Beware Free Accommodation Giveaways
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Beware of « Free » accommodation giveaways

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Congratulations! You’ve won free accommodations in the Caribbean!

In Quebec, we are used to the famous phone calls about the free cruise in Bahamas, but there are different strategies to attract people, such as giveaways in festivals or on Facebook.

A couple of weeks ago, I’ve been to a foodies’ festival where I really had a great time. One of the kiosk didn’t quite fit with the others though. It was a company making a draw to win free accommodations in Quebec or in the Caribbean.

You know how much I love travelling, so I talked with the lady at the kiosk to learn a little more about the company. She told me she was new and wasn’t the good person to talk about it, that I should call at the office. Because I wanted to win free accommodations in the Caribbean (who doesn’t?), I completed the form to enter the draw.

At the end of the day, I forgot to call the company, and forgot about the draw.

This week, I received a phone call from a woman from this company announcing me that I won the free accommodations. How great was it! During this first call, I clearly asked if it was time sharing, because if it was, I was not interested. She said that it was not, and that the company was a travel agency. I added that I was really interested by the prize, but that I wouldn’t pay anything in exchange for it. She reassured me that I wouldn’t have to pay anything. So, I took the appointment to go on site and get my gift. That was the first time I mentioned that I wasn’t interested in paying anything in exchange for the prize.

Two hours before my appointment, I decided to call a second time, to double-check the information. I talked with the woman and she told me again that nobody would try to sell me anything and that they would only explain me how to make my reservation because I have one year to take it. I told her I was really busy this day and she told me it would only take 30 minutes.

50 winners!

Arriving at their office to get my prize, I realized that there were 50 persons who also won, and I then began to be very suspicious. I told the man at the door that I thought it was really strange that we were so many winners, and that I wanted to be sure I would not have to pay anything or signed a contract to get my prize. He told me I would not have to pay or sign anything. Good, because that was the second time I told them my intention.

The start

Every couple are matched with a seller to be explained how the company works. Ours began by telling us the company was rated 4,6 stars on Trip Advisor. It’s a good way to make people comfortable, because it’s a known source.

It turns out the company was indeed a member of a time sharing program that have bad reviews on Trip Advisor.

Cheap flights

The seller asked me where I was travelling this year, so he can tell me how much money I lost. (!?)

After a quick research, he decided to compare prices based on my three next destinations: Greece, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.

He told me I could have paid my ticket to Greece around 400$ cheaper than what I actually paid. On the spot, I did a quick search on Skyscanner to see if I could find the same price. I couldn’t, and he was indeed offering me a very cheaper price.

The problem is that if you want to have access to those prices, you have to sign a contract with them to rent accommodations.

The Accommodations

The company works only works with 5 stars resorts. Personally, I don’t like to stay in those resorts and I prefer hostels and AirBnB rentals.

The seller then told me that it was impossible to rent a room with AirBnB for under 40$ in these towns. I answered back that I was a very active user of this service and that I was more than sure that I could find accommodations for less than 20$.

Back home, here’s what I found:

Airbnb Athens

AirBnb Colombo

AirBnb Istanbul

He said that anyway, that wouldn’t be the same than 5 stars resorts, which I totally agree! Ahah!

But, for the third time, I told him I wasn’t interested by any of their offers, because I was not interested to stay in these resorts and that I just wanted to get the prize I won.

He didn’t give me the prize and presented me the offer anyway.

The « deal » with their accommodations

The deal they have to offer you is 50 000 points for 627$. The cost of a night in one of their 5 stars hotels is approximately 1500 points.

So, if we do the math, it costs around 18$ per night to stay in a 5 stars hotels. That’s a very good deal right?

But wait a minute.

This offer is based on a 39 years contract. THIRTY-NINE YEARS!!!!

So basically, you have access to this offer if you are willing to sign a 24 453$ contract!

No sorry, but for the fourth time, I’m gonna have to say that I am not interested and I’d like to have my prize please.

But don’t worry, they are negotiable

Seeing that I was obviously not gonna signed any contract or buy anything, they invited my boyfriend and I to pass in another private room to get our prize.

It turns out, we had to listen to the pitch again, but this time, they were willing to go for a 10 years contract « only ».

I said that no matter how low they would go with the contract, I would not signed because I was not interested by the products they offer. I even said politely that it was the fifth time I told that I was not interested by their offer and that now enough was enough and that I wanted my prize.

The new seller answered me back that I would not want to travel the way I travel now forever and that I would love to stay in a real hotels when I’ll have kids. Because who knows you better than somebody who saw you for the first time 5 minutes ago, right?!

Intimidation

Seeing that I was firm in my intention not to buy anything, this second seller invited a third one!

They closed the door and they told me that I knew it was a promotion and that I needed to listen to what they had to say because that was the deal to get the prize.

I told them I was listening for 40 minutes and that I was still not interested. I told them that I was feeling pressured and that I was not feeling good.

They told me that I had a closed mind and that I just didn’t understand the economy I could realize with them and that I had to listen again until I understand.

At this moment my boyfriend grabbed my hand and we quit.

Conclusion

Would they have eventually give me the prize if I didn’t quit? I’ll never know. 

