Why I Don’t Trust Hotel Discounter Jetsetter.com

There are several hotel consolidators and discount sites that promise deals, Their offers are frequently limited, sometimes the deals are good and frequently they aren’t, but they all try to distinguish themselves in one way or another.

Back in October, SniqueAway offered me a site credit if I would promote their product by giving away some credit to me readers. I asked them if I could give away the credit they were offering to readers and the credit they were offering to me, so that’s what I did.

Also in October, TripAlertz was offering $10 for every person you got to sign up their email address using your link. I said at the time that was too generous, and it clearly was, they reduced the amount of their offer quickly and then twice in quick succession sped up the period of time you had to use your credits before they expired.

It was this big offer that got my attention, and a bunch of people signed up using my link, but with only 6 months to use the credits (instead of the originally-promised two years) and lots of hotels that didn’t really fit my plans — mostly Caribbean all-inclusives or mid-range hotels in cities I wasn’t visiting or where I had another preferred property — I didn’t plan on using the credits myself. I emailed and Tweeted TripAlertz asking if I could run a giveaway on the blog, it would have promoted their site and would only have provided those credits they had already given me. I got no response.

I think that The Points Guy gave away his credits, I wanted to do the same, but technically the terms and conditions said that the credits had to be used by the person who earned them. I didn’t see how that would be tracked since they only asked for an email address at signup. But I didn’t want to run a giveaway where the prize wasn’t something the recipient could rightfully use. I did use some TripAlertz credit for a quick stay at the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, I needed a place to crash enroute to Asia (I was grabbing Cathay’s San Francisco – Hong Kong flight) but beyond that most of the credits are likely to expire.

Along comes Jetsetter. Many of their hotels are decent deals, and higher end places I really would like to stay. But there’s a lot of noise in this space and I hadn’t paid much attention to them before.

And then they ran an offer for discounted airport car service through GroundLink.com. It was a big deal because when you sign up as a new member, you get a $25 credit. And they had car service starting at $29. A New York-LaGuardia pickup could cost as list as $4 plus fees, a great deal. Plus the person referring the member gets $25 as well.

Normally Jetsetter is happy to give both the referrer and the referred member $25 with first purchase because the margins are pretty good. But on a net $4++ car service (while paying out $25 towards future travel as well!) the economics of Jetsetter’s offer weren’t really very good for them.

So they decided, apparently, not to honor the referral credits they had promised.

Now, I was late to the party. Lots of other blogs and travel sites had written about this deal, and it was abruptly pulled several days before it was originally said to expire. So only a dozen or so folks actually completed their purchase, I didn’t have a lot of referral credits at stake. Possibly because I not only gave my link but I invited readers to post their own links in the comments, some folks likely used others’ links as well. Someone’s link needed to be used, I though, since Jetsetter was giving out referral credits on each completed transaction. But it could have been mine or someone else’s.

Nonetheless, they pulled my credits, something I only discovered weeks later logging back into the site and seeing the funds gone.

It was February 12 when I noticed that my referral credits were gone, oddly they hadn’t pulled my credits in the first couple of weeks after the offer, and I had even written about Jetsetter subsequently when they had an offer at the Peninsula. Seeing my credits mysteriously gone, I sent an email:

I referred a bunch of people to JetSetter. the system shows 153 people signed up. I had hundreds of dollars in referral credits available. Now I log back in and the system shows $25. Please advise.

They said I violated their terms of service somehow:

Thank you for the email. Your credits were expired by our team due to a violation in the Jetsetter Terms of Service we discovered. Referrals are based on completed orders. If you are able to give the email addresses of the people you referred, we would be more than happy to look in to this on your behalf.

If I broke their rules, why didn’t they tell me they were pulling these credits? And what rule exactly did I violate? I replied:

Why was I not contacted?

You can see the email addresses of those that were referred under my account.

All of the referrals signed up using a bona fide referral link, which I found on my JetSetter account, and which I placed on my blog.

I promoted JetSetter signups, and anyone signing up made trasnactions on their own independent of me.

Please tell me —- What rule did I violate?

And they replied, not telling me what I did violated their terms and conditions, but just by copying and pasting their terms and conditions into an email.

By now it’s February 16 and again, I just wanted them to explain to me what I did that supposedly broke their rules:

So what rule did I violate?

