Phoenix First would like to give me a free holiday

Mrs Bigmouth was at a baby show the other week, and entered a few prize draws. And she won a holiday!

Well, not quite. What she did win was the opportunity to be ripped off by a bunch of bastards. Nice of them to go after pregnant women and tired new parents, isn’t it?

Let me explain. Phoenix First called her and said she’d won a free holiday – all she needs to pay is the £32.50 admin fee for each of us. Bong! Scam sign number one!

The next step is to choose the destination – there are 28 to choose from – and pick up the tickets. They can’t do that by phone, internet or post, we have to go there in person. And by “we” I mean both of us. Bong! Scam sign number two!

The company is based in 278 St Vincent Street in Glasgow, but the pickup won’t happen there or during working hours, and we can’t just pop by. It’ll be a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, in a hotel. Bong! Scam sign number three!

And so on. So here’s what I know courtesy of Mr Google.

Phoenix First is a marketing company, not a holiday company – so when they claim on the phone that they’re a travel agent, they’re lying. More importantly they aren’t ABTA registered, so you don’t have any of the consumer protection you get from traditional travel agents and reputable online ones. They aren’t a limited company – if Mr Google is correct, they’re a trading name of a limited company whose director has been involved in similar things before, which were forced into liquidation – and while the wee nyaff says they aren’t selling holiday clubs, that’s essentially what they’re doing. The registered office of the parent company is the address of a company formation firm – a holding address, in other words.

Here’s the pitch. And by all accounts it’s a long pitch – nearly three hours. You go to a presentation and you’re offered an unbelievable deal: amazing discounts on holidays for the next X years. All you need to do is pay a joining fee (just under two grand) and then a membership fee (several grand more). And then all your holidays are cheap!

Not as cheap as you’ll find through Mr Internet, though. And remember – no ABTA protection, and because you’re paying by cheque (Mr Google suggests that Phoenix First either doesn’t have credit card processing facilities or has had such facilities revoked by the banks) you have no consumer protection either. Even if the deal is as good as it claims to be, which it isn’t, if Phoenix First disappears tomorrow, so does your money.

And the free holiday? This is the nicest thing I’ve found anybody saying:

For the totally free option (apart from the “admin” charge of about £50-£70) each, you might be offered somewhere you don’t really want to go, leaving from an airport miles away from your home. When you decline this offer you can normally upgrade to the next option, where you pay for your flights.

If you get a call from these twats, report them to trading standards. If you want a cheap holiday, book it on the internet.

Update, 9th June

Phoenix First isn’t the only firm running prize draws at shows in order to flog holiday clubs: I’ve also been contacted by a firm called Hospitality Scotland Promotions, and it’s the same story (although in my experience at least, the callers are less aggressive). Once again the promise of a “free” holiday is there in order to get you to a high-pressure sales presentation. Until 2010 the timeshare laws that enforce a cooling-off period don’t apply to holiday clubs, so attend these things at your peril.

You’ll find a long discussion, advice from trading standards and relevant links in the comments.





0 responses to “Phoenix First would like to give me a free holiday”

  1. mupwangle

    I had that a wee while back – different company but same deal. From what I can gather you genuinely do get a holiday but once there they try and force you to go to their “event” which is hard sell holiday club stuff.

    The other good scam is the free holiday for one. Great if you’re young free and single but it costs an arm and a leg to take a second person.

  2. Gary

    Incidentally, they phoned again and the wee nyaff on the line flat-out lied for about 15 minutes solid. Claimed they’re a limited company, that they’re a travel agent, etc etc etc. I may have spent that 15 minutes winding him up as a result.

  3. Anne

    I have just received the same phone call following a survey I filled in at an exhibition at the SECC. I have no intention of going to their meeting (by the way when I told him the date was inconvenient he offered me a further 4 options of times to go – I feel slightly less “exclusive” now) but it is good to know that my instincts were right!

  4. Gary

    Hi Anne. It’s gutting that we aren’t special, but at least we haven’t lost several hours of our lives to a hard sell holiday presentation.

    As ever, if something sounds too good to be true…

  5. fireman

    Well am i glad i found this space, gary myself and my partner like your good selves were “hit upon” too by these bloodsuckers at the baby show and this makes me reeeaaaly angry!!!!!! As if us parents and parents to be havent got enough to splash our hard earned and limited cash on!! What i would like to know is who lets these vampires into these shows anyway?
    Anyway we too got the “lucky call” the other day from the company and right away i smelt a rat! after promising and trying to convince me that they were neither a time share or a holiday sales company, i said that we would attend the presentation at the hotel (this was said tounge in cheek as i only wanted to take up a space on their list so some other poor bugger wouldnt be scammed. Anyway after receiving their letter this morning i decided to go on the net to find out some info about these scamsters. And after reading some pretty frightning and frustrating stuff i have decided to print some stuff from the net and spend a day at the Glynhill Hotel passing this info out to the gullable people who turn up for this thing and put these rats back in the sewer!!!!

