My husband and I received a mailing inviting us to attend a 90 minute presentation on resort destinations. We were promised two roundtrip tickets on Continental Airlines to anywhere in the US and a free car rental for one week even if we didn't buy anything. We had planned to use the tickets to go to New Orleans and help Katrina victims.
We were led into a room with a dozen small tables where other invitees (about seven couples) were being interviewed one-on-one. Our interviewer, Dave, wanted to know about our vacation habits. He was young and we felt a bit sorry for him. Especially in light of the fact that we were really only after the free airline tickets.
Then came the presenter... a real charmer. Claimed he was retired from a career in the Air Force. He looked good and talked fast. Kept waving all kinds of pretty pictures printed from their website (which we later discovered does not exist), claimed membership in numerous professional organizations, and showed us how much money we would save by booking vacations at five star resorts through them. He said they had 100,000 members and were doing a million bookings a year. They were able save their members money because they cut out the middlemen (travel agents and internets sites, etc.). Membership would cost $8,995 plus various fees and the offer was only good right now.
After the presentation, Dave returned to our table. When we told him we weren't ready to spend $8,995 plus $299 per year, he told us politely to wait and someone would sign us out and give us our free gift. Next came Dave's older, nattily dressed supervisor who tried to pressure us by slashing the price to $6,995. When we said "no thanks," we were told again to wait. That's when they sent in the supervisor's supervisor who offered further deals and price cuts. We again politely declined.
Finally, we were given the chance to meet with a young woman who would give us our free tickets. Well, not exactly. Instead, she gave us two "activation forms" that had a list of 14 rules about how to obtain our free airline tickets and free rental car. The first rule is that you have to pay a "refundable" deposit of $100 (by money order or cashiers check) for the airline tickets and $75 for the rental car. The rest of the rules placed so many restrictions on the deal that we knew it was totally bogus.
In the end, we only lost a few hours of our time. We are not so sure about others who attended that day. When we got home, we went online and discovered that "Vacation Professionals" operates under many different names, setting up phony offices, and moving on quickly. We figure they make a fair amount of money just by getting people to pay "refundable" deposits for free tickets they'll never receive. And we certainly feel very sorry for those people who lose big money.