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DOHA: Some families in Qatar say they felt harassed by what they claim is an aggressive marketing campaign by an India-based timeshare holiday company called Country Club.
The families accuse the company’s well-dressed sales personnel of ‘emotionally bullying’ them into buying timeshare in holiday resorts in a number of places around the world for 30 years for around QR20,000.
Timeshare is a form of holiday ownership purchased either directly or through a club, entitling the buyer to use for a week or longer an apartment, a studio flat or a villa in a resort for a number of years or in perpetuity. It is also called pre-paid holiday.
The company uses a unique method to woo potential customers (families) to its office located at Grand Hamad Street. Its representatives distribute forms at shopping complexes and then call them saying they have won prizes in a draw, which includes free accommodation for a week at its properties at a dozen holiday destinations in India or in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia.
The family, which arrives at the company’s office to collect the prize, is then subjected to an hour of lecture by the sales staff about the schemes which the company is offering and the customers are asked to give a yes or no by the end of the session.
The visiting families are attended to by well-dressed and well-mannered young men and women speaking their languages, who escort them to a table in a hall. No one in this company has a business card and even if they have, they don’t share them with their potential customers. Also, they refuse to give in a written form the schemes they are offering.
A soft, melodious music is played in the hall, and as more vulnerable families walk in, a presentation is made highlighting the concept of timeshare and the picturesque properties that are on offer by ‘Country Club’ around the globe, which lasts an hour. The families are thereafter subjected to what they describe as the most aggressive and embarrassing solicitation to sell timeshare. “We have never been subjected to such hard sell in the past. It was really embarrassing. First of all, we went there hoping to collect our gift voucher we were promised but what we were exposed to really took us aback,” said an Indian whose wife had filled up a form at the Safari Hypermarket and went with his family to collect the gift following a phone call.
The company officials were so “shamelessly insistent”, according to the potential customer, that they wouldn’t let him and his wife go despite their repeated and honest confession that they were not interested in the scheme.
“You must have a credit card — if you pay using it, we will give you a discount of 2,000 riyals,” he was told. When he insisted he couldn’t afford the amount, he was even offered he could make the payment in easy installments of 500 riyals a month.
“They told me the lucrative offer was valid only for that very day (yesterday), but we somehow managed to escape.”
He added that what made him suspect the company’s motives was when he left the hall with his wife and child, an announcement was made in the hall, in the presence of other potential customers, that he was welcome as a member of the club.
“That was the time I decided I would go to the media and expose the company’s questionable practices.” A few other families too spoke of similar experience at the hands of the company officials.
Meanwhile, when contacted for comment, an official of the company said his seniors were ‘very busy’. He took the mobile phone number of this reporter and said a senior official would be calling later tonight or the next morning.
The Indian embassy has not received any complaint against the company but sources said in case a complaint is filed, it would swing into action.
Qatar’s Ministry of Business and Trade, which has the authority to license such promotions, couldn’t be immediately contacted.