Hey, where’s that Bahamas cruise you promised me?

Aleksey Stemmer/Shutterstock
Aleksey Stemmer/Shutterstock
Maybe you think you’ve heard this story before. It involves presentations with aggressive salesmen, lofty promises made and allegedly not kept, and fingerpointing — lots of fingerpointing.

But you haven’t heard this story. Not the way Troy Bryan tells it, at least.

He recently received a phone call from someone representing a company called Premiere Discounts.

“A representative indicated that I had won a prize from a contest that I had earlier entered,” he says. “I don’t recall entering this contest.”

Bryan took careful notes during the conversation. The representative promised him one of four “prizes”: A 2013 Dodge Durango XT SUV; $2,500 in cash; a Bahamas cruise or a Toshiba laptop.

The catch? He had to attend a sales presentation.

“When we checked in at the hotel, they verified our annual income,” he remembers. “We also had to show them our driver’s licenses and credit cards.”

The spiel was for a condominium offer made by a travel club called Gold Crown Resorts. There was pressure to buy, of course. When it was over, a representative gave him a cardboard pad with a gray circle. Bryan was invited to scratch the circle to see what he’d won.

The prize? A “vacation package” offered by another company, Choices Election, Inc. (confused yet?).

The fine print on the offer said he had to pay for all taxes and port fees, gas surcharges and a “processing” fee of $70 that had to be wired to the company — no checks or credit cards.

Bryan thought there was something fishy about the offer. If he’d won a real prize, it would be given to him without strings attached and any taxes would have to be paid to the government, not to the company.

He contacted me, hoping I could persuade the company to honor its offer of a “free” vacation.

I asked him if he could establish a better paper trail in which he asked the company to honor its promise, and it responded. And here’s where things begin to fall apart.

The response from Gold Crown seemed almost rehearsed:

Gold Crown Resort did not solicit your attendance at the presentation, nor did we offer any type of promotional gift to you.

Gold Crown Resort is not in any way involved in sales or marketing. We are a travel and accommodation service provider. We were contracted by Premier Marketing Concepts to provide these services to their registered clients. After careful review of our systems, there is no registration existing in your name.

It is important to understand that Gold Crown Resort did not issue a voucher to you and plays no role in the promotional item that you may have received.

Gold Crown Resort is a separate and distinct company from the entities you have mentioned including Premier Discounts, Premier Marketing Concepts and www.ChoiceSelectionInc.com.

For these reasons we respectfully request that you direct any further inquiries to the appropriate parties.

Thank you for your understanding.

So Bryan called Premier and spoke with a representative. “She said basically the company did nothing wrong,” he says. All of the fees had been adequately disclosed before the presentation, and if he didn’t like it, he should take it up with the other parties.

Around and around we go.

I’m fascinated by this case. I agree with Bryan that this is a questionable offer, at best. But it’s interesting to dissect a pitch like this, peeling back all the layers to see who is involved. There are at least three separate companies at work here, apparently. And they’re playing off each other in a way that would make a customer like Bryan give up and walk away.

After he pushed Gold Crown to honor its offer, Bryan received the following offer:

We are in receipt of your complaint letter regarding the promotional incentive.

Premier Marketing Concepts, LLC would like to offer to reimburse you for any standard fees associated with processing the promotion; however please understand that Premier will not take responsibility for any upgrades nor additional costs you should elect. Any fees above and beyond the base promotion is your responsibility.

Lastly, reimbursement will only be made once we have received receipt of payment to be provided by you.

He’s not sure if he should trust this offer, and would be happier getting the vacation outright — no strings attached.

Should I mediate Troy Bryan's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • http://thestockhome.com/ Josh S

    No. Don’t mediate — you’d be throwing good money (or time) after bad. This is a shady deal at best, and an outright scam at worst. You’ll never make headway for the letter-writer.

    The only reason you might want to mediate would be to really delve into and report on the ways these companies (which I’d bet dollars to donuts are owned by the same person, or family, or parent company) collude to defraud people. Allegedly, since obviously nothing is proven. It could be a fun expose’.

  • Raven_Altosk

    A week before I graduated college, I was called at my off-campus-unlisted-numbered-apartment to attend a “special event for graduates” that promised a cruise, a laptop, and other goodies.

