I GOT suckered! There is nothing unusual in that. I get suckered all time. What was unusual this time was that Rita got suckered along with me.
You know when you walk through shopping centres, there is always a stall or three set up with people trying to flog you free perfume samples (well, maybe not to the blokes), charity tickets to win a car and the like.
The other day a very pleasant, middle-aged and quite attractive lady with an Irish accent caught our attention.
I am a sucker for Irish accents - witness my ongoing monthly payments to Doctors Without Borders, flogged to me some years ago by a beautiful, young Irish lass on the streets of Tamworth.
"Would you like some free scratchies?" she said, as she passed us two each. "You can win a trip."
With nothing to lose we took them and made to walk away. "No, you must scratch them here."
That should have been enough warning in itself but her accent had me by the whatsits. I scratched mine - nothing.
Rita scratched hers and the second one came up with three suns, which meant we had won either a $1500 travel voucher, seven days in Bali, Thailand in Queensland (accommodation only) or a weekend for two, including airfares to any Australian capital city.
"You are my first prize winner for the day," she exclaimed brightly.
Somewhere in my brain, pleasantly drugged by that Irish brogue, a thought surfaced. "This is not timeshare is it?"
"No, no. It's a travel company and we have found that word-of-mouth is the best way to promote our products," she said.
"Fair enough. So which of the travel prizes have we won?"
And then came the "gotcha'.
"I can book you in for a presentation and at that time you can scratch the window at the bottom of your ticket and it will reveal which of the three wonderful trips you have won," she started.
"If you scratch it before turning up the prize will be void. If you win the weekend away we ask for a $49 booking fee.
"Should you win the seven-day trip, there is a $199 fee, but that's it. So may I book you in?"
Why the heck not, I thought. Rita, who had been unwell for the past four weeks (this was in fact her first trip outdoors in a month) agreed.
"We do ask for a $20 deposit which will be refunded when you arrive," she said.
By now we should have been smart enough to walk away but three of the four tickets were duds, so it must be kosher - and we could really use a free holiday.
We paid the $20 and went on our way. Back home that afternoon we daydreamed of a week laying on a Cairns beach while our friends back home shivered.
The next morning out on the road, my mind was firmly planted between two tropical palms when the phone rang. It was Rita.
"Forget the free trip," she said.
The palms, the beach and the gentle breeze were instantly replaced by a 3° foggy Hooterville morning.
Rita had been on the internet and Googled a forum on the travel company.
"It is timeshare, every couple gets four scratchies - three duds and one that always comes up trumps," she started.
"The only prize that anyone seemed to have won was the seven-day trip where you had to pay airfares and $199. Anyone who has timeshare knows you can get a week for $199.
"Furthermore the membership is $20,000 to buy in. This will be high-pressure selling.
"I don't know about you but getting our 20 bucks back is not worth the grief."
I would hope I am cured of being suckered by an Irish accent.
Take care of You.
- Kermie, 0418 139 415, email@example.com