Consumer Alert: “Southwest Escape” Offer Grounded

November 2, 2011

in Consumer Alerts

  • Sharebar

(Be sure to read the updates appear at the end of our original story.)
Southwest Escape Postcard Revised The “snail mail” which the U.S. Postal Service delivers to me consists mainly of advertisements and catalogs that quickly find their way into the paper recycling bin that the garbage company collects each week.  But unlike the envelopes stuffed with most of that not-so-informative information, the ones related to travel usually get opened and the contents given at least a quick scan before being tossed out.

Earlier this year, a postcard (pictured at left) promoting a air fare-hotel package landed on my desk.  On its face was a photo of an aircraft flying through clouds, the words “Fly Away Escape – Southwest Airlines” and what appeared to be the Southwest Airlines Website logo.  The back of the postcard said:  “Congratulations.  You have been selected to receive 2 Round Trip Airfares to anywhere Southwest flies.  CALL WITHIN 48 HOURS.  YOU WILL ALSO RECEIVE AS A BONUS 3 DAY 2 NIGHT HOTEL STAY!”

Since I had no immediate desire to travel to any destination served by Southwest, the postcard spiraled down into my wastepaper basket, and the offer printed on its reverse side vanished from my brain’s radar screen.  But when the same postcard touched down in my office a couple of months later, I said to myself: “Is Southwest really rewarding me for being a loyal customer, or is this offer just too good to be true?”

Southwest’s flights from the San Francisco Bay Area don’t often go to places where I am headed. So although I belong to the airline’s frequent flyer program, I have never flown often enough to earn a free seat, let alone a deal like the one touted by this postcard.  And since Southwest knows my e-mail address, why would it have mailed this offer to me?

I realized that the only way to verify that the offer was legitimate would be to contact Southwest directly, rather than phone the “888” number on the postcard.  And as a journalist, I knew that the best way to find out would be to contact the airline’s press relations department.

After an exchange of e-mails, Southwest confirmed that a third-party had made unauthorized use of the carrier’s name and logo to pitch this trip to me.  Southwest contacted the company that had sent me the postcard and convinced it to cease such promotional offers.  The airline has a team that works to protect its customers from such marketing ploys.

If you received this “Fly Away Escape” promotion, write a comment to this post and let me know what action you took, and what happened if you actually accepted the offer.  I’ll pass on your remarks to my contact at Southwest Airlines.

(Editor’s Note: This story has been linked to in posts on Consumerist and MoneyTalksNews Websites).

June 11, 2014 Update: The beat goes on. In the last month, this story has been read nearly 2,300 times, and that number, along with recent comments posted below, indicates that these “travel club” promotions are on-going.

A post about “US Airlines” on the Website of consumer advocate, Christopher Elliott, led me in turn to this excellent discussion of “travel clubs” by Los Angeles Times columnist, David Lazarus, which ran in the paper in August of last year.

July 14, 2013 Update: A comment posted by a Tales Told From The Road reader has led us to this April 30, 2013 Better Business Bureau report on “travel clubs” which often utilize this form of postcard promotion.

We strongly recommend that our readers who have received one of these “free offer” postcards (or a letter with a similar offer) review “Travel Club Schemes: Insider The Promotion Commotion” issued by the Dallas and Northeast Texas office of the BBB. The BBB “Consumer News and Opinion Blog” is another resource for checking out whether any offer, promotion, or business is “on the up and up.”

Consumer advocate, Christopher Elliott, has dealt with complaints about travel clubs for two decades. The fact that Tales Told From The Road readers have viewed our story over 25,000 times, and that they continue to post comments indicating that these travel promotion offers are still being mailed to them, is a strong indication that those promotions are not likely to end anytime in the near future.

August 19, 2014 Update: The most recent version of these promotions appears to be one labeled “Southwest Celebration,” although Southwest Airlines has no apparent connection to it any more than it did to the “Fly Away Escape” offer we reported on nearly three years ago.

