Better Business Bureau investigation of airline voucher awards

Thousands of Washingtonians have qualified for two round trip airline tickets valued at more than $1,100, according to hand-addressed letters from a company claiming to be “American.” This too-good-to-be-true offer has prompted a Better Business Bureau investigation.

  • Thursday, August 8, 2013 12:11pm
  • Business

Thousands of Washingtonians have qualified for two round trip airline tickets valued at more than $1,100, according to hand-addressed letters from a company claiming to be “American.” This too-good-to-be-true offer has prompted a Better Business Bureau investigation.

BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington called the 1-800 number on the unsolicited letter and spoke with someone in the “Awards Division” who was able to sign a BBB employee for an exclusive, “invitation-only open house” at a local Anchorage hotel conference room.

After sitting through a 90-minute sales presentation with 12 other Anchorage residents, BBB’s undercover investigator and her friend were offered a “Platinum Membership” in a lifetime vacation club for $8,995 plus recurring fees, and could only receive the travel voucher after making a decision.

BBB identified the following red flags:

  • No company information is provided to customers before the event, so they are unable to properly research any offers.
  • The company stresses its position as a contracted intermediary—it claims to not have sent out the original letters and it claims no formal affiliation with the parent company that actually offers the memberships it is selling—but fails to detail those relationships.
  • The company repeatedly references its good standing with BBB, even though the BBB Business Review it shows in its sales presentation is for a separate company with which it contracts.
  • The letters do not properly disclose the fees and restrictions of the airline vouchers:

    • A “Registration Activation Fee” of $50 per ticket is required.
    • A “Processing Fee” of $59 per ticket is required.
    • Travelers are responsible for taxes, surcharges and fuel charges.
    • Travel is not permitted within seven days before or after all Federal holidays or Easter—leaving few available weeks.
  • Only couples with valid credit cards—cards and identifications are checked at the door—are allowed into the presentation, eliminating the excuse, “Oh, I have to talk to my wife/husband before making such a large purchase…”
  • One-on-one high-pressure sales tactics make attendees uncomfortable and consumers may be persuaded into making uneducated spur-of-the-moment purchases.

BBB has issued alerts on this issue in the past; read: Scam Alert: American Airlines Name Being Used in Fake Ticket Scam and Post Card Offers Free Airline Tickets, Delivers Sales Presentation.

Letter recipients should avoid getting involved with companies that do not operate with transparency and integrity; report deceptive advertising or fraud to BBB and the Federal Trade Commission

More in Business

Railroads implementing positive track

While the investigation continues into the deadly AMTRAK derailment near Dupont, the clock continues to tick on the implementation of Positive Track Control (PTC). The deadline is Dec. 31, 2018.

Keep the holiday spirit all year long | Don Brunell

During the holidays, our thoughts naturally turn to giving — not just giving gifts, but donating our time and money to charities, disasters and community programs.

Finding balance in occupational licensing

Recently, the Institute for Justice (Institute) determined state licensing barriers for lower-income workers and aspiring entrepreneurs not only hurts people trying to establish themselves in a profession, but annually drives consumer prices up by $203 billion.

Remember 1993

Twenty-five years ago, business took a beating in Olympia. The swing to the left in the 1992 general election was swift and potent. It drove higher costs to employers and more government regulations.

Remembering Ed Carlson, Vietnam POW

Since last Veteran’s Day, Ken Burns’ in-depth documentary on the Vietnam War has aired. It is a powerful reminder of an unpopular war in which many “baby boomers” fought and died.

Rural prosperity essential to Washington

While Seattle is growing rapidly, our rural areas continue to struggle. They don’t have the corporate giants such as Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing creating jobs and economic opportunities. Farms are predominantly family-owned.

Amazon’s plan reminiscent Boeing’s Chicago move

Last year, Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates wrote about the similarities and differences between Boeing’s corporate office move to Chicago and Amazon’s plan for a second headquarters.

LiveLocal98022 meeting cancelled

Bob Green, the night’s speaker, notified the organization he couldn’t attend due to an illness.

Expanded Panama Canal among challenges for Washington Ports

The $5.4 billion spent to expand the Panama Canal is paying off for East Coast and Gulf of Mexico seaports; however, it is putting more pressure on the Northwest to remain competitive.

Players taking a knee hurting the NFL | Don Brunell

On a recent Saturday afternoon in Portland, a young woman stepped onto the playing field at the beginning of the University of Montana vs Portland State football game and started singing our national anthem. She immediately drew a blank on the words and briefly stopped, but as she started apologizing, the fans spontaneously took up the singing.

New metal collecting machine may clean up contaminated waters

There is a new machine being tested in Montana which could decontaminate toxic mine tailings while recovering valuable precious minerals for everyday use.

Workshop will focus on business, social media

All are invited to learn how social media can impact business and how it can be used to create a positive experience for customers.