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May 9, 2012

Poor Tom's Almanac: A heat wave in winter

The heat was on. Here it was, the middle of winter, and I was sweating rain drops.

Not the heat of the Caribbean or Vegas in July. Rather, the heat of February inside a posh New Hampshire hotel.

I was sitting in a conference room with my wife and eight other couples listening to some quick-talker giving me a spiel for the trips of a lifetime.

They promised me a gift just for showing up. And dinner. All I had to do was sit through a 90-minute presentation, look excited, nod my head a couple times, and tell them I wasn't interested.

For that, I would get a flight for two anywhere in the continental U.S. — no strings attached. Or so I thought. "Choose your destination," the attractive brochure proclaimed.

It sounded good. Would I join their travel club and get the savings of a lifetime or simply dream about these exotic get-away vacations at ridiculous prices?

Would I take the offer to join the "giddy-up-and-go" herd or remain corralled for the rest of my retired life?

Hey, I love to travel. That was one of the perks I was going to enjoy in my golden years. We've been to Armenia, Europe, the Caribbean a couple times and elsewhere. At the moment, there's a trip brewing to the national parks in September, followed by a cruise in January.

The free flight would come in handy, not to mention a nice gourmet-style meal.

The more I listened, the more I heard. Since 1995, $120 million in vacation services have been rendered. More than 300 families have hopped on the bandwagon. Then came the specifics.

"Look, folks, a week in London retails for $1,650," the host revealed. "Who wants to go for $760?"

Not a hand went up, possibly because of incredibility. I was about to make a mad dash to the men's room with my wallet intact when ...

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