If a deal sounds to be too good to be true, it probably is not worth it.
Despite being a firm believer of the above mantra, one still succumbed to the marketing onslaught and almost unbelievable prices offered by this firm Holiday Factory (HF). It also helped at the outset to see a neighbour use one of their deals and a big firm like Etisalat listed among their clients on the testimonials section of their website.
After resisting for long, the sweet spot of temptation was reached when a deal to Bangkok came with a 10-day flexible stopover to my hometown Mumbai was thrown in, with the extra leg of flight tickets virtually free when one compared the costs of the deal to cross check with the outside world.
The way Holiday Factory works is that you buy a deal voucher first for the ride to start. That itself is a warning sign but one that does not set the alarm bells ringing because of the ifs and buts involved.
And my torture ride started since.
First the price they advertised was tip of the iceberg. Only when you complete a form, HF tell you the price was only for first 10 customers. Yeah, right, bet you there is no lucky top-10 customer they have in reality.
The deal still looked at Price No 2 and hooked on that one was, the form was filled again only to be told at the payment processing page that there was an error. Oh, and the deal is activated only on weekends. Two weeks went thus in leading me to a stage where one found out that the so-called error was not a financial one, not a technical one – but that the deal is over for that price even though the website said 23 of 150 packages were still available just before the payment page.
Plan abandoned. Another week gone. Work on Plan B for holiday was on to coincide with the school-going children’s spring break.
Then I get a call. “Sir, the deal you were looking for is available… but only if you confirm rightaway!”
Yes! why not, I say. I do clarify that the deal is agreeable if you give me the dates more or less what I want even though the sales executive rattles on with the terms and conditions saying you buy voucher and submit couple of dates preferred. I do say again that I am flexible for dates upto a week. She promptly takes me through the purchase. I promptly give my dates. There is a technical glitch which means another two days over the weekend are lost but I will resist sarcasm on their efficiency just to keep it short.
And then I make the mistake of trusting them to take their time to do their bit of the work of sending me the much-awaited confirmation and tickets. Rules say they need 72 hours to process paperwork.
After 120 hours and a few reminders, I am told, “Sir, we don’t have availability. If you can suggest alternative dates?”
I am stuck. In reality the spring break is when I want to holiday but my decent searching skills tell me these dates are/were actually when the airlines have cheapest offerings considering school holidays for CBSE students and Ramadan follow upto June 15.
They are quick to dump the blame on me or coerce me to pay Dh335 more per ticket (which is the actual cost of the trip a lay person would get, by the way. Skyscanner and Hopper vouch for the same).
Another week of back and forth happens. Each time I try to find a solution by tweaking my dates or journey legs, HF staff promise to get back in an hour but take 24-26 hours and each time calling me five minutes before their closing time.
Finally I have to thrown in a veiled threat and use the weapon I hate – of throwing weight of my profession and, if not, take it the long-drawn legal way.
After another customary day-plus wait with a promise to get back asap, they agree.
Wait, it is not over yet!
They tell me I need NOT pay extra but ask for confirmation of my yes in writing but mistakenly (apparently) send me a mail where it says I do have to pay Dh335 per person. Arrgh! And the staff member has left the office though she said she is waiting for my reply.
That hurdle is crossed, too. The flight is on Wednesday and given the chain of incidents I am not sure how the holiday will turn out. Already the tour guide’s email given in the brochure they sent as an extra help is wrong.
Even if it ends well from here, don’t say you were not warned!
PS: This is one blog that I could not avoid exclamation marks to vent a little of my frustration.