I followed JetSetter directions. I took the referral link that JetSetter provided, people signed up through that link and made bona fide purchases at my suggestion.

You provided me credits, which were properly earned, but then took those credits away many weeks later.

And no one has yet to provide an explanation that says what I’ve supposedly done that’s inconsistent with your terms.

Please advise, or simply re-instate the credits (which were all properly earned)

They replied on February 20th by saying I broke the terms and conditions but that they couldn’t say how:

We are only able to refer you to the below list of the Jetsetter Terms of Service provided by our colleague below. It was determined by our team you were in violation of one or more of these terms and therefore the credit was removed from your account.

So now I wanted to know, since they wouldn’t explain even which rule I had broken, were these secret terms and conditions?

So you’re telling me that I broke a rule, but ‘which one’ is a secret?

I maintain, as I explained below, that I followed all of your procedures. I used the referral link provided to me when logged into my account. I posted that link along with multiple offers from JetSetter. People used that link, signed up, many made purchases. I received credit for those purchases and then you took them away ‘because I broke a rule’ but you will not tell me what rule I broke or what I supposedly did wrong?

And if you won’t tell me, how can I avoid doing it again?

Referring me to the terms and conditions is of no help, because after reviewing those it is clear I did not break any rule.

And it appears that you’re simply removing credit from my account arbitrarily, capriciously, because you don’t want to honor the very terms and conditions that you cite.

Their reply is… once again.. that they will do nothing other than refer me to their terms and conditions, but not explain what I did to violate them.

Thank you for the reply. The Director of Member Services has alerted us the only course of action we have at this point is to cite the Jetsetter Terms of Service. Unfortunately, we can no longer further assist you with this issue.

At this point I’m getting frustrated with the stonewalling. They’re clearly not interested in providing an explanation (and of course there is no reasonable explanation — they are acting entirely arbitrarily in my view, and not based on their terms and conditions at all). So I call them out on it:

Please provide me with contact information for the Director of Member Services.

At this point I can only otherwise assume you have engaged in fraud. You cite the terms and conditions but do not describe how my actions have violated those terms. You have removed financial credit which is due to me based on the promises of those same terms and conditions. That’s theft.

Surely this isn’t behavior which you are proud of.

Please either return the credit to my account or provide me with contact information for the Director of Member Services,

So they tell me their Director of Member Services will contact me. Mind you, so far though each email is signed by someone with first name, last initial, all replies come from a generic email address. There hasn’t been any one person to correspond with, and each reply has come from someone else (or is at least signed with some different name).

And guess what? I get an email from the same generic email address, this time just signed “Member Services” (no name) telling me that I broke their terms and conditions by… using the referral link they gave me and asking people to use it. Seriously. Here’s their reply:

Hello Gary,

We hope this email finds you well. We have been looking into your inquiry about why your credits were expired. Please be advised that under our terms and conditions, Jetsetter reserves the right to void credits that were earned in a manner not intended by Jetsetter.

The Terms state that you may not conduct your own promotion in connection with the credit program, and may not engage in any promotional, marketing or other advertising activities on behalf of Jetsetter. This was an example of such a promotion, as you asked people to use your referral link.

If you have further questions, you can refer to our Terms of Service here: http://www.jetsetter.com/terms-of-service.

Warm regards,
Member Services

(Emphasis mine.)

At this point they’ve truly got to be kidding.

My response, I think, speaks for itself. And so far I haven’t heard back.

Dear Member Services,

This response is absurd. Are you seriously claiming that any attempt to “ask people to use your referral link” is a violation of Jetsetter’s rules, when Jetsetter provides me with that very referral link for the purpose of asking people to use it?

Jetsetter even provides a page specifically designed to help members ask others to use their referral link:

http://www.jetsetter.com/account/invite

There’s a pre-written message, provided by Jetsetter, for that very purpose!

    Isn’t it time for a vacation? Here’s an invitation to join Jetsetter, where you’ll have access to the world’s greatest travel experiences at members-only prices.

However, if you will review my writings nowhere do I ever actually ask anyone to use my link!

http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2012/01/24/best-deals-around-the-blogs-for-january-24-2012/

http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2012/01/13/town-car-airport-transfers-in-major-cities-for-4-14/

So your specific claim is incorrect, in fact I specifically tell people that they do not need to use my link.

