Pay attention to “Free” accommodation giveaways

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.

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.

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.

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.

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$.

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.

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.

But don’t worry, they are negotiable

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?!

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 ».

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.

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.

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:

  • Le « Time sharing » frappe encore, 1er november 2014
  • Signer en connaissance de cause, 16 mai 2014
  • Arnaque au FestiVoix: « Les gens ne lisent pas les informations », 23 août 2013
  • L’OPC fait une solide mise en garde è Club Vacances Saisons et Navillus, 6 mai 2013
  • Vacances à temps partagé, l’OPC aurait pu intervenir, 20 novembre 2012
  • Reportage de La Facture, 20 novembre 2012
  • Reportage de La Facture, 12 novembre 2012

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