Friday, July 22, 2016

Old luggage tag from Dowco Travel

Here's an orange and octagonal luggage tag from Dowco Travel of Philadelphia, a company that I believe has long since ridden off into the sunset. While this tag is in good shape, the paper is fairly flimsy and it wouldn't have stood the test of time very well if it had been attached to a suitcase and tossed to and fro during flights and cab rides. Indeed, this tag was never used, and no name or address are written on the back.

As far as Dowco Travel goes, I found a couple of mentions in Philadelphia-area newspaper advertisements in the early 1970s. I also found a entry indicating that the company's name was registered in 1969.

And then I found one more thing.

I hesitate a little to post this, but it's been 34 years, so here goes...

It's an Associated Press story from the December 3, 1982, issue of the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press:
Defrauded vacationers get free trip

The Associated Press
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Thirty members of a South Jersey Moose Lodge headed for Florida yesterday while authorities sought the owners of a Philadelphia travel agency the vacationers paid $18,000 for a trip to Hawaii. The Florida trip was made possible after a small airline and a large Florida hotel, sympathetic to the plight of the group, offered a free flight and accommodations.

"My heart is singing," said Jane Parson, one of members of the group boarding a DC-9 airliner for the complimentary trip to Ft. Lauderdale International Airport. Her group was to be taken to the Sheraton at Bal Harbour, Fla., where they would spend a week on a vacation that, as recently as a month ago, looked as if it would be nothing more than a dream.

The chain of events began last January, when Mrs. Parson and other members of Lodge 585 of the Fraternal Order of Moose in Wildwood decided they wanted to vacation in Hawaii.

"We have such a good time when we're together, we figured we'd go to Hawaii," said Mrs. Parson, whose husband, Joseph, is a retired Philadelphia police officer. "I worked all summer and saved."

Mrs. Parson, 54, said she worked mending uniforms for ride attendants at a Wildwood amusement pier to pay for her Hawaiian trip. The group booked reservations with Dowco Travel, a Philadelphia travel agency, for $1,258 a couple, a "great price," said 59-year-old Doris Ciaverelli, that was supposed to pay for all meals, transfers and hotel accommodations. The price sounded so good, in fact, that several others tried to book reservations with Dowco, but had trouble reaching one of the agency's three Philadelphia offices.

"She then called the Better Business Bureau and found out Dowco had been closed," said Mrs. Ciaverelli's husband, Phil, 63. Members of the group said $18,000 already had been paid.

"I cried and I got angry," Mrs. Parsons said. "To think that people could do things like that."

But another group member, Eleanor Farrell, wanted to do something about it. She sought help from a Philadelphia television station's consumer reporter, who contacted an advertising agency. The group was then offered a trip to Florida by a small South Jersey airline. Gayle E. Moneyhan, vice chairman of American International Airways Inc., said the trip was offered to fix a blemish on the tourism industry.

Moneyhan said when one travel agency doesn't deliver services it promised, "it gives the entire industry a black eye."

[section snipped, due to electronic garble]

Robert Campolongo, a Philadelphia assistant district attorney, said an investigation is underway of the Dowco agency.

"We're trying to determine what's actually going on," he said. "Complaints regarding Dowco have come to our office, and we are taking a look at them."

Moneyhan said the airline seats are worth $199.95 each. The hotel rooms cost $135 a night, Sheraton officials said. In Florida, three Moose Lodges, several hotels and a restaurant pledged to feed the group of retirees.

"It sure restores your faith in people," said 66-year-old Tom Travaglini. And, as Travaglini and his 60-year-old wife Angelina were boarding the DC-9, they noticed a sign on the side of the plane. The markings, which were put on the jet by its previous owner but painted over in white by American International Airways, once read: "Operated by Hawaiian Airlines."

Morals of this story? (1) If a travel deal seems too good to be true, it might not be; (2) The world is still filled with good people.

(Also, maybe you shouldn't pick a travel agency whose luggage-tag slogan is "The Escape Artists." Just sayin'.)

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