Published: June 7, 2017
BUYER BEWARE: Not All Is As It Appears
Has anybody ever pretended to be you on the internet?
That's a very real concern these days, but we always figured it'd happen to somebody else. It's a scary thought, but it's not the kind of thing that keeps you up at night, right? Anyway, it's kinda flattering that someone should think you're sufficiently awesome that they want to be you. Right?
Well, that's what we thought until--y'know--it happened.
How It All Went Down
We'd been getting weird calls for a little while, sure, from folks who were sure they'd purchased a skydiving gift certificate from us and wanted to make a reservation; that kind of thing happens from time to time, though, and we didn't think much of it. Then, not too long ago, we put it all together. We discovered that the internet's favorite semi-shady discount clearinghouse had done just that: essentially stolen our identity to take money from people who wanted to make a jump with a reputable dropzone in Kansas City--in other words, us--and ohers were being shunted to a fly-by-night operation much farther away.
We were, of course, horrified--and, what's worse, disempowered to do much about it but try to get the word out.
As it turns out, the website in question has been running loads of Google Adwords with terms that are pretty much a match to our brand name--but not a perfect match. This is causing understandable confusion in the marketplace.
How You Can Protect Yourself
Scammers have been preying on potential tandem students for many years--long before the internet, as a matter of fact. It used to be that scammers would bait wanna-be jumpers with 'vanity' 800 numbers that sounded like a local dropzone; now, they use search-engine-optimized pages, listing fake dropzones (and hot-air balloon operations and the like) all over the world. These guys happily take customers' money and send them on a wild goose chase, and daily-deal companies have learned those same tricks to scam folks well into the modern era. Your only recourse is to avoid middlemen entirely and deal directly with the drop zone.
What You Can Do
Luckily, it's easy to do just that. A quick visit to the DZ listing maintained by the United States Parachute Association (USPA) is an excellent first step in your search. The United States Parachute Association regulates parachuting licenses in the USA and abroad. USPA dropzones have pledged to follow a long list of best practices for safety and training, and the difference in quality is often immense.
Another thing you can check: If the dropzone shows an address that's on an airfield. Every real dropzone has an address on an airfield. Every. Single. Real. Dropzone. In. The. World. No exceptions. Follow your nose to Google satellite view and have a peek.
If you were one of the unfortunate folks that were scammed by the daily deal site, we feel terrible for you. We're crossing fingers and toes that you're not so traumatized by your experience at whatever dropzone you're sent to that you don't have the stomach to jump anymore, because we're eager to show you just how marvelous a professional, comfortable, safety-first tandem skydive can be. Don't give up on the sport! We're right here, where we always were, just a handful of minutes south of greater Kansas City. Don't be a stranger!