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Do You Really Want a Vacation Venture?

One of the most prevalent warnings that consumer protection agencies offer is to be wary of travel certificates. Some travel certificates are sold directly to consumers, while others are provided as part of a promotional incentive.

However these certificates get into the hands of the consumer, it usually turns out that the certificates are worth much less than they may at first appear. Often, there's a requirement to pay for several days of hotel accomodations at the so-called rack rates. The consumer is likely to be responsible for processing fees, taxes, and many other charges. The consumer may be required to pay a deposit to cover these costs, and then apply to the travel agency honoring the certificate for a refund of the excess deposit.

Additionally, there are serious restrictions on when these can be used. These aren't simple blackout dates, but are a requirement to allow the travel agency to choose from among several alternate dates. This is on top of common mid-week travel requirements, and a requirement to give the travel agency two or three months notice before the earliest travel date specified. If you have a change of plan, you may lose your rights in the travel certificate as well as any processing fees and deposits you have paid.

The Orlando Better Business Bureau's has put together a carefully-worded description of how one company handles the "rules" of these packages:

If you are considering one of the company's packages, read and understand the terms and conditions of the offer, specifically, the cancellation and refund policy, as the company strictly adheres to the specifics outlined in the package.

The Cagey Consumer chooses to be more outspoken about these "deals". The BBB says that the company strictly "adheres", but what they really mean to say is that they require the consumer to strictly abide by the stated restrictions. The rules of these packages are extremely restrictive. The excessive price you pay for accomodations is what pays for the air fare, which could turn out to be on a red-eye flight or otherwise be inconvenient. When you "break" one of their rules, you're totally out of luck. And if they break a rule, you're out of luck too. And if you merely get cold feet, deciding that you can't trust the company you're dealing with, don't expect to get your processing fees returned. In short, you might conclude that for most consumers, these travel certificates are worth less than nothing, and you just might be right.

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Revision r1.8 - 05 Jun 2007 - 22:36 by EliMantel web search for EliMantel
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