Careful, That Red Lobster Coupon Could Cost You $7,500

How do you define a scam? Does your definition include anything where you have to put down money upfront in order to get discounts later? Maybe it should. Meet Stephen and Jean Liang of Kansas City, Missouri. They went to a presentation for a travel club, and ended up joining for $7,500– with the condition that they could cancel after 3 days. Before they left, they were offered a discount for Red Lobster. They thought it was a bonus for joining the club. It wasn’t.

From CNN:

During the presentation, Stephen and Jean were told they could get discounted condo rates and other travel benefits around the world. They decided to join — for $7,500. Jean said they were assured they could cancel within three days.

Before Stephen and Jean even left, they were offered a discount coupon for Red Lobster.

“We really enjoy Red Lobster,” Jean said. “We thought it was a bonus for joining.”

They were asked to sign a piece of paper after they received the card. The Liangs didn’t think much about it.

“We thought we needed to sign it to show we’d gotten the card,” Jean said.

But, unfortunately, Stephen and Jean didn’t realize that by accepting the Red Lobster card, they had used the services of the travel club. And by signing that piece of paper, they were waiving their right to cancel their membership.

But the couple soon found out the next day when they tried to cancel.

Jean said they felt deceived. “This is really, really wrong. A person’s word is what they are.” The couple found out the hard way that it doesn’t always work that way.

The BBB warns consumers that they receive lots of complaints about these travel clubs. Here’s what they have to say about them:
“Vacation clubs, special travel agent training and bargain-finder software, often aren’t good deals because initial costs are rarely recouped by any future savings on travel costs since the bargains and special deals don’t really exist as portrayed in the sales pitches,” said the BBB’s spokesperson. “Consumers need to be very wary of travel club offers and research the companies extensively before committing any money or giving out credit card or bank account information.”

It’s better to save your pennies than bet them on a deal that may never come.

Watch out for the ‘free’ stuff
[CNN] (Thanks, prameta1!)
(Photo: danesparza )


Edit Your Comment

  1. When will people see these ponzi/pyramid schemes from the start? They are all over the news and the net ALL the time.

  2. I don’t mean to say it’s their fault, but they’re the ones that neglected to read the fine print.

  3. snoop-blog says:

    Always read before signing anything,… that’s rookies 101!

    And anything that involves an hour’s (or more) of a sales pitch is already not worth what they are asking, otherwise it wouldn’t take an hour (or more) to talk you into it.

    And the ole saying: “if it sounds too good to be true, IT IS!!!!!!!”

  4. Zclyh3 says:

    @Poisonous Taoist:

    Yup. They were too stupid to accept the Red Lobster card without reading the fine print. There was no scam here, just plain incompetence.

  5. JoeTan says:

    I can’t feel bad for people who fall for scams that are 100+ years old. So stupid.

    Oh wait! I got a great way to make money! Only $20 and I’ll tell ya!

  6. organicgardener says:

    Travel clubs are notorious for bait-and-switch, misrepresentation and outright lying to sell memberships. The BBB was correct in saying that “initial costs are rarely recouped by any future savings on travel costs since the bargains and special deals don’t really exist as portrayed in the sales pitches.” This happened to my grandparents in Florida (a hotbed for this type of scam), and only contacting the Attorney General finally got them their refund months later.

  7. snoop-blog says:

    The thing that makes me blame the op the most is I’ve actually done these thing before (as the salesperson) and I can tell they felt pressure to sign and so instead of leaving, they wanted to PLEASE the salesperson so the were signing up with the intention of canceling, NEVER DO THIS!

    If you know you are going to cancel, then don’t sign up in the first place, or you’ll just be dealing with a rude salesperson again days later, and once again they’ll be putting the pressure on you and taking your cancelation personal.

  8. xwildebeestx says:

    @snoop-blog: I agree. No reason to try to “please” a salesperson, they’ll forget you as soon as you walk out the door either way.

  9. theczardictates says:

    wait, nobody said “hah, who eats at Red Lobster?” yet…

  10. dragon:ONE says:

    @JoeTan: Is it “get a job you lazy bum”?

