Tuesday 27 September 2022

Selling Illusions: A Pay For Work (Alleged) Scam By A Local Travel Company

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27 September 2022 - At The Banks - BCCR

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Yessenia Alvarado presenting her report "vendiendo ilusiones" (selling illusions)
Yessenia Alvarado presenting her report “vendiendo ilusiones” (Selling Illusions)

QCOSTARICA – This is not the first time that a local travel promoter has received complaints, in fact, the Ministerio de Economía confirms at least six complaints, not all are by dissatisfied customers, but, some by those seeking employment with the company.

The complaint against Fun World Travel, located in La Sabana, is for allegedly scamming potential workers who are required to pay for a manual and then asked to make sales of their vacation packages, “work test” before being considered for a permanent job.

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The complaint is that if the potential employee does not, during the test period, sell any packages he or she is not hired. Nor are they compensated for any packages they did sell, which in most cases is to friends and family.

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Applicants responding to a local newspaper ad are charged ¢2.000 colones for a manual and required attend the three-day – unpaid – seminar in which the program is explained.

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Applicants who want to pursue their dream of a career in travel with the company, with the illusion of earning up to ¢1.2 million colones monthly or more (three to four times a basic salary), are required to sell 15 vacation packages (open vouchers) worth ¢157.990 colones each within the 30 day test period.

The company also requires each person to sign an open-ended “letra de cambio” (promissory note), to which the company says it requires against fraud from its potential employees. “They say it is because we handling their money, but …,” says, one of the applicant willing to be interviewed by the television cameras.

Hidden camera during a seminar
Hidden camera during a seminar
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Legal experts say an “open-ended” promissory note is not legal, for it to be enforced it requires a date and amount, in addition to the name. But, how many know this?

Telenoticias, local channel 7 news television station, has been running a special report all week on Fun World Travel, detailing the alleged scam. Journalist Yessenia Alvardo has pushed hard in her report “Vendiendo Ilusiones” (selling illusions), but falls short in getting real answers and most importantly, actions by the government to put an end to this practice.

Director of Fun World Travel defending the company's practice
Director of Fun World Travel defending the company’s practice

Another company, using a similar practice, has been exposed in the past by websites like “El Infierno En Costa Rica”, run by El Chamuko. On the online forum, Forodecostarica.com, the alleged scam, this time for selling jewellery, is detailed and issues the warning: “Don’t waste your time and money. There is no future in this. if you want to try, go there, at least there is someone who warned you,” read the message on the Foro de Costa Rica.

Both websites, like the Telenoticias report, include names and telephone numbers of those behind the alleged scams. Yet they still continue operating freely and openly, like in the case of Fun World Travel that openly holds also holds recruiting sessions in Paseo de las Flores shopping mall.

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The attraction is easy. A classified ad in the local newspapers makes the job offer sound great, “18 and up for positions in customer service, media, promotions and other. Part time or full. Flexible hours, good wages, training. Call for appointment.

The ads get the attention of the many looking for work, with the illusion of obtaining the ideal job. The introduction is just as enticing, the first day full of promises, a good job, good income, vacation pay, etc, etc.

One young lady, “Elena” (made up name) who spoke to the Q on the basis of anonymity, explained how she almost fell into the trap, avoiding it after listening to the advice of friends and the reality that she would not be able to sell the required number of packages (didn’t have enough friends and family that could afford the packages), have no income for the two-week “trial” period, no guarantee of a job, and needed to work now. She finally settled on a “domestic worker” (cleaning houses) job for less money and put aside her dream.

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At the time, a couple of years back, Elena said the manual cost her ¢12,000 colones, which she paid and spent two days in training sessions.

“The first day it was a dream come true. But, by the second day I and talking to some friends I thought it might be a scam. I didn’t go back the third day, I needed a real job. I still have the manual,” Elena recalls of her experience.

In the Telenoticias television news reports, interviewed are the director of the company, Oscar Gonzalez; a criminal lawyer, Cynthia Zapata of the Ministry of Economy and the minister of Labour, Victor Morales, among a number of young people desperately looking for work.  The report also uses a hidden camera recording part of the seminar and the recruiting in the mall.

What is being done about this? Nothing so far.

Follow this link for the Telenoticias report.

 

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