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. @Voice of (un)reason

    I signed up for Jetsetter after all the promotion was gone because they looked interesting and some of the stuff fit my interest/travels. So no monetary gain to begin with and just now I unsubscribed from their service. Thank you for exemplifying why absolute statements are absolutely ignorant :)

  2. You are not alone Gary. Several months ago, I reserved a Dubai hotel deal with Jetsetter. Well within the sale period I went to complete my purchase and, when the payment page came up, the price had doubled.

    I spoke with an agent who said that the price had indeed changed but, as I had reserved and attempted to pay before the deadline, she was sure that the company would honor the original price. Spoke with a supervisor and finally a VP and was firmly told no way. That was the end of my subscription.

  3. Incredible.

    FF list of companies not to do business with:

    Cartera (w/ a general mistrust of other shopping portals)
    Jetsetter

  4. I actually had a similar run in with Gilt Group/Jetsetter.com. I think that their executives and in-house legal team are quite sketchy. If you get any letters from their in house legal counsel, I do advise you to read the actual laws and regulations as well as pertinent case laws as their “legal counsel” does not appear to understand how the law works, or at least assumes that others will not bother to research when faced with an attorney. The lack of professionalism in their company has prompted me to wonder whether it is worth it for me to contact my corporate contacts to pull our advertising and partnerships with such an unprofessional agency.

  5. A check of the JetSetter FAQs even suggests this:

    Is there a limit to the amount of credit I can have?

    Absolutely not. In fact, we suggest inviting every person you know so you can get millions in credit. Well, you’d have to know millions of people first, but it’s worth a try.

    My reading of that is that it is actually encouraged to get your referral link out there and seek maximum credit.

  6. Thanks for sharing this story Gary. Sometimes I’m tempted by the Jetsetter deals but feel wary of doing business with them now after reading about your (and some of the other commenters’) experience. Thanks

  7. @Voice of Reason Sure, if they want to GIVE me something, I will take it. But thats not what they are looking for. The issue is, if Jetsetter makes an offer thats a little bit less, or equal to another site, I will not have that little birdie in my ear that reminds me that Jetsetter is not trustworthy. That will make a big difference to a company. You can ALWAYS buy customers. The question is are you worthy of my EVERYDAY money? This proves that Gilt/Jetsetter is not.

  8. Of course that should read “I will have that little birdie in my ear that reminds me that Jetsetter is not trustworthy.” :)

  9. you could try posting to them on twitter. they respond quickly and it would be somewhat of a public forum. their parent company gilt and jetsetter has always responded quickly when i needed customer service help from their various sale sites.

  10. i had booked the taxi deal through jetsetter and when i tried to claim it on-line, i found out it was “cancelled” because they assumed that another email belonged to me as well- which it did not (similar name in system). there was no getting around it, and the phone service was no help. F jetsetter

  11. Unbelievable — was looking to book my honeymoon trip to Bali through them if I could find a good rate, but will definitely look elsewhere after all this.

  12. @voice of reason- same as the other two posts above- I signed up when Gary originally promoted the site, but did not take advantage of the discounted car offer because it was not available in my city.

    However, I would read their emails, and was on the verge of booking a hotel room through them (Paresa Resort in Phuket) because the rate was good and I liked the site. I’m not going to use their site now, and unsubscribed to their offers, so I doubt I will “jump on the next deal”…

  13. I think you should gather information on as many people whom have been shafted by Jetsetter not honoring its offer, and then get it publicized in the mainline media. On top of that, small claims court sounds like a good remedy. All the negative publicity is going to drive Jetsetter’s reputation down.

  14. I, too, think Jetsetter is questionable. I referred people via direct email NOT via posting a link. I originally was given $350 in credits when my referrals signed up and made their car service purchase. A few weeks later, my credits were reduced to $250, without explanation. Now my $250 in credits comes and goes. Some days it is there, some days I have $0 in credits. I have NOT yet followed up with jetsetter. From what Gary tells us, I think I won’t bother, since I can’t risk getting to a destination I reserved with jetsetter credit and being told I have no reservsation. Add me to the boycott jetsetter group.

