The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

April 12, 2014

Free $1.4G trip may cost you $3G

LEWISBURG — Have you taken a trip by plane lately? If so, did everything go smoothly or were you inconvenienced enough that you requested a refund?

Sam F. of Lewisburg, 56, recently took a business trip and experienced significant delays and cancellations each way. He emailed a complaint to US Airways and was still waiting for a reply when he received a letter he assumed was from the airline.

The letter said it was his final notification, that attempts to reach him had been unsuccessful, and that he qualified for two round-trip airline tickets anywhere in the United States.

In addition, he would also receive two free nights at a Marriott Hotel.

The value of this award, it read, “is up to $1,398.”

To Sam, that seemed more than fair for the aggravation he experienced on his business trip. He was glad he had complained to the airline and very glad about the generous compensation. The next day he called to claim his “refund.”

The letter had not come from the airline. It was actually a well-disguised invitation from a wholesale travel company called Beyond Expectations — or Beyond Xpectations — inviting Sam and his wife to a 90-minute, timeshare-sounding presentation in Bloomsburg. The “travel rep” asked for their ages, their combined income and confirmation they had a credit card. After the presentation, she said, they would receive the free travel vouchers “as compensation for my time,” Sam said.

He looked at the letter more closely — there was no mention of Beyond Xpectations. All he had seen were the airlines listed across the top —  US Air along with Southwest and Jet Blue.

“But it’s US Airways, not US Air, and it’s JetBlue, not Jet Blue,” he said, pointing out the incorrect spellings of two of the airlines.

He hadn’t looked at the fine print on the other side of the letter either: “This promotion is not sponsored by or affiliated with Marriott or any other third-party business referenced in this promotion, but they are major suppliers.”

Online postings have Beyond Xpectations calling itself “a full-service destination provider, that understands how frustrating vacation planning can be. Its founders began the company because they wanted to create an affordable, low-stress, streamlined way of putting together a trip.”

Elsewhere online, plenty of people have different thoughts about the company, its flight and cruise offers and even the length of the required presentation.

In a forum on TripAdvisor.com was the following post: “We just attended their 1½-hour sales pitch for lifetime travel time shares club. They want about $3,000 up front for a married couple and $199 per year.”

Another wrote: “There will be ‘fees’ to pay plus you will be locked into a small travel window that might not be right for you. Also, the 90-minute presentation typically will last three to four hours and if you leave early, no ‘free’ cruise.”

Just a month ago these comments about Beyond Xpectations were posted on YahooAnswers: “You will have to ‘qualify’ as a married couple between the ages of 35-70, and be able to prove you have $60,000 annual income or higher. Then you will have to come out to hear their 90-minute presentation where they will strong arm you into buying into their vacation club — which is very similar to a time share ...  very persuasive scam, they make it very difficult for you to leave without making a financial commitment. Stay away.”

If he hadn’t been expecting some sort of communications from the airlines, Sam said, he probably wouldn’t have been so believing. “The timing,” he said, “was pretty amazing.”

He declined to attend any of the presentations. Disappointed he had been duped by the letter, he also felt the Beyond Xpectations “travel rep” was deceitful.

“When I called, she said they were soon opening an office in my area. I asked where and she just said Bloomsburg,” Sam said, but then later, when he asked for the address of the presentation, the address she gave him “wasn’t for any sort of office,” he said.

“It’s a Hampton Inn. They probably just come into an area, flood it with these type of letters, rent space at a hotel and then leave town.”

 

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