Dear Sherpa - [Yet Another] Deal Site has $128 RT tickets, Scam or Legit? - UPDATED Now even Scammier than before

UPDATED Tried to contact Groupalicious -

Just to be clear, that "Los Angeles Office" appears to be in Seattle?  Weird.  You can see I tried by Twitter as well:

And then this auto-reply with possibly the best answer to a very straight forward question:

And winner for epic quote of the year, One Stop Travel:

Q:  Is there a catch?

A:  That depends on what you call a catch.

I keep looking around for those Candid Camera people to pop out...


(Cue voice of Casey Cassum)

M.Y. writes...

Dear Sherpa -

What do you think of this deal?


I'm glad you asked because this has been something I have seen promoted a couple of different ways.  The way it is advertised it looks like (2) tickets to London/Paris or anywhere on this list for... $128!!!! Wow!  What a great deal!

Not so fast my friend...

Here are some red flags I see right away.

First, in the terms pictured below you will find 'Blackout Dates' apply meaning that this will not be a huge money saver for trying to fly during peak times.  That's not the end of the world for me, but for the casual traveler these 'Blackout Dates' (not disclosed) could be a deal breaker.  So we go to their Ts&Cs?  What do we see? July 1st - September 10th are out for London/Paris as well as any race weekend in Daytona.  We also see that a hefty two weeks on either side of Easter, or Christmas are out excluding half of March and April, likewise half of December and January.  This may be in addition to other Blackout Dates, I am awaiting the "travel agency's" comment for clarity but oddly, the number listed at the bottom is not a valid telephone number. Starting to smell a bit scammy to me, but I don't want to jump to conclusions.

Let's go on.

You have to stay at least 7 nights in London or Paris, but that's okay, it's just less flexibility.  Groups of more than than four people in total are not permitted (three ticket pairs or more), so you can't go with more than one other couple. How will they know you are all friends? Or does this mean that if two other couponers booked your dates you can't use the same dates?  For comment I rang them but... you know how that went.

The deal can't be used before 45 days from the time you got the deal, and if it is inside of 60 days you must pay for the hotel (within 7 days) of which they will not disclose the specifics (for locations other than London or Paris).  They have a cost estimator here so you are not totally in the dark, but we have to make a lot of assumptions.

Here is the punchline: this is excluding fuel surcharges and taxes!  On a trans-Atlantic ticket these can be as much as $1,000 each in some cases.  If flying to London I can personally attest to the intense consumer strangling APD (Air Passenger Duty) which averages to about $250/person + Sept 11th fees, plus facilities charge, etc.

So you get the pair of tickets for $128 (let's assume London since that is what they have marketed) +$500 at minimum in taxes and fees. Let's assume there are no fuel surcharges (unlikely) and now consider that we have a pair of tickets for $628 that can be used for London assuming I stay in one of their hotels.  Here is a pair of cost comparisons for a spring holiday and one a bit closer.

To be clear for those math wizards, that's $128 +$500 + 2,480 = $3,108 for two to London in March.  They list normal airlines as possibilities but won't say which (likely consolidators) they will use for your trip of course. I have to assume any flag carrier will do, here is what I found:

That's not a fare sale. It's not even a price I would pay (because there will be better deals) but it is average for this much notice on your trip.  Then there is the hotel which they claim is booked at normal market rates, and laid out the Heathrow Sheraton as where you would be staying.  So I popped over to the SPG website and found a rate of £816 or about $1,264, you can stay cheaper or further in the city but I want to compare their (wax) apples to my (actual) apples.

If you booked yourself you would pay today: $864 x 2 people = 1,728 + 1,264 = $2,992.

Not a great savings but still cheaper than their deal.  What if I wanted to go sooner?

$3,720 + $128 + $500 = $4,348

WHOA!  That seems expensive, what can the Sherpa find?

That's $887 in USD.

Not too bad for summer rates and not a ton of notice.  There may still be Olympics traffic even contributing to that rate, so this is actually a decent price.

The Sherpa found $997 x 2 people = $1,994 + $887 for the hotel = $2,881!  That's a savings over your 'Not Groupon' rate of $1,467 (Savings of 33%).  Not only that but their terms also state that you are not allowed to book any special offers, which you could if you book on your own if a better rate or bonus came along.

Finally, I am not even sure it is legal.  Groupon got into some trouble for expiring coupons.  This deal's two year expiry might not even be legal? There is one final bit that is seriously troubling, look at this sweet little line under the calculator:

Are you kidding me?

"Rates may vary and are subject to change without notice"

What's the point of having a calculator?  I called them for comment... you know how that one ends don't you?

So what's my answer M.Y.?

Don't you dare book this!  It's your responsibility to contact each of those 23 people who purportedly "bought" and introduce them to the Sherpa so they don't get into a bad situation.


Posted on July 25, 2012 and filed under DEALS!, Uncategorized.