang up the phone and don’t think much of it until 3-4 days or a week or 2 weeks later you get a phone call from a booker who asks you if you remember doing a travel survey and you were entered into a draw to win a prize….well your name was selected and you have won….now depending on the strength of that booker they are either a little evasive on what you have won or lead you to believe you won a big prize or that they change all the time or they tell you the 5 choices that you will draw for. They then go on to tell you that to pick up your gift you have to come down to their office and if you have a significant other(ALARM BELLS) they must attend to “sign” for the gift as well sit through our no obligation information seminar on a new members only Travel Agency and you will also get a free dinner(coupon) for your time and “It’s Only 60 minutes”(ALARM BELLS).
So you decide to go they give you two alternate choice times for presentations to attend ,you pick one they book you and give you a confirmation# and end the conversation.
A day or two before this great day they call to confirm your attendance and get you excited about it and then on the big day they call again to make sure your coming so they know how many people are attending and how much crackers and cheese and juice they will need for their big shows there are usually 2 a day Monday thru Thursday in the evening and 3 a day on Saturday and Sunday.
You arrive at the agreed upon time for your presentation and to receive your gift and you arrive 15 minutes ahead of time if possible they ask so they have time to book you in. They have a “Greeter” who is usually the presentation speaker doing that as a first contact / friendly face to start off your experience. When you enter the office you will be greeted again by front desk reception and a Manager(Front End Bump) who will take your name and check you in and ask you to take a seat until your representative can come and pick you up. You have a seat and watch other people arrive and then someone comes up to you with a sheet of paper in their hand calling your name and introducing themselves and trying to break the ice with some witty comments because after all for most people ALARM BELLS are going off because this feels like a “sales presentation” not “picking up your gift”.
THE WARM UP
Your sales person brings you into the presentation room there is loud upbeat vacation music playing there is people sitting at tables already laughing and chatting some of these people may be customers like you. Some of those people will be employees doing “room fill” to make the room look fuller than it is so you don’t feel like your the only ones there(ALARM BELL)…..the goal is to put you at ease so you won’t be defensive. Your sales agent will try to get to know you a little bit and try to gain some rapport with you, they will ask who go the the phone call and what you were told on the phone and assure you that you will get your gift/dinner at the end of the presentation and to relax and enjoy yourself they are just going to show you their members only travel agency and show you how to save money on future vacations that you will take “with or without” their travel agency(ALARM BELL). They will then tell you that the sheet of paper in front of them is to just find out the types of vacationing that you like to do so they can show you things of interest and find out how much you spend on vacations so that they can then try to show you how they will save you money. The first part is to find out about YOU your jobs and your kids/family and get to know you find out what is important to you so they can use it later on in the presentation(ALARM BELL). Because vacations are emotional and about time spent with family and friends they use this information later to try to get you “in the picture” and how their service will let you do more of that while spending less money. They usually have a board at the front of the room that will have travel package comparisons on it that show you “Retail” prices and their “Wholesale” prices and the money you would save as a “member”(ALARM BELL) but their wholesale prices are usually bought down to show savings more significant than they really are. They will say things to you like “if you could save money like this on trips would you take the trip?” “would you vacation more if you could vacation less?” “that’s all we are going to do is show you where you could take the same trips you were going to take anyway for less money”(ALARM BELL).
This does evoke a hopeful emotion after all who doesn’t want to vacation more for less. Thru out the first 15 minutes spent with your sales agent they will ask you questions to commit you to the fact that what they do makes sense and is right for you and they will also address that this is in fact a sales presentation that they have a special “one time offer” that is only available today and at the end they will ask you for a simple yes or no this is widely known as “breaking the pact”. They want a decision today not “I want to think about it” they will tell you “it’s only 60 minutes or 90 minutes” but I can assure you that you will be there alot longer than that before they are done their “sales pitch”. During that first 15 minutes with your sales agent they will deliver some snacks that usually consist of crackers, cheese and some vegetables and offer some juice,coffee & wine all part of setting the stage.
Towards the end of the survey a man or woman will come up and introduce themselves as the speaker tonight you will probably recognize this person from the meet and greet outside. They will try to crack a joke break the ice tell you they are nervous and please help out with supportive involvement throughout the presentation and laugh at their silly jokes (ALARM BELL).
