19 October 2006

An Offer Too Good To Be True

I received an envelope in my letter box that had my name and address handwritten on it. Thinking that it might be a letter from a long-lost friend or primary school classmate, I opened it eagerly. The letter inside was from a company called "Electric LLP Hub". (Don't ask me what "LLP" stands for - it just doesn't sound decent to me.). The letter said that I had a free gift converted from redeemed points. The free gift was still waiting for my collection. The letter even added a warning that "the expiry date for the collection of the gift will not be extended".

Now I don't remember having ever participated in a lucky draw conducted by this company. Neither do I recall accumulating points that I've redeemed but yet have forgotten to collect the gift. This sweet offer came my way without I having to "go through 100 steps on the web just to redeem it", as Chun See put it. Since the company provided its telephone number in the letter, the "curiosity in the monkey" made me decide to call them to find out what monkey tricks they were up to.

I don't know why but when you call up such companies, 9 out of 10 times you have to speak Mandarin to be understood:

Me: Hello, what is this letter mentioning the redemption of a free gift all about?

Man: 哈? (Ha?)

Me: 我搜到这封信,说我得奖. (I received a letter saying that I got a free gift.)

Man: 对吖,这是你在 Courts 买东西积分抽奖赢来的 (Correct, the gift is from points redeemed when you made purchases from Courts.)

Me: 是什么奖品?(What gift is it?)

Man: 是 camera. 你带你的身份证下来领取啦.(It's a camera. You bring your IC to redeem it.)

Me: Okay. 好,可以的.谢谢你.(Okay. Will do. Thank you.)

Now I am not that naive to really believe that I could be so lucky to have won a free gift. After all, I've heard people being tricked countless times before in a similar fashion. Therefore, I should've known all the tricks in the book. However, since I was near the shop's address (Blk 3014 Bedok North Avenue 4 #03-2158), I decided to pay them a visit despite still limping on my left foot. Besides, I was running out of topics to blog about.

When I reached the foot of the block, I removed all the cash and bank/credit cards from my pocket and locked them safely away in the car. When I reached the front door of the unit, this signboard greeted me:

Eh, I thought it should've been "Electric LLP Hub"? Moreover the name "Pine Rich" also sounded notoriously familiar but I just couldn't recall where I came across it. (I am quite sure that if you check with CASE, they will be very familiar with this company.) I plucked up enough courage to venture in.

In the shop, a man served me. He checked my driving license and then passed me my free gift. Like a shameless child who just received his angpow, I opened it in front of him. It was an "ultra-cheapo-looking" 35mm film camera with plastic body and manual winding mechanism - the type that would cost at most $1.99 and which I wouldn't even dare to present as a toy to my grandson if I had one. I wanted to return the camera to him but he insisted that I could keep it as it was my free gift. To avoid creating a scene or ending up limping on my right foot as well I decided that I would throw it away in the dustbin outside.

The man proceeded to market his other products to me. First he showed me a sound system complete with standing speakers, amplifier and DVD player, ALL FOR FREE. I just needed to give him my address to deliver the goods. (Why is this bloke asking for my address again? I thought that the company already had my address to mail the letter?) I struggled to think of a credible answer for a moment. Finally I said, "No place to put. My flat is very small." Then he showed me a set of stainless steel pots that could cook a meal for a whole football team. Again, they are ALL FREE but I need to pay a "small" advertising fee of $1499 for the steel pots.

I've had enough. I turned and slowly limped out of the shop. Outside, I met an auntie who was clutching the same letter in her hand and on her way to the company. I cautioned her to be careful about the company. Then I passed her the camera and she said, "Yes, I can give it to my grandson as a toy. Thank you."


Chris Sim said...

This is so funny, Victor. And haven't you heard? Curiousity killks the cat, I mean the monkey. Despite knowing it's a trap, you juz can't resist trying your luck, can you? You're as cheapo as the cheapo camera, if I may say so. Anyway, what did you get in return? Nothing but a waste of your petrol and time. Rest and shake leg at home better lah. Now your mood is gonna get even more foul. wahahaha..

