LOL (Love Of my Life) got a call from an unknown number a couple of days ago. He hung up within two minutes and announced to me that we had won a lucky draw. I was like WHAAAAAAAAAAA.... I mean what are the chances that I (me??) won some random lucky dip type thing. I thought Lady Luck had made it very clear that we'd broken up, never to get back. How then?
'It was at one of those local malls. Did you register?' LOL asked, breaking me out of the conversation with myself.
Did I register? DID I? 'Of course. I've been registering for everything for the last year.'
'Have you seen us? 2010 has been the poorest year EVER! I entered every contest and lucky draw I came across. Come onnnn, anything that comes free is a miracle.'
LOL smiled, 'Don't exaggerate. We're not poor. Just going through a bit of a broke phase.'
I hid back a smile although I knew he's right- I mean, it's not like we were under the poverty line. 'Hmpfh. I am poor. Don't know about you.' I didn't want him to take my being broke lightly. 'So what did we win?'
'I dont know.. she wasn't very clear... A mixi, grinder, one thousand rupees cash prize, and a holiday at a hotel in Ooty for two days.'
'Wooooooooooooowwwww. I've never won anything. Annnnything.' I did a little dance right there standing on my bed.
'Listen, don't you think this is a bit fishy?'
'Ey! Shut up. We won!' And I continued dancing atop our fragile bed.
Two days later, we're having lunch with my family- grandparents, parents, aunt, uncle etc. And I'm excitedly telling all them about how I've won something so super exciting. A holiday to Ooty! (as if we never ever could afford a holiday on our own, and this is a supermely unique experience we've never seen or heard of).
'In Ooty. Can you imagineeee?' I coo; my eyes all big and dreamy.
'You've been there before no?' my favourite aunt says. Hmmm. Maybe I should re-consider that 'favourite' title.
'Ya, so? We won a random competition. It never happens to our family. NEVER. Cant you people be enthusiastic?'
My relatives oblige. They give me exxagerated smiles and say 'oooohhhh' and 'cooooooool'.
'What, you want us to announce it to a news channel?' my uncle asks, smiling.
I roll my eyes dramatically and spend the rest of lunch telling them they're such dull people for not appreciating the fact that there's now a lucky draw grand prize winner in the family.
'It's a scam my dear daughter' my father says, looking all sage-like.
'How do they know our names then? Because I entered the contest and won.' I say firmly.
Honestly, I can't remember exactly what contest I entered or IF I ever entered a contest in that mall. But I most likely did- after all, they knew our names and numbers didn't they?.
'Ha.Let's see who's laughing when I show you the pictures from my free holiday.' I tell my father, nose high up in the air.
Right after lunch we head to the mall's corporate office to claim our gifts. I am getting the sense that LOL doesn't really want to go. He's doing this to humour me.
That's fine. He's going to eat his smirk once we're on our way to Ooty. Why is a little bit of positivity too much to ask for these days?
We see the board for Casa Retreats as we climb the two stairs up. See? It's not a scam- they're a real company.
There is a receptionist who nods at us. Another woman welcomes and congratulates us. She tells us we'll get our prizes in 15 minutes-- right after 'the small tea party'.
A tiny alarm goes off in my head. LOL shakes his head. He wants to head home. I can't give him the satisfaction.
'Dont be rude' I whisper to him. 'Lets just go see no?'. LOL, being LOL, adorable and always humouring me, trails in behind me.
We are made to sit with a guy who takes random/ vague details from us. LOL is getting impatient and snaps at the man, 'Get to the point', he says. I give him a look that says 'I'll handle it'.
I spend the next 10 minutes answering the stupidest questions about where we honeymooned (we havent! They're assuming me we're married), what kind of holidays we take, what kind of house we have and what kind of friggin' toothpaste we use. And every two minutes, there is a lady anoouncing 'Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mr and Mrs. XYZ to the Casa family! Clap clap clap.
I'm getting annoyed now and I'm almost not listening. The 'representative' can say see this and finally brings us to the climax.
We have to buy a membership to their company- they sell holidays. They provide hotel accommodation all over India and 3000+ destinations abroad. Breakfast is free. Travel and other meals are subsidised. All for only 500 rupees a year.
For a fraction of a second, the travel junkie (combined with the broke person) in me wakes up. Then.... enlightenment- an entire Hustle type long con scene plays in my head- hiring fake reps, making a fake company website, people fixing the fake company board on the building...
By this time LOL has Facebooked about the entire event and is nudging me to show me something on his phone.
I inwardly cringe when see the website- www.consumercomplaints.in. I look at the rep and tell him firmly that we're not interested. He says 'Okay madam but we'll still give you your gifts.'
That makes me feel a bit better. At least the gifts were real. We pick up the gifts and hurry out of there.
Turns out the coupons for Ooty are either fake or to some ghastly hotel with peeling paint on walls (review online). There is no mixi or grinder or any 1000 rupees cash prize. There are two more coupons- one for a picnic day locally and another for a two day hotel voucher for Bangkok- I don't even want to imagine what those could be.
On the way back home I'm avoiding eager calls from my friends and relatives who are calling to ask about when we're leaving to Ooty.
LOL christens me Guillable Geetu and points at every sale/lucky draw contest on the road and laughs uncontrollably.
' So, now do we agree that we got conned?' he asks.
'No. We didn't pay them any money and we spent only 15 minutes there. And in return we got six kind-of pretty glass bowls.'
It's true. We did.