I've been working for more than 8 years now and I haven't won any of the raffle promos that my current company and previous companies held. Even raffle promos at groceries or malls, I was never lucky.
Until that night..
We dined at Abe's at BGC The Fort last May 10, 2015. While we were waiting for the food, a lady approached us, introduced herself and politely asked us ro fill out a form for a raffle ticket sponsored by Astoria. The form asked for both me and the bf's information including employment and salary bracket. Since the lady made an assurance that we will not be paying anything for it, I agreed thinking that maybe Abe's and Astoria have a tie-up. We never really paid attention to it (since just like what I've said, I never won in any raffle draws). So we finished eating, walked around BGC then went home.
A week had passed..
The thought of that raffle promo thing already slipped our minds until I received a call from a certain Mark Reyes from Astoria Plaza Hotel. At first, I thought it was a sales call and I was ready to give my "I am not interested" line but when I heard the word "CONGRATULATIONS". my mood changed. I was now interested to listen. I was excited to hear the good news. So, I was told that I won in their weekly raffle draw - a free buffet dinner for two at Astoria Cafe, Ortigas and a gift certificate for two a free accomodation for a 4n/3d stay at Orlando Florida or 3n/2d stay at either Cebu, Bangkok Thailand, Bali Indonesia, Malaysia or Las Vegas Nevada valid until November 2016. I had a big smile on my face but kept my tone as I don't want the person on the other line knew about my excitement. So Mark went on giving me information and mentioned that there will be a 90 minute presentation after the dinner then I will be awarded the gift certificate. Having an experience with sales, I had a bad vibe that this has a catch. Mark's tone resembled that of a sales agent (high pitch and very enthusiastic) and always reiterating what I had won. I kept on listening. I asked if these are all for free just to be sure, he said yes and told me that I don't even have to bring an extra cash. That
made me more nervous because it sounded more like a sales pitch and that they will be offering me
something in the end. But I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt. So I told Mark that I will not be availing the buffet dinner that night instead said that I will be available the day after (Sunday). I was certain that the dinner is really for free but I was having second thoughts about the presentation.
Worries I had that Saturday night:
1. What will happen in the presentation?
2. Are they going to convince us to buy a condo unit?
3. Am I going to pay something for this (tax, service charge, entrance fee)?
4. A sale needs to happen before I can get that gift certificate.
I got a call from a different person (I forgot the name) confirming our attendance for the night's buffet dinner. I told him we will be at the hotel at 6 in the evening. Also texted them confirming the time of our arrival.
Sunday around 5 in the afternoon..
A missed call was registered on my phone and a text again from the hotel asking for my whereabouts (if we were on our way and where we are exactly). I was bothered and kind of annoyed since that morning I've already spoken with one of their personnels and confirmed our attendance. But again, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and texted that we were still hearing mass but will proceed directly to yhe hotel right after.
Around 5:45 in the afternoon..
While still at the church, my phone was ringing (on vibrate mode) showing an unregistered number. I
excused myself, went out to answer the call. It was from Astoria Plaza Hotel. I began to get irritated and told the person that I was on the church and already informed them numerous times that we will be there at 6 in the evening. The person apologized and I disconnected the call.
The first (and perhaps the second) follow up call was understandable since it was a dinner reservation it is normal for them to verify our attendance. But the third one was already annoying.
Arrival at Astoria Hotel Plaza..
At Cafe Astoria
It was 6:10 in the evening when we arrived. We proceeded directly to Cafe Astoria (as per given
instruction) for the dinner. We were accomodated by one of the managers and ushered us to our table. She gave us a form to fill out before having the dinner. The questions on the form was the same with what we had provided before we were given the raffle stubs at Abe's. The manager made small talk and asked if we are okay to stay the 90 minute presentation after the dinner then we will be awarded the gc. We were informed that it's going to be a personal conversation with one of their managers. Me and the bf both said yes (curious of what the presentation is all about).
The schedule for dinner was from 6 in the evening to 8:30 in the evening. We finished eating after less than an hour. The food was limited for a buffet and was okay (anyway, it's free so who's compalining). And I was not surprised with ghe quality of food because we already experienced eating there. There were other guests dining during that moment and some of them were also "raffle winners". I can tell because they also filled out a form. The bf asked the manager if we can go ahead with the presentation. The lady manager left to see if our presenter is ready and after a minute or two, another manager by the name of Pierce approached us from our dinner table. Introductions were made then we proceeded to one of the hotel rooms for a tour. Me and the bf were already familiar with their rooms because when my relatives from Canada had a vacation, they stayed at Astoria. So we told Pierce that we no longer needed the tour and can just go ahead with the presentation. So he led us to the penthouse where they hold the presentations. I was not impressed with their penthouse. The wall paintings look old, it has a small space and has dirty restrooms (2 restrooms in the penthouse).
We were the first of the guests to be accomodated for the presentation. We occupied the space near the door entrance because that's where Pierce's things were. We can see other chairs and tables. I thought that's where the others will be seated (and I thought right).
First question from the presenter was, "Do you like travelling?" (in tagalog) and the obvious answer
from us was - YEs! Second question was if we have an idea of the presentation. The bf said it's a sales presentation and I answered the same. In fairness to Pierce, he didn't lie to us. He went straight
to the point of the presentation's intention and told us that we will not be forced to buy anything out of our free will. So we listened. And as the presentation went by (btw, it was a timeshare presentation), me and the bf realized that we can actually benefit something from what was being offered to us but the question was HOW MUCH?
