Is Your Vacation Guaranteed?

If you are looking for a vacation deal this summer, you may want to avoid the offers that come over the fax machine at work, as enticing as they may be with cheap prices and promises of luxury hotels.

In The Early Show "Traveler Beware" series, consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen shows what happened when she booked one of these trips.

She received the fax in the CBS newsroom offering a trip to Cancun for $299 per person. She called and heard the pitch. She bought the trip. And after the agents had the credit card number, the price started going up.

She paid $880. Then she was hit with extra surprise fees, sending the total price up to $1,311.

The travel company hit her with some additional charges: $29 for a travel packet, and a peak-season fee of $397 for traveling in May. When she got there, she found out from a tour guide it was actually low season, a very slow time in Mexico.

She was promised a luxury five-star hotel with free amenities. But her hotel was anything but luxurious.

And as she walked to her room, she found chipped doors, missing ceiling tiles, and hallways smelling of paint.

"It stinks in here," the CBS producer noted.

The room didn't have the king-size bed she was promised. Instead, there were two smaller and very hard beds, one with a cigarette burn on the bedspread.

The next day, it got worse: The air conditioning was on, but it was not working. And even though the bathroom looked clean, the smell was just awful.

Koeppen noted, "It's actually coming from this drain down here. It has a sewage smell, definitely unpleasant, definitely not what you want in a five-star hotel."

The food was free, but it tasted just so-so, and the flies seemed to like the lunch buffet more than she did.

When her producer asked about the water sports, he was pointed to a sign listing the prices. They weren't free at all.

Their beachfront hotel had a large pool and very nice employees, but it definitely was not the five-star resort they were expecting.

In the end, the vacation that started at $880 cost almost 50 percent more.

"It certainly sounds like a bait and switch," says Judy Pepper, who runs the Central Florida Better Business Bureau.

She says travel scams are one of the bureau's top complaints. The fax Koeppen got full of promises looked very familiar. "We see a lot of those," Pepper says.

The company that sold CBS News the trip, Travelcomm, has an unsatisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau, and a long list of customer complaints, Pepper says.

Koeppen wanted to talk to Travelcomm about her trip, but representatives at the headquarters in Orlando refused to talk to her on camera. Over the phone, they denied offering her many of the things she was promised when she originally booked the vacation.

Travelcomm's president of sales and marketing told Koeppen she was never guaranteed a five-star hotel, or all of those free amenities.

The company stands by its peak season charge for May, and says it has a great reputation. But after going on this "luxury vacation," Koeppen couldn't wait to say "adios."

Koeppen did say goodbye to Cancun, but her vacation came with a bonus trip to Orlando. So along with her producer, she went to Florida.

Here's what happened:

They were promised two free tickets to a theme park. But when they tried to get them, they were told they had to go on a time-share presentation.

The hotel was actually in Clermont, about 23 miles away from Orlando. And they had to pay some extra taxes when they checked out.
  • Tatiana Morales

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