  6. Linda

    I have just returned from similar holiday with Club La Costa.It cost £100.00 per person,for accommodation for 4 people including flights.The catch is that they want you to spend £3,500 for initial 3 years with 5 weeks holidays and as many long week ends as you want.Then a further £8,500.It lasts 60 years.This allows cheap accommodation and they can get cheap flights.
    I had a great holiday and yes they try to sell sell sell – just say no.

  7. Gary

    Hey Linda, thanks for adding that. Interesting stuff.

    Fireman, just be careful what you print or say. You don’t want to be looking down the wrong end of a libel case. I’m quite happy to slag them off here because they’ve flat-out lied to me – the chap on the phone said they were a travel agent, which they aren’t, and that they’re a limited company of the name they told me, which they aren’t (Phoenix First Ltd is a software company down south somewhere), and that there wasn’t going to be a presentation, which of course there is, and that they’re not a holiday club, which is only true in a Bill Clinton “I did not have sex with that woman” sense: they’re marketing on behalf of what sounds awfully like a holiday club. Or clubs. They wouldn’t tell me the names of the companies they deal with.

    Have a look for Trading Standards bodies’ advice on holiday clubs instead of making your own documents. That way if anyone has a problem with the leaflets, they can sue the government instead of you :)

    I’d strongly advise anybody who thinks this might be a good deal to go in with their eyes wide open, and with a firm understanding of their consumer rights (so for example, if you *do* go for the deal, how are you protected if the firm goes out of business, changes its business, is bought over…).

    Put it this way: I regularly advise people considering a new digital camera or whatever to use a credit card, so if something goes wrong there’s consumer protection (which you don’t have with cash, switch, cheques etc). Digital cameras cost £120. These deals ask for twelve grand.

  8. Gary

    Sorry, back to this. Here’s what the Department of Trade and Industry says about Holiday Clubs:

    The OFT advise that because Holiday Clubs are not covered by timeshare law there are no automatic cancellation rights for those who change their minds. Bogus holiday club companies exploit this by employing high-pressure sales techniques such as long presentations – lasting as long as six hours – to get customers to sign a binding contract. With promises of a once in a lifetime opportunity, dream holidays for life, special one-day only offers or cashback on the scheme, it can be tempting to sign up. But with no cooling-off period, people should always take the contract away to consider before signing.

    And here’s what the Office of Fair Trading says:

    There are reputable holiday clubs but many are bogus and want to con you out of money. These are some of the danger signs to watch out for:
    The dream

    How they hook you in

    They phone you at home and tell you that you have won a ‘free’ holiday. Or they approach you on the street whilst on holiday and give you a scratchcard which reveals that you have won a ‘free’ holiday. All you need to do is go to a presentation to collect your prize and learn more about a new holiday venture. You will be told that this is not about timeshare.

    You will later find out that the ‘free’ holiday isn’t free, as you must pay for extras, such as flights and other add-ons and go somewhere you don’t want to go at a time that doesn’t suit you.

    At the presentation

    Often the presentation will be at a plush hotel. The brochures will look glossy and convincing. You will be made to feel as if you are joining an exclusive holiday club which will offer exciting and great value holidays all over the world in top class accommodation.

    What they don’t tell you

    Unlike the law covering timeshare arrangements, you are not necessarily given a chance to cancel if you have second thoughts.
    The reality

    What are you buying?

    Don’t believe everything you hear. What the bogus holiday club tells you in the sales pitch and what is in the contract you sign could be two very different things:

    ‘You will have holidays in fabulous places at times of year that fit in with your needs.’
    Reality: no dates or destinations are guaranteed and holidays are often not available when and where you want them. You might end up going nowhere.

    ‘You will get your all your cash back after four years.’
    Reality: the contract will not guarantee you getting back all your money.
    There is also no guarantee that the company will still be here in four years.

    ‘Look how much cheaper we are than the regular tour operators.’
    Reality: the advertised discounts are not guaranteed and some deals are available elsewhere anyway. You could end up paying as much as the high street brochure price.

    ‘The holiday club’s subscription is worth a lot. You can sell it on later or leave it to your children as a bequest.’
    Reality: the resale value may be zero and you may not even be able to find a buyer. There are annual subscription charges to pay whether you use the holiday club or not.

