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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Free Assured Holiday package gift demystified

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.

Just a direct question to them- why can't you make the redemption process online and automated?- let people see the live availability-if they spot a vacancy at a given hotel/location during the dates of their choice let them block it right there- why give 3 preferences and wait to see if any one of them is available? I feel it is kept manual only to retain full control so that they can decide if they want to give it or not- what happens if none of the 3 choices are available?

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.

13 comments :

Sandesh said...

My Sister took a mobile at mobile store. on scratching, the same thing. a holiday package. Its obvious!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ Sandesh.
Ok... is she planning to make use of it? If yes, be sure to share the experience...

Sandesh said...

Nope! She's not! I thought you would understand it implicitly.

These packages are just a gimmick. no use of them. Thats what i meant to say.

Mohan said...

By accident, I left my actual mobile number while purchasing a new one a year back and they still haunt me with special offers.. Holiday package is one of them and they say I was the lucky one to win that package even after repeated rejections!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ Sandesh
Good. Just wanted to know...

@ Mohan

Thanks for sharing your experience...

Mridula said...

Shrinidhi did you experience this personally? I have never gone through anything like this.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Mridula,

I've experienced it partially...meaning, I've got the scratch card and have gone online to see the booking procedure to get the bookings confirmed... Since I was required to pay a significant amount, I didn't proceed further. So last part information is gathered from other sources.

Saithilak said...

People fall to these marketing gimmicks. The whole point of offering is to lure the customer to buy their product and at the same earn commission from hospitality industry!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Yes, Obviously...

xy said...

I purchased a mobile last year from e-zone and had received a voucher( holiday package). i redeemed it at mussoorie and was really happy with the services. i got a prompt reply and a very good room and i really found the offer to be worth.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ Anupama V

That was good. Can you tell the name of the hotel, when did you go? Any other related details also will be helpful.

twisha said...

I am having a very bad experience with mobilestore...
I had bought a Sony Ericsson mobile and I received an assured gift voucher, a holiday package of Rs. 10,000/- for 3 Nights 4 Days along with my purchase. I called up the concerened travel agent, Travel Port (022-26748000) to make booking for Jaipur. They offered me normal rooms at Sarang Palace which costs arount Rs. 1800 (un-discounted) per night. Therefore, the cost of the package comes out to be around Rs. 5400/- (un-discounted) only. But my voucher is of Rs. 10,000. When I expressed my concern regarding the same, they said they cannot help me in this regard.

I have also tried to contact mobilestore customer care no. 60006363 which is permanently switched off. I have even registered a complaint on mobilestore website and sent a complaint e-mail but have not received any reply to either.

This is a huge fraud...

Anonymous said...

I think this is just a bad example and u being a consumer expect the world for FREE. I have used this in the past and it has worked out OK for me, no doubt you cant use them during high season etc...but wait a minnute, i got it for free so why am i to complain?. I dont even mind staying at a hotel ( decent one) which is not too far from where i live maybe for a weekend away? like i said i got this for free right?

You cannot expect the company to pay for travel, food etc becuase its a promotional offer. On the other hand if they do offer travel, food you may complain that its not as per your HIGH standards which i may add varry from people to people.

When you are recieving the free offer on your purchase you have agreed to certain t&c's which you are free to read while u buy the product,( i know they are long) but u can atleast go through them in general. If you dont like them just go buy your mobile phone or whatever it is from the next shop its as simple.