Posted by Sudbury Northern Life Reporter David Eckert
Rick Hogue said he was surprised when he received a package in the mail for a free, all-expenses paid trip to Florida. He was even more surprised when he learned the trip was not as free as it was advertised.
The organizers of the trip, Ramada Plaza Resorts, invited those who had received the vouchers for $1,300 to a presentation to advertise the benefits of the vacation company's travel options.
The presentation was supposed to last two hours, Hogue said. In reality, the presenters kept participants there for more than six hours. Hogue, a downtown Sudbury resident, said he and other people invited to the presentation were "held hostage," as the presenters aggressively tried to sell more and more of their services.
"I didn't mind the fact that we were invited to the presentation," Hogue said. "But the aggressive sales tactics were too much."
Despite the aggressive tactics, Hogue and his fiancÃ©e still went on the trip. He noted there were a lot little things they were charged for that they didn't expect - such as an extra charge for the orange juice in the morning or an extra few dollars for the use of a security safe in their room.
What he was most displeased about was the vouchers he received. There were vouchers for free meals at restaurants that closed after 2 p.m. However, the hotel check-in times were 3 p.m., causing the vouchers to expire before they could be used.
Hogue said he was disappointed with the wait times required for getting onto the cruise ships. And there were weight restrictions on the provided bunks.
"There were bunk beds set up in the cabins, with the top bunks having posted weight restrictions of 145 pounds," Hogue said. "It seemed like they were coaxing us into paying for an extra room."
Hogue said that, in the end, it was nice to go on vacation, but that he would "never use Ramada Plaza Resorts again."
Northern Life tried to contact Ramada Plaza Resorts. After a series of redirections, Northern Life was forwarded to Joe Gallant, the senior travel co-ordinator for Caribbean Cruise Lines, the firm that transports the Ramada vacationers. He said he regretted hearing about Mr. Hogue's experience, and that Caribbean Cruise Lines always tries to use professional manners with customers and tries to provide them with as much information as they need.
Glenn Thibeault, MP for Sudbury, currently serves as the consumer protection critic for the New Democratic Party in the House of Commons. He released a statement about the matter.
"People should always be careful when any business, including travel agencies, call them with offers of something free.
It is not uncommon for certain companies to use tactics of persuasion to get people to purchase their products or services. It is not right that they use these tactics, and that is why people need to use caution when dealing with them.
I am certainly concerned about this matter, and urge anyone who is approached by companies like this to do their research before accepting any offers."