As a result, and per your email explanation below then, the credits I earned were exactly following Jetsetter procedures. Jetsetter provided me with a referral link to use, I shared Jetsetter offers on my blog using that link, but based on your explanation I have not violated Jetsetter’s terms and conditions.

Furthermore, if your explanation were correct and covered what I’ve written, then any blog anywhere that posts a referral link, or anyone posting a referral link on Twitter or on their Facebook wall, would similarly be in violation of Jetsetter’s terms and conditions – despite doing exactly what Jetsetter asks its members to do!

That’s the definition of arbitrary and capricious. And exactly why it seems fraudulent to remove my referral credits under these circumstances.

Jetsetter has been stonewalling consistently, would not provide any explanation of its reason for removing credits, and now offers an explanation that is (1) false and (2) utterly illogical.

I would kindly ask you again to re-instant the credits that I earned. Call it a one-time exception if you’d like. But please do so immediately, or provide dedicated and direct contact information for someone empowered to handle this at an appropriately high level.

Do I ‘deserve’ the referral credits? Per their terms and conditions yes, in some metaphysical sense one might argue not.

Should I have given up several emails ago? Probably.

But I was mostly interested in pursuing this to push Jetsetter, see how they’d behave, see how they stand behind their offers. See what kind of customer service response they’d provide. And I certainly found out!

The lesson, to me, is that Jetsetter isn’t going to stand behind their offers when it isn’t financially advantageous to them to do so. I really didn’t expect any problem with this offer, but they decided to renege, and then to stonewall. That’s not a company I trust or especially want to do business with.

If there’s another offer along the lines of Groundlink I will probably post it, along with a caution though I imagine, probably a link to this post, as a reminder of buyer beware with these characters.

Is my experience unique? I know that several other blogs promoted the Jetsetter/Groundlink deal before I did. Any other bloggers out there have their credits taken away? Has Jetsetter treated you in a similar manner?

I do not ask for anyone to feel sorry for me, I’m not bothered being ‘out’ a few hundred bucks in referral credits, referrals that I usually try to find a way to give away to readers in any case. But I did learn a lesson that I no longer trust Jetsetter.

Am I being unreasonable?

Update: It occurs to me that I should add, if they’d just be honest and write “we really didn’t intend to reward low value referrals, and despite our terms and conditions we aren’t going to reward $25 per referral for something we lost money on, we hope you understand” I’d actually let it go. I’d publish it here, to be sure, to give everyone fair warning about how they do or do not stand behind their offers, but I’d at least appreciate the honestly instead of resenting their stonewalling.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I smelled a scam when I first heard about this, and so I didn’t jump, but I had a similar experience with the whole Kingfisher/Visa Signature free status thing. My dad has a legit Visa Signature, issued by a US bank, and with a US billing address, but they never issued any status. After a couple of weeks, I emailed them and they said they wouldn’t give it to me because I was not from India. I called BS and threatened to lawyer up (an empty threat, of course) and they still refused. So I got a marketing email from them that said to email the chairman with any problems. I emailed them and about two weeks later got a call from an Indian number to my cell in the middle of the night. I didn’t answer it (~25 cents/minute) and got an email from them a couple days later saying they tried to contact me and to call an Indian number if I had any future questions. They didn’t even leave a voicemail. No wonder they’re losing employees en masse.

  2. I’m so tired of this crap. Does no one think through these promos before they offer them? I wonder if the real issue is the number of referrals you received. If that were the case, why not set a limit on the number of credits / referrals you could get with a single promo like this? SMH.

  3. Wow, they just keep making up new reasons. When what you screw people out of is too small to get sued, you’re lsrgely immune amnd they seem to know it. This is a case where a lawyer with some free time could have a blast. A little discovery on the company’s history of referrals would be interesting.

  4. meh, not worth all the hassle for a company that operates like this. they’ve showed themselves, now. anyone who googles their name will see loads of bad pub. glad i didn’t take advantage of my one, $25 credit and that none of my friends did via mine, either.

  5. Seems to me they are unable to explain what they are doing out of basic incompetence – they are making up their rules as they go and don’t know what they are themselves from one moment to another. I’d give up on that operation for sure.

