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Is That Vacation Invitation a Scam?

Updated on July 13, 2012
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

There I was, pacing the living room, racking my brain for ideas. What could I possibly say about "Improving Your Life" that would stand out from the Hubmob (hundreds or thousands of other Hub Pages writers writing on the same topic?

Suddenly, inspiration flew in through the mail slot and fluttered to my feet. A 4x6 postcard with the United Airlines logo prominently displayed. Travel? Airplane? Bingo! Instant life improvement idea, coming up!

The first thing that caught my attention, in large, capital letters across the top: "DO NOT INTERRUPT DELIVERY TO RECEIVER." Luckily I was alone. Not one of my cats showed any interest in today's mail. My husband was not home to wrestle me for this obviously important mail. I snatched the postcard into my tingling hands and eagerly checked the address side. The receiver was me!! So far, so good.


Since I'd already turned the postcard over to make sure it was, indeed, addressed to me, I started there.

Here's what it said:

Aloha, Ms. Might Y. Mom*... Pack your bags! IN CELEBRATION OF OUR ANNIVERSARY, you were verified as of 01/13/09 and as a result of this offer your name and ticketing number have been identified and issued! You will receive at your request Two Roundtrip Airfares to Honolulu, Hawaii! We are very excited for you!

*Name has been changed to protect recipient from further bogus offers.

Here's the Higlighted in Yellow Part

More uppercase writing, this time highlighted in yellow: FIRST CALLERS BONUS OFFER! RECEIVE COMPLIMENTARY ACCOMMODATIONS FOR 2!

Ok. So whoever is having this anniversary (Is it United? They never say for sure) is excited to be putting me and an adult guest on a plane to Honolulu. But do they seriously expect me to be excited about going to Honolulu with no guaranteed place to stay? Why would I do that? Why would anyone do that? What kind of offer comes with the airfare but no complimentary lodging?

They are making me work way too hard already. If it's one of those timeshare presentations, I would think they'd at least identify the property (you know, a little pre-selling).

Maybe this is some kind of trick to get me to call the 888 number and suck me in. It clearly states "FIRST callers bonus offer." Am I being overly cynical to expect a bait and switch situation? I can see it all now: I'll run to my phone and make the call, only to be told "We're sorry, Ms. Mom. You are not one of the "first" callers. Your accommodations are going to cost you $500 per night."

Hmm. Now my suspicion hackles are really rising up.

Obscuring the seal with type is a clever idea. I couldn't read it, but it looked something like this one.
Obscuring the seal with type is a clever idea. I couldn't read it, but it looked something like this one.

Meanwhile, back on the other side of the card...

Now I flip the postcard back to the "Do Not Interrupt Delivery to Receiver" side.

I cross-check to make sure my confirmation number (T0113) matches the Ticketing ID number on the address side. It does. I'm temporarily pacified.

But the feeling is shortlived, as I read the main paragraph on this side. Frankly, it doesn't give me a lot of warm fuzzies. Here's what it says:

"We have identified you and you are now ON RECORD." On record! In all caps! My obvious questions are

a) Who is this "we"? Is it United Airlines? Does United even know their logo is being plastered all over someone's teaser postcards?

b) How did they get my name? Just how, exactly, was I identified? Did somebody turn me in as needing a winter getaway? Am I on some master list?

c) How do I clear my record? This doesn't sound like vacation, it sounds like I'm in trouble!

In the next sentence they change their tune, but I'm onto them now. They're trying to lure me in with sweetness. They state, "We are happy to contact you directly at your residence to inform you that you have been confirmed to receive this notice for your Vacation Package Certificate." (initial caps theirs).

Needless to say, it doesn't work. First of all, they've already contacted me "directly at my residence" by sending this postcard to my home address (which just happens to be the same as my residence). If they think I'm going to call some 888 number just so they can tell me again what they just told me, they don't know me very well.

Or maybe this is some kind of prequalification test to weed out people who don't know the difference between their residence and their home. In which case, they should probably not be going on a vacation to Hawaii at all, but investing in some adult ed classes.

Someone with the title of Disbursement Manager signed the card. I couldn't read his/her name. It could have been any of these...
Someone with the title of Disbursement Manager signed the card. I couldn't read his/her name. It could have been any of these...

Best Line In a Direct Mail Piece -- Ever

By now they've thoroughly confused me with questions about whether I am or am not already officially informed that I am confirmed to receive this notification (the one I hold in my hand, obviously received).

