Better Business Bureau: 'Free' airline tickets come with a catch

May 9, 2013 

Boise resident Ben Murray, recently retired and looks forward to travel abroad like many other retirees.

Fixed income and resources do put some crunches on where and how he will travel, however a trip to Boston in the fall remains appealing.

When he received a letter from "American" saying there were two round-trip airline tickets available if he would listen to a sales pitch for condos, he was intrigued.

"We went with the desire to get the airline tickets," he admits. "I knew we were in for a sales promotion."

Two hours after walking into the hotel conference room, having rejected three different proposals ranging in price from $12,000 up front, to $1,900, he and his wife signed the dotted line for a condo package he wasn't certain he wanted.

Murray is not alone in falling for a sales pitch that hit the Valley in recent weeks, with non-descript, generic looking letters from "American." This latest version is a sealed envelope with a postmark from Phoenix, and the letterhead has no return address only the words "American." The letter is signed by Eli Rey, vice president. There is only a single phone number.

Treasure Valley residents flocked to meetings last year under the same pretense of tickets to travel in the U.S. Warnings were issued in April, July and October telling people to study the offer before you sign.

BBB suggests:

• Study the paperwork outside of the presentation environment and, if possible, ask someone who is knowledgeable about contracts and real estate to review it before you make a decision.

• Get the name and phone number of someone at the company who can answer your questions - before, during, and after the sales presentation, and after your purchase.

• Ask about your ability to cancel the contract, sometimes referred to as a "right of rescission." Idaho, and other states, - and maybe your contract - give you a right of rescission, but the amount of time you have to cancel may vary. State law or your contract also may specify a "cooling-off period" - that is, how long you have to cancel the deal once you've signed the papers. If law doesn't require a right of rescission or a cooling-off period, ask that it be included in your contract.

• If, for some reason, you decide to cancel the purchase - either through your contract or state law - do it in writing. Send your letter by certified mail, and ask for a return receipt so you can document what the seller received the notice. Keep copies of your letter and any enclosures. You should receive a prompt refund of any money you paid, as provided by law.

Buyer's remorse - that feeling you get after you stood at the checkout line eager to buy something only to find you can't recall that invisible force that brought you to make the purchase once you get home. It is common.

Murray says, "I did find a three-day rescission paper in the documents (although they were buried in the 'fun' parts of the package). So, we are sending them off along with the airline tickets - certified, return receipt."

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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