Monday, November 10, 2008

Sundance Vacations

This morning I received a voicemail from a girl named Melanie (who may or may not actually exist) at Sundance Vacations. I figured that maybe Bob Redford had finally recognized my cinematic abilities. Melanie informed me otherwise. She was overly thrilled to let me know that I had won some sort of travel-related prize as a result of my entry into the Ultimate Sports Giveaway at a Cubs game. She left an 800 number, with her extension.

I'm kind of a moron, so I called back, fully expecting to speak with (and court) Melanie. When I called, some chipper female whose name was not Melanie answered the phone. In no uncertain terms, I demanded to speak with Melanie. I was told that Melanie was on a break, or out of the office, or dissolving in a bathtub in Hell's Kitchen, or whatever other excuse they have for preventing good-natured folk from speaking with Melanie.

But fear not, this other female -- who we'll call Non-Melanie -- would be able to help me. I explained the circumstances of my introduction to Melanie, and Non-Melanie asked for my phone number, which I willfully provided. Egad! Non-Melanie informed me that I was the lucky winner of a 4-day, 3-night Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean, as a result of signing up for the aforementioned Ultimate Sports Giveaway in August at a Cubs game. I prodded her a little bit more, as I assumed someone had signed me up as part of a goof. It turns out that I did in fact sign something while waiting in line outside Wrigley to get bleacher seats with Tron, Jamie, Ashcraft, Terrence, and Tradd on August 23. I was borderline dead at the time, due to the amount of alcohol I had consumed the night before, combined with the three hours of sleep I managed to get. Some dude was walking up and down the line asking people to fill out cards for some contest, which I understood to be sports-related and tied to the Cubs somehow. Obviously I was misinformed. I think where I went wrong was giving the guy my phone number.

Anyway, Non-Melanie informed me that all I would need to do to get this free cruise was come to a Sundance office and listen to an hour-long presentation, and, of course, I would have to bring Jessie. She said, for some reason, that they had an office right in downtown Cincinnati. Sensing victory, I said, "I don't live in Cincinnati. Melanie knows that." No worries! They also have an office in Downers Grove (a western suburb of Chicago). Sweet! And -- get this -- if I could come in this Tuesday or Wednesday, they would throw in free airfare on American Airlines to Florida so that Jessie and I wouldn't have to pay for our flight to our free cruise.

I made up an excuse about Tuesday evening, and claimed that I didn't know about Wednesday, but would "have to check with the wife." Non-Melanie seemed to think this would be fine, although I could not hang up and call back. Rather, I would have to call Jessie immediately on another line because "there are only two cruise-airfare packages left, and they'll most likely get snatched up by someone else if we wait to long." Yow-zaaaaaahhhh! I couldn't argue with that logic, so I called Jessie and explained the situation: I was on the phone with someone who isn't named Melanie, and I needed an excuse immediately. Together (yet separately) we Googled Sundance Vacations (more about that in a minute) and quickly discerned that driving to Downers Grove after work on Wednesday would not be in anyone's best interest. I then returned to Non-Melanie after keeping her on hold for over three minutes (hoping that she would just hang up). I explained that this week wouldn't work. She seemed genuinely upset. "Oh, that's too bad, because these packages are worth over $3,000, and they are going to be gone by the end of the day. Are you sure there's no way you can make it?" I assured here that it was physically and temporally impossible for me to make it. She did, of course, give me the option of calling back once I figured out when I could come into the office for a presentation. Since I was surprised she gave me an out that easily, I took it and ran, soon after hanging up with a smile.

Now back to that aforementioned internet research. As I'm sure you've surmised, their "deal" is that you "win" a cruise (or free hotel stay, etc.), but only on the condition that you subject yourself to a high-pressure sales pitch for timeshares. It seems that Rip-off Report, Yahoo Answers, Yelp, and the Gadget-Geek Dad blog all have less-than-glowing things to say about the whole thing.

According to the Gadget-Geek Dad, it was a timeshare-type scam, where you had to pay $15,000, which apparently gets you 8 vacation days a year at many possible locations, not including airfare and certain booking fees. The best part is that they let you put down as little as $2,400 and finance the rest for several years at 16.75% interest. And, of course, you're not allowed to take any of their literature home with you, nor are you allowed to mull it over at home. You must make your decision at the presentation. Then, after the presentation (no matter what you decide), the vacation voucher you were promised for attending the presentation is redeemable for only one day (meaning you have to make your vacation plans within 24 hours or else there is no free vacation).