I too received letters like these. I simply chucked it. There's no such thing as a free lunch.

Lam Chun See said...

When Courts give out free gifts, they usually do it on the spot. Last year I got a portable DVD player when I bought the 32" LCD tv. Last month gave us a digital camera when we bot a fridge; A cheap but proper working digital camera.

Victor said...

I've already explained the reasons why I visited the company. It was definitely not because I believe that their offer was true.

Chris - I cannot agree with you more that there's no such thing as a free lunch. The same principle applies for skating lessons :p

Chun See - I thought you were going to stay clear? Don't worry about my mood. You probably thought that I was in a bad mood because I called Chris "thick skull", right? If you have read Chris' past comments carefully (and have not been speed reading again) you'll realise that I was only using his own words on him. I certainly did not say that because I was in a bad mood. Chris and I can take far worse insults than that because we are good friends who are always horsing around. No worries mate. If one day, you find us hurling such insults at you, you'll know that we've accepted you as a good friend.

Chris Sim said...

Yo, Victor, you're ever a joker. We're all good friends lah. But some good friends you can hurl insults in jest, others have a lesser tolerance of your (and my) nonsensical irritations. To these pple, you must treat them with certain degree of "respect". It all depends on the level of comfort one has of each other, and how we understand each others' temperment. And stop trying to "extort" money out of me! You said you would give me free coaching. Now, honour your words! Hng!

Chun See, dun worry about Victor. When he's cranky, he's as hurtful as a baboon on heat. Wahahaha... You mean you only got a DVD player? I got a DVD player plus a home theater system leh! Samsung brand one. :P

me said...

GD, 4 words for you, You Are Very Free. whaahahaa...

I know you are having "holidays" now.. haha.. if i were you i won't even bother manz.. people call me about me getting a free watch etc etc... i simply hang them up.

One thing is note is.. I like the part about you putting away your cards etc into your car. For 1, you may never know where you land yourself into, imagine them pulling u somewhere and locking you up.. etc etc. haha im getting drama here.. but what i meant was, you are wise (very indeed) to keep ur belongings somewhere else.

the last part is funny haha.. :)

Victor said...

Chris - Thank you very much for clearing the air. And I am not talking about the haze.

Elaine - You would simply hang up on them? No wonder your nick is simplyetel, haha. But seriously, one of the real reasons why I visited the company is to educate consumers. Isn't it interesting and even amusing to find out how you would have been treated if you have responded to such unscrupulous companies? The experience certainly makes good blogging material as I have shown here, haha.

me said...

come to think of it.. isnt it funny about how blogging has already "blend" into our lives? Imagine the boring life we will be leading if we do not have a blog.. Having a blog make us do things that we never thought we will.. hehe.. a perfect example here..

but GD, in short, u must take care of ur leg la... curiousity kills the cat, but i dun wan a limping GD.. wahhaaha..

oops.. should be monkey. haha X)

Victor said...

Eh Elaine, I thought you were supposed to leave for Bangkok for a short trip around this time? Still around ah? Or did you bring along your notebook for blogging on the go? Wish you a pleasant trip ya.

Anonymous said...

Why is mood so dangerous, try to irritate your boss when he wakes up from the wrong side of the bed. There is a Chinese saying that explains why when the brain receives a so-called humilation message (could be an unintended teasing) could fire off a fierce response (anger). This type of philosophy makes the Chinese like to say things in a round-about manner(beating around the bush) which often drive westerners up the wall. Ang Mohs like the needle method - poke in and draw blood.

Anonymous said...

Thank for this blog. I too received the letter and I called them up. They told it is a free camera from the warranty I sent during some of my purchase and it arise my suspicious. Out of curious, I do a search on the web and find your article. Now at least, I do not need to waste my time to collect an useless gift.


Victor said...

I am so glad that at least I have saved you the inconvenience of making a trip there. It could even be yet another potential cheating case being averted, haha. You are the 2nd person to have responded to my post this way. (First was 'AT' - please see my tagboard.)

The main aim of this post, which is to inform and forewarn consumers, is being achieved.