But here comes the clincher. This is by far the best line of all. This one sentence causes me to stop and rethink my cynicism. Are you ready? Here's the #1 line to watch for when trying to determine the authenticity of any offer:

"This offer is real and is no mistake."

If you see these words, you know you are dealing with a serious and accurate enterprise.

To call or not to call?


Final pitch at the bottom of the card (again with the all caps): "MIGHT Y MOM, CALL NOW & RECEIVE COMPLIMENTARY ACCOMMODATIONS!

No, wait! I'm 99% sure this was it!
No, wait! I'm 99% sure this was it!

And finally, the fine print

At the very, very bottom of the card in about 7 pt. type is the info I've been searching for. Ok, everybody expects to see "Certain Restrictions Apply" so that's no big shock.

However, here's the line that I had to read twice to fully comprehend:

 "Not sponsored by United Airlines, but United is a major provider of Airline Tickets."

If you read that line carefully, you will note that it never states that United Airlines is the provider of tickets for this particular promotion. Just that United is a major provider of airline tickets. No one can argue that fact. 

Reading that reminded me of my Hubby when he bakes pies. People taste his pie and inevitably comment on how good the crust is. They ask him, "Did you make the crust?" He replies, "My mom taught me how to make crust." Now that is a true statement -- she did teach him to make pie crust. But for this particular pie (in fact, 100% of his pies) he used store-bought crust.

Who'd you say you were again?

One of the first things I noticed (which, had I paid more attention at the outset, could have saved me minutes of in-depth reading of the rest of the postcard), is the postal permit is out of Tampa, Florida. However, the return address for the travel provider is listed as First Class Travel of Costa Mesa, CA. Not being a direct mail expert myself, I don't know why a California-based company would fulfill a mailing to California residents via Florida. We'll just put that question aside for the moment. But if you spot such a discrepancy, be on your guard.

I Googled the company and to my mild surprise came up with a First Class Travel ( in Foothill Ranch. Foothill Ranch is only about 17 miles away from Costa Mesa, so it's possible they're one and the same. Still, wouldn't you think the website would list a Costa Mesa office? I mean, travel is a service industry, and this is the greater LA area. Driving 17 miles can take you an hour to travel. If First Class Travel does have a satellite office, they should be proud to promote it.

Oh well. Who am I to tell First Class Travel how to run their business? I mean, it's not like they're going to be dealing with me as a customer!

Damn. Look what I'm missing!

Do You Think This Offer Is Valid?

Would you make the call to the 888 number?

See results

Wish You Were Here, Too!

Dear Fellow Hubbers, Well, you were right. Those United imposters sure made a monkey out of me! Aloha, MM
Dear Fellow Hubbers, Well, you were right. Those United imposters sure made a monkey out of me! Aloha, MM


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Alnkzaaam-iaformation found, problem solved, thanks!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      My very similar card (fee Las Vegas trip) very clearly says on the front that it is NOT a timeshare or land sale offer. I'm sure that must be true because it is written down :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      My card is from united vacation says I won 2round trip tickets to Cabo San Lucas call to receive 4 day 3 night Hotel stay. What do u think?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      THIS is the company:

      It's listed as a time share company, is NOT BBB accredited, & has a D- rating.

      Stay away!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hello markonetravel! Thanks for the link. I always trust British offers over American. You are so civilised across the pond:-). Thanks. MM

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      If it looks fishy it probably is, Gamecreature! Don't fall for it!!! Thanks for commenting. MM

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Just got a nearly identical postcard in the mail today. Looks fishy to me.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Rain.

      I wouldn't trust an invitation that makes you go through the presentation before you go, although I don't think that's how most of them work. They bank on your being there and experiencing the ambiance, etc.

      Good for you if you can withstand the high pressure sales tactics!

      One good suggestion is to not drink any of the offered alcoholic drinks. Keep your wits about you at all times:-).

      Oh yes, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY! No strings attached! MM

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I just got one of the "birthday present" from Frist Class Travel and its a 90 min presentation from Global Exchance Development. I think its a Time Share thing. If it is then I guess you would have to attend the 90 min thing and then get the tickets, I have done it before and just had to give them about 2 hours and the rest of the vacation was on their dime. JUST DON'T BUY A TIME SHARE LOL

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank you for saving me some time *_*

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hello Info Help. You said it all in five words: there is ALWAYS a catch! Thanks for visiting. Glad you enjoyed my rant. MM

    • Info Help profile image

      Info Help 

      8 years ago from Chicago

      Hello Mighty Mom!

