Travel club sparks consumer complaints - WFLA News Channel 8

Travel club sparks consumer complaints

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Lee Bierman peering out of the company office door to say he was still trying to get his paperwork returned after deciding to cancel his membership in the travel club. Lee Bierman peering out of the company office door to say he was still trying to get his paperwork returned after deciding to cancel his membership in the travel club.

Letters are arriving in mailboxes all over the Tampa Bay area.

They're going to retirees, preachers, mechanics and reporters—people in all walks of life in zip codes from here to Orlando and probably beyond.

Chances are good that you or someone you know have already received one. 

This is how you'll know: the personalized return address sticker on the envelope says it's from Patricia Smith in Holly Hill, Florida.

Inside the letter is an offer for a "FREE Android tablet computer" from a company called CCD Research LLC.

Some people receive the gift right away; others have to work hard for it. Whatever the case, there's a lot more to this offer than a free gift.

A news investigation by Eight on Your Side reveals there is no company called CCD Research LLC registered with the State of Florida, no Patricia Smith living at that Holly Hill address and the letter is anything but personal.

The letter arriving in many homes across the Tampa Bay area and the Orlando area is a sophisticated direct mail offer to solicit membership in the Global Vacation Network. But consumers have no way of knowing that until they follow the next step and call the phone number listed to make an appointment.

To collect their "FREE Android tablet computer" consumers must attend a 90 minute travel club sales presentation and sit down with a "counselor" to close the deal.  

"Standard membership" costs as much as $14,900, but consumers tell  Eight On Your Side their "counselors" dropped the price during their sales pitch to as little as $1,400 in order to close the deal.

If consumers agree to become members they are actually joining a travel club called Global Connections Inc. based in Kansas. In some cases they will sign a revolving credit agreement to pay for the membership cost at a 21% interest rate.

Global Vacation Network President Terry Diegel said his staff does not apply high pressure sales tactics, and says consumers have three days to cancel the contracts they sign.

But consumers we spoke with say they have to agree on the spot after a sales presentation or the Global Vacation Network membership offer is no good and they have no opportunity to talk over the deal in private.

"We came outside to talk to have privacy and he came out right behind us," said consumer Christine Bierman, who came to a presentation in Palm Harbor with her husband, Lee.

"I noticed that the other couples that came out to talk, their counselor is there with them, they follow them out," Bierman said.

All this to receive a "FREE Android tablet computer" that bears no brand or place of manufacture, certificates for travel that come with strings attached, and the opportunity to book "discounted" travel through the club they just joined.

The Better Business Bureau has received around 200 complaints about the business practices of Global Vacation Network. The BBB does not accredit the organization and gives it a C- rating based on the record of consumer complaints.

Ray Bierman thought better of the deal he signed and decided to cancel before he left the company's parking lot.

"Be sharp people, do your homework before you jump into something," Bierman said. "Usually when something sounds too good, as my father put it, it's too good to be true."

The Better Business Bureau says beware of offers that require an immediate decision. Any deal that's good for the moment should also be good in a week, after you've had time to think it over.

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