Demystifying “lucky draw coupons for all” at malls

If you are living in a major city in India like Bangalore and have visited malls, you might have noticed that lucky draw coupons are offered to whoever enters the mall. A lot of us have at least once filled in those coupons with our name and phone number and handed them over. Have we ever realized that they give the coupons for everyone who enters the mall whether they buy anything or not. Sounds fishy?

If you did enter yourself in such a lucky draw, a few days or weeks later you would get a call from an unknown number declaring you as one of the prize winners in the lucky draw and that you could collect the prize by visiting some location that is mentioned. If you’re an unmarried person, you would be told that only a couple can come and collect the prize. You would even be suggested to send a couple who could be related to you or be your friends or anyone who would do it for you.

A lot of people would be put off by the “couple” requirement and possibly by the prize distribution location’s distance from your home. If you weren’t, you’d be promised thoroughly that there wouldn’t be any hidden clauses or conditions to collect the prize. To enlighten people faced with similar situations, here’s my experience in pursuing it further.

A few times I hadn’t trusted the whole lucky draw and “you have won a prize, no hidden clauses or conditions” thing and ignored it. But my mother, new to the city and its happenings, was always intrigued by this lucky draw prize thing and wanted to pursue it further and see what happens.

So recently when I got a similar call from an unknown caller proclaiming that my mother had won a prize and the same blah blah blah, I told my mother about it and asked her if she was interested in venturing out to collect the prize. She was very much interested and since the prize distribution location that they mentioned was not too far away from my place, I decided to join my parents.

After we reached the landmark near which the gift distribution location was supposed to be located, we found nothing at all. I called the “you’ve won a prize” messenger again and asked him about the location. He apologized and asked us to travel further and reach an another location a couple of kilometers away. Even at that time he didn’t give the exact details of the location. Since we were motivated to see it through to completion, we boarded a bus and went to the new location. Nope, nothing there anywhere in the vicinity of the place he had asked us to get down.

On calling him again, he gave instructions to walk in one particular direction till we come near a “Country Club Resort” and enquire the security guard at the resort who would show us the location. My radar smelled something fishy at the mention of “Country Club” but my parents were still imagining a building near the Country Club resort where the prizes would be distributed. We reached the Country Club resort and the guard asked us to go to the underground parking lot of the resort.

There was a small office operating there and I could see a few couples coming in and going out. I went in and asked the receptionist about the gift and a we were asked to wait. A few minutes later we were told that there would be a presentation for an hour’s time at the end of which we could collect our prize. My innocent parents were imagining some prize distribution ceremony that could be an hour long with a lot of guests and speakers. Kaboom! Back to reality! We were then taken into a room full of small round tables with chairs around them. There were couples seated in each of those tables talking to one “presenter” and there was blaring music.

We sat in one of those tables with one of those presenters, who told us about our prize – a kitchen item and a couple of sponsored items from Country Club. He told us that we would be getting our prizes at the end of his presentation on a promotional offer provided by Country Club and that we would be getting our prizes irrespective of whether we buy the product being sold. At that moment I realized what we we had gotten into. They had deliberately not revealed “Country Club” till the last moment as a lot of people would have backed off on hearing it.

The salesman asked us some questions to fill in a survey form. Then he kept talking on and on about the benefits of buying a Country Club resort membership under the promotional offer. Since I couldn’t hear him clearly due to the loud music, I kept nodding my head at regular intervals. My parents very much liked his style of presentation, but they never had any intention to go ahead with the offer. So the presenter redirected his focus towards me trying to impress me into buying it. The price was revealed only at the very end of the presentation after about 90 minutes of showcasing exotic holidays, excellent facilities, the convenience and value provided by the Country Club membership and it was a 6 digit figure. The salesman didn’t know that I wouldn’t splash so much money on luxury and entertainment when there are a lot of people with their basic needs unmet. Seeing that I hadn’t yielded he started advertising partial down payments and attractive monthly EMI.

As it was getting late into the night and well past my dinner time, we asked him to complete his presentation and give us the gift so that we could leave. That triggered the strategy of asking us to wait for a couple of minutes to generate the gift vouchers online and while we were waiting, the salesman started trying to convince us to buy. The cycle of being asked to wait a few more minutes for the gift voucher and facing the blatant canvassing continued for about half an hour. It could have continued further if all the other salesmen and their prospective customers weren’t done with their presentation and left the hall.

The couples who had agreed to buy the membership card were taken inside a special room in the office and given prizes and possibly some additional goodies. We were just asked to go out to the parking area and they just dumped the prizes – a gift wrapped box and a couple of vouchers, in our hands and we left the place.