I, myself love to travel plus my family and all of my 1st degree relatives from the father's side are living abroad. I can get them a hotel accomodation where they can stay while on vacation for a very, very low price. And also two of my relatives have travel agencies, I can partner with them. Bf's circle of friends are also into travelling. We thought of using the membership for personal or make a "business" out of it ( the business part was discouraged by Pierce since he said the company doesn't allow it. But who will know?) We can take advantage of the low prices as a privelege given to members only for personal use or we can, as what they term it GIFT or LEND it to others. We can gain by booking a partner hotel on behalf of the others and sell it to them way cheaper than what was published on the hotel's website. It's gonna be a win-win-win situation for everybody.
But again the question was - HOW MUCH?
Pierce went on with the presentation and the benefits of being a member, He got us acquainted with R.C.I. and the hotels around the world associated to it as part of the benefits. He also showed us his passport with a multiple entry visa which caught our attention once again (Pierce is also a member). Being a member, Astoria and R.C.I. will back their members up when applying for a tourist visa for a vacation. They issue a certificate that members can attach to their visa applications. This is very beneficial to me since as what I have mentioned, all of my family are living abroad. I tried to apply for a tourist visa for Canada before and was denied. I applied twice and got denied twice for the
reason that I may no longer go back to the Philippines since my family lives there. Through this, my chance of getting approved for a visa is high since I now have a proof that I am really a traveller and I have the means. And R.C.I. is an established company to back me up.
Going back, theresentation ended more than 90 minutes because we have a lot of questions for the presenter. Pierce answered our questions truthfully and with patience. No hard-selling since we were interested anyway. But one question was still left unanswered - HOW MUCH?
Pierce said that the HOW MUCH question will be answered by his manager. But before he passes to the manager, he asked us our reasons for buying and not buying the membership. We told him our only concern is the price. Maybe that was a go signal for him to close the sale so he made us choose between the mabait (kind) and the masungit (grouchy) manager. The bf chosed the grouchy one!
It was a typical sales strategy where an agent will do the presentation and if there's a high probability of a sale, the agent will then pass the conversation to his manager to close the sale. I am familiar to this since I have friends who are into sales (BPO) and I also had a background with sales.
So we were introduced to Ms. Rhubie. Bf said she can go straight to tthe point and show us what she can offer. And so she did. Original price for the membership is 800,000 but can offer it tonight for only half a million. Of course, that is something we can't afford. Then it went down to 250 thousand. Said we can have it in terms, we just need to make a downpayment and pay the rest on a monthly basis. Bf said we still can't afford it at this moment. The manager said that's the best offer but bf kept on hagglinguntil she gave us an offer of 150 thou (with some adjustment on the number of yeears for the membership and the number of weeks we can use our privilege in availing the benefits.) She told us we can make a downpayment of 20 thou and pay the remaining balance of around 5 thou monthly. The issue was we don't have that amount present with us that night. She said we can use a credit card.
We can't since we no longer have purchasing powers using our card. She gave us another option of withdrawing money from the atm, but our debit card doesn't have that amount. We need to make an over the counter withdrwal from the bank. We told her if we can come back on Tuesday to make the deposit. She said the offer is only good for tonight which for us was b.s. We very know that's a sales strategy. The bf was still convincing the manager to permit us make the deposit on Tuesday until she made us another offer. She said what we can do is sign the contract that night and make the deposit on Tuesday. She made mention about a legal fee but did not explain it very well. She only told us that if we can't make the deposit on Tuesday, our 20 thou will be forfeited. I asked since there's no deposit made yet, nothing will be forfeited - she answered yes so we said yes as well.
The manager, Rhubie called Pierce to finalize everything. Shook our hands and left. Pierce asked us about our agreement with the manager and we told him about it. Good thing that Pierce mentioned about the legal fee and corrected our misunderstanding (which Ms. Rhubie failed to do). We were enlightened that if we fail to make the agreed amount of deposit on the agreed date, we will be subjected to pag a 20 thousand legal fee as what was stated in the contract even if no deposit has been made yet. And if a deposit had been made and suddenly a decision to discoontinue the membership was done, a refund may be possible but the legal fee of 20 thou will be deducted. Ouch! We were lucky that the contracted was not yet printed out and signed by me. Yes, we are very much interrested with the offer but this got us worried and made us want to think more about what we are getting ourselves into. The manager, Ms. Rhubie's explanation was misleading. Maybe this was because of the urge to close a sale. But still, not acceptable. Thanks to Pierce for being honest.
In the end, we told Pierce we will take our chances and will just go back when we already have the money. He okay'ed but gave us no assurance. Then he handed us the gift certificate we "won". We shook hands. It was already quarter to 11 in the evening.
My personal thought on this..
I do not think of this as a scam. I said this because the membership and its benefits are real. It becomes a scam when you purchase something out of your free will and you were tricked of buying something that is not real. I even saw the offer as beneficial to me i just don't have the means to purchase at that moment. This is a timeshare combined with networking since as a member you can refer people and get 10 thou for every successful referral.
And I can see this more of a sales strategy desperate of making sales. They entice their prospect buyers with the thought of them having won a raffle for a free buffet dinner plus a free accomodation. But the truth is there was no raffle draw that happened. They selected the "raffle winners" basing from the salary bracket that was disclosed when a form was filled out before giving the raffle stubs.
So we were done with the buffet dinner..
We still have one remaining prize to enjoy - the free accomodation. Me and the bf plan of making an out of the country trip before the year ends since we were not able to do that last year. We are thinking of going to Bali or Bangkok and might as well try to use the gift certificate and see if it's REAL (will be blogging about it soon).
After everything that transpired that night, the secret to this kind of situation is be WISE. Don't be intimidated. Learn to say NO. And if you are not interested tell them outright. You are not just saving their time and effort, you are also saving yours.