Tuesday, October 28, 2014

​Country club vacations "free gift" experience!

This is the story of how I walked into Lion's Den and came back without getting eaten. Read further to find out about my experience going through Country Club's presentation in exchange for "lucky draw free gift". Read, because you might also get invited into this free gift offer and might end up spending lakhs.

When I had written review of Club Mahindra years ago, (continues to be one of the most popular posts on my blog till date) many had asked me why I haven’t reviewed country club. Didn’t happen to come across them until recently. When we got a call that we’ve won some freebies for which we need to go to a mall, I knew the trap, still went ahead to understand what exactly they had on offer.

Last Sunday evening we went to Country Vacations office in Pheonix Market City, Velachery. There were a dozen other prospects in various stages of brainwash.

We took our seat. A lady exchanged pleasantries, collected some basic info and told us that we are one of the lucky 500 families to be selected for this offer (4 free gifts) and subsequently, only 116 families will be offered the opportunity to sign up under a great offer that will be explained to us now. She said we need to decide Yes/No now itself and can’t ask for more time. Then she handed over seat to an executive to explain the plan.

The deal was simple: We had to sit through an hour long presentation, at the end of which we could either sign up for the lucrative offer they are giving or decline it, collect our gifts and leave. I asked if I can take a look at the gifts, but I was told that it will be explained during the offer presentation itself.

First he told us about our free gift, which we will get irrespective of our signing up or not. The free gifts were as below:
  • 1 A seven day access to Gym
  • 2 Some kitchen items (proved to be a set of 6 glass tea cups, worth around Rs 99)
  • 3 Entry only (Not stay as we were told) at Jade Resort, one of Country club property on ECR, can be availed on weekdays only and some nominal fee has to be paid.We can use beach, pool, games only, for stay we have to pay Rs 4000+)
  • 4 A one week stay at any of country club resorts, valued at Rs 25000, but some maintenance fee of Rs 4000 needs to be paid to avail this.
For next one hour, he went in detail about the Country Club and their plans. Below are some of the key points (As told by sales rep, not verified or endorsed by me. Please use your discretion)

Sales executive did a very good job. He took us through a well-planned psychological path wherein a desire is first created and then the solution to fulfill those desires were illustrated in a systematical way. He began with analyzing our holiday usage, stating that we need accommodation, food, security, site seeing with guide, privacy, transportation etc whenever we go out on vacation. Then explained about various country club properties and how they cover each of above requirements. We were told that what they are offering us is an Ownership scheme and not regular membership scheme. We can carry forward, pre-pone, sell, rent, gift etc etc and we’ll have full control on the same. We were told an en sign-up fee of Rs 135000 is being waived off for us. Photos of nice properties all over India and abroad were shown to us. We were told we are free to use their club facility all the time, conduct family events at the large party halls they have, make use of various coupons they will be giving to us (for Spa etc, some 32 coupons for which we need to pay only Rs 350) and we will be invited to various events country club keeps hosting all around the year.  We can enjoy upto 14 days of vacation every year, with 30% off on food, 40% off on air ticket and many other benefits.

This is what we were told we’ll get if we sign up on spot
  • Upto 14 days of vacation every year for 2 generations, 3 to 5 star in India, 5 to 7 star abroad (14 days if you book some 30 days in advance for Studio rooms, less if you book 1BR/2BR or book last minute)
  • 30% off on food bill
  • Upto 50% off at the bar
  • Free use of resort facilities like pool, gym etc
  • Upto 40% off on flight booking, if booked via their travel partner
  • Complementary Country club Gold card (this will remain with us even if we sell of membership)
  • Entry to events- we’ll be given 2 passes which can permit 8 people
  • Some 30+ spa coupons
  • Siteseeing with guide (not clearly told if it is free)
We were shown evidence of George Bush sending letter of appreciation and CC getting into Guinness Book of records for lighting lots of lamps simultaneously on occasion of earth day. Lots of member testimonials and other evidence were also shown.

At this point, life appeared so beautiful- all you have to do is sign up for country clubs and forget all pains in life. Access to luxury properties all over the world, as if you own it all for yourself, heavily discounted food, travel, free recreational activities.. what else one would need?

