dishonest referral program

Gary wrote a post yesterday about why he doesn’t trust, a luxury hotel travel discounter. I’m actually dealing with exactly the same situation, so figured I’d share my experience so far, since I suspect it’s not just Gary and I that are getting shafted here.

Back in January I posted about an amazing deal available on Jetsetter for airport transfers through GroundLink. Through this offer, towncar transfers to airports were available for as little as $29, which is a great deal in and of itself. The deal got better, though, since Jetsetter offers a $25 new member bonus when referred by an existing member. This meant car transfers could be had for as little as $4. Along the same lines, the existing member that referred the new member receives a $25 credit in their account good towards future travel when that new member makes their first purchase.

So let’s be clear — the GroundLink deal wasn’t a mistake. Those were the rates as they were supposed to be. However, I suspect they didn’t consider the implications of the offer in terms of referral credits.

I posted about the deal and also posted my referral link in case any new members wanted to sign up through it. Jetsetter makes personalized invitation links so you can post to refer people, since they encourage this kind of behavior. They even say this on their website:

When you click on “learn more,” it says the following:

That’s right, they’re saying you can invite friends via “email, Facebook account, instant messenger or any other way you communicate”… like a blog.

And here’s what Jetsetter’s FAQs say about referral credit:

I also mentioned very clearly that no one needed to use my link, and invited readers to post their links in the comments section so they could earn referral credits as well. And it wasn’t surprising that dozens of people posted their links, which I was all for.

The promotion went well, until I logged into my Jetsetter account a couple of weeks later and noticed that all of my referral credits were gone. They hadn’t contacted me to inform me of the situation, so I sent them an email, as follows:

Dear JetSetter Customer Service:

I recently referred many of my friends to your website, and was promised $25 of JetSetter credit per referral. While the referrals posted as expected, I noticed that they all disappeared tonight without me being informed. I played by the rules, and as your own website states “we suggest inviting every person you know so you can get millions in credit.”

I’d appreciate if you could reinstate the credit or explain why this occurred.


Their response was as follows:

Dear Ben,

Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding your canceled referral credit.

After reviewing your account activity, we have concluded that your account has incurred one or more violations of Jetsetter’s Terms of Service during our Groundlink sale. For further details of our Terms of Service, please visit our website at

We therefore have cancelled your credits.

Jetsetter Member Services

Given how vague the email was, I followed up:

Dear Member Services:

Thanks very much for your prompt response, though could you please advise which violations I incurred? I complied fully with the terms and conditions, which is why I’m so surprised my credit was taken away.

I’d appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.


Their response, amazingly enough, was as follows:

Hello Ben,

We are not able to elaborate further other than the purchase was cancelled due to a violation in the Jetsetter Terms of Service.


Jetsetter Member Services

I then sent them the following email:

Dear Jetsetter Membership Services:

I wanted to follow up regarding the below inquiry. I have reviewed the terms of service and complied fully with them, though my credits were taken away without explanation. I would appreciate if you could either advise me why the credits were revoked or reinstate them.

Their response was as follows:

Hello Ben,

We hope this email finds you well. We have been looking into your inquiry about why your credits were expired. Please be advised that under our terms and conditions, Jetsetter reserves the right to void credits that were earned in a manner not intended by Jetsetter.

The Terms state that you may not conduct your own promotion in connection with the credit program, and may not engage in any promotional, marketing or other advertising activities on behalf of Jetsetter. This was an example of such a promotion, as you asked people to use your referral link.

If you have further questions, you can refer to our Terms of Service here:

Warm regards,

Member Services

Interestingly enough Jetsetter’s CEO, Drew Patterson, has his referral link posted in his Twitter bio, which is clearly as much “marketing” as I was doing with my blog.

Frankly I’m at a loss on this one. If you haven’t read Gary’s post on the topic yet I suggest doing so, as he engages in much more dialogue with them. Their lack of logic is frightening, to put it nicely.

So much like Gary, I’m curious to hear how many of you this has happened to as well?

Truly disgusting behavior on the part of Jetsetter, especially given that they didn’t contact me to inform me my credits were being revoked, not to mention the lack of a decent reason for their actions.

If you’d like to help out in at least making this public (or maybe helping them live up to their end of the bargain), I suggest Tweeting them. Jetsetter’s Twitter account is @jetsetterdotcom, their member services Twitter account is @askjetsetter, and the Twitter account of the CEO is @jetsetdrew. They need to know this behavior isn’t acceptable (especially since it seems like they took away credits from lots of people, based on the comments section of Gary’s post), and there’s no better way to do that than social media nowadays.