These promotions typically offer attendees free airfare and hotel stays in return for attending a presentation (often held at a hotel near their homes) about joining a “travel club.” Although the format might be similar to those in which time-shares at vacation properties are offered for sale, “travel club” members don’t end up owning interest in real estate, just the possibility of discounts on future travel.

The following video, which accompanies a Huffington Post article by Kevin Richberg, shows what you might expect if you attend one of these presentations.

While it is possible that legitimate travel clubs exist that offer members good value, Consumer Reports and the Federal Trade Commission advise consumers to carefully investigate what is being offered before signing on the dotted line.

Save up to 40% on Last Minute Flights with Hotwire Limited Rates!
(Purchases made from Hotwire through this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories.)

Get more travel news! Subscribe to our e-mail updates!

Back to Front Page Stories Explore This Blog

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011-2013 Dick Jordan

Last updated by at .

{ 593 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack June 5, 2014 at 12:10 PM

Mine came yesterday 6/4/2014.
Presorted
first class mail
US postage paid
Las Vegas, NV
Permit no. 2736

david k. June 9, 2014 at 4:12 PM

I found this same postcard in my mailbox today. So I decided to Google it. If it is a fraud, maybe you can contact the proper channels to shut them down.
Washington State

P.A. Guillory June 10, 2014 at 8:10 AM

My postcard had “Southwest Celebration” 1-888-598-2322…receive 2 round trip coach anywhere and a 3 day 2 night hotel stay at Hilton or similar. PROMO CODE: LCL0606

Sanchez June 16, 2014 at 3:51 PM

Got a similar one today.

I am very curious first why if you fly from SF “Since I had no immediate desire to travel to any destination served by Southwest ” and “Southwest’s flights from the San Francisco Bay Area don’t often go to places where I am headed” when SWA flies to 85% of the airports any other airline does?

http://www.southwest.com/travel_center/routemap_dyn.html

You make yourself out to be too good for most of SWA destinations.

Thanks for the report it has been informational. I got one today and want to call and say I am not married because my state won;t let me do so. I want to see if the promotional company denies me because I wan to bring my same sex partner. I can predict the response, can you?

Dick Jordan
Twitter:
June 16, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Thanks for your comment.

It’s not that I’m “too good” to fly on Southwest, in fact, I’ve flown with that airline a number of times.

But Southwest doesn’t fly to Europe or Canada, and a number of other places that I’m interested in visiting. And for a few years, it discontinued service out of San Francisco International Airport, my preferred airport in the area, completely.

So odds are that I’d never fly on Southwest often enough to be earn enough frequent flier credits to redeem for airfare. And because United and Alaska serve more of my desired destinations, I’m much more likely that mileage credit earned from using one of those airlines’ “branded” credit cards, as well as mileage earned from flying, can be used to snag a free seat, especially in First or Business Class, as I’ve successfully done in the past.

So when I got the “Fly Away Escape” postcard offer, I said to myself: “Why would Southwest send this to me? I only rarely book flights with them?” The answer, of course, is that wasn’t the airline that sent the postcard.

My wife recently flew to and from Phoenix on Southwest, and if I had made the trip with her, we would have chosen Southwest because it has the best schedule and airfares between home and that Arizona city.

Cindy June 17, 2014 at 12:35 PM

My husband and I live in Rochester, NY. We just received one of these cards for Southwest Celebration saying we won two free round trips any where in the contiguous United States and to call the number 1-888-820-2656. I decided to Google this before we called. Thank you for your article.

Ev0 June 26, 2014 at 2:07 PM

Got mine today 6/26/14 North Seattle Area and they are still claiming the same as last year they said was a misprint.
Southwest Celebration 1-888-598-2322
Congratulations! We’ve selected you to receive two round trip coach class airfares to ANYWHERE IN THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES! Call within 48hrs for 3 day 2 night stay at Hilton or similar hotels. Promo code EWA06–
Front of card just has photo of the undercarriage of a flying twin eng jet with no carrier markings. Only Name of a company on the whole card is Hilton. Super fine print on bottom of back says “all components of this offer are fulfilled by a 3rd party” the postal permit is 210 18640. Should get them for postal fraud. – See more at: http://www.bbb.org/blog/2013/03/post-card-offers-free-airline-tickets-delivers-sales-presentation/#comment-154084

Mike Swisdak July 14, 2014 at 2:18 PM

Got a “Southwest Celebration” postcard today, 7/14/14, in Maryland. Asked to call 1-888-959-4970. Decided to Google the offer and found your article. Thanks for the info.

