We have all heard the saying that if it is too good to be true, then it probably is. Recently, our client, Joan (not her real name) rediscovered how true this statement really is. She received a mailing from the Holiday Cruise Planners – it contained a boarding pass for a FREE cruise. Attached later in the boarding pass document was a “check” for $1,300, but it was unclear how this check would be used for the FREE cruise.
Joan called the Holiday Cruise Planners and they told her that all she would need to pay was taxes and port fees of $118 for a two night cruise. In fact, that was the full cost of this cruise if you researched it online. Further, they convinced her to stay at one of the Bahama resorts for two additional nights, for a cost of $636. The total hit to her charge card was $754. She did not yet have a date in mind for the cruise, but the entire price of the cruise and hotel stay was immediately charged on her charge card.
We later discovered that the purpose of this company’s FREE vacation was to get people to a timeshare community where they would attend a high-pressure timeshare sales presentation. The “cruise” ship was an old converted ferry boat instead of the beautiful cruise ships that you might be more familiar with.
When we tried to call and cancel the cruise and get a refund, the sales personnel were insistent on keeping the booking. After several attempts to cancel, we were unsuccessful. The only way we could correct the situation was to report it to the credit card company, who promptly researched and reversed these charges. Fortunately, Joan got us involved so we were successful in getting the $754 refunded.
What are some things you can do to avoid having this happen to you:
- Remember – Nothing is Free. There is always a catch, and you must read and understand the fine print.
- Use a Reputable Travel Agent. Travel agents offer a very valuable service and will stand behind their bookings. They understand the cancellation policies and will make sure that your vacation is enjoyable. If there is a problem with the vacation, they are available to help you resolve the issue.
- Reputable Cruise Lines Take A Deposit Only. If you book a cruise, there is only a deposit requirement. The cruise is never paid in full until 60 days prior to sailing. You can cancel and get a full refund, no questions asked, prior to the final payment deadline.
So if it sounds too good to be true, stop and read the fine print before you get on the phone with a high-pressure sales person whose sole goal is to take your hard-earned money.
Article Written by Reba Rogers. Reba Rogers, CPA, is the founder of CPA Secure Aging, a group of care managers who preserve the independence and protect the assets of seniors by helping them with financial management.