…by Tijjani Muhammad Musa
Immediately we emerged from the prayer room, we were ushered into a makeshift movie preview room, where together with other possible clienteles we were shown a film on how their organization started. Most of us did not comprehend the preview before it abruptly ended. So, all of us ended up a little bit more confused than when we went in. At least we did.
We then went back to our host’s table, sat in the two available chairs and waited for his return. He seemed to have gone for some documents with which to attend to us. Soon, he was back and we commenced our discussions, after being offered nothing to drink.
Across the open office floor design, all the other couples and guys we were earlier in the reception lounge with could be seen undergoing similar process. Tahir launched into explaining what their tourism outfit was all about.
Thereafter he relaxed and engaged us in a casual, yet very guided, purposeful conversation. He liked us Nigerians and made considerable progress selling us their packages. Sadly for him, the Hausas from Northern Nigeria seemed to resist his marketing charms as he has not been able to register one successful deal with them. Wondering why, he however hoped with us, he would break the jinx.
I offered him an explanation as to why most Hausas would be reluctant to buy his offer. The holiday concept he was offering to us was foreign to our psyche as a people. As an ethnic group, the idea of going on holiday from work or family simply does not exist.
“The only way we can take a break from our life chores and routine is if we travel for one reason or another. It could be for business or for family matters, but never as a getaway for a break or pleasurable indulgence.
And the fact that the offer is virtual, not physical or tangible is another off limit for most traditionalists amongst us. We prefer to see and touch, then buy and possess it physically. So, telling us to come and buy a week of holiday time, to be spent anytime we choose, anywhere in the world, in a hotel of our choice just for fun is a little bit confusing. That’s why you are finding it hard to break the ice with us.”
My elucidation didn’t sink in with him as he just listened to me in order not to be rude, for his mind took off in another marketing direction as he started showing us from his computer screen some fabulous and exotic holiday locations around world to further convince us to buy a holiday week, which we should be set enjoy anytime we wish in the future.
The idea sounded good due to its subsidy of the package compared to going about it the conventional way. 5 star accommodation against our 3 star option. Cheaper air fares and in first class rather than economy class. Choice and exotic destinations instead of what your money can afford were tantalizingly laid out before us.
He was succeeding in impressing it upon us and seeing we were inclining towards his offer, he dropped the big one, his one million dollar question; if we like his presentation, how much would we be willing to invest? To let him know he has done a good marketing job, after consulting with my wife briefly I said “Assuming I like it, I’d gladly offer $2,000 (USD)” wearing a smile.
That made him stop in his track. All of a sudden he was out of his seat and quick as a fox entered his superior’s office. Not knowing exactly what he must have told her, Lucy, a thin, tall Arabian, but westernized woman accompanied him out and took over the negotiation. And unfortunately for them, that spoilt it all. Why? She has no manner of approach and her rudeness killed our interest outright.
In her eagerness to go for the kill, we tactically slipped off their hook. She wanted us to make a commitment immediately by depositing a part of the amount we mentioned. I told her we are not carrying cash, but credit cards. She demanded for it to initiate a transaction and I told her, we are in Dubai based on a travelling plan and that plan did not include the expenses she wanted us to incur, so it’d be detrimental to our schedule.
This stance immediately annoyed her and she decided to embarrass me into compliance. She said if I had no money to offer, I shouldn’t be playing with them. I told her that I ain’t playing with no one. I was asked if I was convinced with the presentation and were to put a stake on it how much would I be willing to put in and I said “Assuming I were to subscribe to it, I’m convinced enough to commit $2000.”
She threw her arms in the air excitedly and said “There you go! You said you’ll pay $2000, so why you decline now? Hmm, why?” And I calmly replied “Because I didn’t say so.” She looked at me dumb founded. So I explained that I said “Assuming…” lifting my hands in the air and making a quote sign “…” and so do not mean what they concluded. I want to believe their usage or understanding of English is not so vast.
This got her annoyed her further and trying very hard to control her anger, she tried to start the presentation all over again in order to convince us to give them something. She even suggested $500, only this time she addressed her talk towards my wife, warning me not to interfere, at the end of which she demand that my spouse make me make a commitment.
Having come 20 years together, my spouse smiled politely at her and said “When it comes to decisions like this with strangers, most especially about money, I trust him to decide for us.” So, she swallowed her pride and turned to look at me. Averting her gaze, I said “This is between you two and as you instructed, I’m not going to get involved.”
Well, that busted her control bubble as she repeated that they are busy people and do not want their time wasted by people who have no money to spend. I smiled at her ignorance, then produce 2 Mastercards, one personal in my name and the other official in our company’s name. I told I have all the money to pay for my offer, but I will not. Reason being that it is an expense not budgeted for. And by principle, we do not do that as a family.
She was not done with us and started saying something about my being rude and stuffs like that. So, I tendered our sincere apology if she found our resolve disarraying. But not before I reminded her that we were there based on their invitation and as their guests, we deserve all the hospitality and tolerance they can muster, until we leave. But her attitude and behavior was unprofessional and quite disheartening and I politely told her so.
She said we can leave now and not to forget to collect our tickets that will facilitate our free gifts. I stood up, reached for my wife’s hand and told Lucy, that we don’t want her free gifts. She can keep it. Much as she insisted we collect the tickets, the much we equally rejected it. Thus we left and moments later down stairs, our taxi man came after I called him and soon we were gone from the place.
Once inside the taxi, the driver wanted to hear what transpired between us and I made it brief that he was right, they are fraudsters. Thanking him for his earlier warning, we were able to avoid their scam. He took us back to our hotel, where we paid him his chattered private taxi fare, half in dirhams and the rest in dollars.
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