Not that I would have signed up (or that I have an extra $2,400 lying around for emergency timeshare opportunities), but this reeked from the beginning. Here are some suggestions on how to deal with these people when they call:

  • They have several offices around the Midwest, so to be safe, tell them you "live in Hawaii already, bitch. Now let me talk to Melanie!"
  • Agree to attend a presentation, but only on the condition that you can present your own competing timeshare opportunities to the audience and presenters.
  • Speak in Pikey. "Why da fohk I wanna caravan tha's got no fohkin' weels?"
  • Say that you make less than $25,000 a year (which is apparently one of their criteria, since I know so many people making $25,001 a year who can fork over nearly 10% of their gross annual salary for a timeshare down payment).
  • Explain that you only entered the contest to see if you could win, and now that you've proven that to yourself, that's enough for you.
  • Say that you own properties in every one of their vacation destinations. When they question that, start yelling, "Are you calling me a liar?! Are you calling me a fucking liar?! Where's Melanie?! I want to talk to Melanie!"
  • When they call and say that you've won, say "You have got to be kidding me. I was just about to call you to let you know that you have won a 4-day, 3-night cruise on Royal Caribbean! Talk about your all-time coin-kee-dinks. Boy is my face red. I'll tell you what. I'm never gonna live this one down. The boys over here would laugh me right out of the office. How 'bout we just call it even and hang up right now?"
  • Sing all of your responses to their questions. It won't necessarily get them to back off at first, but after a few minutes no one can put up with that. Oh, and when they ask you if you are singing, make sure to sing, "Noooooo."
  • State, unequivocally, that you are "bicep deep in a Samoan right now."
  • In a gruff voice, ask, "Tell me Non-Melanie, are you drinking coffee right now?" Before he/she says yes, you yell, "Put. That. Coffee. Down!" When there is stunned silence or uncomfortable laughter on the other end, you forcefully say, "Coffee's for closers only." When Non-Melanie undoubtedly starts to babble in complete confusion, you continue, "You think I'm fucking with you? I am not fucking with you." Then you hang up after making vague references to Mitch and Murray.
  • When they ask for you, explain that "[He/She] died yesterday while trying to have sex with a Shetland Pony, which is especially sad because I know how much [he/she] wanted to spend $15,000 on timeshares. And, you're not gonna believe this. Do you know what [his/her] last words were? 'Et tu, Melanie?' Not even kidding."

UPDATE [2/26/09]: Check out this blog, Sundance Vacations vs. Do Not Call, which has a great discussion of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's lawsuits against entities that violate the Do Not Call list. It also has contact information for Do Not Call lists for Illinos, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.


GMYH said...

As Tron pointed out, the alleged sports-related giveaway the guy was getting people to sign up for outside Wrigley was supposed to be for World Series tickets and travel to the World Series, which explains why I was offered a Caribbean cruise.

Anonymous said...

This shit happened to me...good stuff.


Anonymous said...

I have received a call from Dennis Brady, a representative from Sundance Vacations at ext. 346 on Monday, December 1, 2008 at 11:57 am, saying that he received my entry form from the sweepstakes that I entered at the Bulls game in Chicago on November 8, 2008. He said that I will receive a complimentary cruise package for two to Bahamas with an airfaire. A vacations package that is worth $2500.

I did fill out a sweeptstakes at the Bulls game on November 8, 2008 but it was to win season tickets to the Bulls games and not some vacations! I thought that was a little strange.

I called back and a lady answered. She said that ext. 346 was unaivailable right away and asked if I have just received a message about a cruise. I asked her how did she know? She said, 'That that's what we do. We're a new company and we're trying to sell our vacation packages. We're giving away vacations by promoting our new company.'

I thought that was funny because Dennis Brady said in the voicemail: 'We have been a sponsor of the Bulls for 18 years!'. So obviously one of them was lying already! I hate people that try to take advantage of me.

The lady told me that in order to receive this cruise I have to come in to their office in Downer's Grove, IL by the end of the week by 6:30 pm and listen to one hour vacation packages presentation. She said that I did not have to purchase any of the packages but if I came in for one hour I would receive the free 3 nights cruise and airfaire.

