Beware of Mickey Mouse opportunities

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While running a few errands with my wife recently, I received a phone call on my cell. While wheeling the grocery cart towards my vehicle, I was informed by an overly enthusiastic gentleman that I had been selected for a very special opportunity. Imagine — of all the people in the world, I was the chosen one!

Instead of my customary “Sorry, not interested,” I let the caller inform me of the special offer. I was told that I was the first Canadian in 28 years to be selected for an amazing, if not ridiculously discounted vacation deal. Upon sifting through the congratulatory hoopla where it seemed I won some mega-prize, I was in fact, speaking to an agent for an American tour company out of Florida. I was informed that I could have four days and three nights in Orlando, Fla. at a premier hotel, two Disney passes, four days and three nights in Daytona Beach at a fancy resort and two more “hotspot” destinations.

The first layers of the conversation were very convincing and I was inclined to believe that I had actually won something spectacular. I asked the agent to review what I had won and then he informed me that I did not win anything; I was being offered a significantly discounted vacation package. For $498 USD I could have the aforementioned travel itinerary. All I would need to do is arrange my own airfare and attend a 90-minute information session at each destination to explore purchase options for future vacations. These sessions would be mandatory and not attending would forfeit the deal and I would be charged full retail price. But of course, there is no pressure or obligation to buy anything.

The bonus offer, a four-day and three-night Carnival cruise to Nassau, would only cost an additional $199 per person. There were also two more travel destinations of my choice for no charge. How could anyone resist? What’s more, these people had my credit card information, which had been sold to them by another company with whom I have since minced words. Despite the excitement of being the first Canadian to get this offer since the day Pierre Trudeau brought home the constitution, I was simply being told I was exempt from US luxury taxes on a travel offer that retails for $5,000. I would only have to pay 10 per cent of the total price.

I was told that documents attesting to my offer would be emailed within 90 minutes and that all I needed to do was verify my credit card data. If I was not satisfied with any aspect of the offer, I could cancel at anytime within the next 30 days. The reality is there are too many companies like this who prey upon unsuspecting consumers — far too often seniors — and really offer nothing other than a high-pressure sales pitch.

If I really want to go to Disney World in Orlando, I will book through a fly by day company rather than some Mickey Mouse wannabees. As great as this deal sounded, a little Internet research turned up many unfavourable blogs about this “opportunity of a lifetime.” It simply was a case of sales pitch hell.

Everyone likes to be a winner. In the case of these super vacation deals, the consumer seldom wins. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Tim Cusack recently purchased a very nice oceanfront lot in Saskatoon.

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St. Albert Gazette

The St. Albert Gazette has been the source for news and community information in St. Albert and area since 1961. Today the twice-weekly full-colour tabloid delivers award-winning journalism in print, online and on mobile.