  15. This is really eye-opening. I’ve got a two week Asian vacation coming up and I was close to jumping on two of their offers… but a company that treats affiliates like crap is a company that will treat customers like crap. No thank you.

  16. Reminds me of my experience with AAdvaantage Shopping, except that Jetsetter at least answers your emails. My last email from AAdvantage Shopping promised to transfer 2,500 miles to my American AAdvantage account within 15 business days. That was 4 months ago, and despite sending them some 25 emails since then, no response at all.

    The best thing we can do is to publicize these scam artists, so people stop using them…..

  17. On the Jetsetter facebook page, I linked your story and asked how they could do this. Today, they replied by saying that some of your referrals violated their TOS and they were working with you to fix this. I will be curious how this gets resolved…

  18. Awful Customer Service… they should be ashamed. I’m done with them. Jetsetter is the same company as Gilt who was shady with their DEC OnePass promotion.

  19. Hey Gary –

    We hear you and first and foremost would like to apologize that you’ve had a bad experience. We are continuing to investigating your case to honor any credits that are duly owed to you. We just want to make sure and clear up any misunderstanding and do what we can to do right by you.

    Jetsetter experienced a lot fraudulent activity during the Groundlink sale. As a result, we were forced to delete several accounts deemed fraudulent, as well as their respective credits. Upon further investigation, we are restoring your credit that complies with our terms and conditions. While we know you did not knowingly commit any fraud, your invitation link was used in several confirmed cases of fraud. Jetsetter has always honored referral credits and we will continue to do so. We will not however, honor credit received through fraudulent practices.

    We value your business and are doing as much as we can to make things right. We always appreciate your feedback (positive or negative) and of course, we apologize.

  20. I posted my previous comment before Jetsetter’s appeared here. Friggin’ WordPress commenting system.

  21. @Jetsetter obviously I have no way of knowing the details of who did what with the link from my blog. However it makes little sense that anyone using my link (and there were very few confirmed purchases, actually) would be engaged in fraud — because folks doing some sort of fraud, such as mutliple accounts/email addresses, would be using THEIR OWN link so that THEY would get the $25 referral credit.

    The issue here of course is the customer service and not standing behind an offer. And that it took a public posting to get your attention.

    I don’t even especially WANT the credits myself. There are SEVERAL people on this comments stream that are in a similar position. The way to demonstrate that you recognize you handled this badly is not to try to honor MY credits and shut ME up since I’m the one shedding light on this, the way to demonstrate you’re a company worth its salt would be to make right the situations of each person that has commented here. If you would provide me a ‘real’ email address of a person who can handle this I would be happy to put each person who commented here in this thread with that contact information for followup.

    Best,
    Gary

  22. Wow. It seems that they used the following language “may not engage in any promotional, marketing or other advertising activities on behalf of Jetsetter” as the basis for identifying a violation of the terms and conditions. Posting, in the most general and generic form, on a blog hardly constitutes “promotional, marketing, or other advertising activities”. And to whatever extent their terms may be ambiguous, they are to be construed against them. Interestingly, my quickest read of the T’s & C’s identifies no disputes clause which might limit the form of dispute to arbitration or otherwise limit the locus of disputes. Some attorney is gonna get in trouble for not including such language.

  23. As for post 75, I should like for Jetsetter to identify what it defines as “fraudulent”. I suspect that much of what they consider “fraudulent” is merely opportunistic behavior. To the extent Jetsetter set up a deal where credits to referees could be could be used to obtain highly subsidized ground transport, with the referrer getting a handsome referral credit, they made a bad offer, and I refuse to think they are the victims of “fraud”.