    If so… *hands JoeTan $20 ZWD*

  11. If you sign it, it’s legal. Ask yourself, why is this have to be a legal document. If you get a coupon in the paper, no signature, probably OK. If you have to sign something for that coupon, probably NOT OK, look in deeper.

  12. @Git Em SteveDave is a poor substitute for LindsayJoy: Same goes for telephone calls. If they ask you to say your name, the date, or anything identifying, watch out. Why does this have to be a “legal” call.

  13. Why did they even GO to the presentation? Let me guess, they were giving away “free” gifts, right?

    I know I am preaching to the consumerist choir here–but for the love of God people, STOP GOING TO SALES PRESENTATIONS.

  14. snoop-blog says:

    @xwildebeestx: Not always. I sell cars, and granted there are hundreds of people that i remember faces and no names, there are quite a few that I remember every detail about, name, first and last, what they bought, what they put down, what they traded in… you get the idea. But a great salesperson is always thinking about the next sale and that is why most of their sales are nothing but numbers to them. Because it takes “x” amount of numbers to be sold, before you get to eat.

  15. laserjobs says:

    Meal at Red Lobster – Free

    Trying to scam the scammers – $7500

    Finding out you are an idiot – Priceless

  16. @CreativeLinks:

    Thank you, I could not say it better.

  17. outofoffice says:

    Funny, just read the same type of scam in of all places a Reader’s Digest at the Doctors office.

    Going to these types of sales presentations is tantamount to dinner with the Devil. You think you go in with the upper hand, but the Devil knows your weaknesses, in this case dinner at Red Lobster.

  18. primo.avanti says:

    and this, my friends, is why you never sign anything you didnt read first…especially just after a sales pitch

  19. bohemian says:

    Any “club” that requires you to spend $7,500 in order to save money is a scam.
    This reminds me of that home improvement club they are always advertising on home improvement channels. Something direct? I looked them up online. Tons of people who sat through an hour long presentation and then pressured into paying $7,500 to join only to find out it isn’t any great service. It is just set up like catalog showrooms were in the 70’s.

  20. @primo.avanti: Never enter a pyramid scheme on an empty stomach?

  21. snoop-blog says:

    @Git Em SteveDave is a poor substitute for LindsayJoy: or drunk. or stoned for that matter…

  22. evslin says:

    But, unfortunately, Stephen and Jean didn’t realize that by accepting the Red Lobster card, they had used the services of the travel club. And by signing that piece of paper, they were waiving their right to cancel their membership.

    This is why you read the fine print. Personally I’d be pretty careful about joining some service with a $7500 entrance fee just for the purpose of getting or doing one thing, then canceling before that money is due. If the company knowingly allows this, I’d be expecting some sort of a catch along the way.

  23. samurailynn says:

    If this was one of the sales pitches where they advertise
    “FREE SOMETHING just for listening” and the FREE SOMETHING was coupons/gift certificates for Red Lobster, shouldn’t they be entitled to them even if they cancel? I know people who have gotten the free gifts without signing up for the product offered. If you don’t mind giving up an hour of your time, and you can say “no” then it’s not so bad. I just don’t know why these people said “yes” instead of “no”.

  24. snoop-blog says:

    @samurailynn: Because they were assured they could cancel within 3 days. That’s why they signed up. I guess you could say the players got played. game, set, match!

  25. RabbitDinner says:

    I hate blaming the victim, but jeez, it’s not like this is some new, elaborate scam. Putting 7500 down? WTF! “They were asked to sign a piece of paper after they received the card. The Liangs didn’t think much about it.”-and therein lies the problem

  26. macinjosh says:

    @bohemian: DirectBuy. I think they were covered on here but I don’t feel like searchin’.

  27. BTW, how many people here have $7500 laying around in pocket cash to spend on a program to receive discounts on future travel and condo packages?

    It is not just the amount of $, or the “travel” purpose of spending the $, but spending the $ just to receive a discount on travel. The OP must sure like to travel to justify $7500 expenditure so as to receive some discounts.

