Offered a bucket-list item, couple feels swindled by a salesman

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The hook that reeled in Lois Rausch and her husband was a free weekend stay in a Kansas City hotel and water park Great Wolf Lodge. They planned on giving the freebie to their grandkids, which is why they attended a travel seminar at an Overland Park motel.

They never planned on buying a thing, but then they heard the pitch.

"We really got to visiting with the main guy," Rausch said.

That guy convinced the Paola, Kan. couple to buy a membership in a travel discount club called American Travel Planners. They were promised that by joining they would get exclusive deals, like paying as little as $99 for a weeks stay in hotels and condos across the world.

At first the Rauschs declined, but then the American Travel Planners salesperson offered them a free Alaskan cruise if they joined the vacation club at a cost of $5,593. An Alaskan cruise was something the Rauschs had always dreamed of taking.

The Rauschs had one year to use the free cruise, but nearly a year later they've never been able to book it. None of the dozens of dates they provided American Travel Planners was ever available and now no one is returning their emails or their calls.

"I feel so stupid," Rausch said. "To think we were had."

That's not all. Remember the free stay at Great Wolf Lodge, the water park in Kansas City, Kansas, they were promised for just attending the seminar? They never got that either.

Even the travel club's promise of low-cost hotel rooms turned out to be fake. When Rausch called the club's reservation service to book a room, she said she was told by an operator "I won't get it any cheaper than you can on the Internet."

So who's behind American Travel Planners? It's not easy finding out. The address on the brochure is in Washington D.C. and the reservation agent is supposedly in South Carolina. But according to a lawsuit filed by the Colorado Attorney General's office, the entire operation is in Colorado. It's run by four members of the Wunder family: Andrew, Stephen, Christian and Bethany.

The attorney general is trying to shut down the company. The lawsuit accuses the Wunders of fooling the public into joining their travel club by offering vouchers for one-time deals that don't exist.

When people try to cancel their memberships within the 72-hour legally required cancellation period, employees are ordered not to return their phone calls, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says that American Travel Planners used to go by the name Sea to Ski Vacations, but changed its name shortly after becoming aware of the attorney general's investigation.

FOX 4 Problem Solvers made multiple attempts to contact someone at American Travel Planners. We never reached an actual person and none of our messages were returned.

But there is some good news. FOX 4 Problem Solvers contacted Great Wolf Lodge where the Rauschs were supposed to have received that free weekend stay. Great Wolf said it has received so many complaints about American Travel Planners that it now has changed the terms of its business relationship. Then Great Wolf did something American Travel Planners never did, it is giving the Rauschs a free weekend for their grandkids.

And it gets even better. Princess Cruises wants to help the Rauschs fulfill their dream of an Alaskan cruise. It's giving the couple a free week-long cruise on Alaska's Inside Passage, which the Rauschs can enjoy in the cabin with a balcony.

The Johnson County District Attorney's Office is now investigating American Travel Planners and would like to hear from you if you purchased a membership.

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6 comments

  • Deanna

    One of these seminars just left my hotel on Sunday. It sounds like what they were offering. These guys told me they would be at the Drury Inn in independence this coming week. I guess it doesn’t hurt to check it out?!

  • Nicole

    I just attended something that sounds like this. It was at the Double Tree Hotel in Overland Park, KS. The name of that company is R&R Vacations. Did anyone else attend one of these meetings? Or has anyone else heard of them?

  • Terry Roberts

    This is an old con, as far back as when I was young and in my 20’s and attended them in Vegas. Yes I have attended them in Missouri also, but it’s all the same old thing of getting something great but having to pay for a membership. Unless you are a frequent traveler, these things are not worth it even if they did pay up. It’s the old adage of “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.”

  • Jewells

    My husband and I attended a seminar at the Holiday Inn in Independence, and actually bought into the Travel Club. It wasn’t American Travel Planners though, they had another name. After doing research on the internet and not finding anything about the company they say they represent, I stopped payment on my check. They did answer the phone, but they don’t give the name of the company. I tried to look up the address they gave me to send my cancellation letter and I couldn’t find the address on line either. I sent the letter return receipt, so I’ll see what I get back.

  • Kevin Oliver

    There is supposed to be a presentation TONIGHT, 20 Feb 2014, at the DoubleTree Hotel in Overland Park at 6 PM and 8PM. Maybe Fox 4 should do a news story and see what the presenters say!