Tiffany July 15, 2014 at 11:33 PM

Got a “Southwest Celebration” postcard today, 7/14/14, in Michigan. Decided to Google the offer and found your article. Thanks for the info.

Ricky July 16, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Just received the card. NC. 888-778-8632.

To be fair, the card NOW doesn’t have ANY company name on it (even though saying Southwest is extremely misleading). It also does not promise or offer a “free” 3 day and 2 night stay. It is simply saying they are offering 3 day and 2 night stays. The cost of this is in fact not listed. So there is no false advertisement here. As shady and low as you can get, but no false advertisement in the strictest sense.

What does irk me though is the copyright infringement and the disguise they try to put on.

Henry July 17, 2014 at 4:23 PM

We just received the same “Southwest Celebration” card here today, 7/17/14, in St. Louis, MO, with a different phone number 1-877-882-5452. Congratulations, indeed. Gotta love Google!

Natalie Williams July 20, 2014 at 11:31 AM

Got mine a few days back . . . not going for it. If it looks like a scam, feels like a scam, and smells like a scam . . . it’s a scam.

Michael DelMonte July 22, 2014 at 11:05 AM

I received mine today. Southwest Celebration! 2 round trip tickets if we call 888-778-8632 in 48 hours we will also receive a 3 day 2 night stay at a luxury hotel. Promo code 9320005007. We have never flown Southwest, but have been watching their site as we are planning a trip next year.

Dave Long July 28, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Got mine in Rochester, NY. No “Free” words used. Who knows what the offer really is? I’ve been to the 90-minute pitches before, and if you take an oath to yourself not to buy, it was a worthwhile 90 minutes.
The way it’s worded, it’s not a fraud… altho it is suspicious.
What’s the offer?

Thanks in advance.

DON July 28, 2014 at 2:34 PM

Well, they are still sending….I had checked with a forensic person from a communications company and she said that if you respond there are ways they can extract loads of info on you from just your phone number when you call. They also can get info even if you are calling from a blocked number. Then they sell that info to other “scammers” or advertisers who pay them a premium for your data. Just discard the post card and by all means don’t call them.

Dick Jordan
Twitter:
July 28, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Typically these promotions are for “travel clubs.” You buy a membership for a few thousand dollars and supposedly are entitled to discounts when purchasing travel services in the future.

The promoters usually offer a three-day/two-night stay plus airfare for two at any place a specified airline flies to, if the person receiving the offer agrees to attend a presentation.

The main questions raised by these promotions are whether the travel discounts will actually be available, whether the cost of joining the “travel club” is greater than the value of the travel discounts on might receive, and whether the free hotel stays/airfare will actually be given to those who attend the presentations, especially if they decide not to join the “club.”

If you have not already done so, you should read the Los Angeles Times piece by David Lazarus that I mentioned in the update to our original story.

Ray July 28, 2014 at 8:37 PM

Received one also today in Spanish Fork Utah. I’m also grateful for google! Thanks for sharing and for the information!

Mr. Gus July 30, 2014 at 4:44 PM

Got mine today. It appears both Southwest Airlines and the BBB have not had much success stopping these scumbuckets.

Christy August 4, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Just received the Southwest postcard and immediately knew it was a scam. If I truly won, I know they will contact me directly. Not from some bs postcard. I called anyways just to get more information. Travel agent name is Brittany Scalf, employee number KB010784. I’m glad you are taking further action to report these scams. I’d like to know more information if I can help further about this scam. Please contact my email. Thanks!