  28. parad0x360 says:

    Why would they pay the money if they probably knew they were going to cancel? I mean $7500 is alot of money…did they give this large expense zero thought?

    I know were arent suppose to blame OP but they didnt read the contract plain and simple. Does it suck? Yes it sure does but who’s fault is it?

    If there was no signed paper contract then they should take them to small claims court. If there is one they should also send in said contract for all of us to read.

  29. jdmba says:

    Just think … if the Liang’s kept kosher, they would have declined the red lobster card, not signed the form, and still have their $7500.

    Just saying …

  30. cyberscribe says:

    “A fool and his money are soon parted”, they say.

    Anybody that’s got $7,500 to toss around on such frivolous offers can surely afford the cost of this lesson anyway.

  31. Pro-Pain says:

    Never sign anything. Never.

  32. bohemian says:

    I’m still trying to figure out why you would need to spend $7,500 in order to save on travel. There are tons of places to get things way cheaper than the normal advertised price. Hotwire and Priceline come to mind. I even found something through Cruise Critic where you could get a discount on unbooked rooms on a cruise as long as it was close to the ship out date plus they gave you a bunch of the cruiseship fun money. There are plenty of legit ways to save a few bucks.

    On this topic, why do people still fall for buying timeshares? I don’t know anyone who has ever bought one and kept it for more than a few years or didn’t feel ripped off.

  33. RabbitDinner says:

    $7500? What kind of savings could they possibly have been buying into? WTF do they vacation that would justify that kind of money? Maui? Montenegro? The French Alps?

  34. rellog says:

    Geez… how about a little sympathy here. Yes, EVERYBODY should read the fine print… no, not everyone is savvy enough to do so.
    These are older people. There’s a reason that douche bag companies like this target older people… they don’t always function at the same level they used to. They tend to be more trusting (scammers weren’t nearly so prevalent 30 years ago) and they bow to intimidation much easier.
    How is this NOT the companies fault? Sure the people should have spent 12 hours reading the fine print in depth, at what is often written at a 56th grade level, but the company is designed to essentially lie to scam money. The people working this system need a swift bat to the shins.

  35. Eigtball says:

    This doesn’t sound right. If they thought it was a “bonus” why did they go an cancel? Why not just not take the deal to begin with. I think they were just in it for a coupon, and when it started taking forever to get out, they just signed what ever they could. Not bashing, or anything it’s the wording don’t sound right, smells like a cover-up of a mistake.

    It sucks, but Caveat emptor

  36. parrotuya says:

    I wonder what kind of commission the salesperson got. He probably at a much fancier restaurant than Red Lobster, that’s for sure! Travel Club offers are almost always a scam. Buyer Beware!

  37. Julia789 says:

    Didn’t the elderly have ponzi schemes and ripoffs back in their day, too? They were a more trusting generation, I suppose, so I guess it’s hard to teach them.

    Someone pointed out the scam was in Reader’s Digest in the doctor’s office waiting room. It’s great the article was there – it’s probably the only way to get the message to these old people.

  38. Coles_Law says:

    What the article fails to mention is the discount was for up to $10,000 off your next Red Lobster meal-they were actually quite savvy.
    [end sarcasm subroutine]

  39. Difdi says:

    There’s an old saying about it being impossible to cheat an honest man. That’s not completely true, but it is a great deal easier to cheat someone who is looking to get something for nothing…

  40. In this case it is not completely appropriate to blame the OP as people are doing. Is honor and honest business so completely dead in the United States that we are to mock someone who still expects people to be good to them? The criminal here is the shark that put together such a horribly deceitful scam. They should have their arms cut off.

    The OP now knows not to trust people. They learned the hard way, as so many other people do. And we smile, laugh at their folly, and continue with our day, content to allow this sort of unethical business to pass without criticism?

  41. @Corporate-Shill: Was wondering that too. If they have $7,500 to throw around on something as frivolous as a travel club, they’re probably not hurting without this money.