  24. So what will @jetsetter do for the rest of who were scammed by jetsetter???? NOTHING, because we don’t have blogs like Gary does. Get them Gary, get them. On behalf of the rest of us, get them.

  25. It sounds to me like JetSetter just wants to use the guise of fraudulent activity as their method to not honor the referral credit. Since most people have lost their referral credits, there is no logical explanation except that they do not want to pay up snd honor the offer they created.

    The bad publicity which they encounter from this episode is going to do far more damage to their reputation and loose business than paying out the referral credits which they themselves offered and then decided to not honor.

    How about an Occupy JetSetter movement across cyberspace?

  26. It seems like they opened a can of worms that also brings up trust issues in jetsetter bookings which is their customer facing business. Travel bookings take a degree of trust as it isn’t a material good that can be shipped and a transaction that is finalized in a two week period. It’s a service based industry. If you can’t trust that a company will follow their own rules in a contract, why would you ever use them? Especially for indulgent luxury properties which make up their core offerings?

  27. Also on the Jetsetter website, which shows recent tweets:
    “@OneMileataTime We apologize that you’re upset. To clarify, the folks that used your referral link were in violation of our TOS, not you.”

    So that’s the company line, it seems.

  28. I was able to log into my jetsetter account this morning but now I cannot. It keeps saying “error on page.” Maybe the occupy jetsetter movement is working? Or, I’ve been locked out of my account for complaining here. Anyone else having the same problem?

  29. A company should communicate professionally at all times, regardless of circumstances.

    Their response begins with “hey” and “we hear you”

    You decide…

  30. My wife and I took advantage of the Groundlink offer (our service ended up being great), yet the measly $25 referral credit I earned from my wife’s booking also vanished.

    If Jetsetter says it’s fraud, they need to notify those people that their account is being reviewed for alleged fraudulent activity and provide us with a means of recourse. Silently deleting credits and providing no meaningful method of appeal is disingenuous and a bad business practice.

    Gary, Jetsetter they ever gave you contact info for a real person, I’d love to have it as well.

  31. A suggestion for you. You have a robust readership, and we all value the work you do day in and day out to produce valuable and relevant content. Perhaps as a “thank you” one of your readers who is also an attorney would be willing to do some pro-bono work to help you put together a letter (on letterhead) requesting that they reinstate or otherwise compensate their client who has fulfilled his end of the bargain while fully complying with the stated rules and restrictions. Obviously it’s not worth spending legal dollars to fight this fight, but it would be a great example to set on behalf of all of the folks who are getting screwed simply because Jet Setter knows that no one will go through the hassle of holding them accountable.

  32. @Peter exact same thing happened to me. This is one mistake that can make Jetsetter disappear. No email to notify that the credits were taken away, classic bait and switch scheme. I won’t be using them in the future. Bye Bye.

  33. I’d recommend avoiding all Gilt Groupe sites. I still haven’t gotten my miles from the OnePass/MileagePlus promo that I signed up under back on 11/30. They take well over a week to respond to any of my emails, and when I called they either told me that their manager would look into it and call back–they never did–or that it was already being looked at by someone else and that they I needed to wait for that person to address my complaint. They say I signed up under some other promo, but I’ve never gotten anything about that promo and definitely used the correct link. It’s just 1500 miles, but like you with JetSetter, it’s the principle of honoring their promos. They set the original promo terms and they don’t get to change them ex post facto just because they realize they set them too generously.

  34. Heres an idea. Let’s start a petition on change.org!

    If we get enough people to sign it, then I bet jetsetter will issue your credits back!

    I posted this on Lucky’s blog too.

  35. I deal with people like you when I work in customer service, I end up just not responding to their emails.

    Shit happens, move on.

  36. Gary, thank you for sharing your experiences.

    I too had similar issue with Jetsetter. My referral credit and reservation was canceled with zero notification or explanation. My referrals were legitimate.

    I will not give Jetsetter or Gilt any of my future business due to this abysmal experience.

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