    ‘This club will give you everything you ever wanted from a holiday.’
    Reality: the holiday clubs won’t be held accountable for any spoken promises made by their sales reps. They will only provide what is agreed to in the contracts that you have signed.
    The contract

    Don’t be pressurised

    The bogus holiday club will try to get you to sign on the spot – but do not let yourself be pressurised – ask for time to think it over. Seek independent advice.

    Watch out for the techniques the bogus club uses:

    * the presentation has lasted so long you are tempted to sign just because you are desperate to leave
    * you are offered unlimited free alcohol to get you into the mood to sign up
    * they have made you a special discounted offer only valid for that day
    * you are not left alone to discuss anything with your partner and you are given very limited time to view the contract.

    The three-point checklist

    Not all holiday clubs are disreputable. To avoid being caught by a holiday club that is bogus, use this checklist and take your time to think things through:

    1. Can you take the contract away and come back in a few days’ time with your decision?
    2. Do you have any cancellation rights, and are they written down?
    3. Is everything in writing in the contract that was promised to you at the presentation?

    DO NOT sign anything, no matter how much you are pressurised, unless you are sure it is exactly what you want.
    What to do if you have a complaint

    If you have already been caught by a bogus holiday club, the OFT can’t help you reclaim your money, but we would like to know about it. We might be able to stop this club from using the same tactics in future.

    Please put your complaint in writing to:
    Enquiries Team,
    Office of Fair Trading
    Ground Floor, Fleetbank House
    2-6 Salisbury Square EC4Y 8JX.

    If you have already signed up for one of these clubs and would like advice on your consumer rights, contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.

    The really important thing here is that your rights are pretty limited if you sign up for anything in these circumstances. So, ask yourself – if the deal is so great, why don’t they just advertise instead of employing middlemen who, if my experience is anything to go by, will say anything – no matter how untrue – to get you to come along?

  9. Gary

    FWIW I’ve reported my new friends via that OFT email address, and to Glasgow trading standards. Maybe they’re 100% on the level, but on the basis of my experience so far I very much doubt it.

  10. mupwangle

    Gary mailed me from his secret hiding place to ask me to summarize the response he got from Trading Standards, who are aware of this company.

    They’ve asked that any Glasgow residents who read this (remember trading standards are part of the local council) and have a complaint against the company, please contact them directly by:-

    Phone 0141 287 6681
    Fax 0141 287 6682

    If you aren’t in Glasgow then get in touch with your local TS, details of which should be on your local council’s website.

    Obviously they aren’t allowed to give any information about other people’s complaints but it does sound like they’ve had a few.

  11. mupwangle

    I tried to post this earlier but it didn’t work so I’ll try again.

    Gary got a reply from Glasgow Trading Standards and he asked me (from his secret bunker) to post the gist.

    Basically Trading Standards have already been made aware of this shower. If anyone from Glasgow has a complaint then please contact Glasgow Trading Standards directly :-

    Duty Officer
    Trading Standards Unit
    Land and Environmental Services
    Glasgow City Council
    231 George Street
    Glasgow G1 1RX

    Phone 0141 287 6681
    Fax 0141 287 6682

    If you aren’t from Glasgow they can’t help but urge you to contact your local trading standards lot. You’ll find it on your local council website usually.

    Basically – the more evidence they can gather about this sort of practice then the better chance they’ve got nailing them to the wall. :-) Obviously they didn’t say that though.

  12. Badger

    You’re a dick.
    Why is everyone in Glasgow so fucking cynical these days?
    Everyone has to make a living, eh?
    They’re not doing anything illegal and hardly being very dishonest really.
    What I don’t understand is why you people mind so much spending a few hours of you time listening to a speil about nice holidays (maybe even dream a wee bit that you could afford it) &they’ll be a bit horrible to you when you don’t buy into their scheme &you get your £32.50 holiday. You kids need to live a bit.

  13. mupwangle

    I think you cocked up your credibility by starting with “You’re a dick”. At least for a troll you managed to get your spelling right, so you gain some kudos.

    >>Why is everyone in Glasgow so fucking cynical these days?

    Because certain people (and I would obviously include you in that category) are out to screw other people over. If people like you didn’t exist then maybe people would be less cynical.

    >>Everyone has to make a living, eh?

    Yes, they do. Unfortunately for you your entire section of industry has managed to come under the same category as 419ers and evangelicals. Nobody really wants to listen to you but you still persist in annoying us.

    >>They’re not doing anything illegal

    That’s a matter for Trading Standards to decide. If TS decide that you aren’t breaking the law then I wouldn’t be surprised if you were acting immorally.

    >>and hardly being very dishonest really.

    So you aren’t denying the dishonesty then? It’s just hardly dishonest – not totally dishonest. It’s a bit like only murdering a bit.

