I’ve been a sucker for freebies too long. I went for the much bigger pizza than my capacity for it because of all the extras that came with it. I also used my credit card to collect the points entitling me to gifts. I filled up at gas stations that gave away Kitkat or Cokes. But with one of the more recent promos, I’ve really felt sucked in.
A burger-chicken place and my bank offered a promo in October. I presumed it was like the last one, which was so simple I became easily familiar with it. I started saving credit-card receipts, which, depending on the amounts of purchases, would entitle me to freebies of from one piece of chicken to a whole bucket.
After accumulating a fair number of points, I sent my kasambahay, Lani, with the receipts and my credit card, to redeem my rewards. I presumed that, like the last time, I didn’t have to do it myself. That’s when I discovered the system had changed, made more complicated, impossibly so for seniors like me, I felt. It had been two weeks to deadline and I had not yet gotten my deserved freebies, and not for lack of trying.
On the first attempt, Lani had come back saying she could redeem only one receipt at a time. So I sent her back with one receipt good for a bucket. But now she was told I needed to come myself—with my cell phone. I was beginning to smell a conspiracy between the bank and the chicken place. My antennas were up, but I also felt a little intimidated.
I happen to have the cheapest and most ordinary cell phone. While it suits me fine, I was not too eager to show my cell phone to the world—it makes a noise with each tap on the key. But I am its master; it doesn’t suddenly e-mail or take pictures of my feet because it can’t do either of that and other similar accidents. It is a perfect match to my ability with gadgets.
Anyway, I go to the chicken place resigned, ready to be revealed, but I’m told I should have done some texting before coming. What texting?
Back home I go through the promo brochure for the texting instructions, which tell me to enter sequences of numbers copied from my credit card and the credit-charge receipt and to text these to a designated number. But you have to figure all this by yourself because it’s impossible to ask anyone at the outlet, where the lines are usually long, and everyone is too busy to entertain questions about freebies. Just as I think I’ve finally got it, I get this text back: “For all credit card concerns, please dial the following numbers.”
It’s two weeks before the end of the promo, but Lani and I are more determined than ever to get our deserved free bucket of chicken. Together we go back to the instructions. Lani is quite savvy with cell phones; hers looks, and is actually, more sophisticated than mine. We’re so excited as we seem getting somewhere now, so close. But the phone replies with the same thing: “For credit card concerns, please dial the emergency numbers.”
Something for something
Where have we gone wrong? We try again, until an inner voice prompts me, how can you have lived this long and believe you can get something for nothing? But I have accumulated purchases of several thousand pesos entitling me to a free bucket of chicken. A bucket of chicken is a bucket of chicken, which is definitely something for something!
If I try one more time and fail, I know I will begin to feel my human rights have been violated, never mind my human dignity. It’s now becoming a matter of deeper and deeper principle.
This time we get a more promising, though still mysterious, answer: “If you don’t receive a mobile coupon in five banking days, please call the aforementioned emergency number.” Is that laughter I hear in the background, or is that someone’s sick ringtone? Somehow, in any case, I get the feeling the mobile coupon is not forthcoming.
Sure enough, the coupon does not come, and I’m left with a sick feeling. Why have I allowed myself to fall into something like this, when one basic and reasonable test would have revealed it? If this chicken place and this bank had the slightest sense of good faith, why would they make it so hard for their patrons, let alone the more deserving seniors among them, to get what they more than rightfully deserve—one lousy bucket of chicken as a freebie for purchases in the thousands of pesos?
But trust seniors to return with the vengeance of a scorned customer. Not only have I begun to boycott the conspiratorial chicken place and bank, I was bent on taking my campaign everywhere.
When suddenly I get a text message from the promo people, “We noticed that you did not redeem any coupon from our recent promo. Because you are a valued card holder, enjoy this free coupon worth two orders of one-piece chicken with rice and two pies, etc… Simply present this coupon at participating stores until 4/16.” And they include the coded mumbo jumbo.
I send Lani fast and she comes home with all that they promised. Well, I suppose that’s telling me that they care, or at the very least feel guilty about being so tricky, but why did they have to make this promo so hard to avail of in the first place?