With the long, cold and snowy winter we’ve experienced in the Tri-State, heading for some fun and sun sounds pretty enticing. Who wouldn’t enjoy basking on a beach or around a pool with friends, music and sunshine? I certainly remember the fun of running along the ocean or sitting in the sand and letting the water lap over my legs. Of course that was many years ago. The last time in recent years I was sitting on a beach in that manner, I remember a group of people prodding me with long poles, trying to roll me back into the water while screaming, “Help us, we’ve got a beached one!” It seems I also remember some references to Shamu. In all fairness, I was wearing a black and white swimsuit.
But for those of you seeking a sunny getaway, with money tight, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of promises for great sounding vacations. Scammers are always looking for ways to take advantage and we’ve heard from some folks locally that took advantage of some of these great “deals” in the past. Here are a few experiences that were shared with us:
One couple had signed up and paid for a vacation in an island resort. Their relatively low fee while excluding their travel (plane fare) included luxurious accommodations, meals and sightseeing excursions. What they actually got was a rude awakening. Once they were off the plane, they were escorted to a vehicle in very poor shape and driven to what they described as a “compound”, a horrible looking hotel that was surrounded by barbed wire and men with machine guns! When they complained to the management, they were advised that they could “upgrade” to the luxury accommodations originally promised which were located elsewhere on the island for an exorbitant price.
At that point and feeling they had no choice (actually feeling they were in danger); they chose to be taken back to the airport where they made arrangements to return home.
Another couple purchased a weekend vacation voucher in a fun city which included hotel accommodations at a nationally known chain as well as a meal at one of the nicer restaurants.
Upon arrival at the hotel, they found it was located in a construction zone and was filled with local workers. The rooms were not clean and evidently it had been converted from a tourist hotel to accommodations for the workers. Deciding not to stay, they left and went to redeem their meal voucher at the nice restaurant only to find that it did not cover what was promised. So the couple was left to pay for their own meal and accommodations for the weekend.
So when someone offers you a great vacation package for well under what you would expect to pay, what should you do? The Better Business Bureau offers the following suggestions:
*Be wary of offers that promise “the moon” for a very low price, or ones that require immediate purchase to lock in the announced rate.
*Before paying anything, request all details of the trip in writing, including total cost, restrictions where applicable, cancellation penalties, and exact names of the airlines and hotels included in the packet.
*If a charter flight is involved, ask for the charter operator’s name and address, and then check its registration with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Consumer Affairs in Washington, D.C.
*Be suspicious of vacation certificates that claim you have “won” a hotel stay or resort visit. If you discover you have to pay something to get the promised “free” vacation, look elsewhere.
*Never give credit card or other personal information over the phone to a company or person you’re not familiar with.
As always, be sure and check out any business you are interested in with the BBB. Go to www.bbb.org or call at 812-473-0202.