    Of course, I jumped on it and attended the presentation, but when I got there, my Spider Sense told me this bad news. It was a high-pressure sales event for “Direct Buy” which we all know is a rip off. Still, being the snarky bastard I am, I decided to have some fun with these people. I knew I was being had when the presenter had me call their center to “try” the service and I was told to get a price quote on a couch of my choosing from their catalouge. I selected one very similar to one I had purchased. I listed very carefully as the service rep (aka scammer) explained the terms and conditions, but something didn’t seem right. Knowing enough about logistics, when she said “freight carrier,” I asked if this included “inside delivery.”

    The call center rep tripped over her words as she explained there would be an extra charge to bring the couch into my apartment as it would not be slated for “inside delivery.” I announced that I had purchased a similair couch earlier in the year from a local furniture company, for less than their “discounted prices” and their “inside delivery” fee.

    Sadly, a few students in the group dropped $2K each on these worthless memberships and my promised prize?

    A cheap calculator.

  • technomage1

    Don’t mediate. Mediation requires honest firms who may have made a mistake when dealing with a particular situation. These guys are scam artists. They don’t care about anything other than getting a quick buck.

  • mslellen

    It’s obviously a scam and he knew it. This guy is trying to get you to wiggle around the scam for his benefit.

  • http://phoenixjustice.blogspot.com/ Phoenix Justice

    Exactly. If Elliot should “mediate” this, he should also be wearing his journalist hat. Only thing is, these types of companies have been investigated by authorities and journalists alike, with their findings made public, and yet people still fall for the scams.

  • frostysnowman

    Total scam, don’t bother.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I usually come down on the side of the consumer here, but this whole thing reeks of scam. What legitimate company demands you pay for your vacation with a wire transfer?
    I’m assuming the OP did not wire any money to this “company”, so I think he should consider this a life lesson and be glad the only thing it cost him is a few hours of his time.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I can understand that, and the chances of him getting anything are remote at best. But at the same time, I wouldn’t mind seeing someone stick it to one of these companies.

  • DavidYoung2

    If by ‘remote’ you mean zero, I agree. As for sticking it to these scam artists, it’s like trying to grab smoke. Don’t bother; it’s a huge waste of time. I also agree that it appears the OP knew this was a shonky deal right out of the gate and went anyway thinking he was going to con a con artist. Give it up Troy. You’re out your couple of hours of time, but they wasted their time too. It’s a draw and with these scam artists, I’d call that a win for you.

  • ckhanal

    Something similar was going to happen with us when we visited Chicago Premium outlet in 2011. We got a phone call and were asked to visit and attend a presentation. They also asked about our income and credit card. They also offered us a vacation to Orlando. We never got a chance to attend their presentation because my husband was never able to manage time to go to Chicago area from St.Louis when they invited us. I always complained my husband that we missed a free vacation but now I realize it was all scam.
    Don’t mediate because this is just a scam.

  • sirwired

    You might as well mediate a case that a Penis Enlargement pill I was offered via some spam didn’t work. (And we won’t get into how after sending her thousands for plane tickets, visas, and medicine for her sick uncle, the new Hot Russian Girlfriend I wanted the pills to use with never showed up.)

    Hint: If any contest offers multiple “prizes” and one of them is travel, you are always going to “win” the travel, and it will never be free (or even close to it.)

  • m11_9


  • http://twitter.com/johntbaker John Baker

    Chris.. While I think the guy got scammed, there’s nothing to mediate. Mediation takes two party willing to work toward an end result they can both live with. The OP got scammed. The scammer could care less about making the OP happy. I would report the company to the office in his state that investigates consumer fraud. He’s not the first, nor will he be the last, to fall victim.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Do not mediate.

    “When we checked in at the hotel, they verified our annual income,” he remembers. “We also had to show them our driver’s licenses and credit cards.”

    But please, please, please have Mr. Bryan put a fraud alert on his credit reports and on his credit card(s). This is a classic identity theft scam. Mr. Bryan might want to talk to his state attorney general’s office for any other suggestions on how to protect himself.

