TAMPA (FOX 13) - Shut them down.
That's what Sandra and Ben Barkley begged the Attorney General to do about Global Connections, the Kansas company whose distributor in Palm Harbor, the Global Vacation Network, sold them a $7,900 travel club membership that they feel is worthless.
"In hindsight, yeah, it's a total waste of money,” Mrs. Barkley said. “When you're sitting there and they're pressuring you, you think it's the greatest deal ever."
The Barkleys are now getting what they wanted.
Attorney General Pam Bondi is suing Global Connections, saying it "allowed its Florida distributors to use unscrupulous sales tactics to induce consumers to purchase its vacation club memberships by greatly exaggerating the true savings, nature and value of the memberships."
We've had a front-row seat to those tactics during the past three years. The state's 17-page lawsuit is a virtual re-cap of our investigation.
It uses the word "scheme" to describe Global's many layers. Bondi calls offers of free airline tickets "bait." And she concludes that the sales presentation we attended undercover is "designed to coerce consumers."
"They're very vague about what they do,” said Mike Shura, a consumer who attended a presentation in Palm Harbor. “What they really want to do is get in your pocket."
Bondi says Global "grossly overstates" benefits and misleads couples into spending thousands of dollars. Despite a big binder and glossy paper, she says Global's club memberships "fail to offer any real savings or value."
The attorney general says Global should be stopped. Sandra and Ben Barkley agree.
"We knew we got suckered," Mrs. Barkley said.