Some tea and coffee was ordered for us

Because I was familiar with Club Mahindra’s scheme of things, I asked how country club is different from Club Mahindra. Below is what I was told

Club Mahindra
Country Club
Week classification
White, Blue, Red, Purple
No classifications
ASF or AMC (annual fee)
Keeps changing based on type, CPI and WPI
Fixed at Rs 7500 per year
Duration of Membership
25 years
For 2 generations
No of properties
More (but the count includes Apartments, hotels, boat houses, resorts all types)
Joining fee
Much higher

Studio can accommodate 4 people?
I was told Country Club’s Studio accommodation can hold 4 people, 1 BR 6 people and 2BR can accommodate 8 people. When I asked how is this possible, I was told these are big rooms with extra beds etc. Haven’t checked how big.

40% rooms set aside for this select 116 families?
I asked the question what happens if rooms are not available. I was told that such a possibility is rare. As long as you can intimate 30-45 days advance, there will always be rooms.  I stressed further and I was told “40% of our rooms management has decided to reserve for the 116 families that are signing up today via this offer”. At this point I knew this is a lie. For a club with hundreds of properties and lakhs of members, reserving 40% rooms for mere 116 families just doesn’t make sense. No management will do that. If this is true, other existing members will surely revolt.

Finally we came to the financials:
I was told they had over 38 different financial schemes, suiting different customer profiles/needs. I was asked to chose between India scheme and International scheme. I opted for India one. We had to pay Rs 99,999 on the spot, either cash, or card with EMI option. I was asked if I have my card with me, I said "No". We were asked to take some time and decide.

The tea and coffee never came.

I did some mental calculation:
The rosy picture painted in front of me was too tempting. Most of the invitees would feel special being offered with such an opportunity. But I knew for a fact that they invite anyone and everyone who gives their contact details at the mall. There is no lucky draw or anything. Internet is full of such incidents. So obviously they are not doing any charity.

5-star food, even at 30% discount will be costing a bomb. Any money saved in accommodation will be ripped off if 8 people buy lunch at say Rs 300-400 per plate.

Factoring an interest rate of Rs 10000 for the initial payment + Rs 7500 we pay for AMC, it is about 17500 per year for about 7-10 nights of stay. It is possible to get decent accommodation with this money, though not in star resorts. I am not much of a clubbing/party/luxury person. Basic accommodation suits my needs.

The too good to be true marketing offers are often fraud. Success of timeshare membership lies in how a company services its members. If they keep signing up members left, right and centre without proportionate increase in properties, members are bound to be disappointed. Internet is full of such complaints.

Once I pay, I will lose any leverage I have. There is no cancellation option- you can only sell/transfer etc, if you can find a buyer.

It is not like country club will stop signing up members from tomorrow. If it is worth, we can always come back later. It might mean paying little more than current offer, but I would rather pay more for something that I need and is worth, than pay less for something that might not be worth.

I said I don't want to decide spending on such big amount on the spot and I need to check things on internet. "Only bad things you'll find there, no one ever leaves positive feedback there" was the response. It was stressed again that we are the lucky few to have this invite and offer, as other walk-in parties will have to pay another 1.5 lakh more. The lady emphasized that we are capable of deciding for ourselves and we should decide now, instead of asking for more time.

As planned, I said No. This sort of took them by surprise and also displeasure on their face was apparent. They tried to convince me change my decision, but I held my ground. Their reaction was like “Why did you waste our time, if you’d decided already you could have told in the beginning, collect your gift and leave” I kept quiet, they said “fine, we’ll give you your free gift

After sometime, we got our gifts. A set of glass tea cups, probably worth about Rs 99 (that's what the MRP on pack says, sale value could be lower) is the only real thing that we got. The fitness coupon I can't use, as the gym is too far from my home. The other two- one day at Jade Resort and one week at country club resort- let me try using that. If it works out, I will share the details.

Update: called Jade resort: They say only entry is free (one can use pool, beach, games etc), stay is not free. For stay one has to pay Rs 4500+... So this is also bogus.

My time was certainly worth more than Rs 100 tea cup set. But then I got some understanding of Country Club way of timeshare business, managed to control my decisions not to give in to temptations.

The modus operandi is simple- invite everyone as if they are the only one invited. Make them feel special and present them with an irresistible offer, accompanied by well structured talks that creates a desire. Make them sign up on the spot and let customer care deal with them later if they are not happy. Even if 5-10% sign up, then it is great ROI.

Going by the internet, there seem to be lots of complaints on country club, similar to Club Mahindra. If you're tempted to take the membership, find an existing member and take his/her experience regarding availability, customer service etc into account before making purchase decision. Best wishes.


Destination Infinity said...

LOL @ Tea and Coffee never came :)

Raveesh Kumar said...

Even some insurance companies are employing the same trick to sign up for policies :)

ವಿ.ರಾ.ಹೆ. said...