    Meanwhile, that’s almost 9 months rent for me.

    Sucks to be them, but we’ve all heard that statement about what happens to a fool and their money…

  42. tinmanx says:

    Reminds me of the time I went to a timeshare presentation so I can get a discount on Disney World tickets. I was actually interested in learning about this whole timeshare deal, so I figure why not. What the guy hadn’t counted on was that I could do math, so every time I asked a question about fees and such the salesman would totally change the subject. He also played the sympathy card saying he’s taking care of two adopted children, not that I don’t believe him, it’s just that he brought it up during the presentation to get sympathy points. And when I didn’t agree to buy he was rude saying I would never be “invited” in again. Well fine, you can keep your exclusive “community” to yourself, and I’ll enjoy my own vacations without having to pay you.

  43. OsiUmenyiora says:

    “We really enjoy Red Lobster”

    Right there you knew they were in trouble.

  44. LostAngeles says:

    Wow. I’ve worked for my school and they hand me a lot of things to sign. I always, always read them thoroughly before doing so, even though I don’t expect them to be attempting to screw me. I was probably the first one to catch a typo on one of the documents last year that they had to fix.

  45. damitaimee says:

    its really sad that they got such a terrible deal on what sounds like a crappy timeshare system.

    timeshares are awesome if you buy the right one.

    seriously, i’m not sure how much my mom originally put down (cant be very much since when she bought it, she was a single mother of three with 2 full time jobs) but every year she renews her membership for about $500 and she gets a certain amount of points. this year i spent a week in vegas in a two bedroom, two bath, luxury unit with stove, full size fridge, all dishwear, etc. (this unit could have been priced easily at $900+ for the week)

    my mom is planning a week trip somewhere around christmas.

    every year you get this really thick catalog of all the places you can go. for the most part, you can pretty much go anywhere.
    unfortunately it is a little more to go overseas, but that’s something i think would be expected.

  46. failurate says:

    @Dakota Courtois: You are wrong. It is “I’ve got a great way to make money. Give me $20 and I’ll tell you.”

  47. Marshfield says:

    I went to a presentation for a vacation club; they ask you how many vacations to you take, how much do you spend, they add it all up and say “spend 7500 now and you’ll save lots more over the next (5,10,15) years!”

    The one we went to only cost us $1100 bucks, promised plane ticket rebates, discounts on special travel weekends, etc. And the math worked out, ASSUMING:
    1) you took all the trips you said you’d take and
    2) they stay in business beyond 18 months.

    Yes, they went out of business 18 months later. Or perhaps it was just 12 months. Either way, it was $1100 down the drain.

    Since then I’ve instituted the “I don’t spend over $500 on the spur of the moment without sleeping on it” policy that’s saved me a couple of times since then.

  48. Coolmatt49 says:

    I’m surprised that they didn’t think before signing something. Think about it. You just signed up for a club for $7,500 with the condition that you could cancel in three days. You are then presented a coupon if you SIGN something shortly after you join a club that you want to quit. Doesn’t that sound suspicious.

    If something is free, there’s a catch. What should you do? Don’t take it UNLESS you know what is attached to make it free and are willing to take that risk.

    Short and simple, you will probably pay/give more than the value of something that’s free.

    DON’T sign for something unless you READ (not know) what you are signing for.

  49. FatLynn says:

    @damitaimee: They can be a good value in certain circumstances. For example, if you have several couples who can vacation together in a multi-room condo or if you will really use the kitchen to save on meals while vacationing. However, there are a LOT of fees and rules that they don’t tell you up front.

  50. rellog says:

    @XianZhuXuande: Well put.

    @Coolmatt49: For older people, this mentality of trust no one is completely foreign to them. Additionally, what they were TOLD and what the legal speak written were two different things. Sounds like there was never a meeting of the minds and in that case the contract is null and void.

  51. HonestNigerian says:

    I spend $7500 and get a coupon to Red lobster??? How about I cancel right now because you offered me a coupon to Red Lobster.

