BVU among those sold unusable travel vouchers by Omaha company

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BVU among those sold unusable travel vouchers by Omaha company

Staff Writer

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Kiley Wellendorf, Madeleine McCormick & Samantha Hirschman | News Co-Editors

Buena Vista University is among the currently 1,200-plus customers that have filed complaints against Creative Creations, an Omaha-based company that sold discount travel vouchers that are now unusable. BVU alumnus, Ryan Scheetz, who currently works at the company, facilitated many of the purchases by BVU consumers. While some tickets were purchases by students, faculty and staff for personal travel, the institution itself also purchased some that are now not being honored. The university is now pursuing legal action.

Mike Frantz, Vice President of Enrollment Management, is leading the legal pursuit for BVU. He explains that initially many of the vouchers BVU had purchased were able to be utilized. However, a remaining 127 vouchers were not. Each ticket was purchased anywhere from $78 to $139, which means the university lost somewhere between $9,906 and $17,653.

Scheetz, who was contacted for this story, said he is unable to comment as the situation as it is currently being investigated.

Frantz explains that up until Wednesday or Thursday before Spring Break, vouchers were being honored. But around that time, the university discovered the ticket vouchers were not working. A variety of athletic teams and student groups were impacted, including their Spring Break travel.

Director of Athletics, Christyn Abaray, says she was contacted by Scheetz about a year ago as he was inquiring about contacting coaches for various sports teams traveling for athletic events over Spring Break. Scheetz, a former BVU baseball player, mainly wanted to get into contact with the baseball and softball teams because he knew, in particular, that they would be traveling someplace that they needed to fly.

“That’s how I first heard about it,” Abaray said. “As I thought about it more and more, I bought flights for the department for coaches’ conventions and things like that.”

Abaray noted that in her role as athletic director, it is important to her that all the athletic teams have an equal opportunity to save money. Other coaches then purchased vouchers for team travel as well.

As word spread around campus about what Creative Creations was doing for the sports teams, students, as well as faculty and staff, began to purchase vouchers for personal trips as well.

A handful of students, including seniors Amanda Kavan and Brandon Scott, purchased flight vouchers through Creative Creations in order to save money on their Spring Break trips. Scott knew about Creative Creations through BVU alumni, while Kavan had friends who had successfully purchased and used the flight vouchers from the company in the past.

“I was looking at purchasing a flight to Panama City Beach for Spring Break back in November and remembered this steal — literally,” Kavan said.

Kavan and Scott were able to purchase flight vouchers through the company for $139, a price that drops tremendously low in contrast to typical airline fare of up to $400. While this relieved the two from the 20-plus hour drive to Florida, both became suspicious when communication from the company slowly dropped over the next few months. Both BVU students were told flight vouchers would be sent a month before departure, but silence from Creative Creations continued until Kavan reached out the week of Spring Break.

“I called the company demanding them for our flight details and they e-mailed me back reassuring me that we will get our flight on Saturday,” said Kavan. “They said they are just extremely busy and will be getting the details to me soon.”

However, neither Kavan nor Scott ever heard back and so never actually got flights booked. Both ended up driving to Florida for break. They still have not received any further communication from the company.

Last week, in a press conference, the lawyer for the Creative Creations stated that “unfortunately there’s not going to be enough money to either reimburse people or to buy tickets.”

Abaray says that the sports teams will not be refunded. She spoke with Scheetz regarding refunds and said that he believes there will be nothing they can do to get their money back. Abaray says that this incident has traumatized her view of companies like this for good. She will not be looking for shortcuts when planning for trips and will unfortunately have to mass purchase tickets from the airline for each respective team in the future.

“Coaches are going to have to go back to what they used to have been doing. We know we’re going to spend this much money on travel because this is typically what a ticket is going to cost. We’ll just have to go from here,” Abaray said.

Thus far, Frantz has filed a complaint with both the Nebraska Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in Nebraska. As of April 9, the complaints filed against the company with the BBB totaled over $1 million.

The university has also requested reimbursement from Creative Creations, and Frantz said he will be contacting BVU’s lawyer if communication isn’t made following BVU’s request within seven days. Frantz sent a certified letter with documentation of the financial outlay that has been suffered, a cover letter, and all certified documents, receipts, emails, and requested reimbursement for all noted charges.

“If individuals were impacted, I would encourage them to do as I have done and then make the determination themselves whether they want legal help or not,” Frantz said.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons