In An Attempt To Scam The Scammer

>> Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Business first, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has put an indefinitely stay on its DADT ruling yesterday, which timing-wise is decidedly suspicious. Were they throwing the fight for the Democrats? I'm still a bit dismayed by the situation where us gays have to be loyal to Democrats and in turn they get to be wishy-washy about us. If we keep on supporting the bunch no matter what, when will they ever learn to support us back? But I guess a tease is better than a definite no, so vote Democrats!

Speaking of scams, about a month ago I went to our biggest mall around the area in the suburb and saw a pretty nice car in the middle of it given away in a drawing. So I signed up in hopes of getting a car that I don't know how to drive. Resale value, right? Anyhow, about 2 weeks ago I received a call from the Wyndham Resorts group telling me that because I signed up, I can join them in Atlantic City for a 2-hour presentation and at the end of the presentation I will get a $25 casino cash certificate and 2 3-night stays at any Ramada in the country other than North Dakota. "But who wants to go to Fargo, right?" says the charming lady.

I didn't see any harm in that and I'm also tempted by the potential hotel stays so I can go somewhere with the boyfriend. So instead of going to DC supporting the Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear like any good liberal should on Saturday, I scheduled to go to Atlantic City and see what's up. I have talked to a friend who had gone through similar stuff and while he swore that he'll never do something like that again, he did say he got what he was promised at the end so how bad can it be?

It wasn't at the nearby Wyndham Towers but a nearby office building which I thought it was a tiny bit suspicious. I arrive 15 minutes early and brought my credit card as requested, signed up and waited for the presentation. I see a lot of families or couples attending and soon, they are all scooped up by sales agent in their late 30s to 40s. I was the last one to be swept away to another room where they socialized waiting for the actual presentation. A high-energy, enigmatic presenter comes out to present to about a dozen of families. He started by asking why people goes on vacation and where they'd like to go, starting to built up our travel fantasies. At the same time, he tells us how traveling relief stress hence reduce our chances of stroke and heart attacks. Mmm, okay...

The presentation goes on describing how Wyndham Resorts is one of the Fortune 100 companies and it's in the top 10 most ethical companies. I'm always highly skeptical with claims like these. Turns out, they are selling an inheritable timeshare that you accumulate points in exchange for nights in their resorts around the world, the points can also be changed into flights and other accommodations. After sitting through a 15 minutes commercial with boring sleepy music with their CEO and consumers talking about how great the resorts and the program are.

The presenter told us about a little anecdote about a huge football player who was there with his wife and twin daughters investing in the timeshare. His daughters were thrilled about the opportunity to go to Disneyland. A year or two later, the football player came back to the office and showed our presenter his travel pictures and afterwards, he told him that the wife and daughters had died in a car accident and in a shaky voice our presenter told us the moral of the story is to treasure the ones near us because they could be gone one day and the time share is a commitment to those near us that you will spend quality time with them. Hello, single here! And are you telling me the poor sob invested on your program and is reminded that his family is gone everyday by a vacation program that he's still paying for and won't get to use it anymore?

After that brilliant end of the presentation 75 minutes in, my dedicated salesperson came over for an one-on-one which he took me on a tour of some room models. "It's not your traditional two beds, a bath and a bible" Dan says. "There's a kitchen, a living room with a sofa bed, a small jacuzzi in the bathroom." At this point, I'm curious on why the cost of the program were still unmentioned. After leading me to a huge touchscreen TV and showing me how the resorts around the country look like, Dan took me to the cold patio to tell me how great the value of the program is and then back to a table to seat me down. Retrospectively I guess I needed to seat down, because as he revealed the price, he asked me for a $67,000 down payment for 30-40 days a year of resort time. Seriously Dan? For the price of 4 cars?

Of course, I refused the outrageous notion that anyone would have that much vacation time and for a single person renting an apartment, I would rather use that money to pay for a down payment for a condo somewhere. I started to see Dan's wise guy edge as he pressure me into giving him reasons why I can't do it and all the reasons I give him seems to be not good enough for him. After refusing again, he called over the sales manager who is obviously playing for my team. Let's call him Scott. Scott seems to be your regular car salesman says he's going to find me some better deals while Dan tries to pressure me some more. A second deal of $15,000 for 10 nights a year which I rejected and a third deal of $2000 for 5 nights a year, which I said I'll have to go back and research some more before I can respond because I'm not an impulse buyer. They told me the offers are only valid if I bought into it right there and refused to give me copies of their information. Just as well.

Dan further pressure me to give him some contacts in order to get into another raffle for something else and then he past me off to another guy who asked me questions about the performance of the salespeople and again, my reason for not participating. Then, it's prize time. I got a $25 cash voucher that I successfully cashed in at a Trump Casino. The vacation package that I was set to receive including some dinner compensations from an entity called Spirit Incentives turned out to have very weird and scammy rules.

1) You have to send them $100 good faith deposit. They will give it back to you 30 days after travel is done, but if you don't show up, they will keep it.

2) You have to mail in your dates to them within 45 days and 45 days before departures to see availability. The dates have to be Sunday through Wednesday and you have to pay $25 if you want them changed. Not valid for 7 days before or after any major holidays.

After researching online, it turns out tons of sites equate Spirit Incentives with the word scam. You will never get the time you want to travel and the cost of it will end up surpassing your expectation even though it was meant to be a free gift. You either have to complain to the Better Business Bureau or purchase the timeshare for it to work, and good luck getting a refund.

At the end, I did sorta got a free trip to Atlantic City and a free lunch. Assuming they didn't trick me into signing up for anything I didn't want. It wasn't too bad and a little interesting. I was conscious of not giving out information too sensitive, though it makes me question businesses like Wyndham and Trump Casinos now.

I left Atlantic City slightly disappointed but unscathed. I wonder if anyone had really put out $67,000 that day to a company they barely knew was legit.

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