In early January, 2003 we attended a Platinum Vacations sales session in Austin, Texas and signed up for Travel Service Network after a lot of high-pressure tactics that were centered around giving us "vouchers" for "free" trips that would make the thousands of dollars the memberships cost worthwhile.
The sales team promised pennies on the dollar travel and great customer service. TSN was billed as the biggest company of its kind in the world with the best deals on travel of all kinds. Not only you, but your whole family could save all kinds of cash on trips.
Unfortunately, our experience with both TSN and Platinum Vacations was very negative and I feel that much of what we were told at the sales meeting was a misrepresentation.
Our first disappointment came when we did not receive our packages on time. We were told they would arrive within 10 days. They did not. Once the package did arrive, we were amazed at all the small print restrictions and deposits required to use the vouchers. To activate the 4 vouchers I received when we signed up, I had to send in a check for $558 almost immediately. Considering all the information you have to evaluate, not to mention the money you are required to send in once the package arrives in order to "activate" the vouchers, it seems to me in retrospect that this delay may be part of an intentional strategy to make many people fail to use the vouchers, as all the value of several vouchers disappears in 30 days.
Our plan to take a Valentine Day weekend in Vegas on one of the vouchers was dashed because of the long lead times required for the voucher. No matter, I thought, I'll just call up TSN and get a great deal. I'd already looked up what airlines offer nonstop flights out of Austin and had visited the Southwest Airlines web site, where I saw some pretty good package deals. After remembering what I'd heard in the Platinum sales meeting, I was sure TSN could do better.
Wrong! First I was offered a price for the hotel and flights that was several hundred dollars MORE than the Southwest Airlines website. When I told TSN this, they said this was because they were not quoting a package. I would have to talk to their package department, I was told. After spending what seemed to me to be an excessive amount of time on hold being told by a loop recording that I'll soon get the same great service some other member is enjoying at this time, I finally got an agent named Joan. This woman turned out to be a fifth-rate travel agent but, a first-rate liar. I told her about the flights I already had on the Southwest deal and about the hotel where Southwest would put us up. This was on Thursday, Jan. 23. She said she'd look into packages and get back to me by the end of the day.
Wrong! The next day, I called again trying to find out what happened. After languishing on hold for what seemed like forever, I finally got through to her. I didn't get the expected apology for not doing what she said she would. Instead she told me how very busy she was and promised to get back to me with something by the close of business. I offered a fax number where she could send me details, but she said email was easier (for her; not for me) so I gave her my email address. I kept checking the email all day, but nothing came. On Monday, I called yet again and got her voice mail. I left her a message that said I had not received anything from heragain! and asked her to call immediately. No response.
The next day, I gave up on Joan and thought I'd try my luck complaining about the lousy service I'd received to the customer service department at TSN. There I got Suzanne, who promised to look into the matter and call me back before noon. She almost did what she saida first for me with TSN. At a few minutes after noon, she called to say she'd spoken to Joan who claimed she did in fact email me and attempted to call. (No message ever appeared on my email or my answering machine.) Suzanne then faxed to me the message from Joan which had no flights or hotels listed and cost $63 more than what I'd have paid if I'd just signed up with Southwest the week before. When I asked for details, Suzanne said I'd have to go back to Joan for that, but of course she wasn't available, so after listening to more recordings about the great service I'd get any minute now I got someone else. I think her name was Rhonda. She was no help either. When I finally found out what flights TSN was holding for me, it was not the afternoon nonstop I'd told Joan about but a 7 a.m. morning flight that my companion could not make, which made the whole package worthless to me. Worse, I was told that any changes to that itinerary would cost considerably more. Still worse, I was told that TSN would not honor their price match guarantee because I hadn't faxed the Southwest itinerary to them the day it was taken off the internet. Of course Joan never asked me to fax it or I certainly would have. I have a copy to this day that plainly shows flights and hotel. By this time I'd had enough of TSN and went back to the Southwest website, but of course the price had gone up in the meantime. I was able to book the trip with the same flights, but the runaround at TSN ended up costing me an extra $228.
I tried later in the year to use TSN for other travel, but never found them to offer anything better than what anyone with web access can get with five minutes of research.
Within a month I realized this travel service was not what we'd been sold and asked Platinum Vacations for a refund. They demanded a certified letter and said they would consider it. I guess they're still considering it a year later.
And what about the vouchers? I had two vouchers for TSN dream vacations for 7 nights at any of the areas listed. We tried one and gave them 10 months to get us a condo in Cabo. Not available. Sorry.
To activate those, you must send a $50 deposit for both, or $100 total within 30 days of issuance. In addition, you must pay a fee of $19.90 per day (2 times $9.95 per person) or a total of $139.30 for each voucher, or a total of $278.60 for both vouchers. Then you must use both of these within one year or pay $75 extension fee, or a total of $150 to extend both vouchers beyond one year. It does not say how long that extends the voucher.
Here's another small print item from the family-friendly folks at TSN: You can't meet anyone from another family arriving at the same location at the same date.
For the flyaway vacation:
You must fill in the form and mail it in with a $100 deposit. Then you must book at least 60 days in advance and is the subject to availability.
For the "free" cruise:
For an entry level cabin you have to send a $179 deposit per person, or $358 that will be applied to port charges, government taxes and applicable process fees, which are not explained or listed.
Add up all this money they keep at no interest and all the restrictions, and you get what I consider to be bascially a scam. We never got reservations for anything and at the end of the year requested our deposits back. (If you don't ask for them back in time, they keep your money forever.)
Three months later after, after certified letters and several calls and emails, we finally received the depost money back. Of course the money for the memberships is down the drain and there is no way I would ever sign up for another year of this at $175 to keep that TSN service active.
If anyone representing TSN tries to sell you a membership RUN AWAY!