When we looked at Federal Trade Commission cases, Better Business Bureau reports, and consumer-complaint websites, including Complaints.com and RipoffReport, we found plenty of gripes about vacation clubs. For example, in March the New Jersey attorney general sued a company and its owner for failing to provide the deep discounts, vacation accommodations, and other travel services that they claim had been promised. But the company did collect one-time membership fees that ranged from $995 to $8,500, plus a $29.95 monthly charge. "We allege that consumers paid significant money for sham memberships that were essentially worthless," said Thomas R. Calcagni, director of the state’s consumer affairs division, in a statement.
If you’re at all tempted to join a club, ask one of its representatives for a detailed explanation of any vaguely worded descriptions, such as "5-star" accommodations, the FTC says. Also ask about trip-cancellation and refund policies. Get the answers in writing. Check the BBB website for any reports on the club, and try a Web search using the company name to find out what customers are saying. Be especially wary of unsolicited promotions that come by regular mail, e-mail, or fax offering deeply discounted travel packages.
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