A Timeshare Scam? In 2008? Will We Ever Learn?
I’m not a gullible man. I never fall for confidence tricks, I’ve never handed over my bank details to a strange Nigerian following the receipt of an unsolicited email and I know how the rabbit in the hat trick works.
In short, and without wishing to blow my own trumpet too much, I’m fairly clued up. But recently, I almost let myself get stitched up like a bloody kipper, and it was all thanks to smooth-talking horse racing guru Derek Thompson.
A couple of weeks ago, a letter arrived from Seasons Holidays, addressed to my partner, informing us that she’d won a prize to the value of £3,750. Naturally, what’s mine is hers, and as I got her in a celebratory headlock and rubbed the top of her bonce with glee, I was overcome with delight at my, sorry, our big win.
Better still, we’re planning a honeymoon next year and this fitted the bill – what made it more apt was that she’d entered the competition online via a wedding website – this was truly an act of fate.
Hang on, I thought. Is this for real? I’ve never won a competition before so maybe it was just a scam? Maybe, but the letter HAD been sent by recorded delivery – that orange Royal Mail sticker on the front of the envelope legitimised its contents at a stroke.
Plus, as well as the big prize, we’d also been invited to a Seasons Holidays Box at Sandown Park Racecourse to watch the Seasons Holidays Tingle Creek Steeplechase on December 6th 2008 as guests of the company. With free VIP parking and a champagne brunch! Hosted by Derek Thompson, the face of Channel 4 racing!
This seemed too good to be true but I immediately brought my best top hat down from the attic and dispatched it to the dry cleaners that very instant. Now all I had to do was call Seasons Holidays and confirm my acceptance of the prize. This was where I drew breath for a second and cleared my head.
What if I were to spend a moment googling ‘seasons+holidays+scam’? Ah – lots of results there. I put down the phone – I wasn’t ready to make the call JUST yet. Further investigation turned up a few facts – Seasons are a holiday club with an annual membership fee of £367. Essentially, a timeshare organisation. For that annual fee, I’d be guaranteed a holiday at one of their resorts every year until 2069; when I’ll be 97. And I’ll be f***ed if I’m going anyway further than the nearest bathroom by the time I’m that age.
Carmarthenshire County Council trading standards officers had enjoyed a good nibble on Seasons Holidays. Those lucky winners usually found themselves lumbered with a series of admin charges and seasonal supplements, coupled with the fact that their preferred dates of travel were quite often unavailable.
Trading Standards also found that customer complaints were usually ignored and Seasons offered no explanations for their actions. As for the £3750 – that simply reflected the cost of purchasing a timeshare from Seasons Holidays and, once you look at it like that, well, it wasn’t really a prize, was it?
So the moral is, even if your ‘prize’ comes in by recorded delivery, check it out and don’t be taken in by the thought of meeting a bronzed, deep-voiced racing legend at one of the country’s top racecourses.
More specifically, if it’s from Seasons Holidays, it might be an idea to forward the letter to…
Office of Fair Trading
Fleet Bank House
No 2-6 Salisbury Square
Mention that Seasons have got some previous and that Carmarthenshire County Council have won a case against them. The spineless and toothless consumer protectors are nothing without us lot badgering them into action.
But if you want to know how the rabbit in the hat trick works, please don’t email me – it’s more than my life’s worth.
HAVE YOU BEEN RIPPED OFF, TREATED SHABBILY OR JUST BEEN MADE TO FEEL SMALL AND UNCOMFORTABLE BY ANY COMPANY, SHOP OR ORGANISATION?
IF SO, EMAIL BITTERWALLET AT [email protected] AND WE'LL ADD YOUR STORY TO OUR NEW WALL OF SHAME.