  • mark

    I got a call a while back that i won a vacation and i asked if there was any cost to me to take the trip. The responce was of course there is proccesing fees if not you would have to pay taxes on the trip. I hung up.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Dude, I just LOL’ed.

  • BillCCC

    I lost interest after this line.

    “A representative indicated that I had won a prize from a contest that I
    had earlier entered,” he says. “I don’t recall entering this contest.”

  • cjr001

    “I don’t recall entering this contest.”

    Oh, let me count the red flags for this scam…

  • karlakatz

    I LoL’d til I peed! soooo goood!

  • Chris Johnson

    Waste of time and a scam. There’s no way this can turn out well. Tell Troy to run, not walk away from this, before he does spend some of his own money on it.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Serious? Someone will give you a FREE vacation and it is NOT a scam?

  • Alan Gore

    I voted no. In this world there are liars, damn liars, and timeshare salesmen.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    It is a scam. The reason why there are scams because there are people that want a free lunch. I don’t understand why people continue to talk to people if they don’t recall entering a contest, etc.

  • emanon256

    I voted no, there should be no mediation, he is not out anything but his own time that he already wasted.

    They have offered to re-reimburse him after he pays them? That’s crazy double talk!

    When he was told he won a contest that he never entered he should have walked away at that point. Perusing this is simply wasting his own time, and trying to get Chris to pursue this is wasting more time. Walk away while you can Mr. Bryan.

  • KaraJones

    OMG, I’m crying from laughing!! Thanks Sirwired! : D

  • emanon256


  • emanon256

    How much do you want to be the paperwork asked for his SSN too. I didn’t even see this angel of it, wow!!! This is scary.

  • KaraJones

    Yeah, that part made me go “whoa”! Jeanne is right. He absolutely should do a fraud alert. And he should go ahead and ask his credit card company to change his account number just to be safe.
    There is nothing to mediate here – and the guy is nuts if he keeps wanting to press them into letting him have the free vacation. The more he engages with these thieves, the more access they have to him and his money.

  • jerryatric

    This guy must be living in a cave! There have been no end of warnings about attending these “presentations” where they promise huge wins. We have attended 1 or 2 of these presentations while staying at a Resort’s site. Generally promised round of golf, dinner or even a free night AT THE RESORT. Remember folks – IF IT SOUNDS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE!
    He received a call, does not remember entering any contest, HELLO????

  • Joe_D_Messina

    “Bryan thought there was something fishy about the offer.”

    That moment of clarity only came AFTER he’d “won” a contest he’d never entered and shown his credit cards to somebody for no reason. This guy is just lucky all his cards didn’t get maxed out while he was sitting through the sales presentation.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Looks like a timeshare fan saw your post! ;-)

  • KaraJones

    That’s a great line!

  • Jolanda Robbins

    Seems fair if they are willing to cover the fees, why is this a scam then?

  • Jolanda Robbins

    Can you mediate my case with the Nigerian Lottery? I won $59 million USD and they never paid.

  • Ian Parrish

    Too many real travelers out there with real problems that need mediating to waste time on this one.

    Here’s what I suggest for the OP:
    Call a local news station. They love this kind of crap. See if he can follow up undercover. Then some local reporter with a bad toupee can swoop in and thrust his mic at some sleazy sales guy as he runs away. Or better yet gets in a fight. It’s a nice variation from the “What you don’t know about your dishwasher that might kill you…” theme they often show.

    They need to teach commandment #1 of the internet:
    Thou shalt receive nothing of actual value for free in an internet solicitation.

    Followed immediately by commandment 1a:
    Thou shalt never pay by wire transfer, neither on promise of reimbursement nor for “processing” fees

  • sirwired

    He’s supposed to send them money, which they will theoretically turn around and give him back? Why not just not charge him to begin with?

    Yeah, I’m sure they’ll send him that check real promptly…

  • Clint Davis

    I don’t know why these scams are allowed to continue operating. Rather than mediate, use your connections to get lawmakers involved to shut these schemes down.

  • John Keahey

    Hope you give Chris 10 percent after he gets that money for you.

  • chickadee

    I wish you could mediate this case just as a warning to others, or to punish these scam artists. I would love to see these people have to follow through on promises made….However, as others have noted, it would waste a lot of your time and energy.

