Internnational Exchange Program or a Scam?

Someone I know got conned into shelling out almost five grand to pay for his daughter’s upcoming trip to Australia. It’s supposedly an international exchange program. Parents get put on a mailing list. They receive a letter telling them their child was selected to be a student ambassador to (fill in the name of the country). The egos of the parents and child are stroked to get them to attend the meeting where they are told the trip will cost several thousand dollars which will come out of the pockets of the parents. I did some research online and found this: (scroll down to ‘People to People’)

Excerpt: People to People subcontracts to a for-profit company that last year made $43 million in revenue selling trips to kids that cost anywhere from $1,800 to $4,200. People to People defends their marketing as competitive. We call it deceptive.

Heck, I’ve even seen personal web pages posted from children begging for money to finance their trip.

Anyone heard of this?

BTW, even after I showed that link to the person who will be paying for his kid’s upcoming trip to Australia, he still doesn’t believe it’s a scam. Or maybe he’s too embarrassed to admit he got scammed.

He recently got a passport for his kid, so he’s definitely sending her to Australia.

Most parents I know don’t have five grand to blow on an unnecessary trip to Australia. They need it to pay for their kid’s braces.

At first pass, I don’t see the scam part. It’s a trip to Australia, which involves air fare and lodging, which cost money. You pay for it.

Is the air fare and lodging not truly delivered? Is it astoundingly cheaper if you book it yourself? Are there activities associated with the program? Whom do you think should pay for it?

The scam part is that they make the child and parents think their kid was nominated or selected to be an Ambassador to some foreign country. Stroking the egos, in other words. But it’s just letters they send out to lots of parents. So the parents feel so honored and flattered to think their kid was actually selected. At the meeting they feel pressured into signing up and committing to spending thousands of dollars that they otherwise would not be spending if they hadn’t been suckered into attending the meeting in the first place.

My feeling is that if this so-called non-profit program is on the up-and-up it would be subsidized to make it more affordable instead of costing the family several thousands of dollars.

Subsidized by whom?

By the group who makes up the organization ‘People-to-People’. Those who think your child is so exceptional that he/she deserves to be selected to be the Student Ambassador to Australia, or whatever country. If ‘People-to-People’ really think the kid is so deserving of going, then that organization should be willing to pay for it.

Otherwise, they should not send out these letters to parents conning them into attending these meetings so they feel pressured into signing up and committing to these expensive and unnecessary trips.

The parents are led to believe that perhaps some teacher or someone who knows their kid nominated that child to be named Student Ambassador. But it’s not. It’s just a way for the travel company to make money by selling expensive trips that the parents otherwise would not be buying.

So who ends up paying for these trips? The parents. They either deplete their savings or take out a loan or canvas their neighborhoods asking for donations. Or their child puts up a web page begging for money to pay for this trip.

It just seems so underhanded to me.

yep it’s a con alright. founded by this well know con artist Dwight Eisenhower. Every president since then has served as an honorary chairman. [/sarcasm]

Does it cost money? Sure it does. Is that spelled out in their letters? It was in the ones my daughter got. We knew going to the information meeting that it cost money. Not the exact amount as they use a generic letter for all the programs. The exact amount as well as the planned trips was spelled out in the informational meeting. Was there pressure for my daughter to sign up? No, I didn’t feel pressured at all. The information was laid out, kids that had traveled before got up and spoke of their experiences, and we were allowed to ask questions. Not like a vacation condo sales pitch at all.

What did my daughter get for her money? Well besides three weeks in Europe, she got to write papers, study books on where they would travel, as well as attend classes on the culture of where she would be traveling. In these days of people who can’t find Europe on a map, I consider this to be a good thing. My daughter also received school credit for the classwork.

While in Europe, she visited museums, famous places (leaning tower of Pisa), met with local government officals, did a stay in a private home for 2 days. She came back three weeks later, a more worldly, grown up young lady.

I consider the money spent an excellent investment in her education.

I’m glad you had the money available to pay for your daughter’s trip that enriched her life. That’s great.

Please realize that not every parent who attended those meetings and felt pressured into signing up their child could afford to do so. But they felt they HAD to, otherwise they would be letting down their child.