Right away, I figured it was a scam. I looked them up on the internet like I do with everyone and found out that it really is a scam. I had people try to sell me timeshares and vacation packages before and they are really persistent. I just know how to say NO to them but it still pisses me off when people try to scam me!!! Bastards!!! Do not call Sundance Vacations back if you will receive their call unless you want to be ripped off! I'm pretty sure you dont though!

This company should be sued and they scammers should be arrested! I filled out a raffle at the Bulls game to win free season tickets and I don't appreciate Sundance Vacation calling me and trying to scam me to buy some vacation packages! Rip off!!!

Northbrook, Illinois

Anonymous said...

My guy attended a Bulls game in November, filled out an entry card for a free $50k car. He get's a call from "Melanie" saying that he won an all expense paid trip to the Bahamas/Mexico...but...we had to give them a hour of our time. We did, the sales lady was really good (she actually sounded like the rich snobby lady from Will & Grace). As I said the presentation was great. I was swayed slightly but stood firm in heck NO to financing vacations. Financing a vacation doesn't even sound right! When the presentation was over, a group of people came swarming through the door like a bunch of ants looking for the designated person. (That was creepy) Anywho after 5 no's and finding out the free cruise isn't even one of "their" cruises but a crusie given to them or purchased by them from a non-affiliate company....We finally got our certificate for the free cruise/airfare. Did I mention the free cruise put you at the lowest interior level of the ship? LOL....I'll let you guys know if the 1.5hr total time spent there (including driving) was worth it or not!

Puch said...

I always wish I could beat the crap out of these phone scammers. Problem is you can never find them. Now I know what to do--stand in line outside a ball game (don't go in--stay outside) until that guy comes around wanting your name and number, and NAIL his ass right there. Even if you beat him to death, any jury with some of victims of harassing phone calls will never convict you.

Anonymous said...

Sundance Vacations Bait & Switch

In early october of 2008, I was contacted by Pat from sundance vacations, saying congratulations I'd been entered in a contest and I'd been selected as the winner of a 'Ultimate Package', a 3-day Royal Carribean Cruise from Miami to the Bahamas, including air-fare.

I returned her call at 800-291-0500 and spoke to Janet. Janet informed me they gave away the prizes in order to promote their vacation packages, which were like time shares. She informed me that to claim the prize I would have to watch a one-hour presentation on their packages. There was no commitment to buy and at the end I would receive a voucher to claim my trip prize. The caeveat was that I had to attend in person, and since I live in miami this was difficult. (I had entered their contest at a Cubs game, during a summer trip for a family reunion to chicago). She said I could have a family member or friend attend the presentation for me to claim my prize though.

In any event I finally found a relative who would do this for me. So I called sundance back on 1/21/09, and said my relative was available to pick this up, and gave her the information. She said they needed to speak to the person directly, so I had my cousin call in. Then they told my cousin that it didn't matter what they did with the travel voucher, it would be theres but they could give it to me if they chose, but as an attendant she would be required to bring her husband or fianance if she was engaged. And her fiance works opposite shifts as her, so this wouldn't be possible... and called me back.

So I called sundance and asked why did they tell her all this stuff and sort of drop the whole bit about me being the winner of a prize. And they said that some people at sundance don't 'tell it like it is', but that she was not one of those people and that I never won a prize. I was just part of a marketing promotion to attend their vacation packages. Which I said was bait and switch, and she didn't argue with this other than to say that she makes a point to 'tell it like it was', again implying that other people at sundance maybe don't tell it like it is.

In any event, I talked to probably 10 different family members about picking this up because I thought it was a prize (I had actually entered a raffel-type of thing at wrigley field, so I thought this is what I had won). My cousin was the only person who could attend, but she couldn't attend with her fiance and they had no intention of purchasing anything.

From what I understand sundance usually does provide the travel vouchers, but their tactics are not very reputable and their ethical standards are very low. I am not sure if 'baiting and switching' is illegal, or if this is technically a bait and switch. But I was mislead and I would certainly never encourage anyone to do business with sundance other than to collect free stuff. They obviously are not very respectful of people's time or expecations.

I told them I didn't care so much about missing out on the travel, since I live in miami anyways... but I was very unhappy about spending time on this and the way it was explained to me suddenly changing... and that I intended to write a thread saying that I had a negative experience with them. She just laughed and said she didn't care.

