Highland Holiday Homes Pvt. Ltd.

Yesterday, my mother-in-law got a phone call from “Bajaj Electricals” which is a well known company in India. She was asked three questions (which she answered wrongly). Her answers were declared correct and she was invited to claim a gift vouchers from some “Bajaj office” in the evening. It sounded like she was getting to select from a variety of goods up to a value of Rs. 4,000/-. She was busy and my husband and I went instead. What we found was a royal scam.

We were supposed to land up in the basement hall of the Great Imperial Palace Hotel in Teili Galli in Andheri (6th Sept 2007 – in case anyone wants to investigate this further). We entered to find a variety of couples engaged in different degrees of conversation with salesmen of varying degrees of aptitude.

It all began with a smooth talking salesman writing a lot on bits of paper creating flowcharts and lists and sweeping them away to create more on new pieces of paper. We were explained how Bajaj has plenty of ventures like Electricals, motors and god knows what else, and now there is a new one – Highland Holidays. This of course was total bull shit, as none of their papers had anything to do with Bajaj beyond its being the surname of one of its founders.

I think its an obvious scam when the name Bajaj Electricals was directly used by them to generate a sense of credibility. Then came too good to be true offers on holidays (which may or not be real, but certainly smelled like a rat). We were offered 8 days a year for 10 years for an “initial investment” of Rs. 42,000/- Needless to say neither of us were about to part from our cash. which eventually got negotiated to a “mere” Rs.14,000/- for 6 days for 5 years.

What got me itchy and suspicious and getting on google search immediately on returning home were these things:

  1. The phone call itself pretended to distribute gift vouchers for Bajaj Electricals for three correct answers, but offered them even when the answers were wrong
  2. We are not listed for any schemes, contests or anything, and the organizers had no clear answer for how they got our number.
  3. Nowhere on the location was any banner related with Bajaj (which is the name we were expecting to find) to be found. We honestly stumbled upon the event while enquiring about it.
  4. Bajaj Electricals, the name used to draw unsuspecting people to the event – was in no way related to it, nor were any gift vouchers from Bajaj electricals distributed.
  5. For a company that seemed to have gone through great effort to book a venue and organize individual presentations for participants, there was not a single piece of printed paper they actually gave anyone. No visiting cards, no printed documents of schemes, no nothing – not even mobile numbers.
  6. It was clearly specified that the “outstanding offer” was open only right then, and the answer had to be yes or no on the completion of the presentation – no going home and taking a day to think or anything (more likely – no investigating this company for reliability)
  7. The “gift vouchers” were for a holiday for two at one of some specified locations, where we still would be expected to be paying money.
  8. The “presentation” itself was more like street haggling, where you are offered higher investment opportunities and when they are refused, cheaper ones come up.
  9. Why would any reputable company have an investment opportunity open for an evening where a decision is to be made without looking at any offer document, without any verification, office address, official representatives, or even simple visiting cards? The way I see it, if they can’t afford a basic official set up, my investment is unlikely to be safe with them.
  10. Strangely, even their “managers” who came in to dramatic effect with approvals of surveys, and special offers, etc. didn’t even bother to provide surnames. I have yet to see any professional investment related thing being presented or negotiated without any written documentation or proposal of the exact offering and terms for consideration before investing in it. No official venue, no visiting cards, nothing.
  11. For an investment related event taking place in a hotel, not even tea or coffee was offered. We were asked if we wanted water.
  12. In short, they were simply trying to his susceptible people and get money out of them as fast as possible.

The sad part is that I found some middle class couples and one really aged one taking these offers very seriously. I hope for their sakes that this offer goes against all logic and turns out to be genuine.

PS: A reader Kalyana has shared this link to an article from the Deccan Herald where Holiday Homes was asked to refund payment by the consumer court.