    >>What I don’t understand is why you people mind so much spending a few hours of you time listening to a speil about nice holidays (maybe even dream a wee bit that you could afford it) &they’ll be a bit horrible to you when you don’t buy into their scheme &you get your £32.50 holiday. You kids need to live a bit.

    You don’t get it, do you? If this company, and others like it, were upfront and honest then there wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately the majority of companies that use this model are dishonest and rely on ignorance or even just plain pressure to sell the product. I’ve been victim to this myself. Unfortunately for me I agreed to go to one of these presentations as I was pretty damn knackered when they called. I called them back to cancel it was like the bloody spanish inquisition, which I didn’t expect (nobody expects the spanish inquisition!) I eventually was told that if I took the 6 day holiday then I was contractually obliged to attend an 8 hour presentation and if I didn’t then I would be liable for all costs. Read the stuff from the OFT above. I”m sorry but f*** and indeed off.

    >>You kids need to live a bit.

    Actually most of us have, which is why we are smart enough to have finely attuned bullshit detectors. You are wasting your time trying to convince us otherwise.

    If you are so convinced of your ethical righteousness – why post anonymously? Are you worried that someone will contact you asking if you want a free holiday?

  14. Badger

    I didn’t know you could post any way other than annonymously… it’s the internet.
    I don’t quite understand why you’ve presumed I work for them, I work in retail :P
    &Anyway, I’m not trying to convince anyone, I’m just venting :]

  15. You work in retail and you see no problem with lying a bit in order to sell things? That’s nice. May we ask which shop you work for, so that we may avoid it? Thanks.

  16. mupwangle

    >>I don’t quite understand why you’ve presumed I work for them, I work in retail :P

    Because that was the only logical conclusion as to why you were defending shonky business practices. Either you worked for them, used to work for them, worked for a similar company or were related to someone who worked for them. Also, if you had no actual involvement – why be so aggressive?

    >>May we ask which shop you work for, so that we may avoid it? Thanks.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if it was part of the Dixons group. ;-)

  17. Badger

    I apologise for calling you a dick, I’m sure you’re a lovely man, I’m just a bit immature.
    I read some of your other posts and agree with some of your opinions.
    I was just in a PMSy mood.

  18. mupwangle

    Everyone gets ranty every now and again. Nobody holds a grudge. ;-)

  19. Anne Stevenson

    Hi everyone, i to have just had the 10th call from them,because i did not show up on saturday they have been calling me to, they offered me alternitive days (9thJune) 2007 i told them i couldnt make it as i have no one to look after the kids but they where more than happy to tell me to take the kids with me, no chance am i putting them through that ill go buy a holiday from Thomas Cook or somewhere…..if im that deperate. But i must admit i was going to attend on Sat when i got the letter last week i decided i would do some research and found loads of bad things about this company so decided against going, then just then i got that call i confronted them on what i found and they started there rubbish its not a travel company its a marketing company i was told, so then i confronted them about the fact you pay more than told and also the fact that you dont get to choose where and when…. i was told yes you do , so what do i do part of me said go and see the other part says stay clear, but thanks to all the info on this page i now have made my decision…. thanks

  20. Gary

    Hi Anne. Glad the stuff here was helpful.

    Badger, sorry I wasn’t around to join in the fun but Mupwangle pretty much said what I’d have said: maybe the reason I’m cynical is because the rep on the phone lied not just once, but several times. Reputable firms don’t do that and don’t employ people who do that.

  21. Erin

    Can I just say, I work in a call centre not unlike Phoenix First and I get abuse yelled at me down the phone on a daily basis. At an outgoing call centre, we’re not allowed to hang up the phone first, so we have to sit and listen to all this abuse. You have to remember that it’s not the people that are phoning you’s scam. They’re just there to earn money, and it’s more than likely their first ever job. Please don’t take your anger out on us.

  22. Gary

    Hi Erin. I agree entirely, up to a point – I’m sure you don’t do it, but some of these callers are pretty exasperating and refuse to answer questions, give straight answers or accept the word “no”. You can only be polite for so long, and unfortunately it’s the person calling who gets the brunt of your frustration.

  23. mupwangle

    Both those comments above are directly taken from their call script.

  24. Gary

    Deleted. Stow college, apparently. Sheesh.

  25. mupwangle

    It might make more sense if you delete my comment too. And this one. And yours as well probably. :-)

  26. anna

    Hi everyone, I had a call from Phoenix First to tell men that I had won a holiday, I had entered a prize draw in the SECC and apparently I was a lucky winner, I started to get suspicious when the caller kept asking me to confirm our earnings, I asked her if it was timeshare and was told no i was then put on to a supervisor who gave me the same spiel, they don’t own property they do not sell anything and not to part with any money . I did agree to go to a presentation on the 9th June but after reading all the comments I doubt I will be wasting my petrol

  27. Gary

    Hi Anna. Look on the bright side – now you’re not going to the presentation, you’re free to go to the Milngavie & Bearsden Highland Games instead.

