The Free Gift

As the old adage goes, “nothing in life is free.” This is even more so the case when responding to a free vacation or gift to attend a Travel Club presentation. Unlike other freebies, the travel club “gift” purportedly discloses that all you have to pay to redeem your “free” gift is your time. That’s it, just an hour out of your afternoon on a Saturday. You are told that all you have to do to receive your free cruise, or airline tickets is simply give up 60 minutes of your time at some local hotel to hear all about a great ‘new’ travel company that just opened up in your area. Caution – you potentially sacrifice much more than your time.

For many readers, they only find out the true ‘catch’ to the freebie once its too late. For many, it has meant sacrificing an entire day in a high pressure sales environment only to leave the presentation with nothing more than a piece of paper that promises a vacation – but delivers little more than a headache. For many travel clubs, advertising in this manner is a financial windfall. Imagine you are a travel club owner and to bring people into a presentation of yours, you simply offer them a ‘free’ or ‘complimentary’ vacation that has so many strings attached to the vacation certificate it renders them virtually unusable. If the vacation certificate is unusable, you don’t pay to send people on the vacation you promised them for attending your presentation – diabolically brilliant. Free marketing, with the travel club owner retaining the possibility of selling an unsuspecting customer a four to ten thousand dollar travel club membership.

So what else could go wrong with getting a “free gift” for attending your local high-pressure travel club presentation? Paying hundreds of dollars for that freebie. Many rogue certificate companies require non-refundable processing fees of $25-150 per person upfront just to redeem the voucher you were promised. You essentially are getting a certificate, to order a certificate, to then pay fees to activate the certificate, and then pay even more fees to use it once a reservation becomes available (hopefully.) This devious scheme allows for travel clubs to ‘up sell’ consumers on the freebie they were originally given for attending the seminar, without them being aware.

Is there any type of good ‘freebies’ left in the industry? Yes. Some companies give hard physical gifts the day of the presentation; computer tablets, visa gift cards, restaurant gift cards, etc. Leaving the presentation with a hard gift means the travel club company has taken the high road and really believes its customers should get what they were promised for attending the seminar. This strategy will not leave you susceptible to being upsold, or scammed by a third party certificate company. Also, travel clubs who align themselves with certificate companies that offer a full and complete refund for any reason down the line, really are looking to protect their customers. If a certificate company offers a 100% refund on the certificates performance, you essentially have nothing to lose other than the time you invested back that original day of presentation.

Protect yourself and protect your time – make sure you know exactly all the details surrounding your free gift for attending the presentation. Know that you have a greater chance of not getting what you were promised than getting what you were promised. And if you absolutely have nothing to do on your Saturday, you can invest your day learning more about a travel club and their carnival sales tactics.