You might have noticed several advertisements of late, which promise assured prizes worth several times the product value you’ll be paying. For example, The Mobile Store, an Airtel venture, offers “Rs 10,000 worth assured gifts on purchase of any mobile”. Several other companies advertise similar offers of free gifts and holiday packages luring people with an illusion that they’re going to get a great deal. Reebok, Cannon, India Today group and many more companies have resorted to this tactic.
Now, a simple question: Does it make any sense for a seller to give away gift worth Rs 10000 along with a product (say mobile phone) which is costing just 10-20% of that amount? Simple mathematics tells you this is not feasible. They can’t stay in business giving everyone a Rs 10000 worth gift when someone buys a Rs 2000 mobile.
Then how does this offer work?
Usually you’ll be given a scratch card by scratching which you’ll get to know what your gift is. The promo may say you're going to win any of the following- A digicam/ a diamond ring/a mobile or a free holiday package. You’ll never get any of the physical gifts and in 100% of the cases it will be 'holiday package'. (You can estimate the value of physical gifts like digicam/mobile etc- but value of a holiday package is very tough to assess, as it depends on season, quality of rooms, what all are included/excluded etc and promoters can easily mislead consumers)
So, you’ll be left with no option but to feel happy that you’ve got a free holiday package which you can now enjoy with your friends/family.
Next comes the process of redeeming this holiday package, which will be kept so unfriendly, secretive and inflexible to ensure that at most of the time you will never get to enjoy your “holiday package”.
Below is the standard process- how you’ll be asked to redeem your holiday package.
A true holiday package should atleast cover travel, stay and food expenses. Though they call it as a holiday package, what you will be offered is just stay in some unknown hotels at those times of the year(off seasons) when their hotels will be running empty. Travel, food, site-seeing, everything at your expense. There will be an online form, in which you’ll need to select hotel and preferred dates (all popular seasons excluded) and submit your request. (You can select a maximum of 2 or 3 preferred locations and date combinations max) Next, there will be one postal address, of some agency in Delhi or Mumbai, to whom you’ll have to send a certain amount-raning from few hundred to a few thousand rupees, in the form of DD/Cheque, in the name of “Processing fee”. Note that there’ll be no phone number/email address so that you can contact and ask any questions/check availability/confirmation/request for change in check-in dates.
Thus, you are required to make a payment of substantial amount and wait for a reply to see if your booking is confirmed. What happens next is left to your fate. If everything goes fine, you might get a communication (hopefully in time so that you can make travel plans, but don’t surprised if the communication reaches you after the preferred dates you’ve selected) that your rooms have been confirmed. You’ll get it only when it is off season and hotel authorities feel like giving it to you for a petty amount than leave it vacant. The valuation “Rs 10000 worth holiday” is always overhyped. Actual cost for that hotel during that off season would be just a few hundred rupees per day. (For example, in Mussoori, tourist season is only 2-3 months an year, rest of the time all hotels run near empty) Further, whatever amount otherwise one would pay as rent might be collected from you under the disguise of “Maintenance/utility charges” during check in. In all cases it will be off season and you won’t be able to enjoy the place due to bad weather. You’ll spend a huge amount on travel and other expenses trying to utilize this “free holiday package”. My recommendation is, don't fall into this trap.
Have you experienced this “Free holiday package” offer? Please share your experience here.