  52. btdown says:

    I still don’t understand why people buy timeshares…Serves them right though..they seem like old penny pinchers who come to hear the pitch just for the free stuff.

  53. Angryrider says:

    Never buy Timeshares. Are people that dense? Even that episode South Park was a public service announcement, because they are friggin’ inescapable.

  54. shufflemoomin says:

    This is what happens to lazy and greedy people. Why would sign ANYTHING without reading it? It might be a scam, but it relies on gullible idiots to make it work. Sadly, some countries are easier to find them than others.

  55. snoop-blog says:

    People, I don’t think they had $7500 to “toss around”. The $7500 wasn’t due at the time they signed up for everything, and by the way I read it, they only signed up because they were “assured they could cancel within 3 days”, which meant they had intention of canceling from the start. The sales people at these things are very pushy. Chances are, you didn’t even want to listen to some pitch to get a free whatever but was talked into it by a pushy salesman. That’s the equation for the salesman; find a customer that caves to pressure.

  56. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    Folks, read the comment code. Helpful comments towards the victim or cautionary tales are fine – calling the victim names (e.g. lazy, stupid, greedy) or being nasty is not fine. From here on out, please abide by the comment code in your responses.

  57. RabbitDinner says:

    @snoop-blog: I understand pushy salesmen. I was at Bloomingdale’s, just looking ffs. Sales guy would not get off my ass, after multiple times of me telling him to fuck off (in tone, not literally). I ended up buying the shirt to end the cross-departmental haranguing and returned the polo shirt the next week. But then again, in my case, the worst case maybe I can’t return it and I’d be out ~$60 for something that I could actually use-a nice shirt

  58. xsmasherx says:

    @bohemian: “This reminds me of that home improvement club they are always advertising on home improvement channels. Something direct?”

    Direct Buy. Avoid. You pay thousands a year to join a club that lets you order overpriced merchandise from a catalog. Try Costco, BJ’s, or Sam’s club instead.

  59. TechnoDestructo says:

    “This is really, really wrong. A person’s word is what they are.”

    And many people are liars.

  60. vdragonmpc says:

    Consumerist is getting a bit behind apparently and is missing some things:

    When will there be a post about “Mona-Vie”??

    I have a friend who has just gotten scammed into this and wanted me to get into it. The two shysters from Quixtar and Amway are involved in it. This bottle of pure BS is supposed to cure everything from depression to arthritis.

    The cost?
    40$ a bottle and this crap autoships in 4 bottle incriments to ‘keep you current’ in the program… Who has 140$ for fruit juice? This thing reeks of scumm scammyness.

    Any chance of cunsumerist posting something on this?

  61. dragonvpm says:

    Hopefully this doesn’t run afoul of the code, but it’s been bugging me for a while.

    Whenever we see an article about how someone got scammed, way too many people pipe up and try to show how clever they are by ragging on whoever it was that got scammed. We get it, you’re super brains who think you know every possible way to get conned and you clearly don’t need to be reading the consumerist. You can now go on and live happy, scam free lives because you’re way too smart to ever get taken advantage of by someone.


    Without knowing, EXACTLY what the people signed (and what laws apply to legal documents in their area) it’s impossible to know that they didn’t sign a large lined sheet (like a sign in sheet or petition form) that only obliquely referred to some other document that explicitly waived the cancellation option. That’s a known trick that petitioners use (walk up to someone ask them to sign a petition on one thing and then have them sign a petition that is for something else entirely). I don’t know if that would be valid to waive a cancellation option clause in a contract, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it could (in some areas).

    That’s often one of the important things to consider about a lot of “deals” where are these businesses chartered? That can even be of interest for credit cards and loans. In what state (or country) is the legal entity incorporated? Ultimately the thing to remember is that scam artists, banks, credit card companies, Wal-Mart, they all have large teams of lawyers looking out solely for their interests and consumers have to be wary and in places like the consumerist, share their experiences.