  28. Erin, I’ve worked in and helped to run call centres. So I’m willing to be fairly patient with people who work in them. But if you call me and lie to me, bullshit me, refuse to let me talk to a manager, or ask me why when I say I’m not interested in buying something from you, I will be rude in response. At the end of the day, I don’t actually care whether you do something irritating or abusive or illegal because it’s your idea or your managers’ idea. You represent the company you’re working for, and in return you get both wages and blame. Them’s the breaks.

    The call centre industry depresses me, because a lot of good reputable reasonable companies decided to use call centres and offered some genuinely decent deals — I bank with First Direct, who spotted the format’s potential and still use it better than anyone else, very much to the benefit of their customers — but the industry has attracted so many utter bastards, especially in the outbound sector, that it’s effectively killed itself.

    In other words, please remember, Erin, that most of the abuse you get from customers is your management’s fault, not the customers.

  29. Gary

    I’d agree with that, but… when I was between jobs, I was interviewed for an outbound sales job (which gives you an idea of how desperate I was for money – of all the things I’m shit at, I’m most shit at outbound sales calls). Luckily something else came up, but otherwise I’d have taken the job, worked for a shit firm, for shit pay, in a shit environment with warnings about not looking like a job-hopper ringing in my ears. I do think in the case of the person who called me he was extremely young, and I’d put money on it being either his first job or just the first thing that came along because he needed the cash.

    Which is a kinda long way of saying “don’t blame the workers, blame the management”, heh. Unless said workers are like the chap I used to know who derived huge job satisfaction from tricking pensioners and “idiots” (his term) into spending money they couldn’t really spare on things they definitely didn’t need. The cock.

  30. Anne Stevenson

    O my GOD dont they ever give up, calling me at all times just to make sure sat is ok…….if not they can alway offer alternitive dates!!!!!!!!!!Mmmmmmmmm…i dont think so, but as far as there concerned im still going, its not my phone bill , do u think they think they will make the price of all them calls back? i DONT think so.. lol

  31. hi gary,
    I actually went for a job interview with them in st vincent street glasgow yesterday and whilst i was waiting took a good look around the office and wasnt that impressed.the interviewer told me i was to ask customers at exhitibions to fill in a holiday survey form and the more i got out the more i would get paid,having worked with many genuine marketing companies i trusted my instincts and worked out they were a bit sussed.Thankfully i came across your web page and was right to trust my instincs.what concerns me is that a young foreign girl with poor english was in before me and i could sense that she would be easy to con.i hope this is of some use to u

  32. incidently the job was advertised two weeks ago in the daily records jobs page

  33. Gary

    Thanks Bernie.

    I got a call yesterday from a second firm – didn’t catch their name – doing exactly the same thing and once again it was a case of free prize draws at the SECC baby show. This time, though, the chap was pleasant and when I asked whether it was a holiday club he said yes.

    The EU has announced new legislation that’ll bring holiday clubs in line with timeshare – cooling off periods, etc – but it won’t come in until 2010.

  34. Ara

    I have had this exact phone call from “phoenix first” on a number of occasions at the end of last week – also after attending the baby show at the secc. strangely, i had ANOTHER identical phonecal claiming to be the real company who were at the baby show – name of ‘hospitality scotland’. same requirements, ie you have to visit one of the hotels in person, together, to pick up your free prize etc. anyone have any experience of these guys? i don’t know how on earth the first lot got my details if they weren’t the company at the secc…..??!!

  35. got a voice mail from the organiser at 5.50 asking me if i could work at an exhibition tomorrow at meadowside park i think she said in people beware

  36. Gary

    Hi Ara. The same firm called me – I wasn’t at the show (my wife was) so I don’t know if it was another free draw, or if they’re sharing data with PF. Certainly their name turns up a lot in the list of exhibitors for various SECC-type shows. A few links here:

    Same old thing: the promise of a free holiday to lure you to a high-pressure holiday club presentation. Avoid, avoid, avoid…

  37. Caz

    I have had a call in Glasgow re Phoenix First offering a holiday. Woman sounds v cheerful but not much info. Thank GOd for the Internet and sites like this to inform us of scams. Accept people have to advertise but why not thru the normal means. Can’t stand cold callers anyway. I won’t be going to the presentation – will remain master of my own destiny!!

  38. Angela

    Phoenix First just phoned me tonight and said I had won a holiday at the Taste of Edinburgh festival two weeks ago.

