The postcard arrived in my mailbox earlier this month. It featured a photo of an airplane cruising the blue skies, and an exclamation: “Congratulations!’’

“You will receive 2 round-trip tickets on Southwest, Jet Blue, United or a comparable airline,’’ it read, “plus 3-days/2-night getaway at a hotel such as Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton.’’

After suffering through a long Minnesota winter, the offer of a free vacation was appealing. Was it legit? I picked up the phone and dialed the contact number listed, 1-855-571-8894. “Claims Center’’ is how the woman with a Southern accent answered, explaining this was a promotion by “a new online merchant’’ competing with Costco and Sam’s Club.

All I had to do was go to the Holiday Inn in Bloomington, attend a presentation and pay $75 “to the people doing the booking’’ — plus all taxes.

Seemed fishy, but I nibbled at the bait. Signed up for an information session that weekend. I also opened up my laptop and typed in the contact phone number.

My dream of fun in the sun evaporated. Turns out Minnesotans are just the latest folks across the country to receive the offer. The postcard is marked Dallas, TX, and postcard recipients online say it looks a lot like the postcards previously sent by an Austin, Texas-based company that has run into trouble with the Better Business Bureau.


The day I was slated to attend the presentation, the “claims center’’ called to remind me of the appointment, and offered a later one if needed. If this were such a great deal, would they really be tracking me down to hand over a “free” vacation?


Travel editor Kerri Westenberg will return next week.