Filed Under: Advice
  1. As I pointed out on Gary’s post… check out the homepage listed for the JetSetter CEO… it’s his referral link. While I doubt he gets referral credit, how is that consistent with their TOS but your posting yours is not?!

  2. You win some, you lose some. I don’t think these companies realize exactly how much these promotions will be exploited by customers who never use them again…

  3. I would like to see Gary or yourself take it further and really push them. There’s been no valid arguments from them as to “how” you have breached the terms and conditions.

  4. This place has gone downhill! You want to bury them, write about today’s Virgin America deal. For those with the knowledge this (very high prices) makes Jetsetter an instant turnoff. Why would I think that this place has good deals ever when they have a Virgin America deal like this. For those who “think” this is a deal, they get ripped off. Just terrible.

  5. Same thing happened to me. I also had a hotel reservation with the referral credits I got, and they canceled my booking.

  6. This is a site that clearly markets itself as high-end, but is operating like a sleazy 3rd-rate travel agency based on these stories. The entire Gilt company has always had customer-unfriendly “policies” like no refunds on their fashion sites until recently (due to competition). I certainly will not be shopping with this company which does such sleazy things to save a few thousand bucks in REFERRAL CREDIT (not even actual cash)!

  7. Thats the worst customer service communication I’ve seen. Does he realize what he’s doing to his brand? Wow.

  8. Hi Ben –

    We hear you and apologize that you’re upset. We are thoroughly investigating your case to honor any credits that are duly owed to you. We just want to make sure and clear up any misunderstanding.

    Jetsetter experienced a lot fraudulent activity during the Groundlink sale. As a result, Jetsetter was forced to delete several accounts deemed fraudulent, as well as credits. After further investigation, we are restoring credit to Mr Leff’s account that complies with our terms and conditions. While Mr Leff did not knowingly commit any fraud, his invitation link was used in several confirmed cases of fraud. Jetsetter has always honored referral credits and we will continue to do so. We will not however, honor credit received through fraudulent practices.

    Rest assured, we value your business and are doing as much as we can to make things right. Again, we apologize.

  9. I’ve never found a Jetsetter deal that was indeed the cheapest rate available online. Considering their non-existent cancellation policy, it’s best to avoid Jetsetter altogether.

  10. Ben,
    I used the Jetsetter deal for BA a while back, a month later my credit card had a $20 “foreign transaction fee”. Citi said its bc BA is in England. The $20 was almost as much as the savings, however I have had several good hotel experiences with them.

  11. Jetsetter is now saying they’re going to make good. Will that be just for bloggers with a bully pulpit for themselves, or will they honor the credits for everyone??

  12. It makes little sense that my “link was used in several confirmed cases of fraud.”

    First, there were only a modest number of referral uses of my link to begin with!

    Second, the likely fraud in this case would have been one person signing up for multiple accounts to get multiple first use bonuses to offset the groundlink purchases. However, someone using multiple accounts would have been using THEIR OWN referral link, not mine…

    So fishy story, I think. Nothing restored to my account yet, though I trust something will be. Which isn’t the point.

    I’m not concerned with my own credits. The way for Jetsetter to show they recognized they didn’t handle things well and that their customer service failed would be for them to honor the offer for EVERYONE that had legitimate referral credits. Lots of folks in the comments on my blog indicate they’re in a similar boat.

  13. I KNEW they were underhanded. I didn’t even follow through with it, because I knew it would be too much trouble than what it was worth. I could tell they are cheats. Also, I imagine the taxi guy would get pissed and feel like he was cheated out of a tip. (If I remember, the tip was supposed to be included.) Bravo to you Lucky, for an excellent post and follow through! The way Jetsetter shied away from defining your violation is more evidence that they knew they did not have a justifiable reason to discredit you your earned points. On top of that, when they finally did offer an explanation, it seems that the rule you supposedly violated does not apply to you, because it seems that, at best, what was meant by not using their credit program for your own promotion was to prevent a business entity from gaining commercial revenue using JetSetter’s credit program. You didn’t use their credit program to propel any business promotion. I view your blog as a personal blog. You are obviously in the right. You should sue them in small claims court. They probably won’t show up. Then, when you get a judgement, you give it to the City Marshall, and they seize JetSetter’s bank account. haha JetSetter would probably be liable for punitive damages too, but you would have to file in civil court, which actually isn’t hard, but you have to put up about $200 bucks about instead of maybe $15 or $20, but it might be worth it, if you got much more in punitive damages. In case anyone doesn’t know, punitive damages are what the judge would award as punishment for the offense. On top of that, I haven’t read the contract, but often, the person violating the contract is liable for thrice the damages, but it depends where you can sue them. Either court you sue them in, you will get court costs and fees back, and probably even attorney’s fees back if you decided to retain one, but I think you could probably do it yourself. Maybe there is a lawyer in the audience that wants to do a class action. I’ll serve the papers in Manhattan, if they are located there.