Christy August 4, 2014 at 4:08 PM

Brittany Scalf is the lady who answered the scam number regarding the promo. Her employee number is KB010784. Postcard says it’s from southwest but when I called, it offered free 2 night cruise to Bahamas from Caribbean cruise line. Brittany told me all I had to do is pay a port tax of $59. I knew it was a scam because if I truly won something, they would contact me directly. Not from some bs postcard. Still called out of curiosity and now that I’ve seen this, I’d like to know further info on reporting this scam and Thank you for your actions!
Christy recently posted..Tales Told From The Road Weekly Travel News UpdateMy Profile

John August 4, 2014 at 4:40 PM

And the beat goes on. Received my postcard today with the title “Southwest Celebration”. It goes one to say that they have selected me to receive two round trip tickets to most airports in the continental United States. If I call with 48 hours I will also receive a 3 day 2 night stay at a hilton or similar hotels. I feel for those people who are duped by this scam.

Sandy Colo August 4, 2014 at 5:36 PM

Postcard for 2 Southwest airline tickets – Permit No. 210 18640 The promo code on mine is GJC0801. Call 1-888-598-2322

Interesting that I’ve had 3 phone calls from the same telescammer number today – not this one pushing via postcards, but another that seems to be a scum-for-hire that calls with all kinds of illegit promos including: “You have won a cruise for which we will send tickets as soon as we get $60 processing fee from you on a valid credit card.” !!!!!

Charles Flaum August 4, 2014 at 5:39 PM

I received a similar postcard 8/4/14. The front says “Southwest Presentation”, but the plane no longer had Southwest logo or colors. They have modified their message to avoid lawsuits by Southwest Airlines, but the scam remains the same.

les August 4, 2014 at 7:11 PM

Just got a card with Southwest on it so they haven’t stopped illegally using the airlines..

Paloma August 5, 2014 at 3:27 PM

I got one in the mail today ! i decided to look it up online to see if it was too good to be true, so here i am. on the bottom left corner it says “All components of this offer are fulfilled by a third party. Certain restrictions apply. Recipient Responsible for all applicable taxes. Please call for details.” This postcard doesn’t have any logos on it at all.

Presorted
First-Class Mail
US Postage paid
Las Vegas, NV
Permit No.2736

William Idoniboye
Twitter:
August 5, 2014 at 5:29 PM

Yeah got mine today, what a scam, my daughter was excited, looked it up, a scam, here are the images of the back and front… https://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/820x594q90/537/7jYmaj.jpg
and https://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/753x522q90/538/FzI2lt.jpg

Sandy Fox August 11, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Got the Southwest Celebration post card today. Picture did not have the Southwest Airline logo on the plane. I did a quick internet search of the scam to confirm, thanks for having this information confirming the scam.

RJ August 12, 2014 at 12:53 PM

My dad received one in the mail that says “Southwest Celebration,” but doesn’t have the logo. Same deal: 2 round-trip, coach-class tickets and a 3-day, 2-night stay. I threw it away. Glad I found your article.

Sarah August 13, 2014 at 9:51 AM

I received a post card on 8/11/2014 stating “Southwest Celebration” Receive two round trip tickets to most airports in the US and if call within 48 hours I will receive a three day two night stay at Hilton or something similar. I Googled this and realized it was a scam and ripped up the post card.

mike August 13, 2014 at 3:23 PM

Received post card 08/11/2014 Southwest tickets for two to anywhere continental U>S> plus 3 day two night stay at Hilton or similar. Promo code #RIL0808. My wife said we would attend the 90 min. mtg. I found this site and immediately cancelled. Thanks for keeping this site up and running.

Suzanne August 16, 2014 at 6:21 AM

We received a Southwest Celebration postcard this week in Santa Cruz, CA as previously described. Phone number 888-221-4782; promo code MON0808. Thanks for reporting on this scam.

Susanne August 18, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Just got a Southwest Celebration Postcard (no logo) with the offer of
2 round trip tickets and a 3 day/2 night stay if I call withing 48 hrs.
ph # 1-888-221-4782. Presort First Class US Postage Permit # 210 18640.
The BBB also warns against these people.