It’s one thing if they had the money to do so. But to be pressured into going into debt or depleting their savings, well, that’s the part I have a problem with.

The person who I know of who told me that he signed up his kid to go to Australia was already complaining about money problems even before this trip came up. Yet he still felt pressured to cave in and have his kid go.

Quote: It is unfortunate that Ambassadors Education Travel company feels they must resort to this type of marketing approach. What is truly unfortunate is that the sales process Ambassadors Education implements plays on the emotions of children and their family’s. I do not think that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had this in mind in 1956.


First off I am not Daddy Gotbucks. I work very hard for what little money I do have. In order to pay for this trip my family had to rearrange some priorities, do without some things we wanted and postpone some purchases. There were presentations at the meeting from kids who paid their own way on past trips. from the site you linked

BTW did you catch this line in Julia’s post?

Sounds like she is ready for GD or GQ

Now I have not attended evey meeting that PtoP has held (and neither have you) but based on the meetings I have attended if your boss caved in to the pressure at this meeting, he had better never walk into a used car dealership. :slight_smile:

Furthermore, if someone is having money problems, before the trip came up, then perhaps he should engage that thrid brain cell and stop breathing through his mouth before he writes a check with his mouth that his body can’t cover.

One more question. I note that your post in the linked forum is almost exactaly like your post here. Why are you spamming the net with this triade against a group that you have no experience with?

I’m not spamming. I’m expressing an opinion. That’s what this forum is about. If you have a problem with it, feel free to report this to the moderator.

I don’t think President Eisenhower had in mind for a travel company to make such a huge profit on his program that’s meant to educate and enrich the lives of deserving children. He’d probably want to know why the travel company doesn’t take some of its profit to subsidize future trips for deserving children. After all, in 2000 they generated $43 million in revenue selling trips to kids that cost anywhere from $1,800 to $4,200. Surely, if they genuinely felt these children should visit other countries, they’d be willing to take some of that profit and use it to help subsidize future trips for Student Ambassadors.

From you post on your link dated 11-14-02

and now from the OP

So almost three months after your post at ProTeacher you post the same opinion here except I note that the price has gone from at least 4,000 to almost 5,000. Inflation I guess.

Next would you stop with the 43 million in revenue strawman?

(bolding mine)
Look I will type this slowly so that you can understand. Revenue does not equal profit. You are using these words as if they are equal, and they are not. It is completly possible to have a huge revenue and lose money. If you doubt this try going to any airline web site and read their annual report for the last couple of years. I am not saying that this company didn’t make a profit, what I am saying is that they did not make anywhere near $43 million dollars in profit. Unless you quote actual profit numbers, the revenue numbers are meaningless.

Oh yeah one more thing. Have you ever priced a trip to Europe for three weeks? I travel there quite often on business and the cost of my daughter’s trip was reasonable. Does Australia cost a lot of money to get to? You bet, it is a very long and expensive airplane ride.

So almost three months after your post at ProTeacher you post the same opinion here except I note that the price has gone from at least 4,000 to almost 5,000. Inflation I guess.

$400 down and an additional $4000 comes to $4400. I said ALMOST five grand. $4400 is more than $4000.

Gee, I’m sorry if this thread is causing you to be so upset. That was not my intention. I am aware that there are plenty of children who had a great time on those trips. But you must admit the marketing practices to get some parents to commit to these trips is questionable. That’s the only problem I had with it.

Ooooh. Careful, Rick. That borders on flaming. A no-no here at Straight Dope.

No, just a No-No here in IMHO. (and the other forums)

Another rule says we can’t accuse you of some other activity so I will not say it. I do hope to see you in the pit though.

Well, I still don’t see the scam, but I’ll email my buddy whose daughter did the Australia trip last summer and get another opinion.

Thanks for the clarification, Epimetheus. Would this thread be better suited over in the Pit? If you think so, then by all means, please move it over. Thanks.

Sorry, left my mod powers in my other jacket. :rolleyes:

I think somebody should exercise some reading comprehension to be serious. Did I say anywhere that this thread belonged in the pit? Sheesh.

When you said this: ‘I do hope to see you in the pit though.’

I took it to mean you thought this thread would be better suited in the pit. So we’ll just leave it here.