To other readers - please post your comments here if you received a similar letter and tell me how you responded to it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

i just received the letter which is same as yours today.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I wanna know that how and where this "Company" to get my address.

Victor said...

Hi Gengzai, thanks for visiting my blog. To find out how your personal information was leaked out, may I suggest that you do a little experiment?

Remember the many lucky draw forms that you filled during events like book fairs, computer shows, supermarket promotions, etc? Sometimes you also filled in application forms for free subscription to certain magazines and credit cards. Well they probably got your information from those forms.

All such information obtained are entered into a database and sold for a fee to anyone willing to pay. That's why sometimes the forms ask for your income information and also what type of housing you are staying in. I am never truthful when it comes to stating such information. (Sometimes I put myself down as unemployed and sleeping in the streets. But then, that means that I won't get my credit card, haha.)

If you want to know who gave away your personal information, use different fictitious Christian names when filling in lucky draw forms, e.g. Stanley Tan for SITEX lucky draws, Bobby Tan for Book Fair, etc. Then make a note somewhere indicating which Christian name you used for which lucky draw. In future when you receive such a mail with a Christian name, you can check where you used that Christian name.

Similarly, if you want to avoid unwanted phone calls from telemarketeers, avoid giving out any telephone numbers too. Best of all, don't fill in any lucky draw forms - you seldom win anyway but you always get a lot of unwanted attention from telemarketeers.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blogging on Electric Hub LLP. I received similiar letter 30 Jan 2007. When I attempt to call up the tel 62462110 today, it was engaged. I was already suspicious when I received the letter. So I checked the yellow pages but no results retrieved. Then out of curiosity, I googled the company's name and found your blog. After reading your experience I am glad I was made aware of this dishonest practice. Would it help to report such cases to the authorities?

Victor said...

Mr Anonymous, thank you for visiting my blog and commenting on 31 Jan 07. You are the third person who found this post after a web search. I am glad that at least 3 persons have been 'saved' by my post. That is community service for me.

As for whether reporting such cases to the authorities is useful or not, I don't think so. Although the company was unethical or at least misleading by sending out that letter to us, it did not commit any crime. Even if someone fell prey to their marketing tactics and got overcharged for an item, the most the authorities could do would be to obtain a refund for the victim. The authorities could not charge the company for cheating because the customer was a willing buyer in the first place.

Jeffrey said...

Hi Victor,

Thanks for blogging about this, for I too have received a similar letter. I will not bother to go down to the "shop" to redeem it. BUt I will bother to send this letter to CASE for any action on their part, if needed.

Cheers, Jeff

Victor said...

Jeffrey - Wah, almost 4 months after I've blogged about it and the company still has not been busted yet but is blatantly continuing to send out those misleading letters. Go ahead and report to CASE. I support you. CASE can highlight this company in their newsletter and caution consumers to be careful.

Anonymous said...

I too recieved a letter` like this today,aking me to redeem in 7 days otherwise my claim would be fortified.I called them,on man took the phone and suddenly kept the phone down saying that my gift is a camera

Victor said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for visiting my blog. I'm glad that I've saved yet another person from making a trip down to the company, only to find out that it was all a marketing ploy.

Anonymous said...

After 4 months? .. I just received mine yesterday.. again on July 3,2007 ... =_="

Anonymous said...

They are just trying their luck all year round? =_=

Victor said...

You received yours again yesterday? So it looks like they not only try their luck all year round but they also start from the top of the list again once they reach the bottom. Haha.

Anonymous said...

Hi Victor,Thanks so much your information.
They just put letter on my font door.and without stamp.

Anonymous said...

Well, now they are called Electric Hub LLP. Signed by Miss Tan B L (BL=wait for nothing). Now they have finally reached Ponggol. LOL

Anonymous said...

hi Victor, Thanks for all the informations. I just received one at my door step today without stamp too. couldn't be bother at all! ha..

Anonymous said...

my mom received the mail (w/o stamp) today from the postman and paid a fine of $1.25 thinking that the letter indicated my dad's full name and might be an impt letter. my dad was so mad when he saw that stupid letter and he's going to take action on it.