THE SALES PRESENTATION
Suddenly the music goes up you look up to see and hear the speaker getting everyone’s attention and let them know that the presentation is beginning. They go into the introduction tell a few jokes to warm up the room, they introduce the company and give you information that they hope will instill trust and show them as credible. They assure you that you will get your gifts and dinners and make light of the fact that this is a sales presentation and then they “break the pact” again let you know they want a yes or no not “I want to think about it” because all that really means is that you don’t understand everything and just feel that you don’t have all the information you need to make an informed decision so just ask all the questions you can while your here because “we won’t be in your living room later as your thinking about it and then you will lose out on the first day incentives”.
They will then address each table in the room and ask them “fair enough a simple yes or no” and get the customers to acknowledge it. Once they have done that they will then ask each table of customers where there last vacation was and where they would like to go next because of course the more your thinking about vacations the more you are going to be open to learning about saving more money and vacationing more or staying in nicer places for less money than what you spend now. They tell you that the reason they can do this is simple it is just the ABC’s of travel:
A) Advertising, they don’t do it because nobody pays attention to the travel section in the weekend paper and they would rather spend a fraction of that advertising money on you with snacks and dinners and gifts.
B) Bulk buying just like costco where it’s cheaper to buy 24 cans of corn instead of one it’s cheaper to buy 10 of the same cruises instead of just one and while you only buy that one cruise they buy 10 of them and return those savings to you.
C) No COMMISSION their travel agents don’t work on commission they just get paid a wage or a flat fee and any bonuses they get are based on the money they saved where a regular travel agent is only motivated by the most they can charge you for the trip.
This part is quite interesting what do you think the sales person is making if you join…..that’s right folks COMMISSION!!
They then show you a book full of vacation comparisons that are usually outdated and not even the same dates and the ones that are have been bought down to appear better than they are. Some people will be ooooohhhing and aaahhhing because by nature we want to believe in the good and that it is possible. That is what the travel club prey’s on, it is people’s HOPE the reality is that if it sounds to good to be true….then it is.
BACK TO THE PRESENTATION
So they talk about how you are going on vacation with or without them and you will spend the money anyway how about saving money on that same vacation and stay in nicer places or go longer or just put the savings in your pocket……3 pretty nice choices ALARM BELLS. They talk about saving you money on every mode of travel ie: Car Rental, Rail Lines, Tours, Adventure Travel, B&B’s, Airfare, Hotels/All Inclusives & Cruises excluding hotels/all inclusives and cruises the other things mentioned they can only save you about 5% because of commission caps and the competetive nature of the travel industry since the economy has struggled. Hotels/All Inclusives they will save you 10% if you are lucky. The cruises it really depends on the cruise but the 50% discount they throw around is bunk so is 30% more like 10-20% and more if you leave short notice……just so you know folks you can go to any travel agency or direct to cruise lines to get last minute and repositioning cruise that you can enjoy great vacations and save lot’s of money without paying a membership fee.
THE PRESENTATION CONTINUES
Wowing you with comparisons and then they show you a 10 minute video on satisfied members that has been edited together from the last 4 travel clubs they were a part of (We will touch on that more). You watch these people rave about the savings and service some are members others are employees and then the video ends and the speaker comes back talks about how it’s nice to hear from other members ALARM BELLS the speaker then get’s into what is suppose to be the greatest savings which is condos he goes around the room and asks if anyone has stayed in a condo what they liked about it “putting people in the picture” they then ask people about timeshare if they own or have ever been to a timeshare presentation. They go into how expensive it is which is why most people don’t join and how restrictive it is but boy aren’t those places nice and wouldn’t it be great to stay in those places but without paying $20,000.00 up front and expensive yearly maintenance fees and exchange fees. At that’s where the travel club comes in form $50.00 to $549.00 usd or whatever they ask now then you can stay in a studio, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom or 3 bedroom doesn’t matter size or season and you can use 1 week a year or 10 weeks a year and there are no black outs or anything….who likes that idea “who would go more?” “who would upgrade quality of accommodation?” “who would take the money saved and put it in pocket?” then the speaker wraps up with a third party heartfelt testimonial shows you the volumes of testimonials you can read thru although it’s interesting if they are new where did all the testimonials come from??
