Tuesday, June 18 2013, 10:14 AM MDT
Good Question: Who Is Behind Flyers In Utah Promising Airfare Award
By Matt Gephardt
Produced by Cindy St Clair
Edited by Ryan Malavolta
(KUTV) Shanna and Don Thurman say they were excited when they got a flyer in the mail saying they had qualified for an "award" of two roundtrip airline tickets, worth just under $1300. But Don says something wasn't adding up.
"The envelope didn't have a return address on it, didn't have a company logo, there was nothing that this is anything more than somebody typed up a letter," he said.
Don says he feared the letter was a scam, and he asked Get Gephardt to investigate. We began by calling the number on the flyer. The person who answered the phone said we could get more information by visiting AmericanTravelDeals.com.
According to the website, "American Travel Deals is the nation's leader in discount travel agency promotional appointments." The website does not say where the company is located.
We searched for who set up the website, but that turned out to be a dead end. The website was set up to be "WhoIsGuardProtected," which hides the website owner's information.
The person on the phone did give an address of 250 West 600 South in Salt Lake City. That address is the location of a Hilton Garden Inn. Inside, we found banners that read a different name: Vacation Smart International as well as closed doors with signs reading, "Session in Progress."
Inside, Get Gephardt spoke to two different employees of the mystery company. Neither would tell me anything, but each handed me a folded up piece of paper with contact information to the lawyer.
That lawyer, David Karen based out of Oxnard, California told me Vacation Smart International, "provides wholesale pricing for travel and vacations." We asked him why it was so hard to track down a company official, specifically asking, “Why the Secrecy.” Without answering that question directly, he said, "The call center personnel are trained AND PAID to only set. He did appointments and would not have any information regarding the structure of the company." Karen says that to get the airfare, their clients have to sit through a 90 minute sales presentation.
Utah law makes it clear, you cannot advertise something using the words, "free" or "prize" if there is a condition like, having to sit through a 90 minute sales presentation. Vacation Smart International didn't say, "free" or "prize," in their promotions. They called the airfare an "award." We asked the Utah Division of Consumer Protection if that breaks the rules. They told us they have received complaints and are investigating.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)