    I got suspicious when the lady on the phone insisted we both attended an event at the Hilton Hotel at Edinburgh airport to “discuss our holiday requirements” and googled them.

    Thank you so much for this site, you’ve saved me time and potentially money!

  39. Gary

    Hi Angela, glad we’ve saved you some hassle.

    Is it just me or is there something weird about the way everybody coming here has the first initial “A”? I wonder if the firm only gets so far into the alphabet before everyone quits and they have to re-hire…

  40. emily

    so did anyone go to the Edinburgh Hilton after the Taste Festival for their free holiday?

    My boyfriend and I also won a free holiday at the Taste Festival. We received four calls to check we were turning up for the presentation. We already knew it was a con but we decided to tell them we were coming so they couldn’t fill our places with someone less suspecting.

    Incidentally, my boyf is a solicitor. When I called them to ask a couple of questions I used the line “how long will it last on Sunday because my boyfriend is a policeman and works shifts”. You should have heard them squirm. They suddenly wanted our names and what date we were coming!

  41. emily

    just realised I got my post wrong above! boyf is a policeman – I am the solicitor!

  42. Gary

    Emily, if I get sued over this blog post will you represent me? :)

  43. Gillian

    I’ve too have just had a call as a result of going to the Taste Festival in Edinburgh. I couldn’t make the date they suggested but was informed they would call me back when they are next in Edinburgh. I won’t bother now.

  44. Derek

    So nice to hear from these people. I have just spent twenty minutes talking to them. I was reading this site at the time. (great fun asking the questions)Had to keep asking him to repeat things could not understand him. They told me they were nothing to do with those nasty timeshare people. Which is a pity as I have a timeshare and are quite happy with it. Off for two weeks in Canada again next year.
    It is a pity the BBC and Haymarket Publishers allow these people at their shows.

  45. Martin

    hello folks,
    what happens if you dont turn up to the presentation after saying you would? Do you get threatened with legal stuff etc…
    My wife and I agreed to go but I decided to look up the net and found stuff like this so do not want to go near the Hilton in edinburgh anymore!!

  46. Hi All,
    I have had the exact same call and letter from Hospitality Scotland and am supposed to attend the exhibition on the 7th July. Should I inform them that I will no longer be attending or is it safe to just not turn up?


  47. madmike

    Hi, just got called by Phoenix First, picked us up from the Good food show at the NEC. The very pleasant young scottish lass said they were a travel agent, and all the good stuff we know they aren’t. We put them off saying that we were busy, but the lass called back. Funnily enough there was quite a row going on in the background.. She seems desperate to get us to a presentation to collect the free holiday, offering us a couple of dates in Lichfield next week. Fortunately I am away so could decline honestly, what’s the betting she will call back… Anyway, thanks to this site my fears were confirmed, well done!

  48. drew

    met the scamers at the good food show, have contacted the NEC to report this, as it unfair that they allow this to happen.
    i put the name phoenix first into crimeshare and straight away it came back asblack listed.

  49. Kate

    I feel so stupid. I usually subscribe to the ‘give nobody nothing’ school of thought but when offered a free holiday after being at the Taste festival in Edinburgh I was hooked in. I think partly because everyone else there seemed do reputable. We went along to the presentation after ‘winning’ our free holiday and totally unlike us both we agreed to the thing and have posted off £3500 to the said company Gold Crown Resorts. Is there any hard and fast evidence that they are scammers? Any chance we’ll get our money back as we used a credit card?? Off to ring trading standards right now,

  50. Gary

    Hi Kate. Speaking to trading standards is the right thing to do – they know what they’re talking about, they know about the companies concerned and they will be much more help than anyone here. Good luck.

  51. Kate

    Thanks for the message Gary but it looks like there’s not much that can be done. Also rang the Taste festival people as it doesn’t make them look very good. Paul, who I spoke to said that they had been receiving calls and they had checked out the company – thoguh very hard as they kept changing their name. His summing up was ‘disreputable’. Too right!! Still got to get in touch with the credit card company but then it would be us breaking contract and not Gold Crown – oh the joys!
    Hope this sorry tale will at least stop some poor sucker from shelling out hard earned cash!!

  52. Gary

    Kate, one option may be to claim that the terms of the contract were misrepresented. It’s definitely worth speaking to the credit card company on this.

  53. Gary

    Kate, this link might help:

    It’s also worth trying the credit card voluntary code, also known as the claw back, but you need to do it within 10 days. The procedure is:

    * Write to the holiday company cancelling the contract and explaining why. You need proof of postage for this.

    * Copy the letter, proof of posting and the contract to the credit card company and ask them to do a claw back.

