Customers confused by travel company's 'free' trip offers - WSMV Channel 4

Customers confused by travel company's 'free' trip offers

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When the weather turns cold, a cruise sounds like a nice getaway. But some say a Brentwood business offered them free cruises that never materialized.

One man claims he is out $5,000, has nothing to show for it and can't even get someone to return his phone calls.

Jerry Surratt loves to travel, so when he and his wife, Barbara, got a call in September offering them deep discounts on vacations, the couple was all ears.

"I thought it would be a great segway into retirement," Jerry Surratt said.

Simplicity Travel offers people memberships to a vacation club. It costs $9,000 to join, and in exchange, customers are offered tremendous discounts on exotic vacations.

Just for listening to the company's 90-minute speech, they offer people a free cruise - regardless of whether they buy or not.

Buying in was a decision Jerry Surratt says wound up costing him thousands of dollars, with no discounts, plus countless hours spent trying to get the money back.

"I never received a product that was aligned with the $4,995. I never received anything," Jerry Surratt said.

Had he first checked the Better Business Bureau's website, Jerry Surratt would have seen an F rating for Simplicity Travel.

"All of it has built up to mislead the customer," said Kathleen Calligan, with the Better Business Bureau.

More than a dozen people have filed complaints against Simplicity Travel this year with complaints similar to the Surratts. The BBB even issued an alert after the company allegedly lied about being a member and boasted about a phony A rating.

"Saying they have an A rating with the Better Business Bureau is false and misleading," Calligan said.

Despite his skepticism, Jerry Surratt said he signed up because a man claiming to be a company leader cut the fee in half and gave him a business card with his personal cell phone number on it, assuring the Surratts he would help them work out any questions they may have.

Channel 4 News spoke with a manager with Simplicity Travel, who said the man listed on the business card left the company the day after the Surratts bought their membership.

They have since fired the marketing company which said the cruises were free and changed their language to say they are "complimentary." Customers still have to pay the fees associated with the cruise in order to receive the trip.

As for the BBB alert, the manager said his company has never claimed to be a member of the BBB and, in fact, doesn't want to be a member.

Finally, the manager said the company's contracts are ironclad, so the chances of the Surratts getting a refund are not good.

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