Monday, January 11, 2010

Butterfly Goes For Time-Sharing

Hello sir, I’m calling to inform you that you have been selected as one of our lucky winners. We would like you to come down and collect your free prize of…”

Oh, we’ve heard those. Free massages, facials, shopping vouchers and skin care products, all because some new company is doing an awareness drive or some time-share company needs cash.

Well, I never seem to hear about new Chinese massage palours opening up and offering free blowjob services. They really should, but I’ll let you know if I do hear anything.

I don’t know what it was that kept me from muttering “no thanks”, because I was actually in the midst of reading some article on the net. Maybe it was his funky Indian accent and complete nervousness which amused me when he had trouble pronouncing my name – and I have a one syllable Christian name, how fucking hard is that.

Or maybe it was the part when he said,

You can collect your prize of a 3 day 2 night free accommodation and a pair of air tickets to Phuket.”

That was when I threw all contempt for him aside. I’ve gone for free trials for lesser rewards. I’ve been to free massages three times – thank you True Spa, you never learnt not to call me again – and I came out with it, without even needing to sit through their whole sales pitch - I'm not sure if I wrote how I did it before.

I’ve been to free facials and time-shares that offered me some online vouchers and free watches, things which I don’t even use, let alone need. And yet, these were at times when time was a luxury I had and rejecting sales pitches was a skill I honed to such perfection that you’d probably not be even to sell me air even if my life depended on it.

And now, this was finally something that was of value to me. Memories of Phuket came flooding right back, of the parties, the bike rides and the missing flight. The dingy bars with coyotes gyrating on poles, the overpriced seafood, the not too pretty beaches. I wasn’t too sure if Poca would share my enthusiasm but she’s never one to say no to a holiday.

So I caved, knowing very well that I was setting myself up for some very aggressive hard selling – probably at gunpoint if they had a choice.

Me: “So how long do I need to sit in for to get the free gifts?”

When I told the guys and Poca about it, everyone was skeptical. Who wouldn’t? I was going to get a FREE pair of air ticket to Phuket with accommodation, and all I needed was to turn up and say ‘No’ to whatever they had to sell me.

So I dutifully turned up, albeit slightly late for my appointment and the place was everything I had expected. A small office unit with a reception area that would have made a Polyclinic looked like the Ritz and rooms that suspiciously looked like they were made for interrogations.

I knew I had to survive 70mins at least before I could qualify for the gifts so the immediate game plan was for ‘delay tactics’. I was pulling out all the punches, from gritty small talk to delayed responses, right down to scrutinizing everything that he was asking.

He: “So, how many holidays have you been on last year.”
Me: “When you say holidays, do you mean business or pleasure?”
He: “Erm.. pleasure?”
Me: “Would you include Johor Bahru as a holiday?”

He: “So would it be safe to say that since you travel a lot, that you like to go on holidays?”
Me: “When you say like, on a scale of 1 to 10, is that a 6 or a 7?”
He: *stares wide eyed* *silence* “Sorry? I don’t get you.”
Me: “1 being ‘okay’ and 10 being ‘love’, when you say ‘like’ what kind of scale are you talking about?”
He: “BoldErm, I don’t know. Just like as in you enjoy.”

He: “If time and money were not an issue, what would be your top 3 destination choices?”
Me: “Cities or countries?”
He: “Anything. Up to you.”
Me: “There’s a difference because there is more than one city I want to visit in the United States.”
He: “Okay, cities..”

I don’t know if he knew I was actually messing with him or if he thought I was some moron, but his patience with me was clearly decaying with ever question.

He: “Have you been to these kind of sales presentations before?”
Me: “Yep. They tried to sell me things I had no use of.”
He: “What did they try to sell you?”
Me: “Holiday packages and memberships.”

This one was the longest silence I made him go through. I don’t know if he was considering biting his own tongue or to stab me in the throat with his magic marker. Or maybe he was having a heart attack. If you didn’t already know, this was exactly what he was going to be selling me.

He:Would you be interested if I showed you how you can save money and get better quality travel at the same time?”
Me: “Your telemarketing guy managed to get me down here with just the word “Free”, I’m keen to see if you can beat him.”

He: “How much on average do you spend on your trips?”
Me: “Including alcohol and shopping expenditure?”
He: “For air fare and lodging.”
Me: “It’s hard to say. The last time I was in Taiwan, I paid $7 a night. Are you going tell me you can beat that?”

It was so fun messing with him because he was definitely new at this and was nowhere as eloquent as most con-men should be. At some point I think he was afraid of asking me questions because for everything he asked, I would have a barrage of trivialities for him to respond to.

That said, I wasn’t being entirely an asshole because I was listening to whatever he had to say and I had legitimate concerns that he and his manager could not handle. So it went from them trying to convince me why I should buy, to me convincing them that the package they were selling was very flawed.

Every sentence for the last half hour I was there either started with, “This doesn’t make sense” or “I don’t agree with you”. Largely, because it boiled down to some calculations about their membership resale and that I was actually going to make a $6,000 profit if I sold it back to them.

This was getting ridiculous for me because firstly, they were giving a free holiday to Phuket and now they are telling me that I was going to make $6,000 from them. It was like Christmas came again or I maybe was on some hidden camera show. It just got better and better to a point that perhaps if I just stayed longer, the cleaning lady would give out free handjobs.

It took me one calculator and a very slow explanation to show the guy how ridiculous the whole plan seemed, because it was just so good to be true, it was like buying a mouse on discount and getting a free laptop to go with it, and if that wasn’t good enough, you find out Bill Gates is your father.

I didn’t give a shit anyway, so I left with a discontented handshake from them, a gift voucher from some optical shop, a booking slip for my holiday and a huge grin on my face. If dexterity allowed or if I was more diligent with Yoga classes, I would have patted my back.

I don’t know when these time-share companies will learn never to call me again, but if there’s a free holiday up for grabs, my number’s still the same.

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