Like most people, I normally throw away the junk mail special offers that fill our mailbox every week.
But on Tuesday, one offer caught my eye.
Airfare and three days, two nights free at any destination in the continental U.S., the postcard read.
It seems someone was celebrating their birthday. I assumed it was Travelocity, a service Ive never used, although Im sure its a very nice service. But as I read the small print - and I do mean it was small - I realized the offer being made wasnt coming from Travelocity, even though that was the most prominent name on the card. Turns out, I was being pitched by a travel agency in Cary..
In little, itty-bitty letters set over a colorful balloon, the card noted that Travelocity and the airlines and hotel companies mentioned in the postcard were not sponsors of the offer.
That led me to re-read the card and I noticed a few other little caveats. First, the offer promised me round-trip airfare on three well-known airlines. But the card also noted that the airfare might be on board a comparable airline. And the hotels made the same offer. A guest and I could stay in a hotel such as one of three well-known establishments whose names we recognized.
But wait. There was more. In addition to all that free stuff, I was going to receive a rental car free for three days plus a $50 hotel cash gift card. When I read that, I started falling all over myself reaching for the phone.
I called the number on the card and a nice man named Kevin answered.
He told me he would need to ask several questions to make sure I was qualified.
Uh-oh, I thought. What if I dont qualify?
My perfectly-free trip might swirl down the drain. I was dripping with anticipation to find out whether I would qualify.
He asked me if I was married. Yep, I said. First qualification hurdle cleared, I figured.
What is your email address, he asked. Hmmm. I suggested we skip that question until we determined I was qualified. I could see my email inbox filling with unwanted solicitations.
No problem, Kevin said. All you will need to do is present yourself at the Cary office of the travel agency thats sponsoring this event and provide them with two forms of ID, a drivers license and a credit card thats not a debit card or a cash card,
Being full-fledged American citizens and all, my wife and I both have drivers licenses. But the credit card thing. Nope, I told Kevin. We dont have a credit card.
He questioned me about that, mentioning for the umpteenth time in our short conversation, that they only sent the offer to pre-screened people who were shown to have a credit card. Are you sure you dont have any credit cards? Maybe your wife has one you dont know about.
Being somewhat familiar with our family finances, I assured Kevin that we were credit card-less.
He seemed disappointed... for a second.
But then, in a rapid-fire about face, he allowed as to how they have another offer that was for people just like us, who didnt have credit cards.
Tiring of the game, I told him I wasnt interested in any deal other than the one of the postcard and he politely ended the conversation and hung up.
In retrospect, I wish I had followed him just a little way down that other path. I could have probably gotten an all-expenses-paid trip to some exotic North Carolina destination like Ahoskie.
Alas, Ill never know. The old adage is true, I suppose. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.