  14. @jetsetter… don’t you mean “after careful review of us getting slammed in social media for our sleazeball stonewall tactics, we’re backpedaling”? Your member services “carefully reviewed” Gary’s account previously, and the stonewalling continued.
    Horrible, horrible PR move. Your business will suffer exponentially over what you owe bloggers.

  15. It seems JetSetter has decided to use the violation of the terms of the referral offer as their escape clause from honoring thier offer. You, Gary, and others can argue until you are blue in the face with them, but they are going to give all those whom rightfully earned their referral bonus the shaft. This is an unscrupulous business practice, and JetSetter should be held to account.

    First, look at small claims court and sue them for reneging on the deal.

    Second, publish this story across Milepoint, Flyertalk and the travel blogging communites. Finally, get the mainline media exposed to the story and expose the fraud which they are committing.

    JetSetter may think their actions are clever, but the loss of business and bad reputation which they achieve from this practice will serve them right.

  16. I’m glad to see that Gary and Ben will (perhaps) be made whole. The rest of us scammed by jetsetter will still be out, but those with a strong social media presence will get what was promised. We still need to tell the world how underhanded jetsetter is, since the rest of us are still left WITHOUT what was promised to us.

  17. How about an Occupy JetSetter movement across cyberspace? Let’s forewarn potential customers on Twitter, Facebook, Flyertalk, Milepoint, and many other places that they shaft their customers.

  18. Maybe we can get negative advertising space at the U.S. Open. JetSetter: The worst most underhanded travel site on the internet. hahaha

  19. It is evident that they will fold to bloggers simply because they realize the bad PR, but to the average guy, maybe not.

    I think that the message they are sending is of not too solid practices.

    The other day I was ready to spend $700 on a “deal”, but there are more complaints than praises for their practices, so I passed on the deal and jetsetter.

    On the other hand, a competitor, groupon, I had a no show from the service I had ordered, called groupon to complain, yes a live person, they apologized, refunded me and gave me $10.

    The best way I can protest is not to do business with them.

  20. As I expressed in my comment (#51) at Gary’s blog, Jetsetter seems to be running a bait-and-switch scam so this scandal with the denied credits is not surprising.

  21. I, too, had a negative experience with Jetsetter. I booked a hotel room in Granada, Nicaragua for three nights at approximately half of the normal price. The room had multiple problems, many of which directly conflicted with Jetsetter’s description of the hotel. When I wrote to request a partial refund, it was denied for reasons that were never explained to me, but I was given a “good faith” credit of $25. A month later, I received an email telling me that my good faith credit was about to expire. Really, Jetsetter? A credit that must be used within 30 days? I’ll never deal with them again.

  22. If the JS technology isnt solid enough to combat the supposed ‘fraud’ they cite, do you really want to be providing them with your personal info and credit card anyway? double #fail

  23. Actually, looking at their terms of service, they pretty much reserve the right to define what violates their TOS in terms of referrals. They say “in a manner that violates these Terms and Conditions or in a manner otherwise not intended by Jetsetter.” Since they never specified blogs as a referral tool (indeed most of the things they mentioned where things where you send “messages” to other people, except Facebook to an extent) they could say that posting the referral link on a blog with a decent readership (or even someone getting referral credits exceeding a certain amount) wasn’t what they “intended.”

    It’s still a shady move on their part that is ultimately a terrible business decision, but from a legal standpoint there is at least a reasonable argument to support their actions…

  24. Hey Lucky,
    I had used your referral link and purchased the Groundlink deal. I just noticed that @Jetsetterdotcom tweeted: “@OneMileataTime We apologize that you’re upset. To clarify, the folks that used your referral link were in violation of our TOS, not you.”

    Does this mean that your readers who used your referral are being accused of violating Jetsetter’s TOS?? These guys really need a lesson in how to run a business.

  25. Jetsetter is part of the Gilt Groupe, right? They seem pretty shady to me, and I probably won’t do business with them ever again, in spite thinking they offer a unique shopping experience.