I told my parents that the people behind these “lucky draws” had used the “lucky draw” and the greed of the people to try and win more customers for their product. By following a “gift coupon for everyone” approach, they collected the contact details of thousands of people to canvass them into buying the club membership.

In case you’re still awake and not bored after reading this far and want to know what the gifts were, here are the details. We got a box containing 6 ice cream glass bowls from an unbranded local maker, a voucher for our family to enjoy the facilities at a Country Club resort on a weekday within a month’s time and a free accommodation in 3-5 star hotels on during our holiday tours provided we pay the minimal taxes of about Rs.4000, valid a for a year. The voucher was not signed by a person of authority as required and that made it invalid and useless.

So did we really get free gifts? Nope. We had invested our time and effort and showed a lot of patience in sitting through the “presentation” and also unintentionally gave our names and mobile number to them. Fair enough. Nothing in this world is free. So just think twice before you reveal your personal details in the hope (greed?) of winning a prize without spending a single rupee.

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Looking back at 2012

One of the most important lessons that I learnt this year – never put your health at stake no matter what. No, don’t do it even if you are absolutely sure that you will emerge unscathed. I did exactly that at the beginning of this year and now I am wondering if I will ever recover from that. Yeah, I had a lofty sense of righteousness about standing up for something good, blissfully blind to failure and its consequences – the known and unknown. I messed it up pretty bad shattering my health and mind to pieces. After having that near-death experience even without knowing it was one, my daily life was filled with problems hitherto unknown. While my body was recovering from a sudden and serious ailment at its own pace, my mind totally lost it. I was so scared of death and even more of life. I wondered everyday if there will be a tomorrow that I will wake up to. I lost interest in life, for it just seemed an inevitable procession to death. All the emotions – love, hate, affection, anger, happiness no longer made any sense to me. That my body was giving me a different problem every other day or once every few days didn’t help either. I felt really disturbed at having lost all the sense of ignorance and suddenly I was groping thin air trying to find out the purpose of life when it was this futile and meaningless. The people around me were rambling on and on just about what they wanted and there weren’t any comforting shoulders or enlightened minds whose help I could use. Suddenly, it became next to impossible to get interested or involve myself in anything. Even the things that I loved seemed to be nothing more than a vague memory from a distant past. I always had a morbid fear that something was horribly wrong with my body and doctors always seemed to miss finding that out and helping me. I had frequent panic attacks as a result. Hearing about violence, death of even unknown people still affects me very badly and gives me nightmares.

So how did I get out of such a messy state? What makes you think that I got out of it? I have learnt to accept and live with these things. That has eliminated most of the panic. Whatever is remnant, keeps me honest and helps me live life to the fullest. Yeah, health improving a bit has helped reduce the paranoia as well. There have been people who have done their bit to help me and I’m indebted to them.

My father came and lived with me while my health was recovering. He helped me to be very disciplined with my life style as that was of utmost importance at that time. Once my father went back, I learnt to cook on my own and managed to cook for about 6 months, though not for every time in a day. In the initial days, I did try to cook all the time, though gradually it reduced and went through barren periods in between. Starting from just following the procedure to prepare food, I tried out new things and learnt a fair bit about cooking which should keep me in good stead in the future.

Organizing an online treasure hunt contest at office by designing the event, website and conducting it successfully after an initial faux pas helped me get a lot of my confidence back. Visits to my alma mater for server and network administration work and for FStival made me feel as normal and happy as possible. Gradually towards the end of the year, I was back to near normalcy learning about a lot of new stuff and fiddling with them. One regret I have though is that I haven’t been able to contribute anything in terms of writing code or contributing to free software projects. I intend to change that in 2013.

Ever since my beloved Nokia N79 phone slipped out of my hands and fell into the toilet of a running train, I wanted to buy a good smartphone. With the Android boom happening these days, it was just an impulsive buy away. Though I bought my parents a Samsung Galaxy Y last year, I didn’t feel satisfied with a such phone. My mind always craved for a high-end latest smartphone. While Samsung Galaxy S3 captured my imagination and I was always on the verge of buying it, my mind kept reminding me that it wasn’t worth its steep price. The next best phone, Google Galaxy Nexus was at least 10K cheaper, though Samsung decided not to release the phone in India to push S3 as its leading phone. I bought my Galaxy Nexus from eBay India in the last week of August. Galaxy Nexus was a flagship Android phone and provided the pure Android experience straight from the hands of Google, which meant that it will always get updates directly from Google, far ahead of better phones. In the worst case, the phone manufacturer might arbitrarily decide to stop providing software updates to a phone after it is reasonably old, in order to push the newer models. I got my phone within 2 days of ordering and my initial experience was very hesitant, partly because I had never used such a big and powerful phone. I already had a bad history with expensive phones losing them soon after buying them. This phone cost twice as much as my most expensive phone till date. I kept using it only at home, too scared to take it outside. Since I don’t own a vehicle and travel by public transport, I was scared of losing the phone. But with time, I got used to handling it and have been taking it with me wherever I go. But the sad part is, when it rains, I am more worried about my phone getting wet than about me getting drenched. 🙂

