MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis travel agency Let’s Get Away Charters closed with little notice last week, leaving clients shocked and wondering if they’ll ever get thousands of dollars back.
Future bride Nikita Wideman of Indiana used the agency to book the honeymoon of her dreams this summer.
“We worked hard, did overtime to make those payments,” she said of the $4,000 they’ve paid so far for their Aruba vacation.
As of Thursday, the company website showed more than 40,000 Facebook followers and made promises like offering flexible payment plans. It also claimed to be “trusted and proven” with a link to the Better Business Bureau accreditation.
“A friend had used them and she didn’t have any trouble,” Wideman said of her referral.
Sharae Smith of Florida is also a customer; she said her friend knows the owner, Demond Terry Watson, and referred her.
“I used them to go to Cuba in 2017,” she said.
That’s why she decided to use the company again, this time for a trip to Dubai with 10 people in February.
“There’s this miracle garden there I wanted to do. So many reasons to go to Dubai. I was very excited,” Smith said.
She didn’t take any trips in 2018 in order to save for Dubai.
They signed a contract and agreed to use payment plans totaling more than $2,000 a person for airfare and hotels.
But all along, she said Watson would not give them any booking information.
A friend took it into her own hands.
“She called the airline in November to inquire if we were in fact booked, in which time she found there was no booking for our group, for no one in the group,” Smith said.
She demanded Watson explain himself or refund them.
He gave them back $500 a person, but that still left her out around $1,500 and the entire group missing more than $10,000.
“On February 8 he stopped answering emails, stopped answering phone calls,” Smith said.
Wideman has gone through a similar ordeal, paying more than $4,000 for their June honeymoon.
“We contacted him last week. There was no response,” she said.
Desperate for answers, she went to the company’s website.
She was shocked when she saw this message on the home page: “This past November I suffered a great financial loss that I have yet to recover. It’s with great sorrow that I want to announce the immediate closing of Let’s Get Away Charters.”
“My heart just dropped immediately. I was just, I was shocked,” Wideman said. “It’s like a couple’s nightmare. I can’t have that honeymoon I dreamed of.”
In the note, the company promises to refund clients in the upcoming weeks.
But clients said they don’t believe that since they can’t get in touch with the owner.
WREG went to the Cordova address listed for Let’s Get Away Charters and Watson, the owner.
No one answered the door so we called and got a voicemail message for the company.
We never got a response.
The Better Business Bureau had an A+ rating for the business as recently as Wednesday.
As soon as we started looking into it, that changed. The BBB now shows a message that the company is out of business. It suggests customers with an unresolved dispute get legal advice.
“There may be people out there who aren’t aware yet that he’s closed that have trips they’re planning and they don’t even know this is happening,” Smith said.
Unfortunately that’s how she met Wideman, the bride-to-be who’s now preparing to cancel her honeymoon.
“We worked really hard for this and it just it’s sad this has happened,” she said.
They both said they just hoped they could get back the thousands of dollars they’re now missing.
Smith contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation about these issues. WREG is still waiting to hear back about the status of the investigation.
We asked the Better Business Bureau what people can do in situations like this. They sent these suggestions:
- If they paid with a credit card, dispute the charge with the card issuer. The issuer will determine if there’s a basis for a charge-back.
- File a complaint with the BBB. We’ll send it to him in the hopes that he might respond.
- File a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Consumer Affairs. If they get enough complaints, they might investigate.
- File a complaint with the police. I don’t know if they’ll investigate, although police in Jackson TN investigated a similar case last year.
- File a lawsuit.