The cards come in the mail with your name carved in sand. The heading reads, "Reservation Notification."
On the flip side it says, "In celebration of our grand opening in your area, you have been selected to received 2 round trip airline tickets!" Respond within 48 hours, and you also get a 7-day cruise. By now you may think it's a time share gimmick, but the postcard makes a point to say it's not. The mass mailing is post marked in Whatcom county.
I called the number to find out what's what. It turns out, the card is from a Bellingham company called Way To Go Travel, Incorporated. I checked state records online. The Department of Revenue shows Way To Go Travel, Inc. has been licensed since January of 2008. It's classified as a travel arrangement and reservation service.
On the phone, owner Mike Flannery explained it's a travel Club. Flannery says it's membership-based club that provides reservations for camping and condo accommodations at deeply reduced rates. The program involves a one-time membership fee plus annual dues. When asked about specific costs, Flannery told me the membership is $3,495, with yearly dues of $109 for the travel portion and $200 for the camping portion. Flannery says the discounted accommodation fees are based on the volume buying power on the part of suppliers. Flannery added that members have access to the inventory of Condominium Travel Club and Resort Parks International.
According to Flannery, if you got one of these post cards, you fit the profile of someone who is 35-72 years old, owns their home and takes regular vacations. The card is an invitation to a presentation to learn more about the club. Flannery says there's a 7-day window to change your mind and the club currently has 2,000 members.
As for the two airline tickets and the 7-day cruise, the company makes it clear: They're not free. You pay taxes, fees and deposits, which come to just under $600 per person. The airline tickets and cruise are a promotion, with tickets purchased by the company at discounted rates.
Regarding the "grand opening" mentioned on the post card, Flannery says he's considering adding a Way To Go, Inc. office in Kent. The post cards are designed to gauge interest.
The Better Business Bureau gives Way To Go an "A" rating, one of the highest ratings given, for responding to and resolving eight complaints over the last three years.