I recently got a telephone call from a company called Club La Costa telling me I had won a seven night luxury European holiday for four, flights and accommodation paid.
“WOW” I thought, then “Yeah right”.
“Thank you, very nice” I said “what’s the catch?” being the distrusting soul that I am.
“There’s no catch the lady told me, you just have to turn up to one of our exhibitions to claim your prize and we will even give you £50 worth of high street cash vouchers for turning up! Which of these places and dates is suitable for you?” she asked rhyming off a list.
The nearest was in Manchester and one of the dates was last Friday 29th May, when it so happened we had decided to go on a little shopping expedition to Manchester as it was half term, we usually do this when I have a week off work.
“Great I’ll confirm everything in writing for you” she told me.
A few days later the letter arrived outlining everything she had told me on the phone and asking me to telephone to confirm we would be attending and which store I would like the vouchers for, which I did, requesting Marks and Spencer’s vouchers. It also said we could be assured we wouldn't have to sign up or buy anything to claim the vouchers and the holiday.
Fair enough I thought though MWM was very sceptical “It’s a time share exhibition, they’re selling timeshare” he said.
“Of course it is, but we’re not going to buy, all we have to do is sit through two hours of sales chat, say thanks but no thanks and collect the vouchers and the holiday voucher, and as we’re going to Manchester anyway why not?” He agreed.
We hopped on the bus at 9.45 a.m. and did some shopping from my list, I’m a great one for lists. We then went into Marks & Spencer where I had a look round deciding what to spend the vouchers on, MWM had kindly relinquished any right to a share of the vouchers. I found a swimsuit, a skirt and a jacket in readiness for when I returned with the vouchers, obviously they came to more than £50 but I was prepared to spend a bit more. We then went to Tiger, Tiger at the Printworks (which I can recommend), sat outside in the sunshine (they do get sun in Manchester occasionally) and had a lovely lunch with a glass of wine. I had Penne in Rich Tomato Sauce with Chargrilled Chicken and MWM had Pesto Chicken Salad which we both really enjoyed, we then strolled up Shudehill to the Crowne Plaza hotel where the exhibition was being held.
In reception we had to fill in a form confirming the details we had already given and produce our passports to prove who we were, then a very nice young man called David introduced himself and took us through to the exhibition room, after inviting us to help ourselves to coffee. He asked if we'd ever been to one of these exhibitions before , we told him we hadn't. "Not even when you've been on holiday?" he ventured.
"No" we said.
"How come?" he asked.
"We've always resisted, we don't want a timeshare" we told him.
"Why did you come to this?" he asked.
"Because you offered me £50 worth of M&S vouchers and a free holiday" I said, I'm always honest.
He asked what we were expecting and I told him “I expect you are going to try to sell us a timeshare apartment.”
“Wrong” he said “I’m going to give you the opportunity of a lifetime to make your holidays for the next three years cheaper!” Oooer how exciting we thought, raising our eyes to heaven.
Right, what it boiled down to was we pay them £4000 up front and they promise to act as travel agents for us. We would get the opportunity to take six holidays in the next three years, anywhere in the world where Club La Costa have luxury accommodation, and it would only cost us £150 for the accommodation for one week (not each). We then have to pay for the flights, and transfers, which they will also arrange. “All sounds very interesting” I tell him “but we don’t have £4000 lying around to invest”.
“No problem” says David “you can pay £129+ a month for the next three years!”
I laughed, MWM laughed, David didn’t. We declined.
“Why did you come if you’re not interested?” he asked “It must have cost you in time, petrol and parking” he said.
“We were coming to Manchester anyway and it cost us £4 to get here because we came on the bus, MWM has a free bus pass and I got a day saver” I explained.
He wasn't amused and knew then there was no point in going for the hard sell. He handed over two £25 Marks and Spencer vouchers and the form to book the ‘free’ holiday explaining the rules for booking the holiday which were:
Within the next two weeks we have to
(a) state which destination we want - Portugal, Costa Del Sol or Tenerife
(b) state which airport – Northwest (which could mean Manchester or Liverpool)
(c) give four dates when we can travel in the next 18 months the first one being at least 3 months hence and subsequent dates to be 8 weeks apart.
(d) Send the form and £29.50 each person administration fee.
They will then let us know if any of the dates are available and which airport we can travel from (this may or may not be the airport of our choice – i.e. we could be expected to travel from London or Glasgow or anywhere else and this would incur another charge. We then have to pay airport charges of £64+ each plus transfer charges. You get the picture – the free holiday isn’t free and I read (before we went to the exhibition) that the ruse seems to be that they get your £29.50 each, which more than covers the vouchers you’ve been given, then the charges just keep piling on so you abandon all thoughts of the holiday and can’t get your £29.50 each back!
Anyway we’ve decided to give the ‘free’ holiday a miss, preferring to spend our money on a self arranged holiday, but I spent the vouchers within half an hour of receiving them to make sure they were real – the jacket, skirt and swimsuit are lovely!
So I think that the saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”, in this case isn’t completely true, after all I did get £50 for quite an entertaining two hours of my time, with a cup of coffee and some fizzy water thrown in.
What say you? Have you received a free holiday from Club La Costa?