Sundance misleading
miami beach, Florida

Anonymous said...

Sundance Vacations Vs Do Not Call

Go here >

Angela said...

Look out for these a-holes. My boyfriend and I signed up at a Soxs vs. Brewers game up in Milwaukee...(to win "world series tickets") What (intoxicated) baseball enthusiastic could pass that up, right? After researching it before I subjected myself to a 60 min presentation...I realized I have much better things to do with an hour of my life. And they got us while we were tailgaiting! Drinkers and Sports enthusiasts BEWARE!

Anonymous said...

I don't understand; after the whole 1 hr ordeal when you do get your cruise and airfare tickets; what happens next?

Anonymous said...

Great blog! I keep getting phone calls from these idiots. I will use your lines. I laughed out loud and shared with friends. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Sundance Vacations Sweepstakes Scam

This company is a FRAUD. I also got suckered into going down to pick up the free cruise I had been given as a "gift." Now, the customer service agent was correct in that they never use the word "won". It’s just a matter of wording to keep their scams on the border-line of legal. And I understood that I had to sit through an hour of a sales pitch. which I was fine with. What I was not fine with were the LIES that they had told me in advance about this free cruise.

LIE #1: I could go on the cruise at ANYTIME during the year. I was told repeatedly by the woman on the phone about how I could basically go whenever dates I wanted to, anytime during the next year. Well, that is a lie. When I received my vacation voucher, I looked at the fine print on the back page. You CANNOT use this cruise during the months of June, July, August, or any week of which there is a holiday.

LIE #2: If I didn't use the cruise, I could do with it whatever I wished. I could give it as a gift or sell it. The fact is, you CANNOT. It clearly states that the name of the trip is non-transferable and cannot be sold.

LIE #3: I was told airfare was included and that I could fly from my local airport. which is a major international airport. That isn't true. They tell you where to fly out of. For example, they mentioned Newark, New Jersey as a possibility. Plus, the fine print says it only includes "base" airfare. I'm not even sure what the fine print is on base airfare.

LIE #4: I was told I would simply have to pay minor taxes on a trip which values at about 1, 200 dollars. Well, the taxes start at $225 dollars per person (35 percent tax???????) Plus, there are all kind of registration and booking fees on top of that.

LIE #5: I was specifically told on the phone I would even receive free gift cards to Applebee’s, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden if I came to the 5pm presentation. When I inquired about them, the girl gave me a funny look and told me that "they didn't give them out anymore because people don't use them." What??? I was told only the DAY BEFORE I would be getting them. So, they gave me this piece of paper and said to go eat somewhere (anywhere), attach the receipt to the paper, send a self addressed stamped envelope, and I could get up to 15 dollars for my meal. I'm not holding my breath. Bottom line, this company is a fraud. They told me out and out lies about the cruise just to get me in. They are very shrewd. They have people designed to search these very blogs just to tell you how wonderful they are. There is an old saying. "Me thinks thou protests too much." If someone has to over and over again tell you about all the awards they won and how great they are...makes you wonder why...doesn't it?????

The following links will offer you substantial information about Sundance Vacations and their sweepstakes giveaways used to induce the consumer to attend a $15,000 high pressure sales pitch for a vacation club membership:

Anonymous said...

Sundance Vacations makes a big deal about their membership with the Better Business Bureau, but apparently that too is a ruse!

(Copy & Paste the above link into your browser)

Anonymous said...

Deputy Attorney General, Nicholas Kant, of the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, has sanctioned Sundance Vacations for violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 et seq. (“CFA”) and/or the regulations promulgated thereunder, N.J.A.C. 13:45A-1.1 et seq. (“CFA” Regulations).

(Copy & paste the above link into your browser)

Anonymous said...

There is a "Boycott Sundance Vacations" Facebook page @

Copy & paste the above link into your browser.

Anonymous said...

Sundance Vacations is a sales center for Travel Advantage Network. Fill out a form, get called because you "won something," but you have to schedule an appointment to claim it. Show up, get drilled with a pressure sales pitch, buy a half-explained vacation package, on a funny money "loan" from Sundance (yes, Tri-State is Sundance), and before you know it you're trapped into a vacation package with annual service fees, and you're now in another fight to cancel it.

You can learn a lot more about TAN here: