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West Michigan couple’s dream vacation was over before it even began

Posted at 10:53 PM, Dec 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-10 22:53:09-05

MONTAGUE, Mich. -- June and Ed Shafer of Montague thought they were finally going on their dream vacation out west. They booked a trip to the Grand Canyon through a company called Las Vegas Southwest Tours Inc., but that dream quickly turned into a nightmare. It was supposed to be not only a dream vacation for them, but it was June’s 70th birthday.

What’s more, while the company originally offered to refund them thousands of dollars, they still don't have their money four months later.

Now the company has disappeared.

“You know what they say, what sounds good is too good to be true,” said June, who found the vacation deal.

She saw a deal on Facebook for a six-day trip through Las Vegas Southwest Tours Inc. priced at about $3,500. Their daughter, Deanna Usiak, helped them book it.

“I saw no red flags. Everything looked like it was on the up and up,” said Usiak.

The Shafers don't want this to happen to anyone else.

This Problem Solver story proved to be a bit more complicated than usual, not only because the tourist company is located in a different state that has different rules and regulations, but the owner of the company seems to have gone off the grid.

We called the Nevada Transportation Authority for backup, and they looked into the issue.

“My husband always wanted to see Union Park and Zion Park, and all this other stuff. It sounded really super, and all inclusive,” said June.

The only picture the Shafers got out of their vacation.

The only picture the Shafers got out of their vacation.

The only picture June and her husband, Ed Shafer, have from their failed vacation in August is one they took at the airport. Upon arrival in Las Vegas, they waited for the tour bus to pick them up at 7 a.m. sharp. Minutes passed, but there was no bus in sight.

“The next morning we were up and out there way early after 7 o’clock, and I had called him, and he goes, ‘The bus left without you,’” said June.

In retrospect, the Shafers said there were more red flags. The company double charged them for the trip when they booked it back in June, but the owner, Eric Davis, got that fixed in a timely manner, so they didn’t think twice about it. Further, when they got to their original hotel in Vegas, Davis told them they were booked at a different hotel, so they had to move. When they arrived at the second hotel, there was no reservation in their name.

The trip description said there would be a dinner so they could meet everyone on the tour, but Davis told them it had been canceled.

“I felt like he kicked me in the stomach,” said June.

The next morning Davis disappointed them again when they supposedly missed their bus. He told them they had been at the wrong place, but the hotel confirmed to them they had been in the right location.

“I was thinking to myself, this is their dream vacation. You need to get them on that bus,” said Usiak.

Usiak decided that instead of leaving her parents stranded in Las Vegas for another week she would get them on the next flight home.

The whole ordeal cost the Shafers close to $6,000. Davis promised to refund them at least $2,500 after they pleaded with him.

Usiak typed up a two-page letter detailing everything and reminding Davis about the refund he promised when her parents returned home. That was in September, however, and Davis still hasn’t refunded any money to them.

Meanwhile more red flags have been popping up.

“I started seeing all these bad reviews,” said Usiak.

Dozens of poor reviews are on Yelp and other places with similar stories as that experienced by June and Ed. The reviews all end with customer receiving no refund from Davis.

If you try to locate the web site, it has been shut down. The work phone number is disconnected, and the Facebook page also has been taken down.

“It’s significant when it’s a huge trip and you could have been looking forward to taking it, and it could be your last big vacation,” said Usiak.

Davis’ cell phone appears to be in service, but he wouldn’t answer our calls. So we got in touch with the Nevada Transportation Authority, who said the tour company isn’t on their certified list of tourism companies. The NTA is now looking into the case.

Even though the Shafers know they have missed out on their dream vacation, they want to be the last people that this happens to.

“I would be very very cautious,” said June. "I just hope it doesn't happen to anybody else."

June and Ed said they were embarrassed to tell people about their experience at first, because they didn’t want to admit they had been scammed. But they want to warn others about the possibility of it happening to them.

Apps and web sites like Groupon were promoting this vacation. So even if you are purchasing from a web site like that, always make sure you do your research.