The presentation ends the music is turned back on your sales agent turns back to you and enthusiastically asks “isn’t it great?” “what did you like the most about it?” “where would you use it first?” “do you have any questions?” and depending on their level of ability/seniority they will proceed to answer the questions or get a manager to come over and answer them for you and they will say to you before they bring a manager over “other than your questions being answered and it being 100% affordable is there any reason why you wouldn’t become a member today?” they then give the big wave to the table full of managers sitting there or walking around the room ALARM BELLS all the people that were topping of beverages and snacks at the beginning this is also known as a FRONT END BUMP which is basically them wanting to make contact so that you know them a bit before they come over at the end and seem less threating.
The manager arrives at the table talking…introduces themselves shakes hands and sit’s down spends a couple of minutes building rapport ALARM BELLS and then your sales agent “Turn’s Over” the table to them. This involves the agent basically giving the manager some background on you like your jobs/kids and what kind of vacationing you do how much you spend each year where you were last where you are going next and your dream vacation. The agent then shut’s up and doesn’t say another word while the manager goes to work answering questions confidentially and quickly and then when you ask how much is it they try to confirm that if “they can customize a program that suits you will you join” you either come up with other questions/objections or say yes or SAY NO this of course is the right answer because it is all smoke and mirrors with these people. They show you the packages they have with all the travel services and how many condo weeks you can get the last minute “hot sheets” or “burn weeks” and all the flexibility.
You know what….this would all be well and good IF IT WORKED because on paper it sounds great….theory always sounds good but the proof is in the application. They show you prices going from $3995.00 to $8995.00 or more and they have names like Bronze package or Silver or Gold or Diamond and then they show you how much your yearly dues are which are somewhere in the $250.00 to $300.00 range. They tell you that if you can pay cash there are even better “incentives” but they also have flexible financing that fits any budget and then they shutup and wait for your reaction. The simplest way to deal with this is to say “sorry I know the Truth about Travel Clubs” and walk out because the gift your leaving behind is a useless $500.00 travel certificate that your going to draw 99.5% of the time and a coupon for a pasta entree at a bad restaurant. But if you don’t do that and just say your unsure about the price or that there are things you wouldn’t use because you don’t travel that way or you get alot of these things thru your credit cards travel incentives that they offer then they will try to show you value based on information given during the travel survey filled out with your agent or they will start taking things out of the program that they have attached a dollar value to and as a result reduce the price and offer you a more (personaly customized program) at a discounted price. Finally you say your firm NO and the manger gives you attitude and leaves or leaves gratefully but telling you that they are just going to do a quick customer service survey to see what you thought and how you were treated ALARM BELLS this is actually their last shot at getting your business. The person who comes over sits down tries to build a little rapport in 5 minutes asks you a few questions about how you were treated and what you liked and what you would use and then offers you a test drive of the program or a trial package that is usually anywhere from 1 to 5 years in length it allows you to try the program and then when you see it works you can upgrade to the lifetime program by just paying the difference.
Scenario 1 : You join the Travel Club they bring some small bottle of Champagne and pop it do an announcement so others can see and realize they aren’t the only ones and maybe they will join then too. So you decide to go ahead and they take you into a back office to get you signed up and give you your membership binder as well a “verification officer” will go thru the details and make sure you understand everything.
During this process there is a disclosure they go thru that tells you that you understand that you didn’t join the program just for airfare savings and they blow thru it as fast as they can hoping you don’t pick up on too much. They also tell you that during prime seasons the cost of condos can be more than the $549.00usd they told you it would be during the presentation. They also tell you about your right to cancel the agreement within 10 days of the date of signing up, again blazing thru it as quickly as possible get your initials and signatures and package and off you go the newext TRAVEL CLUB MEMBER.
Scenario 2: You SAY NO take your draw get your “gift” and your dinner coupon and leave knowing you just dodged a bullet and saved yourself from being RIPPED OFF!!
IMPORTANT WEBSITES YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THAT DON’T REQUIRE HUGE MEMBERSHIP FEES!!
www.redweek.com Membership $15.00 for one year.
www.tug2.net Membership $15.00 for one year.
www.vrbo.com Free Site
The above ones are for condos you can book. Condo weeks here that are the same price, cheaper or more expensive by only a couple of hundred dollars than what the travel club is advertising. Once you get a list of the condo weeks froma travel club if you went to www.tripadvisor.com you find most of them are not a place you want to be on vacation and the places you do want they either can’t get or are far more expensive than what you were told the night of your presentation.
DISCOUNT TRAVEL WEBSITES
These are great sites to go to with no membership fees and the worst part for someone who joins a Travel Club is that when they book their first trip and check to see if the airfare, cruise, car rental all inclusive etc. You find it to be the same price when you remind them of their guarantee or being the lowest and if you show them the price they will beat it by 10% and then they grudgingly oblige …….WHAT!!! Is that what you signed up for ?? To be watchdog to your personal travel agents and you find the same prices yourself online that are no better or only marginally better than what you found online or at a regular travel agent for free.
During the presentation they tell you that the dramatic savings you will enjoy on condos will allow you to recoup your membership fee after using 3 or 4 condo weeks isn’t very accurate is it if you take into account the comparisons I show you and checkout the condo sites I’ve introduced you too it is clearly not worth the money!!
The names change but the system and most of the people don’t. It might of been called Platinum Passport, Lifestyle Leisure Services, Snowbird Vacations (All In British Columbia) or they could of been called Family Passport, Snowbird Vacations, Wild Rose Vacations, BonaVista Travel and Cruise or Advantage BonaVista Travel as well as The Real Canadian Travel Store and Canadian Family Travel (All In Alberta) or Family Vacation Centers or Snowbird Vacations (In Ontario). What is the biggest coincidence is that alot of the same people are involved in each and every one of these “Travel Clubs”. The spin is that they say they have been “bought out” by a new club who in the “interest of continuity have tried to keep the exisiting management team in place.” What is odd about that is if the previous Travel Club was driven into the ground with bad service, non service and customers experienced minimal savings that didn’t justify the membership paid and all the wonderful promises from the day of their presentation then why would you keep the same people in management in the “New” travel club.
Now there are plenty of other travel club rip-offs out there that people have been and should continued to be warned about as well as the names of the owner/managers should also be named because those people seem to keep resurfacing in Travel Clubs with new names and this blog is an opportunity for anyone to do so.
Here is a short list of some of the other Travel Club Scams:
Royal Club Resorts or Royal Club International ( Andre Muran-owner)
Grand Getaway Vacation
Premier Holiday Travel Club
GSI Travel Club
Wild Rose Vacations opens first in Edmonton and then in Calgary where they buy a travel agency Bona Vista Travel and Cruise and try to use the goodwill from a long established travel agency to hide behind but again sooner or later the truth comes out: http://www.scam.com/showthread.php?t=131473
So they decide another name change is in order to open another store in Red Deer : http://www.scam.com/showthread.php?t=131687
The Real Canadian Travel Store is born also know as Canadian Family Travel also known Advantage BonaVista Travel(You Can Find Them “assuming” Wild Rose Vacation and BonaVista Travel & Cruise Offices In Calgary & Edmonton and now open in Red Deer)…..does the madness ever end when does a provincial government get tired of the same companies of ill repute changing their names and taking advantage of their citizens?
This isn’t a case of alot of bad seeds just taking advantage of a situation IT’S THE SAME BAD SEEDS
So the time has come to do something about it and this is a great avenue to start so we will continue to up date on travel scams everywhere and provide information that show’s consumers that they don’t need to invest their hard earned money in Travel Clubs or Timeshare….feel free to post helpful comments I have know doubt there will also be those comments that defend them as well and based on past experience these are almost always employees of these companies…..so be it….when you dig deep enough out comes Travel Club Truth!!
The Goal of this Blog is to :
A) Expose them for what they are.
B) Warn consumers to stay away from them.
C) Let consumers know there are a ton of free or close to free sites on the internet where they can realize comparable savings without a $3000.00-$9000.00 dollar membership fee with annual dues.
D) Hopefully finally have government step up specifically in Alberta and Ontario to stop these travel clubs and there regurgitated “OWNERS” from their continued undesirable business practices and introduce legislation that eliminated travel clubs as they are allowed to operate today.