I made a bad decision on 8 August last year. A really, really bad decision. Not a life changing decision, but a financially irresponsible decision that continues to gnaw away at me and, more specifically, my bank account like a parasitic worm with my funds getting thinner each month as its contents are consumed.
Everything about this decision astounds me: that it happened, that I let it happen, and its ramifications. At this stage I must say that my husband agreed with my decision, but I was the one doing the urging so I shoulder the responsibility of making it.
It had been a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Fremantle, and we were walking back to the car when a man approached us with a scratchie and asked if we’d like to scratch with the opportunity to win a prize.
Now, I am not a sucker. I can play along with the game, so I did. I asked him who he worked for and he told us it was for a travel organisation. Sure, I’ll scratch.
Well, we had a chance of winning three things: a voucher blah, or a local two-for-one cafe blah, or – the big prize – $1000 cash OR a flat-screen TV OR a week’s accommodation at a resort. Why not?
Bugger me, we won the big prize. The man was pretty pleased because, as he said enthusiastically, he’d just scored $50 commission for having the big one. I was a bit taken aback as I thought it was all about us, not him, so I thought this added some credibility to the situation.
But! And here’s the first but: we had to come with him now and sit through a no-obligation presentation for an hour or so in order to find out if we’d won the cash, the TV or the accommodation. At this stage, we thought we were in a pretty good position – we’d won something tangible – but we couldn’t go now because it was late on a Sunday. “No problem,” said our man, “let’s book you in for next week” and he took our number and said someone would call us to confirm a time, which they duly did.
And we duly rocked up the following weekend, on the promise that there was a play area for the kids and they’d be fine – which there was, and they were. It was an older building which had had a touch-up, with lots of posters on the freshly painted walls of smiling couples and families on sun-bleached beaches or staring from balconies across an ocean/coastline/cityscape. We were then given what can only be described as ‘the hard sell’ for a worldwide travel organisation that has accommodation properties in Australian and overseas, and access to one of the world’s largest US-based travel organisations.
All we had to do was just sit down, listen to the spiel, watch the video, say ‘no thank you’, take our voucher and leave. After all, I’d worked in the travel industry, and was confident in handling all our travel requirements directly.
We had just become a single income family for the first time. We have no disposable income. We only travel once a year, and that’s usually short hops within WA.
We signed up. And paid a deposit. And completed a finance agreement for direct debit over the next 2 years.
Now, I am not a sucker! But I was sucked in by a very well run selling team of three people. I watched their tactics, their faces, their body language throughout. Dammit, I was critiquing them! And still I signed up.
I regretted it the very next day. I knew we’d made a mistake. I was so devastated I couldn’t bring myself to read the all the glossy brochures and paperwork they’d put in the gorgeous faux leather folder we’d been given, along with our introductory 2-for-1 cruise voucher.
I wish I had. Because then I would have realised, as I subsequently did eight weeks later when I finally took a deep breath and read the fine print, that there had been a cooling off period, as is legally required, and we could have changed our mind. But now it was well and truly too late. Fuckit.
I must congratulate the organisation for its selling bravado. On the day we went in for our presentation, there was a steady stream of couples coming in to the room to be welcomed to a desk and personally presented to. Later, the video in the dimly lit lounge sold the concept of ‘holiday’ beautifully – especially to the target demographic of our age group and salary range (established from the outset by our man on the street – he wasn’t going to waste his time on the ‘non-holidaying-sort’).
I’m still not exactly sure where they got me. I think it was doing a cost comparison of our long-proposed holiday to Europe in 2012 using anticipated costs versus what we could save in using their properties – a considerable amount which cancelled out the combined membership costs. The fact that they don’t have a lot of properties or choice in the UK, Netherlands and Paris is now no help, but it’s still 18 months away so anything’s possible …
And, what did we win? We won the week’s accommodation, with a choice from across a number of South East Asian resorts (Thailand and Bali from memory). So we’d still have to get airfares etc.
But! And here’s a good ‘but’ – because we’d signed up, we could transfer the accommodation to 25,000 points, and then use the points at our discretion for whatever travel goodies we wanted. We’d just heard about how the organisation is aligned with a campervan company, and thought, “yippee, perhaps this will help us plan a campervan holiday in Tassie next time we visit the family.”
Fast forward eight weeks or so, and I did want to check out campervan options for Tassie after deciding to plan a surprise holiday with the tax return money coinciding with a signficant birthday and a significant sporting event in March.
Would you believe it: the allocation of campervans for that time in Tassie wasn’t available. And the hire car costs weren’t going to be cost-competitive, the travel consultant told me, so I should keep the points for a later date. That then put the campervan option out the window. And the hire car option. So I went ahead and booked a hire car directly with the rental car company.
Just recently we went to a lovely wedding in the South West of the state. We needed a night’s accommodation. We ended up using the points for one night’s accommodation at a new property in the regional city – probably worth about $190 based on what the Receptionist told me when we checked out.
We’ve already paid $1747 in fees. Sure, once it’s all paid we’ll have membership for 15 years. That’s a lot of accommodation, and a lot of travelling we’ll have to do to get our money’s worth. While we’re working our guts out to pay off the debt … with little time for holidays.
The whole thing has reminded me of the great expression, “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”
What an experience this has been.
I am not a sucker.
Thanks to Cat and Girl for Bad Decision Dinosaur – seemed to sum me up.