I don't usually answer my phones (landline or cell) if I don't recognize the incoming number and these callers usually don’t leave messages. If you can't leave a message then as far as I'm concerned I probably don't need or want to talk to you. People who know me will leave a voice mail.
So last Monday I let a call from an unfamiliar, out of area number go through and surprisingly, the caller left a message. He was David, from a company name that was unintelligible and he had great news about a contest I entered at the Brea Mall in April. He didn't leave details about what exactly I’d won – was it a new car or a $25 gift card to the mall? Big difference there. He did leave a toll-free number, beseeching me to return his call so he could give me the good news as soon as possible.
Okay, that kind of sounds like a total scam. I’m a big believer in the adage that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Except for the fact that I was at the Brea Mall in April, with my Mom when she was visiting, and I do vaguely remember filling out some sort of entry form. I never win anything but why not? It only took about a minute to fill out the form and I promptly forgot about it. Until I got the voice mail message from David.
As much as I tried to resist, it was hard not to get a bit excited about this news. Had I finally won something? I think it was a drawing for a car, and if I'd won it I needed to get my hands on it ASAP and get it sold because I need the money a hell of a lot more than I need a new shiny car. My car snob days are pretty much behind me and I'm perfectly happy with my old Corolla. Selling a new car would buy me months of relief during the World's Longest and Least Successful Job Hunt. It was a Godsend if it was true.
I returned David's call, but he was away from his desk. I left a message with the operator and again didn't catch the name of the company. But at this point I wasn’t really concerned about it.
David didn't call back that day or the following day. I thought that was kind of odd, especially if I'd won some incredible prize, you'd think they'd want to let me know promptly. You don't leave someone a message like that and then leave them hanging for two days.
So on the third morning, trying not to feel desperate and pathetic (even though I was), I called again and was told David wasn't in. The guy who answered – not the same operator as the other day – asked if I wanted to leave a message. I told him I'd call back. And this time I got the name of the company: Pacific Monarch.
Wanting to find out more about this company – and hoping for assurances that it was legit – I Googled "pacific monarch" and got a bunch of travel and destination related sites. Then I Googled "pacific monarch" "brea mall" contest. Bingo. I found what I was looking for. But not what I was hoping for.
As you can see from these comments, apparently this company stages contests, then dangles the possibility of winning a prize that can range anywhere from something as big as a new car to what is probably at best a door prize (gee, I wonder which prizes usually get awarded?) in order to drum up business for some timeshare crap that most of the people who entered the contest wouldn't have had anything to do with if they'd known what they were really signing up for.
It's sleazy and deceptive, and if that's how a company does business I don't want anything to do with them. Even if I was interested in what they were selling, this approach would make me go elsewhere for the product or service. And how cruel is it to get someone's hopes up, no matter how briefly, that something really great had just happened to them? Not to mention the question of how successful they really are. You trick someone into thinking they've won a prize, and they buy into your timeshare? Does that really work?
I also have to say it doesn't speak well of the Brea Mall, which is located in an upscale area near the Los Angeles/Orange County line, to expose their unsuspecting shoppers to this sort of thing. I’m guessing there’s some kind of financial incentive for the mall to host the contest. I’m pretty selective about whom I give personal information to. In this case I gave it to the mall in good faith that it was going to be used for the purpose of notifying me if I’d won a prize. That’s it, nothing else. In fact, I wouldn’t have bothered to enter the contest if I’d known about the timeshare angle and I’m guessing a lot of the other people who entered would have felt the same way.
If I was feeling a bit more adventurous – as opposed to duped and disappointed – I might take on the timeshare presentation just for kicks and to see what lame prize I might win. I’m out of work right now and I couldn’t buy into a timeshare if I wanted to. Guess the joke’s on Pacific Monarch for a change. But I don’t have the patience right now to feign interest while a pushy salesperson – one of my biggest pet peeves – tries to sell me something I have no interest in and never signed up for in the first place.
It also doesn’t help that the South Park episode "Asspen" comes to mind. In it, the kids’ parents decided to subject themselves to a “brief” timeshare presentation in exchange for a free trip to a ski resort, but find themselves hopelessly trapped by the overly enthusiastic sales team. At one point they even call the police for help, only to find to their horror that the local cops are part of the timeshare sales nightmare. By the end of the free trip, all of which is spent in the never-ending timeshare pitch, the parents have not only been brainwashed into buying, but have also been reduced to sales-pitch spouting zombies. If South Park nailed that topic as well as they usually do, there’s no way I make it through that presentation.
Apparently my prize is so exciting and important that it took until Friday for David at Pacific Monarch to get back to me. Even though I didn’t recognize the number, I had a feeling it was him. I was right and he left another voice mail asking me to call for some good news. This time I knew not to get excited about it. This time I just deleted the message. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice… not gonna happen.