Friday, November 16, 2007

Must Have Been My Lucky Day

Back in September when we went to the LA Fair, I signed up for a sweepstakes. The grand prize was $100,000 and some of the other prizes were vacation packages. The whole thing was high tech. You were handed a plastic card the size of a credit card when you walked through the Fair entrance. Then if you wanted to sign up for the sweepstakes, you could walk up to one of the fancy computer stations, enter all your contact information and swipe your card. At the end the computer said I will be notified in a couple of months if I had the winning card. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try my luck, so I submitted my information and daydreamed for about 10 seconds about how cool it would be to win $100,000. Then we started exploring the fairgrounds and I forgot all about it. Until yesterday morning.

The phone rang about 9:45am and the lady on the other end informed me that I had won a vacation for two. She reminded me that I had registered to win at the LA Fair. Wow. Lucky me. I never win anything. Is this for real? I mean, the lady did say she was from “Worldmark by Windham” and I do remember that was the name on the fancy sweepstakes computers. The lady assured me it was “for real” and I had my choice of 4 vacation packages. A two day cruise to Mexico, a two day vacation in Vegas, a one day stay in Anaheim with paid admission to two theme parks or a three day/two night stay at our choice of any of 68 possible locations plus $75 gift certificate to a restaurant. The only thing is that I HAD to decide which vacation I wanted right there on the spot. She said the three day/two night vacation is one where we can bring our kids because there are two queen sized beds in the rooms. And we had a year and 3 months to use our vacation.

So I picked the last vacation choice and the lady told me I just needed to come in and sign some papers. Oh, and my husband HAD to be there to sign too and kids are not allowed because they don’t have day care provided.

Me: “Aren’t we just coming in to sign papers?

Lady: “Well, yes, but we don’t have childcare and for insurance purposes we can’t allow the kids to be there.

Me: “Can’t we just hold them while we’re signing the papers?

Lady: “No

Me: “Can one of us stand outside in the hallway while the other signs the papers?

Lady: “No

Ok... now I’m totally confused. Why on earth can I not bring my kids with me to sign some papers to accept this prize that I won? Why can’t one of us stand out in the hallway with the kids while the other one signs?

So then the lady goes on to tell me that while we’re there picking up our prize, the company will want to tell us about their other business ventures, etc. It shouldn’t take more than 90 minutes. (NINETY MINUTES????) And she said we can just tell them we’re not interested and collect our prize and we will never hear from them again. Apparently this company sells timeshares and vacations. It’s starting to feel slightly less like a prize now. This is our last weekend before Thanksgiving and we need to spend 90 minutes on Saturday collecting this prize we didn’t ask for. Well I guess technically we DID ask for it when I signed up for the sweepstakes. Anyway, the lady gave me the call back number and told me I’d receive a confirmation email in the next two hours.

A few hours later I realized I had not received the confirmation email. I called the number and a different person answered. She apologized and said she had not yet sent out the emails. I told her I just wanted to make sure this was legit and she said, “Oh yes it is. The vacation is your free gift for attending the sales presentation.

Hmmmm..... That sounds a bit different from “winning” a vacation from a sweepstakes. So I made use of my good friend Google. I googled “Worldmark presentation” and “scam” and came up with a bunch of links. Turns out lots of people all over the U.S. have attended this “90 minute” presentation to get their free vacation. You can’t get the free vacation until you’ve sat through the entire presentation and many people said was more like 4 hours, not 90 minutes. Turns out the company used to be called “Trendwest” but they changed their name, I’m guessing due to the lawsuits and complaints. Apparently during this presentation, each person is assigned their own “sales counselor”. And from the feedback on the internet, you are subjected to extreme pressure to buy into the business and the sales people will ridicule and insult you if you try to decline the business opportunity. Many people said they signed up and paid the money just to get the sales counselor off their backs. Oh, and many people said they were offered a $100 or $500 gift certificate for providing the company with the names and addresses of 10 friends and family. The gift certificates are to an online “mall” that many say is bogus and the gift certificates don’t work. Interestingly, in every website that has a list of complaints, there are at least a couple of people ringers that say how wonderful the company is and how they’ve used them for years. Seriously... people are going out there to each blog and website to share how passionately happy they are with their time share company? Right.

Oh, and the free vacation??? There are so many restrictions to when you can use them (only Tuesday -Thursday) You have to be there on Tuesday so late and leave Thursday so early, that you’re really only spending one day in the hotel. And they choose the hotel. You just choose the location, so you could end up in a roach motel. Well, they say you will stay in a 3 star hotel.

So, I did finally get the confirmation email, but I promptly called up the company and cancelled our appointment. I gave the lady our “confirmation number” so she would know exactly who we were and we wouldn’t have to hear from them again. Well another confirmation letter came in the mail yesterday, and today they called to confirm our appointment for tomorrow. Apparently they don’t understand the word “cancel”. “Would I like to reschedule?” the person on the phone asked me. “Oh sure, let’s reschedule. Purgatory, party of two.

So in clever guise of a sweepstakes, I was tricked into providing my name, address, email address and phone number to a company that wants to pressure me into buying their timeshares. I think next time I should just stick with the lottery. I never win that either. Probably because I never actually make it down to the store and buy the tickets. But I’m there in spirit.

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