  54. Is the claw-back voluntary? I thought that sort of thing was all covered in the Consumer Credit Act 1974? (No, I don’t generally remember the years of acts — just that one, for some reason.) If you pay by credit, you have the right to sue over sub-standard products and you have the right to back out if you change your mind within a short time. From Wikipedia:

    Cancellable agreements have a cooling-off period starting on the day the customer signs. This period is 14 days for goods bought from a mail-order catalogue. Otherwise, it is five days from the day the customer receives either a second copy of the agreement or a separate copy of a notice of cancellation rights.

    Hope it’s not too late for you, Kate.

    > one option may be to claim that the terms of the contract were misrepresented

    Or simply unreasonable. Contracts that fall foul of the Unfair Contracts Act are unenforceable.

  55. mupwangle

    If I remember correctly there is a rule about pressure sales too. something about a contract not being binding (in terms of cancellation) if you are put under any pressure to sign.

    I’m not sure about the definitions of a “holiday club” compared to a timeshare, but they brought in a timeshare act in 1992 which enforced a 14-day cooling off period and I think it also extended that period indefinately if you were not informed of it at the time of signing.

  56. mupwangle

    Yup, sod that. They’re set up to deliberately circumvent the timeshare laws.

    Gary already linked to the TCA, but this specific page tells you about the clawback thing.

    If you’ve paid cash you might be stuck though.

  57. Gary

    Cancellable agreements have a cooling-off period

    Holiday clubs don’t come under that. Deliberately so.

  58. mupwangle

    Might be some stuff here:

    One of the problems is these aren’t British companies (even the British ones!) so you are a bit limited with what you can do.

  59. If they’re selling in Britain, they are bound by British laws.

    > Holiday clubs don’t come under that. Deliberately so.

    I don’t think they have to: they’re not the ones giving credit here, so the Consumer Credit Act isn’t about them. It’s your credit card company who have to give you a cooling-off period. I think.

  60. mupwangle

    >>If they’re selling in Britain, they are bound by British laws.

    Bit harder to prosecute though, unfortunately, as they are not registered with companies house and as such you cannot easily find out company details and the like.

    >>> Holiday clubs don’t come under that. Deliberately so.

    >>I don’t think they have to: they’re not the ones giving credit here, so the Consumer Credit Act isn’t about them. It’s your credit card company who have to give you a cooling-off period. I think.

    I think Gary was talking about contracts in general and whereas you are talking specifically about credit. These companies do not have to have a cooling-off period as they are not covered by the consumer credit act. You’re both right. ;-)

  61. Ah. Here we go:

    An advantage of using a credit card is that, under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, customers who have a claim against a supplier for breach of contract or misrepresentation will generally have an equal claim against the card issuer. …

    There can be problems if the card is accepted by a different business from the one that provided the goods and services. We see this situation most frequently in connection with timeshare and holiday club membership, where it is not unusual for the timeshare or holiday club company to use the credit card facilities of another business. The business accepting the payment may simply be acting as agent for the supplier, in which case section 75 will not apply. In order for section 75 to apply, the business that accepts the payment and the supplier have to be ‘associates’, as defined in the Consumer Credit Act. …

    Section 75 does not, in itself, provide grounds for a claim against a supplier. Customers must have a valid claim of breach of contract or misrepresentation under other law, such as the Sale of Goods Act or the Misrepresentation Act. If they do, then they have a like claim against the card provider for the full amount of the claim.

    The claim is not limited to the amount of the credit card transaction. Customers can claim for all losses caused by the breach of contract or misrepresentation. And this applies even if all they paid by credit card was the deposit.


  62. I’ve posted a fascinating but spam-like response. It’ll turn up eventually.

  63. Gary

    No, the card company has to give you a cooling off period when you sign the credit agreement with them, not when you use the card for a purchase. There is a cooling off period for timeshare, distance selling and contracts signed in your home, but the holiday clubs know that and deliberately run things so they’re not affected by any of that legislation.

    The cocks.

  64. Gary

    S2, the answer’s in the bit you’ve posted – it only applies if there’s misrepresentation.

  65. Yes. Hence the “Hmm”.

    You know, though, if they’re not guilty of misrepresentation, Kate should be about to get her money’s worth, and there’s no problem.

  66. mupwangle

    That’s the other bit of advice. If you try and get these deals and you don’t get them then they are in breach of contract anyway. If you get the deals then you haven’t lost owt.

  67. Yes, and that’s where the Consumer Credit Act comes into its own: if the firm are complete scammers and not only break the contract but then also declare themselves bankrupt in order to avoid giving you any money back, you have the right to sue your credit card company for a full refund. It’s the credit card company’s legal responsibility not to allow con artists to accept their cards in the first place.

