LAKE GENEVA/WEST ALLIS (WITI) -- Wisconsin winters have a way making us long for better, brighter days. That's what Joshua Hall was hoping for when he found out his girlfriend had randomly been chosen for a pretty nice prize!
"[We] won a three day two night vacation. You just need to come and claim your prize," Hall said.
Josh and his girlfriend were pitched a vacation club membership from the Synergy Vacation Club in Lake Geneva. The cost originally given to them was close to $9,000 and access to what they called members-only deals, but Josh knew how to play along.
"Their game is they start high, knowing that people will come down lower," Hall explains.
He was right. The more Josh said "no," the more the price dropped. It eventually ended up just under $4,000, so they bought it, but soon found thousands of dollars in hidden resort fees.
"Might be a good product. Not for us. We just wanted to walk away," Hall said.
Hall walked away, but FOX6's Contact 6 producer and his fiancée walked into another vacation club in West Allis called Resort Connections, LLC. They had the Contact 6 hidden camera with them.
"We're like the Sam's Club of the travel industry," the presenter said in front of a screen showing one beach scene after another. "We buy in bulk and you get better deals."
He showed some good deals, but two things he said didn't sound right.
"This hotel is called the Luxor, it's in downtown London. Last time I checked, it was going for $683 per day," the presenter said.
Back at the newsroom, FOX6's Contact 6 producer checked on any hotel in or near London, England called "The Luxor." It couldn't be found, and two major travel agencies couldn't find it, either.
Later, the presenter made another suspicious claim.
"We're the only travel club in the world that Disney uses for its cruise line. They don't use anybody else," the presenter said.
FOX6's Contact 6 contacted Disney Cruise Lines about that statement. In response, FOX6 was told the company works with numerous travel providers, definitely not just one.
Then the presenter told FOX6's Contact 6 producer the cost to get into the club is $6,995 but only if it was purchased on the spot. When the producer said "no," the presenter wrote down a new set of prices to choose from that were thousands less.
In minutes, the cost went from $6,995 at 17% interest to $1,000 at zero percent interest.
Then the presenter applied more pressure when the producer's fiancée proceeded to take notes on what was just offered.
"Don't write it down because if you walk outta here you ain't gettin' it anyway. So half the notes, three-quarters, nine-tenths of the notes you got now won't apply after today," the presenter said.
When the couple says "no" for the last time, they were given the promised "complimentary" gift for coming in to listen to the presentation - air fare and a hotel stay.
"Initially, you gotta come up with I think it's $50 each," the presenter said.
After reading all the terms and conditions, the couple would have to pay $50 each for a "reservation request fee" and another $59 for a "reservation processing fee." That doesn't include taxes or surcharges.
So they'll pay at least $220 if they want to redeem the certificate. Some free gift!
Ran Hoth, with the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau, is concerned about the promises and the sales pitch.
"This whole concept of 'you won two expensive tickets' - we have yet to see where that actually pans out," Hoth admits.
He also expressed genuine concern about the sales methods employed by these types of companies state-wide.
"When I hear a conversation of 'this price' and 'this price' and working its way down the ladder, to me there's no true value in that. That's a tactic that the BBB would look at as an unethical sales practice," Hoth said.
FOX6's Contact 6 made several attempts to reach the presenter at Resort Connections, LLC and left several messages for an on-camera interview or comment but never heard from him.
An attorney for Synergy Vacation Club said his client is not interested in appearing on camera.
FOX6's Contact 6 says don't be pressured into paying thousands of dollars just because it's winter in Wisconsin and you want out! Never make a snap judgment. Always take time to shop around. Ask to read all terms and conditions before you sign anything. Buying a vacation club membership is like buying any major product - the seller should allow you time to do research, find a better price and compare options.
If they say "this is your only chance to get a great deal", it's probably not that great.