This post, from November 2014, talk about a very similar situation.


Update on September 16, 2015:

French articles published about Time sharing // Articles en français sur le sujet:


UPDATE: On September 11, 2015, I have been contacted by someone from the company via my private Facebook account. He asked me to remove this post saying it was lies. I offered him to send me his version, but he refused.

UPDATE: On September 18, 2015, the post has been updated.


I made sure to share the story with the authority, the foodies’ festival and different news channel such as La Presse, Le Journal de Montréal, Le Journal de Québec, Le Courrier du Sud, Le Rive-Sud Express, La Facture, Enquête. I had as an answer that they are very closely looking at the practice of this company and their owners. You can be sure that I’ll have a drink to celebrate the publication of these articles!

Annie drinking to celebrate


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11 Commentaires

  • Reply S 17 septembre 2015 at 8 h 59 min

    Thank you for your post!

  • Reply Amélie 19 septembre 2015 at 8 h 42 min

    Salut Annie! En tant que conseillère en voyages, je peux t’assurer que s’ils se vantent d’être une agence, ils doivent détenir un permis du Qc, délivré par l’OPC. Tu devrais également faire un suivi avec l’OPC.

    • Reply Annie Anywhere 19 septembre 2015 at 21 h 05 min

      J’ai déjà fait une plainte à l’OPC, t’inquiète! :) Merci pour l’appui!

  • Reply xavier aguilar 19 septembre 2015 at 20 h 09 min

    nous aussi on avait gagné un prix en participant a un tirage. On s’Est présenté a leur bureau sans trop d’information en pensant récupéré notre prix et on a été embarqué dans une présentation sur les voyages et les économies possible en passant par leur compagnie. Bizarre de voir que la place est remplie de représentant qui ne peuvent pas trop de parler de prix avant l’offre d’un directeur. Ensuite tu te présente dans le bureau du directeur et il te fait une offre sur 3-5-7-10 ans avec des prix variant entre 10000 et 3000$. si tu dit non je ne susis pas interessé le directeur quitte le bureu l’aire un peu fâché et s’assure d’aller parler a sa représentante qui revient et tente a nouveau de voir comment on pourrait economiser dans nos voyages. elle te propose même des versements par mois pour profiter de cette offre exclusive!!! on part de gasgné un voyage et revient avec un coupons bidon que je n’ai pas trop envie de remplir…on nous a offert trois choix avec a piene une photo mais c’était la raison principale pour laquelle je me présentait lâ, bizarre

    • Reply Annie Anywhere 19 septembre 2015 at 21 h 01 min

      Si c’est une compagnie au Québec, tu peux remplir une plainte sur le site de l’Office de la Protection du Consommateurs. C’est gratuit et ça permet d’avoir l’heure juste sur les pratiques des compagnies de ce genre.
      Voici le lien: http://www.opc.gouv.qc.ca/

      Il ne faut pas hésiter à dénoncer publiquement ces compagnies!

  • Reply Alouise 19 septembre 2015 at 22 h 35 min

    I love entering travel contests, and I’ve even been lucky enough to win a few legit ones, but I hate when scammy companies come in a try to pressure people into taking a deal for something that’s « free » that isn’t worth it. Good for you for standing up for yourself and doing the research to see that this was a scam. And thanks for sharing your experience. I’ll be sure to share this post on my Facebook and Twitter pages to make sure other people are aware of these types of scams.

  • Reply Valerie 21 septembre 2015 at 13 h 45 min

    Wow! Je suis bien contente d’être tombée sur ton article aujourd’hui! J’ai justement reçu un appel de cette compagnie hier me disant que je gagnais un hébergement de 3-4 jours au Qc (2 choix d’endroits) ou de 7 jours dans les Caraibes pour 2 adultes et 2 enfants. J’ai posée plusieurs fois la question si je devais déboursé des frais et elle m’a dit non, qu’ils faisaient cette promotion simplement pour que les gens parlent d’eux (en tant qu’agence de voyage) et les nommes en références à leur famille, amis, ect. Je devais par contre me présenté direct en succursale et avec mon conjoint ABSOLUMENT pour récupérer le prix. J’ai trouvée ça spécial et je me suis justement demandé si ce n’était pas une attrape ou du time sharing (leur site web me donnait des doutes aussi) j’adore aussi voyager alors c’est sur que j’étais curieuse à savoir si j’ai vraiment gagner! Je dois me déplacé de loin quand même alors merci à toi de nous avoir parler de ton expérience!

  • Reply Chantae 21 septembre 2015 at 23 h 14 min

    This sounds horrible. Thanks for letting us know about these types of things. I’ll for sure be on the lookout.

  • Reply Marie-Julie 5 octobre 2015 at 12 h 46 min

    J’ai gagné aussi, j’ai rendez-vous samedi. Bien envie d’envoyer JE à ma place!

  • Reply Annie Anywhere 7 octobre 2015 at 9 h 01 min

    Hi everybody! Just a quick reminder that comments must be respectful and that your comments represent your opinions only. :)

    Bonjour! Simplement un petit rappel que vos commentaires doivent être respectueux, et que vos commentaires ne représentent que vos opinions personnelles. :)

    Thanks / Merci!

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