DENVER -- We’ve all done it. You buy a product or enter a contest, and even though you sign off on the fine print, you don’t read it -- or if you do -- you don’t always understand it.
In a FOX31 Problem Solvers investigation, journalists took a look at how people and organizations they trust can get burned by the small print.
Thousands who attended the Colorado Garden & Home Show in February may have signed up to win a prize, not understanding what they were really getting into.
A “register to win” survey is what a number of attendees agreed to at the popular show at the Colorado Convention Center in February. Attendees entered to win $10,000 of free furniture.
As part of the entry, people agreed to be contacted by any of the nine businesses listed on the survey. It’s a common practice in contests and it’s perfectly legal. But the parent company of one of the nine businesses has been investigated by the Florida Attorney General for alleged deceptive and unfair practices and is the subject of many complaints to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
That company is called Grand Incentives, now doing business as Take Three Nights, according to the BBB.
Take Three Nights offers vacation packages to a number of places like Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and the Bahamas. The company promotes vacations for just $289 for two people and even offers to throw in a dining gift certificate worth $100. It all sounds too good to be true--doesn’t it? The Problem Solvers thought so and did some digging.
The BBB told the Problem Solvers that Take Three Nights’ parent company, Grand Incentives, has a long history with the bureau. In fact, complaint after complaint have been leveled against them, according to Denver/Boulder BBB spokesperson Krista Ferndelli.
“They have sort of a history of some practices involving travel certificates that were not on the up and up for consumers,” Ferndelli explained.
A letter sent to FOX31 by the company’s attorney promotes more than 40 domestic and international destinations--you just need to pay $289 to get a vacation. But Ferndelli said the people calling and writing the BBB tell a different story.
“The consumer then is either not receiving what they paid for, not able to get their money back,” Ferndelli said.
Those types of complaints to the BBB and the State of Florida resulted in legal action taken against the company by Florida’s Attorney General.
Three months ago, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced a settlement with Grand Incentives—the parent company of Take Three Nights--refunding more than $450,000 to consumers.
A lawyer representing the company told the Problem Solvers the case was settled without any evidence or admission of wrongdoing in August 2016 and was formally dismissed two months later.
But Bondi’s office said there is an active audit into Grand Incentives’ marketing practices and state investigators continue to monitor the company’s marketing phone calls, as outlined in the settlement agreement.
The BBB told the Problem Solvers it is concerned about ongoing, even recent complaints against Take Three Nights.
“When we’re seeing a consistent pattern of a high volume of complaints and then changing names under a parent company, sometimes it’s just another way to reach a different market of consumers,” said Ferndelli.
So how did a travel telemarketing company like Take Three Nights end up connected to the Colorado Garden & Home Show? The Colorado Garden Foundation said it outsourced its furniture giveaway drawing to a company called Breckenridge Grand Vacations – BGV Marketing. Information on attendees gathered from the drawing then went to Take Three Nights.
We asked BGV how, specifically, Take Three Nights got involved and whether BGV sold the contact information to Take Three Nights, but BGV’s director of marketing would not answer those questions.
A number of people in Colorado who registered for the furniture prize have been receiving calls and emails from Take Three Nights--offering deals on vacation packages if they agree to pay that $289, on the spot, with a credit card.
A Take Three Nights telemarketer who talked with FOX31’s Michael Konopasek told him he couldn’t think about the offer and call her back. Konopasek had to decide right then and there.
“Any reputable business is going to give you time to review, sleep on, decide about and investigate,” said Ferndelli.
In a statement, BGV said in part that it "…takes the allegations around the marketing practices of Take 3 very seriously and will be researching the situation…" The company also said it "…has currently ceased all agreements involving [Take Three Nights] until the allegations can be researched and resolved completely."
FOX31 reached out to Take Three Nights directly and received a letter from the company’s attorney. The attorney said the vacation offers are “completely transparent and legally compliant.”
As for the Colorado Garden Foundation--its executive director said he was unaware of the investigation of Grand Incentives in Florida until the Problem Solvers brought it to his attention. He said his foundation has never received a complaint regarding BGV, but made no mention of Take Three Nights. The foundation said it will continue to review its partner and vendor relationships.
Both the Colorado Garden Foundation and BGV are reputable local businesses with A+ ratings with the BBB. Grand Incentives was not formally rated by the BBB at the time this report was published. The bureau said a rating on Grand Incentives will come out shortly.
Colorado Garden Foundation’s statement:
“The Colorado Garden Foundation, a 501 c3 Colorado nonprofit organization, just produced its 58th annual Colorado Garden & Home Show. With more than 650 vendors, it is the largest home show west of the Mississippi. Proceeds from the show are invested back into Colorado communities via horticulture related scholarships and grants. As a result of the show, Colorado Garden Foundation has given more than $7 million across the state to date.
Breckenridge Grand Vacations (BGV) has been purchasing booth space at the show for more than 10 years. As a sponsor, they conduct a “register-to-win” opportunity at the show entrance. This opt-in process is available to all show attendees and approximately 20% choose to participate in this survey each year. The Colorado Garden Foundation has never had any issues with BGV in our decade-long relationship. While we can’t speak for the company, or its partners, we can say that we have never received a complaint from any of our attendees regarding BGV.
As always, it is The Colorado Garden Foundation’s policy to continuously review all of our partner and vendor relationships with our attendees to ensure that our guests have a positive experience at our fundraising event.” – Jim Fricke, executive director, Colorado Garden Foundation.
Breckenridge Grand Vacations statement:
“Breckenridge Grand Vacations is a locally and nationally recognized business of excellence with an A+ rating with the BBB.
The security and privacy of our clients’ and guests’ data is our top priority and we conduct our business upholding all Federal and State regulations regarding the use and sharing of data. We scrutinize our data clients very carefully and require them to meet all BGV, Industry, State and Federal guidelines. Colorado Garden and Home Show has partnered with BGV for the past 10 years as their data partner with no prior issues or concerns.
BGV takes the allegations around the marketing practices of Take 3 very seriously and will be researching the situation to the fullest extent possible. BGV, in upholding its long-standing dedication to excellence, has currently ceased all agreements involving this organization until the allegations can be researched and resolved completely.” – Sean Diehl, director of marketing, BGV Marketing Services.