I appreciate your effort in this regard to know about it by participating and sharing the experience with readers. I have got many these kind of calls about free gifts and some sessions. I rejected their offers/gifts. I came to know that these people collect the data from malls where we give our phone no.s in some coupons, lucky draws etc., Many people have written about it on net. Now I got a complete picture how it works. Thank you.

prashanth k said...

Dont fall for it , they have a lot of issues., i had to force my closest family member to resign from the job.

almost everyday a case was being registered against Country Vacations in bangalore.

after resigning the company dint even pay the final settlements , 3 months salary, and commissions.
every time she sees CV or their people in malls she gets upset.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

DI : Yes, it never came, particularly after we decided NOT to buy

@Raveesh: You're commenting after long time. Welcome back. Yes, many marketing agencies employ this trick.

@Vi Ra He: You're welcome. My main purpose of going there was to experience it first hand and share with my readers.

@Prashanth: Thanks. I had no intention of signing up. Thanks for additional information.

Roshni said...

Is that a typo you made? In the table, you listed the AMC as 75000 and later as 7500 down below?
Or maybe I rushed through the article and did not pay attention?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Yea, it was typo. 7500 was the amount quoted as AMC. Corrected now. Thanks for pointing out

Satish Kumar said...

Srinidhi, I had the same experience at Bangalore yesterday and promptly rejected it. Regarding the rooms availability at country vacations, the sales guy showed me an app for booking rooms. Seems to display the rooms availability on preferred dates of travel. Not sure about other tie-up properties coming up in the app. Saw a couple of people sign up that day. Good luck for them :)

Madhavan Pillai A said...

Nice review. Please do keep writing. I am a long time fan! Remember, you had invited me to your flying expedition which I could not join due to prior commitments. But, since, I have moved to Mumbai :(

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hi Satish

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Hi Madhavan

Thanks for the comments. Have nice time in Mumbai

Arun said...

The offers are too rosy.. :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Arun: Yes, the nightmare starts once you try to book

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Arun: Yes, the nightmare starts once you try to book

vinod karthika said...

Yesterday i collected the complementary voucher from their office after a crucial hour.I am a tour consultant and i infomed them i wont pay single coin for this trip.After a step by step brain wash i wont agree.Later they told me you can get your voucher please may go.Its a tricky marketing like freely something and catching big shots.i have checked the vopucher number with thie website.They offered the stay in off season with their own hotels.anyway we should pay 4000/- rupees we will get for 03 nights.They will get off season business with a marketing publicity.more over awaiting one hour crucial multimedia marketing programme also.

Aboo Thahir said...

I got a call regarding free 25k gift card.. But this review is helpful... No one is giving positipositive reviews unless on their website..... :(

Prashant Dabas said...

ye saaley janta ko dhoka dete rehte hai

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Prashant, Aboo and Vinot for your inputs and sharing your experience

Rajdeep said...

I was offered a golden card membership for 50000/- which is generally 1,30,000/- and they said the offers are like 20% discount on all purchased items in the shopping malls mentioned in the booklet that comes every month and also 20% discount on jewellery purchase. We can book the function halls at country club for free of cost and only we need to pay for food. Did anyone experienced this kind of issue? Please tell me whether it is true or not?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Food will cost a few thousand per person and you will have book some minimum no of plates- like 1000 or so, that means you will have to pay huge amount or using the function hall

Check with them if they can give the hall for free and food you will arrange yourself- they will not agree...

Manoj Sahani said...

Anyone of you use a FREE 6N/7D Voucher??? Please share your experience

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Not me.It is not really free.. need to pay 11k or so in maintenance

satish sud said...

Inspite of whatever I could possibly access on internet ,I made it a point to know of their designs .I along with wife went for a grueling session of presentation at Rajouri,Delhi amongst few other families cramped in a small room and everything audible except what the exec was trained for. I had made up my mind to not fall for the trap, but I admit the bait of Rs 25K worth free voucher is quite strong . Eventually reluctanlty they handed over the voucher which I am yet to try encashing.
However here is some simple maths for 25 years membership cost
Payment: 4,60,000
maturity value @9% =42,56,861lacs
AMC 25 * average 8000 considering it will increase in subsequent years=2,00000
maturity value of Rs 8000 in a sip mutual fund for 10 years fetches Rs 11,00,000
rest is common sense.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Satish for sharing your experience...
Accommodation is just one of the several expenses during our travel. Unless we are keen on resorts, it is possible to book decent accommodation purely with the AMC money. Locking in so much money in membership scheme is not worth

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing so much in elaborated manner , and after reviewing the same , everyone should take the lesson that nobody is sitting or running the business for your benefit , rather all are like the cat who is waiting for the rat passes through the defined path.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Anon : True.