    I have to say, I hope this guy was pursuing this setup with the understanding that it was a scam, and his intent was to force them to give him what it *appeared* they were promising, knowing full well that they lie.

  • Harry Baxter

    Chris, you could spend full time chasing scammers who invite the gullible to attend “free presentations” which offer retirement planning or timeshare seminars. Even the best of these scams is only borderline legal. Don’t waste your time. How can anyone be naive enough to say that he entered a contest, but couldn’t remember which one?
    The foolish will always be with us.

  • calbff

    Definitely don’t mediate – but if you’re ever in a trouble-maker kind of mood, I’d love to see you stick your nose in and see how far you can get. Although I doubt you have the time to waste on it.

  • Joe Farrell

    So someone gets a contact from some company he has never heard from, touting a prize from a contest he never entered, and he thinks there is a pot of gold at the end of the runaround? Geeze, Mama Gump was right – stupid is as stupid does.

    Tell your OP that if he sends me $4000 for the bank fees and charges we can immediately begin the process of getting Onga Totweli’s$26 million oil proceeds out of his closed account in the Bahamian Island of Freeport [that is a city, not an island] and that we shall then use him as the intermediary to transport said sum out of Kenya where it is trapped due to the murder of the oil minister in 2002 by Al Qaeda. Once we get the money out of the country into his account, all he needs to do is wire $20 million and keep $6 million for his trouble.

    I bet he’d buy that too – and – btw – Facebook Administation needs to contact him about his account – have click on this link . . .

  • $16635417

    I have the contact info for a Nigerian prince, I’m sure he’ll be able to help.

  • Poley King

    Just so he can go on the “cruise” and get scammed again? Tell him to cut his losses and be happy he didn’t get his bank accounts cleaned out

  • JenniferFinger

    Being forced to attend a sales presentation to collect a prize and give personal information spells S-C-A-M. Instead of mediating, report all these scammers to the appropriate government agencies.

  • TonyA_says

    Thanks for clarifying that he has not put a cent out yet. I was trying to figure out what the damage was.

  • oldft

    It’s an obvious scam; he (apparently) spent nothing but couple of hours’ time…seems he knows better…no harm, no foul…”spread the word” about ALL the companies involved and move on!

  • Jolanda Robbins

    ….Because they have nothing to reimburse him for if he hasn’t paid anything, if they give him the money now how do they know he won’t take the trip and just keep the money.

  • sirwired

    I’ll repeat: If this is legit, why not just not charge him to begin with? Why make him wire money, and then pay it back? It makes no sense, unless this is a scam, which it is.

    What would happen, were he to wire the money, is that the untracable wire transfer would go into a black hole, never to return. He wouldn’t have anybody to go after because those involved would have already closed up shop and started up under a new name.

  • Guest

    You must be blind, read the article it said they told him about the payments upfront.

  • TonyA_says

    I thought we were not supposed to call each other names.

  • sirwired

    Yes, they told him about the payments after the presentation. Zippadee doo dah. But despite having his credit card numbers, Photo ID, and being ostensibly a business with a bank account, they will accept neither credit cards nor checks (or even a Money Order) as payment; only wire transfer, which is a Huge Red Flag, On Fire, Illuminated by the Bat Signal, With a Seal That Says “Abandon All Money, Ye Dollars Which Enter Here” in 40-point type. Seriously, any business that asks for payment via Western Union Wire Transfer is a scam. Period. End of Story. Even WU itself will admit this. (WU does have a utility bill payment service which is separate, and quite legit.)

    And I’ll ask a third time. If they are just going to turn around and pay him back, why make him pay at all?

  • KaraJones

    I have an idea. Maybe Jolanda could lay out the money for him.

  • KaraJones

    Sirwired, you are just making me laugh and laugh today (“Zippadee doo dah”)…I even laughed again just typing it. : D thanks!!

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Be nice, please.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Really, really shouldn’t eat lunch while reading this blog. Now I have to wipe off the screen. Thanks for the laugh, anyway!

  • Grant

    If it sounds too good to be true… GOOGLE it! I just did… entered “premier marketing concepts scam,” then “gold crown resorts scam,” and found hundreds, if not thousands of scam reports. Come on, folks. Chris can’t do it all. You have to help yourselves at least a little bit. Here are the links…



  • Dutchess

    Because he pays the money to the travel company and then the marketing company will reimburse him. It’s still a scam.