    Instead of trying to point out how stupid these people were, look at how the company wrote up a contract that said one thing and then at the last minute got people to sign an amendment that dramatically affected their rights. I like to think that I’m pretty savy, but I wouldn’t have through anyone would try something THAT sleazy and honestly I’m curious to know more about how they did it. It’s easy to think that we won’t fall for something when we see it coming, but if we should take away anything from these stories, it’s that a lot of times you don’t see it coming and all you can do is be on the look out for warning signs.

  62. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @dragonvpm: Your post is fine. Actually, it’s exactly the spirit of the ‘don’t blame the victim’ rule – there are folks who, historically, have jumped all over everyone, and placed blame on everyone but the business that took advantage of them.

    Essentially, it’s okay to point out alternative routes of action, cautions to other readers, suggestions, advice, and so on. It should be constructive. We’d like to tone down the level of smug superiority and name-calling that scam posts have attracted; it’s not necessary, not helpful, and is ultimately disruptive.

  63. hallam says:

    Don’t ever assume that the money is lost until you have talked to a lawyer.

    Smells like a deliberate attempt to fraudulently misrepresent the contract terms. They were given an assertion they could cancel within three days, why does the coupon take priority over the statement? Answer: it does not necessarily take priority.

  64. varro says:

    Unless they gave them $7500 at the presentation, there’s a simple remedy – DON’T PAY IT.

    What are the scammers going to do – sue them? Any judge would laugh them out of court and invalidate the adhesion contract.

  65. Landru says:

    This is how we learn, folks. It was nice of them to bring it to others’ attention, so others will make better decisions in the future. You know they will.

  66. Canino says:

    I stayed for 5 days at a five-star resort in Hawaii one time very cheap in exchange for going to their timeshare presentation. Afterwards I told them if they ran my credit they would see I couldn’t afford it even if I wanted it. They just said OK thanks bye and that was it.

    After they retired my grandparents made a hobby of going to timeshare presentations for the free “$5000 or a big screen TV*” (*or other gift). They were ultratightwads and would have never bought anything anyway. They ended up with a pile of ceiling fans, portable black/white TVs, tire inflaters, chinese-made tool sets and all kinds of other cheap crap.

  67. FLEB says:

    My wife and I went to a few of those presentations– for entertainment if nothing else– when they piled on us after registering as fiancees. The thing that I always find funny about these sales presentation people is once you start shooting down their initial offers, they start throwing out offers that go beyond lesser deals with a lower price tag, into offers that are just insulting.

    By the end it’s “Okay, instead of 14 days of unrestricted use, you get two days, with blackout dates. The partner benefits are limited, and we don’t waive any surcharges. However, that does only put you at $600 a year, which is within your budget. How about it?”

  68. Sarcastikate says:

    I knew someone in Florida who also loved going to timeshare sales presentations – he had a lot of fun jerking the salespeople around. Would let them go on and on and sound interested, then suddenly just collect whatever they were giving away and walk away. Not my idea of fun and I don’t need any more junk than I already have. I know that most of us feel we’re way too saavy to fall for this kind of stuff, but these salespeople are really really good at what they do. That being said, we all must read before signing anything – no if’s, and’s or but’s.

  69. thelushie says:

    If they put it on a credit card, seriously, this is the time for a chargeback.

  70. dwcusc says:

    I like Red Lobster, but not THAT much!

  71. Wait a minute. You people are actually saying you would’nt fall for this scam? Did you read the article or not? It clearly said “DISCOUNT COUPON FOR RED LOBSTER” was offered. How can you pass up a deal like THAT??

  72. @vdragonmpc: Sorry about your friend. Amway and “Quikscar” are now being advertised on prime time TV.