Manoj Sahani said...

I am NOT taking its membership but I want to use 6 Night Gift Voucher. Whether any body experience the "Country Vacation Gift Voucher"?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Sure. Don't think anyone got it free

Akhil mendiratta said...

Review is really helpful. I got a call and actually I was sure I will get a call because i filled a form last sunday. I have to go there today for a grilling session and I am sure I wont accept any membership that they will offer because its is f no use to me. I filled a form because I have a plan to travel this weekend itself. After reviewing your review I just called the guy and asked many questions he said that I will be getting the free stay even if I reject every lucrative offer. I asked about the maintenance fees at their hotel, he said that I just need to pay the tax which would be maximum INR 300 per day. Also, I told him to book my hotel for this weekend when I will come today for the session.

Will update on my experience in few days or may be after experiencing my stay in their hotel if I somehow manage to get there for free.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Akhil- we will wait for your experience. Best wishes

Manoj Sahani said...

When I am actually booking a Goa trip through Voucher for 6N package it is NOT actually 5500/-.
It is costing 20404/-.
Meal Charges:
Adult:INR 11040 (INR 920 Per person per night)
Child:INR 3864 (INR 644 Per person per night)

I don't know how to make booking WITHOUT Meal.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Manoj, thanks for sharing your experience. May be we can ask the sales guys to get this booked for us on the spot if they want us to sign up...

Anyway, this confirms that they are tricksters...

Eva said...

Thanks for the info.. i got a call today asking to collect all d free gifts..i was like yes sure.. and surfed... N i found ths.. !

Shrinidhi Hande said...


Glad I could save you some time and trouble...

krishna said...

Great info.. I was about to waste a precious half day tomorrow.. Cheers..

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Krishna- good to know...You may read my other blog posts in the time saved...

Sagar Patil said...

@shrinidhi Hande yesterday the same thing happened. And other than tjose free gifts i fell pray to one of their packages. Package cost 5000/- outta which i paid 2000/- by cash as its was the only amount i had with me at that time. He is gonna come today evening to collet the remaining 3k. What should i do now? I wanna cancel all this now.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Sorry for late reply.

What exactly was offered for 5000? Did you ask for a refund?

Unknown said...

Thanks for letting us know how people can cheat

Shrinidhi Hande said...

No problem.

Sukhbir Saini said...

Fake Fake Fake
Nothing free's just wastage of time visiting country club office.they offered Bangkok trip voucher with 6 nights 7 days by saying you don't need to pay a penny.But that's not have to pay 5500 rs non refundable in advance in off season.
We got Vibes hair salon vouchers also.But when we phoned to Vibes,we were shocked that the vouchers were not valid any more n had been expired 1 year ago. So friends, don't be fool if you get such calls from country club. Ridiculous experience.

Girish Surappa said...

Useless and fraud culb membership

Guys, I really request to all reader don’t take country club membership for the below reasons.

- The club will be full on weekends and you and your family don’t get place to play in most of the places(In Bangalore)
- You have pay extra money like 120rs for each of your guest
- And for message you have to book earlier like week before and on weekend that will be overloaded, only weekdays available (You have to pay for this also)
- For the holiday booking has to be done at least 3 months before and above on this that most of data will be full( forget on long weekends)

As any of the sites like “Make my trip or Goibibo” and early booking will give discounts. So recommend all readers not to go for the club membership it waste of you time and money.

Please share the this info with your friends and relative.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Girish and Sukhbir for sharing your experience and observations

alankrita said...

I received a call today and I was told that I have won a lucky prize that contains 6 days and 7 nights free trip to any 4 star or 5 star hotel of club mahindra in India, a dinner set and fitness coupon. They asked me to come at trillium mall, Amritsar for a short event of 90 minutes. They also said that don't need any document except Id cards of mine and my husband.Firstly we don't believe them but they said that its not really a fraud. We decided that we will go there and see but after reading this article we will not go there.
Thank you all of you for saving our precious time and a lot of money.

Anonymous said...

Got call from XYZ to come at Thane location for session, I was about to go there and was searching for address on google map. Later just searched Country club and reached to this blog. I called that guy who told me that he will be waiting till 8:30 and told him that I cant make it today. He was so humble, was requesting me to come there and finally told me that he will contact me after talking his senior. I am not going to waste my time......Dunia ka rule hai...Koi cheej kabhibhi fukatme nahi milegi

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. Yes it is brainwashing session and waste of time.