After spending a very long time in deliberation, I got myself a server on the internet. It hosts my website and Keirthana’s and an owncloud instance – just for me to try out. I am sharing this server with Bala anna, who named it ‘Knuth’ 🙂 and would be hosting his site on it as well.

My parents opted for voluntary retirement from the service in Indian Railways some time in the middle of the year and have moved in with me at Bangalore last month. That has helped me greatly to lead a better and comfortable life. My gratitude to them as always.

I managed to attend a couple of Bangpypers’ meetings and also PyCon India 2012 which happened in Bangalore. As always, Bala anna participated with me.

Right now I’m at Trichy for the year-end vacation, penning down this post in bits and pieces whenever I have been blessed with electricity supply at home. If I have to blurt out truth plainly, I would have to say that 2012 is by far the worst year of my life, but as always there is a silver lining. I’ve had some really happy moments scattered in between the tough ones during the course of this life-changing year. And all I keep saying to myself is “This will pass. Tough times do not last, tough people do”.  Hoping for a great life ahead and wishing everyone the same.

Mother lode within us

Human mind is an amazing blend of myriad patterns of thoughts, memories and knowledge made possible by the intricate circuitry of neurons and synapses (Too many adjectives? Can’t help it 🙂 ). It is a photographic film that captures everything it is exposed to and never forgets a single thing. People call it the sub-conscious mind and it is infinitely capable.

Human mind

Right from my young age, I have been very good at grasping new things swiftly and learning from them. The role of the sub-conscious mind in that is immense. It automatically connects the dots and relates to the things that I already know. The kind of results that it can produce can be awesome. I was a consistent topper at school but beyond academics there was very little that I was good at. Some how by the twist of fate, I got into quizzing and boy didn’t I love it! What aided me was my ability to  observe and recollect a lot of things in minute detail impulsively.

Quiz

In a quiz contest that I participated with Shankar Ganesh, there was a question which probed for the name of the renowned musician Pandit Ravi Shankar’s daughter who was also a musician. My mind suddenly popped a name ‘Anoushka’ out of nowhere with a huge surge of confidence. I was totally startled because I felt that there was absolutely no way mind could have even guessed an answer for that question. I had read and heard about Pandit Ravi Shankar but had no idea about his family or his children. What made it scarier was that it turned out to be the correct answer. I guess my mind should have picked it up from somewhere without me being aware of it.

I have been blessed to have many such eureka moments throughout my life which have helped me immensely. I have learnt from experience that our mind, conscious and sub-conscious, has most of the knowledge and wisdom that we would need in our life. A lot of times, all we need to do is to look inside and egg our mind to find answers. The time it might take to accomplish it might vary drastically from an instant to a very long time, but the success rate is very high.

Wouldn’t it be smart to condition our mind to focus a bit more on important things in our life? It could help reduce the non-useful things getting into our mind’s chronicles, which is capable of capturing even our negative emotions, experiences and thoughts as much as the positive ones. This would inevitably condition our mind to a lot of avoidable stereotypes and patterns. Whenever we have to respond to a situation, our mind compares it to a previous experience which will most likely influence our response. Instead of responding to a situation on its merit (à la the inimitable Ravi Shastri 🙂 ), we end up reinforcing the conditioning our mind has gone through umpteen times. We need to find ways to stop being a Pavlov’s dog. Letting go of negative emotions and hurt we might have clung to for a long time will definitely help. (Despite all this gyan, how much ever I try, I end up responding the same pathetic way whenever my girl friend talks about most other guys. 😉 😛 (evil grin) )

While this might not be a panacea for all problems, let alone mine, understanding our mind better and being aware of its potential will help us a long way in living a life that we dream of living. Now is the time to stop dreaming and start living! Cheers!

