Travel Troubleshooter: Beware the hard sell of the travel club
Travel Troubleshooter for Sunday, Nov. 26. 2017.
Q: My husband and I recently stayed at the Grand Palladium Bavaro Suites in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. While we were there, we were invited to attend a sales presentation for the Palladium Travel Club. We paid $8,174 as initial payment, which included a deposit and administrative fee, using our credit card for a 30-year package with 60 all-inclusive weeks.
My husband and I soon realized that the membership is not beneficial to us and that we can't afford it. Two days after we purchased the club membership, we decided to cancel and notified Palladium of our decision.
About two weeks later, I received a call from the sales manager of Palladium Travel Club, advising me that I can't cancel my membership because there is no cancellation clause in the contract. I believe I have the legal right to cancel my membership, and we want to exercise that right. Can you help me get a refund?
— Rowena Cruz, Ontario, Canada
A: You have the right to cancel your contract — if not legally, then ethically. But before we get to that, let's take a closer look at what happened to you while you were visiting the Dominican Republic. There you were, minding your own business on an all-inclusive vacation, and out of the blue someone invites you to a "brief" sales presentation.
That presentation for Palladium's club took almost all day, and, if its website is any indication, was filled with lofty promises and hyperbole. How could you not want to sign up for something that offers "endless possibilities to change your way of traveling forever"?
Palladium seems to gloss over the costs, and it's also vague on the benefits of its "club." Sample question from its site: "How can I get the best out of my membership?" (Hmm, you might start by telling me how much it costs.)
Disclosure: I'm a travel club skeptic. As I wrote in my book How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler, there's only one travel club I trust: AAA. From what I can tell, Palladium's club is a curious combination of loyalty program, timeshare, and all-inclusive. And I see no reason to change my opinion about travel clubs.
But let's give Palladium the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume that this whole operation is on the up-and-up and that you signed up in good faith. Should you be able to cancel your membership within a certain period? You believed your contract was governed by Mexico's laws, which require a cooling-off period. The Palladium representative to whom you spoke said there's no such requirement because the contract is governed by Spanish law.
Frankly, I don't care whose law applies, and neither should Palladium. It sold you the club membership in a high-pressure environment, when your defenses were at their lowest, while you were on vacation, and it should immediately refund the money.
I list the names, numbers, and emails of the Palladium Travel Club executives on my consumer-advocacy site. A brief, polite email to one of them might have helped your cause.
I contacted Palladium on your behalf. Your cancellation is being processed.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of "How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler." You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at email@example.com.