    So the three options are: (1) get what you paid for and enjoy it; (2) get your money back from the firm for breach of contract; or (3) get your money back from the credit card company for the firm’s breach of contract. Brilliant.

  68. emily

    Gary, re your post above, Sorry!! – not my practice area!!

  69. Robert S

    Guys – as everyone has been saying, we just got a call today and it was the most exciting thing that happened this year…until we saw this…haha!!
    When i contacted “phoenix first” about this scam, they assured us it was not a scam, there would be a sales pitch in order for us to use them again. When i enquired about an ABTA registration – i was given the line, no we are not, but we are registered with the American equivalent as they were an American company.
    I asked what this American equivalent was…and the supervisor couldn’t tell me!
    After a bit of to and fro’ing, he came back to say Phoenix First were ABTA registered and he could supply the ABTA number “If i was interested in getting it”.

    Of course i’m bloody interested…haha!
    F362X was the number supplied – which, can you believe it – is registered by Vacation Trvel in Blackpool (01253 299044).
    So much for an American company, and not knowing if they were ABTA registered!

    Think we’ll give the presentation a miss, and await a phone call from them to ask where we were!

    Now i’ll go back to being depressed about not getting a holiday this year! :(

  70. ross

    Yes we got the letter from Phoenix First for an appointment at the Glynhill Hotel in Renfrew on the 28th of July. Seems like wife and a few others that filled out the survey forms at the Scottish Open Golf at Loch Lomond have also won holidays…….
    Free holiday????Aye right!!!

  71. Gary

    Some excellent detective work there, Robert.

    no we are not, but we are registered with the American equivalent as they were an American company.

    Of course, even if that were true it wouldn’t provide you with any consumer protection whatsoever.

    registered by Vacation Trvel in Blackpool

    Who seem perfectly legit, and completely unconnected to Phoenix First.

    Seems like wife and a few others that filled out the survey forms at the Scottish Open Golf at Loch Lomond

    Credit where credit’s due, at least they’re tenacious. It does seem that you can’t have any sort of event in Scotland without them turning up.

  72. Lisa

    Well thanks to this site you are gonna save me time today. I was going to go the Lichfield at 3 this afternoon. I too got a call from a scots lass sounding very similar to the lass at the NEC at the Good Food/Homes/Garden show. Saying I was one of ONLY 30 to have ‘won’ the holiday. Said details would be sent in the post but did not receive anything. I got a call during this week to confirm my appt. When told I had not received anything the details were emailed to me. I got the letter in the post today and now I have the company name of Phoenix I thought I would have a look on the net and stumbled across this. So … instead of going to it I will spend some quality time in the pub with my husband. Looks like the company are spreading their wings.

    On another note I would have though that the BBC would vet exhibitors at their shows.

    I would like a free holiday so if anyone out there knows how to get one without having to endure a long sales pitch then let me know tee hee!

  73. Martin TS

    Hi. I work in Trading Standards and can advise you that, unfortunately, these firms are very difficult for us to catch out. We know all about their dubious sales tactics and know what they offer on the day is not what is said on the contract. READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS BEFORE SIGNING ANYTHING. The only proof of what they say to you on the night is what you tell us. That will never be enough to take them to court. Or, if you are subject to a phone call to say you’ve won a holiday, tell them you don’t own your house. You will be lucky even to get a ‘goodbye’ from them.

    Good luck people. Roll on 2010!

  74. Thanks for posting this story. Whether or not Gold Crown resorts as such is crooked remains to be seen, but what is sure is that people such as Phoenix and Vacaciones Wide Plus, the crooks they use to resell their holidays (at HUGELY inflated markups) are con artists of the highest order. I was scammed by VWP in Mallorca and bought into the Gold Crown scheme, but soon realised it was a scam and had a hell of a time trying to cancel and get my money back. Persistance does pay off, I got £600 of my £950 back, guess I’ll have to chalk that one down to experience. Could have been worse, could have lost £11,000 if I had took out a loan to pay them off. I was so furious about what happened to me that I made a animated warning video on YouTube – check it out at and it shows in detail what happens at these presentations .

  75. Gary

    Hi Stevie, thanks for posting the link. Nice work.

  76. Has Phoenix vanished or moved office?

  77. Gary

    I’ve no idea. Why?

  78. Emails not being answered. Registered letter delivered to 278 St Vincent St then taken to 287, then returned to sender. Abbey Bank employee(287) said 278 SVS now vacant????

  79. Gary

    Hmmm, interesting. I’m sure they’ll pop up again though – it’s trade show season.

    (update, 28 Sept) And they’re back! Calling from 0141 248 8717.