Free airline tickets: Too good to be true?

By Lynda Figueredo - bioemail

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - There is a new discount travel club in town.

The Vacation Station has been open for just about a week and is already receiving complaints.

WTOC followed one skeptical customer, who says the business isn't what it appears to be.

Angel and Gary Shurling received a letter saying they were lucky recipients of two free airline tickets, a deal they thought was too good to be true, that's why they called us and invited us to go along with them to where they were told they could pick up their tickets. When they arrived at the Vacation Station's headquarters on River street, they never thought they would be asked to join a club to get the airline tickets.

The deal sounded too good to the Shurlings, in a letter they were told they had qualified for two free roundtrip airline tickets, so they contacted the phone number on the letter and were invited to attend a meeting.

"We expected to hear about a new airline coming to Savannah," said Angel.

When they arrived at the airline's new office on River Street, they soon found out it wasn't an airline, it was a company called the Vacation Station. Angel Shurling wore a microphone to the briefing so we could hear what was said.

"We're just a travel agency and we have a different way of promoting our business," said a Vacation Station Employee inside. "If we ran add on newspaper on radio, TV, you may not show up. At least we got you in. We bribed you."

After a 45 minute presentation about the travel company that sells club memberships that they say allows people to travel the world at whole sale prices for about $6,000, the Shurlings left with two arline vouchers that they'll redeem only if they pay a taxes and fees.

"It is a ploy to get you in to look at their travel plan," said Angel.

"Wouldn't you call that the cost of marketing?" said the marketing director.

As we were talking to the Shurling's, the marketing director told us they use a third party vendor that offers the tickets to help bring customers in, but the Shurlings say they felt like they were lied to.

"Why couldn't they just use this tickets. It wasn't a ploy to get someone in for an airline coming into Savannah, it's arline tickets for anyone in the US," said the Marketing Director. "That's what we were told," said Angel. "Well once you use those that's just the cost of marketing wouldn't you agree?" questioned the marketing director.

We took a moment to ask the Shurlings what they really thought.

"They probably just called us in to try and sell us this. I was just about to say maybe we did get two airline tickets, now I am very leary," said Angel.

When we went back to get more information about the company, the marketing director wouldn't go on camera.

"Come over here. I have something to say, come on come one. Lets go over here," said the Marketing Director. "If you have something to say you can talk to me like a normal person and I can put on a mic on you,"said Lynda Figueredo." "What's up," said the marketing director as he walked away.

After the nerves settled we were able to get some more information about the their marketing strategy and the letter the Shurlings received. Membership Director Sam Campbell says he is unaware of what is being sent to their potential customers.

"I don't do marketing myself, I am the director of our membership, so I deal mainly with our members," said Campbell. "As far as marketing, I would have to go to our marketing director in our corporate office in Charleston."

Just to be clear the Shurling's did get their plane vouchers like they were promised, after listening to the presentation, but there have been numerous complaints about the company.

On WTOC New at 6 on Thursday, you will hear from the Better Business Bureau and let them tell us if this type of advertising is to good to be true.

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