  6. @Voice of Reason, you sound like a shill for Jetsetter- perhaps you are “the Director of Member Services” or affiliated somehow with that waste of time company. If so, you should spend time trying to improve the site because you sure lost some potential customers. Just because people who check this site with frequency like miles and points etc and like saving a buck here and there, we are also big spenders when we travel. I know because I just came back from a two week splurge with my partner…and the only “free” thing was our flight (using miles). as for Jetsetter, I told my friends what a piece of crap it is.

  7. So here is how JetSetter works. They claim to offer member referrals to entice people to make purchases of their product(s). Once they lure the customer into the mousetrap, they then claim the customer engaged in fraudulent activity and violated the terms of service of the offer, so they can avoid paying out the referral and increase thier profits. This is a horrendous business practice, and they should be called on the carpet for their behavior.

  8. Ben,

    Neither is the BBB! BBB is the biggest waste of time, as they have no enforcement powers. I know, I filed a claim with them over a stupid gym membership. Tried to get an early cancellation (I moved, it was within my contract to move and cancel early). What started off as a $25 dispute mushroomed into $125 as the gym took their time responding to my letters. They wanted me to turn in some document I didn’t have (and never got), so that’s what we went back and forth over. The whole thing just pissed me off.

    I filed a claim with the BBB, and all they really do is ask a couple of questions. They can’t *do* anything.

  9. @Gary, While I couldn’t find a Director of Member Services, I did notice that Gilt Groupe’s “Team” page does have a Chief Marketing Officer, Elizabeth Francis, whose responsibilities include the “new customer generation and retention programs across all channels”. Perhaps that’d be a good person to contact about this. Seems like a referral program would fall under the category of new customer generation. No contact information is listed, but I’m sure you can get a hold of her with minor effort.

  10. “To clarify, the folks that used your referral link were in violation of our TOS, not you.”

    Since you can prove you didn’t violate their terms of service, and all of your readers are well aware you wouldn’t risk the integrity and reputation of this blog just for a few Jetsetter bonuses, they shift the onus of blame onto some “others” that linked thru you.

    You can never prove that unnamed fictitious people that linked thru you didn’t do anything wrong, so their excuse is air tight. It’s like trying to disprove “I heard from an acquaintance, that someone said”…

    Finally, since they admit that you didn’t do anything wrong, there is no reason to delete your credits. Deal with the people who supposedly did something wrong, not with people like you who they admit did nothing wrong.

    The whole point of this program was to get publicity and new members. It’s not true that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, as they are about to find out. Perhaps your blog could have an ongoing link to “companies my readers don’t want to do business with”…

    Jetsetter, and AAdvantage Shopping Mall are my first two votes for that list…

  11. Well, Gary, if you lay down with pigs, you’re gonna get dirty, or at least frustrated. One of the advantages of having a well-read blog such as yours is the ability to obtain the monetary benefits that come from referrals. While you and others make ample disclosure of this fact, the fact remains that if you didn’t wish to take advantage of those referral benefits, you would not be getting upset now with one of the less scrupulous users of referrals. Like it or not, it’s part of the price you pay.

  12. I have a question? Have any of you purchased a trip through jetsetter? Can I trust it? I dont want to a credit card or anything like that I just want to go with my friends to a trip and I would like to use this offer! Have any of you travelled throught this site? I dont want to arrive and dont have a place to stay… lol

  13. A good friend sent me an invitation to join Jetsetter. I was just about to join until I read you story. Having personally dealt with quite a large number of Internet vendors with “situational ethics”, I immediately trashed the invitation. Is there a similar discounter that you would recommend? Thanks!

  14. Wish you would put year on your blog.
    In 2014 I find jetsetter has been taken over by Tripadvisor.
    Have they changed their ways?
    TrustPilot shows only 1 star and 5 Star reviews all the latter in a short period before take-over. So suspicious.
    Still no wiser but cautiously avoiding.

  15. I was about to purchase a promotion on jetsetter.com on a hotel stay but decided not to after reading your blog post. Who knows if my purchase would be honored or not.

  16. Thanks for the warning post. I was actually searching for Jetsetter’s affiliate program to sign up but I’ll be rethinking that decision. I’ve had a few crappy affiliate programs try stuff like this over the years. Some of them surprisingly legit companies.

  17. I have been receiving Jetsetter emails daily and have never requested them, so I clicked on “unsubscribe.” The process does not work. Guess what? After unsubscribing for a week, it is still very obvious that it is a ruse. The unsubscribe site hangs up and never appears

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