    I’m still fighting a rather slow battle with them over the UA/CO 1500 miles for a first-time customer. I signed up through the link and made a purchase but never saw the miles. Shortly after other people’s started hitting their account, I emailed to ask about the status of my miles. Their response was a generic, “it may take up to 8 weeks, even if we try to have them in the account within 30 days” type of response. After 8 weeks, I emailed again. After several calls and emails trying to push blame onto UA/CO, they finally provided a substantive response: I signed up under a “VIP offer”, not the UA/CO offer. That’s not true. I signed up through the link Lucky posted here ( They can’t tell me anything about the VIP offer they claim I signed up under and don’t seem interested in providing me any more information. I guess my next step is to start tweeting or taking more public action than just emailing. Either way, as of right now, I won’t be doing business with them and will warn people away. I also sent an email to the OnePass support advising them of the issue so they know that one of their partners isn’t fully on the up-and-up.

  26. For those who think only bloggers with a bit of social media reach will get made whole here — that may be Jetsetter’s starting place but I am not interested in my own credits per se, what I’m asking is that they honor the offer for everyone that’s posted in my blog comments that they’re in a similar boat. That’s what it’ll take to show contrition and a recognition that they’ve handled it badly, IMHO.

  27. Heres an idea. Let’s start a petition on!

    If we get enough people to sign it, then I bet jetsetter will issue your credits back!

  28. I didn’t have any credits to lose, but the Groundlink code arrived in my inbox well after the promised delivery date, and well after my trip to NYC when I could have used it. Multiple emails asking for a refund for the useless code were met with similar canned stonewalling. I let my feet do the talking, and unsubscribed. Oh, and disputed the $4 with my cc company…

  29. Dear Jetsetter,

    I don’t recall if I actually followed through on my intention to sign up for an account, but if you do find any under my name, please delete it. I shudder to imagine all the fraudulent activity that might be going on in my account right now.

    Best regards.

  30. Never did sign up for the account and glad I didn’t! Obviously shady practices. Get the word out. It will come back to haunt them.

  31. File a small claims suit. It is shockingly easy (we sued BofA for “miscounting” an $x,000 gold coin deposit by $xx.75 and won). Even if you lose, it would be a great learning experience.

  32. Just, wow. So let me get this straight. They invite you to solicit referrals, but you “may not engage in any promotional, marketing or other advertising activities on behalf of Jetsetter”?

    Doesn’t just e-mailing the referral link to someone you know have the effect of promoting Jetsetter’s business, and therefore doesn’t that count as engaging in promotional activities on their behalf? How could you POSSIBLY ever refer anyone to Jetsetter without engaging in promotional activity?

    What frauds.

  33. Yes, unfortunate the way they’re handling it. Hopefully this gets resolved better than this.

    @ZA In general JetSetter sells a lot of standard pricing, but their flash sales frequently do have nice deals. As far as Virgin – JetSetter prices are actually noticeably cheaper than Virgin’s own Cabin Select pricing (or the instant upgrade to cabin select). You may not be buying that fare but it’s still a reasonable sale.

  34. Look at that guy’s dooshy smile. You can just tell from his twitter pic that he’s not to be trusted.

  35. In Gilt’s defense, I do like their clothes sales, and I know people who have had very good experiences with Jetsetter. I understand that some of their policies can be less than ideal since they are a discounter…but hopefully they will make good on this, since from an outsider’s perspective it sure does look like they were just trying to find a way out of honoring an unprofitable incentive they offered.

  36. @JetSetter, so you deleted the referral credits en masse and then make your customers fight to have them restored? If you do not want to offer a referral credit or a potential good deal, then do NOT offer it in the first place! You claim the customer is guilty of fraud so you do not have to pay the referral credit. This is an unethical business practice, and customers will shun your business due to your unscrupulous practices.

  37. I wonder if this will eventually result in a class action lawsuit if a lot of people were affected and given the same run around? It seems like an appropriate use of that type of suit.

    What occurs to me is that if JetSetter had simply said that they made a mistake and didn’t expect the overwhelming response to their referral program and unfortunately cannot stay in business if they provided everyone the credit that was due and then provided everyone $25 of credit, then the community probably would have accepted they made a mistake and forgiven them. Going around and blaming the problem on the users/members seems to be the OPPOSITE of the behavior you would want to exhibit when clearly the company made a mistake when they devised the program (unlimited credits? what were they thinking?). Nothing upsets people more than blaming them for a problem when all they did was do what they were asked a little too well!

  38. I just made a corporate policy that no one is to use them for any reason for company travel and warned them of their practices for consideration when on personal travel. I have np time or patience for their unethical practices…..

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