      This is a great hub that you have posted. I have received postcards and flyers in the mail that promise you something free and when you end up calling about the info, there is always a catch.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I just got this same card today-Verbatim! I will not be calling. United is also a major carrier of passengers.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thank you, Robin, for the clarification. It was never my intent to malign any travel company. Two companies with the same name within the greater LA area, tho -- sounds like copyright infringement to me, as it could (and in my case, did) lead to consumer confusion.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This is not the same company. in Foothill Ranch is NOT the same company as the First Class Travel in Costa Mesa. This company in Costa Mesa is trying to be associated or be First Class Travel in Foothill Ranch. I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT THE SAME COMPANY!!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Not Scammed Yet, you (and your granddaddy) are so, so right. A prime (or sub-prime) example is all those mortgages that people thought were great -- until they adjusted up to a normal percentage and their payments got to be too high and they couldn't keep up the payments and their homes got foreclosed on.

      It breaks my heart to know how many people in this world live by finding new ways to con other people out of their money. You don't have to be an old person to have to be very, very careful who you give information to these days!

      Thanks for stopping by. MM

    • profile image

      Not Scammed Yet! 

      9 years ago

      My old grand daddy always said - if it sounds too good to be true, it probaly is! I guess there are enough folks out there who just love to get things that are too good to be true, and get scammed along with it!

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      9 years ago from St. Louis

      It was out of curiosity. I was always getting those card things, and this was a way to check it out without risking anything. I finally cut it off. But everytime I did, they'd say something like, OK, just talk to Bob for a minute and he'll set you up so you can get out of here...and then it would start all over.

      And Orlando was more of a joke, but I did stay there because a friend from Brazil was taking her daughter to Disneyland, so it was for her. (She didn't show up.) She met me in N.Y. a few days later though, but it was pretty miserable in Orlanda, and I was by myself. Horrid, actually. I met a couple who came every year, because that was where their condo was. God, I couldn't imagine. What a waste of perfectly good money!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Now that sounds like timesharing I could get used to! Spain, Belgium, Austria. Orlando I could definitely do without. Not a huge fan of Hawaii, either. Pretty much everything you can get in Hawaii you can get here in California. In fact, if you're lucky, you can even get lei'd!

      As to the redneck dump presentation. I cannot fathom what would incite you to sit through such an ordeal. On a dare maybe? Seemed like the thing to do after chugging a couple of 40s and getting a tatoo???

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      9 years ago from St. Louis

      I had a timeshare which was really quite fabulous. It was in Spain, but it was also in an exchage program, so I could trade in my weeks for weeks in other peoples timeshares throughout the world. I stayed in beautiful places in Belgium, Austria, and even Orlando. My father went to Australia and Hawaii, my sis to cancun and really lots more--I can't remember them all. It was worth it as long as we were using it, but then it got to where we weren't uising it, so it was just a huge expense. Finally got rid of it.

      I sat through a sales pitch once--but it was local, no trip, no hotel, and it was excruciating, plus the place was a redneck dump!

    • foxility profile image


      9 years ago

      I would call and ask a bunch of questions, but that's only cause I love it when I stumble upon scams. If they are a scam, they will be shacking in their shoes.

    • SweetiePie profile image


      9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Back when I was 23 I got suckered into paying 300 dollars for a resort vacation in Florida via a telemarketing call.  They made it sound like I won a prize, but I should have done more research first.  The clencher was I still had to pay for airfare, which is not cheap.  Still seven years later this resort is calling me to ask why I did not used my vacation, and if I pay 200 dollars more and can still used the package they tell me.  No thank you, I just wasted three hundred dollars to begin with, and I learned my lesson.  If I am going to pay to fly somewhere I want to go to Hawaii and not Florida, just my preference.  However, I just feel air flights and hotels are out of my price range these days.  I have to pay rent and things like that.  Oh well, maybe I can go back to Hawaii someday :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Oh Mom! You said the dreaded S word! Lock your doors and bar the windows. Homeland security will be there momentarily.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks again for the education in timeshares, O'very (tee hee). Maybe we are missing out on a very economical way to vacation. Because the fact is, we always talk about going to "new" places but always end up going back to the same ones over and over. Of course, we haven't been anywhere in awhile and really, really need to get away SOON. Gotta be on the west coast, tho. We live with that "any time now we could get "the call" tension in our lives. So fun being middle aged!

      CWB, don't sugar coat it, man. Tell me how you really feel! Seriously, they came "this close" to hooking me. As Overy points out above, if they'd thrown in some free tickets to a luau or something I'd be like, soooo there!

