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CALL 3 Investigation of Free Prizes with Holiday Travel of America

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Video: Is Promise Of Tropical Vacation Worth It?

Hawaii For $100? BBB Logs Trail Of Complaints

Travelers Face Many Restrictions
POSTED: 8:06 pm PDT May 5, 2008

NAPA, Calif. — Sitting through a sales pitch in return for a $100 trip to Hawaii sounds like an easy deal.
The company behind a mailer sells vacation club memberships. To get the free trip — including airfare and accommodations for two — you have to sit through a 90-minute sales pitch.
At a business park in Napa, KCRA 3 listened to the presentation, declined the vacation club offer, but then asked for the free trip.

The travel club company delivered, and KCRA 3 walked away with a VIP Hawaiian Holiday certificate, good for two round-trip coach tickets and two nights in economy accommodations.
The certificate had to be completed and mailed in within 45 days or it would be void.
Next came a letter requesting travel dates — Tuesdays through Thursdays only — plus an airline and hotel tax deposit of $100.

Mike and Sandy Carson, of Novato, went through a similar process and opted to pay more to extend their trip.
“We put in certain dates, but if you look on the card, there’s a lot of dates blacked out,” Mike Carson said.
KCRA 3 chose two sets of dates, but the redemption company said neither was available.
A third and fourth set of dates were also declined, as were the fifth and sixth sets of dates in March and April 2008 — even though KCRA 3 received its travel certificate in August 2007, and the redemption company cashed the deposit check a month later.
After rejecting all six travel dates, KCRA 3 called the redemption company, Holiday Travel of America, to complain.
Customer service said it could confirm Sept. 9 to 11, but that those dates had to be booked right then and there — and KCRA 3 had to fax back a confirmation letter with a credit card number. The company would charge $75 to $150 if the reservation was cancelled or if no one showed up.
The Better Business Bureau of San Diego said other people have had trouble, too: Holiday Travel of America has an unsatisfactory record because of a pattern of complaints.
People said they can’t get valid travel dates, and when they give up and try to get their deposit back, refunds are delayed.
Holiday Travel of America’s owner said over the phone that the company handles 30,000 to 40,000 transactions each year and has thousands of happy travelers. Customers have to read terms and conditions and disclosures and understand that promotional travel is all on space available.
He said his company makes mistakes but tries to fix them.
The company did confirm the travel dates in September, but no one could give a specific airlne or hotel.
But the Carsons gave up on their trip and asked for a refund, which they got. But Sandy Carson said she thinks most people give up before getting their money back.
“You get $100 from everybody, and they don’t pursue it — probably 80 percent don’t pursue it — and they make a bundle,” she said..
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