  73. @snoop-blog: Wise words my friend. My folks almost got scammed a few years ago. We drove out to Canyon Lake, TX after getting a postcard saying a free mustang was waiting for us. I pressured my folks into going. We drove there and found a double wide trailer and were met by a kindly old gentleman. He showed us the time shares including the model unit. It seemed nice. However when he drove us back to the double wide it was a different story. The whole place was a pressure cooker, boiler room type room with multiple tables all around with couples all being pitched by salespeople. My folks and I sat down and my mom was being lured into the whole time share deal. My dad got pissed and left. I sat a while and decided to follow him to the car. My dad was angry so I sat in the back seat biting my nails. I waited a few minutes then went back into the boiler room and found my mom being turned into the proverbial road kill while THREE salesman all sat around showing her the papers to sign. My mom was nervous and when I tried to tap her shoulder to tell her something one of the salesmen gave me this annoyed look and said “hey your mom is busy” or something to that effect. I went out to the car and told my dad. He jumped out of the car and stormed into the building. I sat in the backseat and waited. About 5 minutes passed ’till my dad emerged from the building. He had this look of calm on his face, kind of like he just had a 3LB. bowel movement. Well, turns out this was’nt far from the truth. My dad entered the car and started it up. I turned around to see my mom being escorted out of the building by the so called “nice old man” and his buddies. Her face red and streaming with tears. She got into the car and began crying and yelling at my dad…demanding a divorce, etc. etc. I found out later the next day that my dad launched into the boiler room like the tazmanian devil. A polish jackhammer of rage riproaring and shouting at EVERYONE. He screamed at the salesmen, called them a bunch of “fucking thieves” and whatever else he could think of. Apparently he walked over right when they finally pressured my mom to sign over a check for a 750.00 downpayment. To this day my parents don’t talk about it. They are still married. I still hold myself somewhat responsible for getting them out there in the first place. My parents were familiar with different types of scams but this one caught them off guard including myself. I was just a kid yet I should have known when something sounds too good to be true: I usually is.

  74. shufflemoomin says:

    @dragonvpm: No, I think you’re being too generous to the victim. It’s not about legal loopholes or local laws, they clearly that state that they simply ‘thought’ a document was something else:

    ‘They were asked to sign a piece of paper after they received the card. The Liangs didn’t think much about it.

    “We thought we needed to sign it to show we’d gotten the card,” Jean said.’

    That doesn’t sound like the words of someone who’s had a good read at what they’re signing, does it?

    To the Mod: Why aren’t people allowed to express opinions on these stories anymore? Are you saying that we should only be sympathetic and feel bad for people or not post anything? I think by not reading something completely, it’s laziness. I think by signing something simply to get a coupon for some food, is greedy. It wasn’t a baseless accusation, it’s my opinion.

  75. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I refuse to blame the consumer here just because we wouldn’t fall victim.

    They always put an artificial sense of urgency. Sign now or never… If you don’t sign that’s the end, but if you DO sign, you get a 3 day right to cancel..

  76. dragonvpm says:

    @shufflemoomin: Do you know anything more about what happened there? You THINK things worked out one way, I’m saying I want to know more because I had never heard of someone giving you something to sign that said one thing (i.e. 3 day cancellation option) and then had ANOTHER thing to sign that negated the first thing. That just has the feel of an orchestrated scam and I’d want to know more about what happened.

    IMO the fact that the 2nd paper was presented AFTER the coupon was presented and to our knowledge it wasn’t explained as a waiver for the cancellation period option makes it seem questionable.

    “We thought we needed to sign it to show we’d gotten the card,” Jean said.’

    That doesn’t sound like the words of someone who’s had a good read at what they’re signing, does it?

    As I said earlier, I don’t know WHAT they signed (and neither do you). They state that they thought it was one thing which it obviously wasn’t, so I’d be interested to know what it was.

    Ultimately we don’t know what happened, but I’m more likely to sympathize with someone who got scammed than with the asshole who scammed them, even if it’s something I could see through instantly. PLUS since I have older parents I’d like to know more about these scams and how they prey on people so that I can help my folks keep an eye out for problems. They’re pretty clever, but they are also inclined to trust people so I do worry about people trying to scam them as they get older (but let’s face it, any of us can get scammed).

  77. Bayouside says:

    Is is possible to find out the actual name of the travel club business offering the travel club membership for seventy five hundred dollars? I was hoping to read specifics… and how much was the coupon for Red Lobster actually worth? We know the presentation was attended by Stephen and Jean Liang of Kansas City, Missouri. So, the name of the travel club is ____________. Thank you.