      The scary thing is people really do respond to these offers. Because, as you point, out, this is 'mericuh as her capitalistic best. Bring on the socialism!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This is great Mom. I find it nearly impossible to write with humor about such immoral and dishonest practices. With this little gem you have elevated that skill to the level of an art form.

      Just to add my two cents worth. What a lovely example of the workings of the capitalist/consumerist way of life. It demonstrates all the wonderful qualities of fraud, deception, obfuscation, disrespect, manipulation and exploitation that has made the “non-negotiable” amerikan “way of life” so near and dear and “won” the hearts and minds of so many millions of people all over the world.

      god bless ‘mericuh.

    • eovery profile image


      9 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Yeah, I was dumb and got stuck with a timeshare, but we are actually enjoying it.  We have lots of family memories from it.  First time in Orlando we stayed in a terrible hotel room.  The timeshares are so much better.

      We went to a timeshare presentation to save $100 on Disney tickets. We did not buy a time share, but elected for few hundred dollars to come stay in one for a week and experience one (cheap second vacation we thought.) Two to three years later we went back, and it was great. Also, we had locked in a price from before, that they honored which was about half of what they were asking then, so we thought it might be a good deal and bought one. They are a little expensive but if we had not had bought one, we would not have had the quality of vacations we are enjoying now.

      I have seen timeshares basically being given away on ebay, if people don't mind the $700 a year maintenance fee.  Which if you want a yearly vacation, justifies it over a $100 hotel room. As I get to retirement age, I may buy some more off from ebay to enjoy more traveling. Also, I then can deed one to each of my four children.

      Take care Mighty-Mom. (I can't help but say that to the mighty-dog chear, which you probably already know)

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      I think you're exactly right, although they're not even honest enough to say that. I went to a timeshare spiel years and years ago in Barbados. The pressure was very uncomfortable. The only thing that made it bearable was the plied us with drinks.

      Some friends of mine recently went to Vegas and were proud of the fact that they went to not one, but two of these timeshare presentations. For me, it's totally not worth it. My time is tooooo valuable and I have zero interest in a timeshare! But thanks so much for explaining the backstory. Sounds like you know what's up with these offers! MM

    • eovery profile image


      9 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      These are usually a timeshare resell companies. The reseller company is trying to sell the timeshare for an owner who does not want it anymore  They charge the owner the ticket cost, calling  it advertisement, etc.  The when you are there, sometime during that week, you have to sit down with them and they use heavy sells techniques to sell you the time share.

      This is a double dip for the timeshare sellers. They sell the timeshare the first time, then as people decide they do not want them anymore, due to the high maintenance fees, The resellers double dip and get to sell the timeshare again, charging the owner for the cost of selling. If you want a timeshare, you can get them used for very low cost at times, but the maintenance fees run around $700 or more a year. 

      if you are not bothered by heavy sells pressure, it would be a very nice vacation, in a timeshare resort. Three-fourths of a day would be lost on the sales pitch day.

      Take care and nice hub.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Hubber Friends. Thanks so much for helping me make this important recreation decision. You're right. I checked and even though they claim the airfare is a $1,200 value" I can get airfare plus hotel for 8 days for under $1,000.

      Still, I think I'd rather stay home and watch the video. It's all I need.

    • ccdursina profile image

      Carolina Dursina 

      9 years ago from Spring Green WI

      Many time they don't look like a scam, however, you can not trust many companies with your money, - credit cards, etc,...

      and why can you not initiate all the search yourself,...

    • goldentoad profile image


      9 years ago from Free and running....

      I wouldn't call, they gonna get all your cooperative info for themselves, try a deal, then sell it to other companies after that, and they won't stop till they getchya!

    • rockinjoe profile image

      Joseph Addams 

      9 years ago from Standing right behind you!

      You're too suspicious. Hawaii is Hawaii! Just go and have a good time and trust that there are good people in the world. Have fun and send me a post card.....sucka!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I always bin things like this, they never turn out to be genuine as nothing in life comes for free without a catch!

    • countrywomen profile image


      9 years ago from Washington, USA

      It does seem like a scam. I don't know for sure but one of my friends got a time share invitation where they got free tickets to visit Las Vegas. So there is a very remote possibility that it could be something of a teaser.

      Btw don't bother about how they receive our information. All the three credit bureaus sell non PII(personally identifiable information) for data mining to the consumer research/marketing research firms.


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