The letter caught Ed and Anne Iles attention. It said they qualified for two round trip airline tickets and a two night stay at any of over 1000 Marriott Hotel locations. The letter says "The retail value of this award is up to $1398.00.â??
"It had the Marriott in the letter; it listed three major airlines that I hold to be pretty responsible,â?? Ed Iles said.
Letters similar this have been showing up all around Central New York. All Ed had to do was call. When he did, Ed says the person over the phone told him he could get the tickets and hotel stay if he attended a seminar at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Syracuse.
"She told me it wouldn't take over an hour."
What Ed didn't know was the seminar was a sales pitch for a travel club called Endless Access. We met Ed outside the hotel as he waited for his appointment and showed him a post from national Better Business Bureau's website. The letter Ed and Anne received has the same wording as a letter used as an example in a BBB article titled "Scammers lure victims with free plane tickets". I talked with the BBB of Upstate New York, read them the letter Ed received, and they said it sounded exactly like the type of letter they called a scam in the web article.
"We didn't have a clue until what you just told us for what this was about,â?? Ed said.
On the back of the letter, fine print says restrictions, taxes and fees may apply and the promotion is not sponsored by Marriott. Ed didn't even realize there was fine print on the back; he thought Marriott was partnering with the offer. Endless Access Travel Club is not mentioned anywhere on the letter.
"The Marriott name is certainly the reason you would be hyped up to look at this, â?? Ed Iles said.
Not only is Marriott not participating, when we sent them a copy of the letter, a spokesperson said: â??We are aware of this offer. It concerns us greatly that outside companies like these use our trusted name and hotel image for their own gain. Our legal team is pursuing the matter." Endless Access allowed us to sit in on the seminar, but our TV cameras were not allowed. I was allowed to use my cell phone to capture images. During the seminar, couples did receive vouchers for airline travel, but two people who tried to use them right after a recent meeting say there were hundreds of dollars of fees connected to them, and a long list of travel restrictions.
After looking over the responses from Marriott and the Better Business Bureau's posting about similar letters, Ed and Anne decided to go back to their car and skip their appointment.
"With the information you just said, I have no interest in even going to this,â?? Ed Iles said.
In phone conversations, Scott Brown from Endless Access Travel Club member services tells me his company is legitimate, but he isnâ??t okay with the letters popping up in Central New York. He says the letters were sent by a marketing company and claims he wasn't aware of the content of those letters.
"It's really concerning" Brown said. "Everything is supposed to be disclosed up front. We're definitely going to have to look at our marketing." Endless Access has only been in business for 3 and-a-half months. Because they are so new, they are not accredited by the Better Business bureau. The company's BBB page does not have any complaints or positive reviews.
On Wednesday we will have more from inside the Endless Access sales pitch. At the meeting, people were told a membership costs $9000. That money does not pay for any trips but the company says it gives you access to a website offering big discounts on hotel, resort and condo stays.