  78. synergy says:

    If the paper said nothing about “this is you waiving your right to cancel” then yes, it’s a scam. If they fell into signing their name on a piece of paper without reading it and it did say that, well. That would be one expensive lesson.

  79. mythago says:

    Not really following the people who seem to think that as long as a scam victim did not behave perfectly, then the scammers are morally free of blame, and in fact probably deserve props for good victim selection.

    I’m a lawyer – I have intelligent, well-educated, careful friends who miss and/or misunderstand the fine print on contracts, and it’s not because they’re greedy or dumb; it’s because ‘fine print’ can be difficult to figure out when there’s NOT somebody trying to rip you off. Go over and look at the “credit cards are the devil” post here, where people are arguing that just because your credit card company says it can do anything it wants to you, heck, you shouldn’t be afraid that it WILL, because they usually behave.

  80. I can’t imagine a circumstance where spending a lot to save some money would make any sense to me.

    So while I think that companies/salespeople who do these kinds of
    scammy presentations & hoodwink people into signing away their
    rights by dangling a carrot… are, well, unethical… And should be
    illegal if they’re using deceit…
    I still find it very difficult to feel sorry for people who fall for this sort of thing.
    They went in, and signed up, and thought they could get all these free
    perks or gifts or whatever, with every intention of cancelling.

    It’s the sort of thing that makes the old saying “You can’t cheat an honest person” sound spot on.

    It’s like that membership company I heard about a year or 2 ago that
    offered deep discounts on upscale pricey home building/decorating
    goods. Immediately when I heard about it – I knew it had to be a scam,
    or scam-ish. Or just not worth it. Or something fishy was going on at
    the very least.

    They hook in people who want to build & decorate beyond their
    means. They appeal to vanity by offering steep discounts on uppity
    products & materials that the people interested realize they could
    never afford normally. So then the people shell out a few thousand
    dollars… only to find out, they shouldn’t have spent those few
    thousand dollars, never mind that they can’t afford the high flying
    materials & products… even at a reasonable discount. The company
    makes money either way.

    There’s plenty of easy pickins for con artists, perpetrators of
    fraud, and just garden variety less than ethical slick salesmen who
    know that greed, envy, and pride are huge weaknesses in many people.
    The American Dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness has
    been extended to include the usually unrealistic goal of living like
    wealthy inherited counts & dukes of old times. Middle management
    spreadsheet jugglers seem to think they’re akin to feudal lords just
    because their job gives them the responsiblity to organize some
    employees. Surely they deseve a gated estate & the finest carriage.

    It should be needless to say that these people have drawbridges that
    don’t reach all the way across the moat. But in a culture that often
    applauds insane & irrational goals, it’s almost considered normal
    to want what’s too good to be true.

    Best to realize that you probably won’t ever get near all you think
    you deserve. And more people should just be grateful that they’re not
    getting what other people think they deserve!

  81. FatLynn says:

    @synergy: It sounds like the contract said something like “you can cancel within 72 hours as long as you don’t use any of the products/services of the travel club”. The coupon for red lobster is considered a product of the travel club, i.e. the club provides the discount coupon as a service to its members. So they accepted the coupon, and therefore couldn’t use the escape clause.

    In that case, it is very possible that the second thing they signed just said something like “we received the coupon”. It would be reasonable for them to sign it if the sales guy was like “oh, you have to sign this so I can prove that I gave it to you instead of pocketing it myself”. Also, if the travel club talked about, well, travel the entire time, they would have no reason to think that a coupon for red lobster would be considered one of its “services”.

    Now, I still think it is questionable to sign up for something and accept the free gifts with no intention of staying in the club, but it is entirely plausible that reading the fine print would not have helped them here, either.

  82. vladthepaler says:

    Yeah, it’s shady and it sucks. But if he’d read what he was signing, he wouldn’t be having this problem.

  83. mythago says:

    Actually, he might still be having this problem.