Victor said...

Thanks for all your comments and horror stories. Do keep them coming so that other people may be warned.

Anonymous said...

thanks victor for taking the time and effort to share your experience... i have received such letter and you have help me saved my day..:) god bless you.

Anonymous said...

hi.today i received the same letter.. very suspicious that's why i googled it and found ur blog..thanks for the info.. below are the company details: ELECTRIC HUB LLP - blk 3014 Bedok North Ave 4 #03-2158 S489980 Tel 6246-2110/6444-5670.. the letter is signed by Miss Jennabel Yeo - Manager... hope more ppl will be aware of this..

Victor said...

Thanks for your comments. When I blogged about this experience last year, I never expected such an overwhelming response from all of you. Hmm... looks like the company has not run out of 35mm toy cameras, eh?

Anonymous said...

wow. its my turn. u noe wad victor, u cld now earn money out of this post. by posting advertisements for other electrical companies or some gov anti fraud sites lol.

It says its the last reminder and please collect your free gift personally. This letter is almost so authentic and real, but I have just reported another china woman calling me lately telling me I won a lucky draw of $100,000. These ppl are really good in understanding human psychology. It is quite a smart scam too; old ppl likely to fall for it.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Until today this hungry ghost still around!
BTW I received my "LAST REMINDER" yesterday!

Victor said...

To All Readers,

Thank you for all your comments. I have just written an email to CASE (complaints@case.org.sg) giving feedback about this company. (The email is reproduced below.) I'll update this post if I get a reply from them.

"Dear Sir,

Last year, I received a letter from a local company declaring that I have won a lucky draw prize and asking me to go down to their premises and claim it. The address and contact details in the letter were:

Blk 3014 Bedok North Ave 4 #03-2158 S489980
Tel 6246-2110/6444-5670.

I called up the company to find out more details and was told that I have won a camera prize (from points converted from my purchases at Courts). When I turned up at their premises, the prize turned out to be a cheap toy-like plastic 35mm film camera which nobody sells now and which I would rather not claim. The person who attended to me then tried to sell me a home entertainment system and some pots and pans but I did not take up his offer.

Although the company may not have committed any offense but its method of luring customers is unethical to say the least. It is a matter of time before some people fall for its trick (some may already have). I believe this is one of the companies which keeps CASE very busy.

I have blogged about this incident last year. (Read more details about the incident and readers' feedback here: http://victorkoo.blogspot.com/2006/10/offer-too-good-to-be-true.html). Since then I have been receiving readers' comments regularly that the company is still in operation. (The latest comment was received just today.) From readers' feedback, the letters from the company were so far signed by a "Miss Tan B L" or a "Miss Jennabel Yeo - Manager".

I would be grateful if CASE could highlight this company in its newsletter or in the media so that consumers will be wary of its questionable marketing tactics.

Thanks and Warmest Regards,

Victor Koo."

Anonymous said...

Thanks Victor.
I was suspicious when I received the letter last weekend.Out of curiosity, I googled "ELECTRIC HUB LLP" and found your blog.
The letter use my real name which i usually won't reveal on those street surveys, nor did i filled in any contest form for the past one yr. Even the Comex lucky draw i'm not using my Full name.So i really curious where they get this address n my full name, beside that i sign up starhub maxonline using my ID with current address and Bank account, i don't think there's any other company know my full name with current address, as i just moved to current place 1 yr plus.looks like some make just sold my info to those unwelcomed parties.
Thank you for raising the issue to CASE, but since u are not getting any financial lost nor having any deal with the above mentioned "Company", i doubt CASE would really help in this case.
Just hope that there won't be many ppl who get into their trap.

Victor said...

Thanks Wayne. No reply from CASE yet except an acknowledgement from "Lim Lan" who said that they have noted the matter.

Ah... I also signed up with Starhub MaxOnLine in Dec 2005. Could this be a common thread that runs through all of us? If so, then Starhub certainly owes us an explanation and apology.