 

How I got my laptop repaired and the lessons learnt

My HP Pavilion dv9704tx laptop’s hinge snapped recently and hence the lid couldn’t be closed without the back-cover and the bezel ripping themselves out from the broken hinge mechanism. Given my emotional attachment to my laptop, I was totally scared and panic-stricken. My previous experience with laptop repair still haunted me. My initial response to such situations would always make me look for instant solutions and since it was a Sunday, I had to wait at least a day to even take it to a HP service center.
HP Pavilion dv9704tx

The next day I bunked my office in the morning to take my laptop to a HP-authorized service center. I was expecting that the service engineer there would unscrew the hinge mechanism to check the broken part and show me the same. Reality isn’t that sweet, is it? The service engineer looked at my laptop like a curious child would look at a new object given to it, lifting it up and down, bending to look at it from different angles and declared that the panel, hinge and bezel need to be replaced. Since I was still not out of my panic, I didn’t dare question him or even ask him to open up my laptop and show me the broken part. Then he took my laptop inside to some room to confirm the parts are to be replaced. I was feeling more nervous every second and I feared that they might steal parts from my laptop and replace them with old or faulty ones (When the mind is panic-stricken, there is no limit to the pessimism it can indulge in 🙂 ). After a few minutes, the service engineer returned with my laptop and told me that I would be emailed the quotation for the replacement parts and that once the parts were ordered and delivered, the laptop could be fixed in a few hours. With some solution visible, I returned home with my laptop.

The dreaded email came the next noon. It had a quotation for replacing the complete LCD panel, rounded off to 19 grand inclusive of all service charges and taxes! I was totally shocked to see such a huge figure with which I could almost buy a cheap, new laptop or netbook. I decided to dig in and try finding some details about the spare parts for my laptop from the HP PartSurfer website. I found out the details of the correct replacement parts, noted them down and called the service center to ask about their quotation for replacing the whole LCD display kit just to fix the broken hinge. When I confronted them with hard facts, they were unsettled and kept giving ambiguous and contradicting answers. So I gave them the part details and asked them to give me a quotation for only those parts. They asked for a day’s time to do that.

The promised response never came and I kept calling the service center again and again. The answers got more ambiguous and non-committal with every call. After calling repeatedly for 2 days, I was told that the details for one of the parts was unavailable and hence I would have to replace the whole display kit. The murky thing there was that the part that they were asking me to buy was just the LCD display and my laptop’s LCD display was working absolutely fine. I tried to reason out with them in vain explaining that my laptop had just a broken mechanical part and that they were trying to order a replacement for some other electronic part which was working fine. The more I talked the more senseless their replies became. So I just ended the conversation abruptly out of frustration.

A friend at office had suggested taking my laptop to a non-authorized center and getting it repaired. The long-winded, futile arguments with the HP service center prompted me to see the problem from a different perspective. My laptop was more than 3 years old and out of warranty. I had spent more than 70K on my laptop already including the cost price and the previous repair. I didn’t want to spend more and more on an old laptop and make it even more indispensable.

The same friend recommended a laptop service center near my home and I decided to give it a try. A few days later, I took my laptop there with my fingers crossed. As soon as I explained the problem to the service engineer there, he immediately unscrewed the laptop hinge and display and showed me exactly what was broken. It was the left side of the hinge and he told me that it he would get it replaced and repaired in a couple of days’ time. The confident “I know what I am doing” attitude of the service engineer drastically calmed my nerves and I left my laptop with him for the repair. Two days later I got my laptop back and it cost me just 2.3 grand! Compare it with the 19 grand it would have cost me if I had got my laptop repaired at the authorized service center! Even that may not have been enough because I was asked to buy the wrong replacement part.

This incident made me think about the money lost by a lot of ignorant, unsuspecting people in getting their laptops repaired. It assumes even greater propositions considering how often laptops encounter hardware problems these days. I am tempted to believe that all this is an organized racket with the so-called authorized service centers and the authorizing manufacturers being partners-in-crime. What makes it even more atrocious is the fact that not all the service engineers in such “authorized service centers” are technically equipped.

The lessons I learnt from this experience that I would like to share with everyone:
1. When buying a new laptop, it is better to pay a bit more to get extended warranty due to the tendency of laptops to run into hardware problems just after the expiration of the regular warranty period.
2. Always check and verify the cost and the details of the repair before committing to it. The manufacturer’s website and Google could give you detailed information.
3. When the laptop is in warranty, take it to a service center where you could get it repaired for free on most occasions. If it threatens to burn a hole into your purse, just pause for a moment, analyze the alternatives before making any decision.
3. Once the laptop is out of warranty, it makes no sense to spend a lot on it. So do not hesitate to get it repaired at unauthorized service centers using parts not from the laptop’s manufacturer. It is better take it to a service center which some acquaintance recommended. It will save you a lot of money and will most likely not impact the laptop’s lifetime.