Karleen August 19, 2014 at 1:00 PM

In Boise, I got a similar postcard. Called the number, got the questions about my “eligibility”.

Actions taken:

Filed a complaint with the USPS for deceptive mail advertising
http://ehome.uspis.gov/fcsexternal/default.aspx

Sent information about the scam to the Holiday Inn that was hosting the events.

Sent the information to the local TV station.

Sent information to the BBB to correct its records. They did an investigation that turned up problems, but somehow it didn’t get used for rating the company.

Dick Jordan
Twitter:
August 19, 2014 at 1:04 PM

Karleen,

Thanks for your comment.

Did the U.S. Postal Service respond to your complaint?

Which Boise television station did you contact? Did it interview your? Did it run a story about the postcard offer?

Karma Thomas August 19, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Got the Southwest Celebration here in Boise, Idaho on 8/19/14. Phone #800-863-1791.

Dick Jordan
Twitter:
August 19, 2014 at 1:57 PM

Thanks for your comment, Karma.

You are the second Boise resident I’ve heard from today.

Judy C August 20, 2014 at 3:21 PM

We’re supposed to go to the Radisson here in Rochester, NY tomorrow evening. Even before seeing this site, we had already decided we were just going for the free trip no matter what (we actually thought it was timeshare sales thing). But if the “free trip” isn’t worth the paper its written on, why bother going?
Thanks for the information!

robert August 20, 2014 at 5:06 PM

Got a Southwest Celebration post card, phone: 888-221-4782, also US Postage Permit # 210 18640. Ignoring it, but did file a Postal Service complaint.

Ron August 20, 2014 at 6:25 PM

Received a Southwest Celebration postcard this week in Aptos, CA as previously described. Phone number 888-221-4782; promo code MON0816.
I am throwing the card in the recycling bin; it will no doubt get recycled to some other address.

Trudy August 21, 2014 at 6:38 PM

Got the card last week in Santa Cruz, Ca. Southwest Celebration. Promo Code MON0808. Phone # 1-888-221-4782. I do travel on Southwest a lot but was skeptical so I Googled the phone # and your story came up. Thank you for the info and not wasting my time. I will trash recycle the card as well.

Charles Martin August 25, 2014 at 3:54 PM

I received “Southwest Celebration today 8-25-2014 and am glad I did a Google “search” on it and found it to be the sham that it is. Caveat Emptor or let the “buyer” beware.

J Askins September 2, 2014 at 12:47 PM

Received a few postcards from Southwest Celebration with the same information as the others had on their card Toll Free number 1866950 4793
It is such a waste of print and resources when we all receive vast amounts of flyers, coupon offers, and scam mail each and everyday that end up in our landfills. The Free App Paperkarma is wonderful to cut down on trash mail we all receive everyday. Easy to use just take a picture of the sender company information and they notify sender and you will be removed from their mailing list. No a 100% foolproof sometimes they cannot find a record of sender, but it has worked on 95% of junk mail. LOVE IT

Les September 2, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Received mine today “Southwest Celebration” Picture of plane flying above (No Logo). Says, ” In celebration of 2014 you have been identified for an award of [2] round-trip airline tickets. These tickets are valid for round-trip airfare for [2] adults departing from select major airports in the contiguous U.S. In addition, you will receive a 3 day / 2 night hotel stay at selected destinations. The retail value of this award is up to $1,499.00. Call within 24 hours to receive a $25.00 gift card for Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, or Long Horn Steakhouse restaurants. To claim your award, simply call and mention your promo code: 2450007667. Call toll free 1-866-950-4793 mon-fri 6am to 9pm PST, Sat.:6am to 12pm PST (Post marked Sacramento, CA Permit # 1827 Oh! by the way I live in North Texas.

Leave a Comment

  Twitter (ID only. No links or "@" symbols)

CommentLuv badge

This blog uses premium CommentLuv which allows you to put your keywords with your name if you have had 3 approved comments. Use your real name and then @ your keywords (maximum of 3)

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: