Why Use a Local Company
Before you spend money on a hot air balloon ride gift certificate . . .
I recommend that you find out whether or not you are dealing with a "local" company. If you look at this website or look in the Milwaukee Yellow Pages, you will find that I have a real address listed. Here is our location from the sky.
In the last ten to fifteen years, ballooning has joined parachuting and glider ride operators in finding ourselves increasingly represented by "ride brokers". What is a ride broker? It is a company that advertises nationally, indicating that they have "hundreds" or "thousands" of locations nationwide.
In ballooning, their gift certificates typically retail from $180 to $200. They then find what local operators they can to complete the ride, usually paying that person $115 to $125 when the flight is completed and the certificate is sent in. What is the problem with this? In a perfect world, nothing. In the real world, the local operator is selling his own rides for a good deal more money and often looking at the "ride broker passenger" as a fill-in. He is also operating his own business in his own way and not much interested in honoring any promises that may have been made by the ride broker.
If you have purchased or received a gift certificate, you may not try to redeem it for three to six months. If you then find that the nearest location is several hours drive away, you can get a refund, can't you? Good luck! You will find that the certificate is non-refundable. You can complain to the Better Business Bureau in Milwaukee or the Wisconsin Consumer Protection agency in Madison. They will write letters and threats to the out of state company, but there will be no response.
How can you know if you are dealing with a "broker" or not?
- Ask . . . if you get a run-around instead of a clear answer, be careful;
- Tell them you want to pay with a check . . . if you get an out-of-state address to send it to, be careful;
- Ask if you can come to their "local" office to pick up the certificate . . . if not, be careful.
As with any purchase, it is wise to check with the Better Business Bureau to see if they have any complaints on file.
If you decide to deal with the "broker", I strongly suggest that immediately upon receiving the gift certificate, you contact the local company you have been referred to. Find out exactly where the flight will be done. If the phone isn't answered or you don't like any of the information you get from them, do the following:
- Take the gift certificate, make a photocopy for your records, then take it to the Post Office and return it to the address it came from by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. That way you can prove the broker got it back.
- Write a letter to your credit card company disputing the charge. Explain that your order was made because of information that was misrepresented. You must do this within 60 days of the purchase.