May 17, 2012, 1:26 PM — I got a robo-call to my cell phone the other day. Usually I ignore these things, but this one piqued my interest. The call was from a group calling itself “Political Opinions of America.org,” and it wanted my opinions about issues of the day. It promised to reward my survey participation with a nice payoff: A free two-day cruise for two to the Bahamas.
At this point all of the Scam Alert sirens went off in my head. So I decided to play along.
The automated survey asked five questions (what’s the most important issue in the 2012 election, where did I get the majority of my election news, how did I feel about the Keystone Pipeline, etc) and asked me to select from a series of multiple choice answers. At the end, it asked if I was interested in “reserving a free cruise to the Bahamas.” I pressed 1 for yes.
That brought me to a live operator, one Tracy Conner of Caribbean Cruise Lines (employee #UA239). Tracy was cheerful, friendly, and immediately asked for my cell number to “validate” my “survey code,” so I could qualify for the trip.
I said, “Didn’t you guys just call me? Don’t you already have my number?”
She replied that no, I was called by Political Opinions of America.org, which was sponsoring my cruise. She asked a number of other questions, gave me some details about the offer, and then informed me that my free trip would cost me $118 in port taxes. Also, I’d be on the hook for any alcohol consumed on the boat and any gambling losses I incurred.
She then asked for my credit card number. I declined. She asked why. I said, “I make it a firm policy to never give out my credit card number to anyone who has called me.” She said “We didn’t call you, Political Opinions of America.org called you.”
Then she put me on hold and passed me to her supervisor, Robert. He was just as unsuccessful in closing me, despite his protestations about how legitimate Caribbean Cruise Lines really was. Eventually they gave up.
It had the feel of a timeshare pitch, and checking the Better Business Bureau records for Caribbean Cruise Lines confirmed it. The BBB, which has logged nearly 1200 complaints about Caribbean Cruise Lines over the last three years and gives it a grade of D+, has this to say:
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