  • emanon256

    You crack me up!!!

    When i tried renting out our old house, my tenant insisted on paying me by WU. She insisted it was the only method she felt safe using. Insane! Perhaps that is why she stopped paying me after 18 months and I had to sue and evict her and sue her. Stupid is as stupid does. And I will never play landlord again.

  • emanon256

    I think Jolanda Robbins is a troll. I looked at some of her other discus posts on other sites and it appears she is simply looking to get people to react to her. She even changes her writing style depending on the site she posts to. Kind of interesting.

    On a piece about an officer shooting a teenager who pulled a gun and aimed it at the officers she posted:

    Dis is BS, just cuz you carry a piece, doesn’t mean you wuz gonna shoot an office.

  • TonyA_says

    It snowed here today so I’m late to the ballgame.
    But let me get this straight.

    (1) Some telemarketer (called Premiere Marketing Concepts) calls you and invites you to a presentation at a Hotel. They also tell you that you have “won” a prize. Here is a sample invitation:

    (2) You go to the hotel and attend a high pressure sales presentation selling Gold Crown Resorts vacation club. I guess if you succumb to the pressure and buy a membership, Premier makes a lot of commission.

    (3) If you do not buy a Gold Crown Resorts membership and you try to claim your gift, you are presented some travel VOUCHER options (from Smart Travel & Incentives of Lake Mary, FL). See list here http://www.choiceselectioninc.com/
    None of the travel VOUCHERS are FREE. To activate them you must pay. In the OP’s case with wire transfer.
    If you read the Voucher Details, you will spend more money on fees, etc.

    So you essentially attend a high pressure sales presentation and get NOTHING.
    Now getting NOTHING is actually the best part. Since if your purchased something then you might really get scammed.

    Go home and call it a night and I hope the food was good at the presentation.

  • ChBot

    I think the prize is rather fitting for you since you tried to count the negative savings that they were offering you !!!

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    governments generally don’t collect taxes anymore, they get airlines, cruise companies & thereby travel agents/wholesalers to do it for them.
    Some charge a fee for doing this (I would).
    So there’s nothing wrong with collecting a govt/airport/dodgy TSA fees/dodgy security immigration fees/bend over tax.

  • IrishStubborn

    My Grandson can’t figure out why I’m laughing so hard. Thanks!!!

  • Extra mail

    Really? Enough said.

  • TonyA_says

    I would like to direct you to the FBI website: http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud

    The FBI clearly warns the public about telemarketing fraud.

    When you send money to people you do not know personally or give personal or financial information to unknown callers, you increase your chances of becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud.

    Here are some warning signs of telemarketing fraud—what a caller may tell you:
    “You’ve won a ‘free’ gift, vacation, or prize.” But you have to pay for “postage and handling” or other charges.

    Don’t pay for a “free prize.” If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.

  • Joshua

    I voted no, because the entire deal was intended to be a scam from the start. There’s no point in mediating with scammers. It would be a waste of your effort that could be used to help people who have problems with legitimate but unhelpful businesses.

  • TonyA_says
  • Minxie M.

    I have worked for these types of premium incentive offers and they are at best very gray. There’s a vacation to be had but the amount of hoops to jump through is paramount.First and always there’s tax to pay and you will pay on a highly inflated price. You can’t get around the tax it’s always on any gift and that’s what the companies that supply the certifications call it.The will never admit to this is a prize because its not. They call them premium incentive/gift and it’s a reward for completing the sales pitch. The scratch off cards you mention are always for the vacation.The company that supplies the gifts and fulfillment does have the other 4 gifts and registers it with the state that by chance they will award them. They may print out 10 million cards and they know which ones have the higher price gifts in it. Always you will be in a hotel that isn’t the best and the room you get will be the worst they have. Once paying the inflated tax to the hotel the surplus, pays for the rooms turn over (no money is lost in this). You’ll find out that to book your room it won’t be easy black out dates and no weekends things like that. I wouldn’t get involved with this the companies doing this have for along time and know how to run it. Good luck