It is very common in the malls of Delhi like EDM or pacific to find some soft spoken rep approaching you to fill up a questionnaire and get a chance to win free 2N / 3D holidays. In the last six months we had filled up such forms 4 times and has supposedly won 3 times. On the earlier two occasions we had declined. But after the claimed to be pleasant experience of my colleague Vaskar, who enjoyed a 2N/3D holiday at the Club Mahindra resort at Manali last month, we also thought of giving it a try. The problem is that people often do not share the embarrassing or irritating part of their experience. Had he shared the fact the he had to go through an unforgettable experience to get the voucher, I might not have gone there.
We reached the Club Mahindra office at the Centre Stage Mall in NOIDA on our appointed time. The office looked more like a cafeteria with small round tables all around. Only difference is that each of the table had a PC. Most of the tables were occupied by a couple on one side and a Mahindra rep on the other. We were welcomed by Sashi, one of the rep. He started in his routine by trying to get friendly with us. A questionnaire handed out to us reminded that the process may take upto 90 min. We were also told that irrespective of the outcome of the session we are guaranteed a voucher for 2N/3D holiday in a select resort of limited choice. As I was in no mood to sit for 90 min after sitting out 8 hours in the office, I told Sashi that I know a little about the concept of Club Mahindra as I visited their stall in some fair in Dehradun. But the poor fellow has a job to defend. So continued with his routine and showed us very bad resolution videos of some of the resorts. My objective was to get the free gift voucher, but his objective was to entice me to become a member. As time passed by, this gap of conflicting interests continued to widen and reached a point where Sashi had to tell me that I am probably getting bored. Without being diplomatic, I replied in the affirmative and told him to give the voucher. By that time he had eat up more than 90 min and had spoilt my entire evening or at least some part of it which I could have spent in the mall. I saw an elderly couple left midway telling they do not so much time to waste. But I was of the opinion that I had already wasted so much of time that it would be foolish to leave without the voucher. Finally after another wait of 15 min. or so we were handed over the voucher. Now we can go on a 3D/2N holiday with free stay only to one of the following places – Munnar, Manali, Binsar and Coorg. It is to be availed on selected days upto march, 2007. Not much of choice for me as I have been to Munnar 2 years back and to Kausani (very close to Binsar) last year. Coorg is too far down south. So only option left is Manali. It is almost 6 years since I had visited Manali. So may be I will head for Manali. According to my friend Vaskar, the Ckub mahindra resort at Manali is about 4 km from the Mall though the Mahindra rep will tell you it is only 2 km. He had to pay for food only which was not that costlier. However commuting to the town was a problem as it was bit off the track and autos charge about 50 bucks for each trip.
Here is what you need to know so that next time you get an offer, you remained informed. In the entire 90 min of discussion / presentation, Sashi remained tight lipped about the cost of membership. I kept prodding him, as I knew it is very costly, much beyond reach of average Indians. Finally he told me when the discussion was over and I made it clear that I am not interested. Believe me, it is a whopping Rs.1,87,000/-. Yes that is what the cost of membership. In addition to that you will have to pay almost Rs.7000/- every year as maintenance charges. This means the total cost for the 25 years membership is more than Rs.3.5 lakh. Now you understand why they were doling out handycams for free. This membership promises 7 days holidays every year for the next 25 years in the 13 existing Club Mahindra resorts across India and 2 abroad. Besides Club Mahindra being a member of RCI, you can also go for vacation in other places where Mahindra do not have a resort. But for that you will have to pay almost Rs.4,000/- if that resort is in India and Rs.10,000/- if it is outside India. This is lot of money. How many in India can afford such luxury?
I told Sashi point blank that the concept is not for India. We do not holiday to sit out 7 days at a secluded resort. We visit places to explore what is around. In most cases we come back to the room only at night. So in a 7 day holiday we would be covering at least 2 locations and would involve a maximum of 4 nights of stay. You can get good hotels paying 750 to 1000 rupees. This means you would be spending only 4000, say a maximum of 5000 rupees as staying charges. Compare this to Rs.7000/- per year for Club Mahindra. Add the additional 4000 if you are going to a place where Club Mahindra do not have a resort, say Darjeeling. All these information I provided are here are not available on Club Mahindra’s website. Earlier these were available in their brochure. But fearing the fact that seeing the price scares most people away, they have removed this information from brochure as well. Now they try to talk prospective client into membership.
The concept of Club Mahindra claims that that they gave 5 star class accommodation for this price. I said the concept holds good only for those who can afford 5 star hotels not for average tourist. I told Sashi that Lodging charges comes third in the total expenses for a trip. My experience says the major expenses in holidaying consist of traveling followed by food. I told him of my holiday in Kerala where we traveled during the day and arrive at a town only in the evening for overnight stay. It would be absolute foolishness for someone to sit out 7 days at Munnar alone. Sashi understood that I am an experienced traveler and there is no point arguing with me. He gradually started to agree with me and was happy to see me off as soon as possible. I asked him how many clients he had attended that day. He told me that I am the only one for him that day as they normally invites couples who can come only in the evening. I wish him better luck next time.
So, guys this was an evening to remember. Club Mahindra will call only couples, not singles. If you are a bachelor, you need not worry. But if you get a chance for a free stay, grab it. All you need to do is to decide beforehand whether you can afford to be a member or not. If not you can cut short the pain for both the parties.
A Follow up (Added on 18/02/2007):
I had observed that this post had attracted several observation. So I thought of adding something to it. In fact someone had even posted two yahoo groups to ndicate there are good experiences as well. I had willingly let that comment appear on this post. I had visited the links and found nothing to cheer about. I still held that Club Mahindra is a highly impractical holiday options for 90% Indians. It is meant for those filthy rich with lot of money to spare. This is my personal opinion. May be some other have different views! I had let the Free Holiday Voucher lapsed as (i) it was not possible to avail them on weekends (ii) the places offered were not attractive as I have visited 2 of the four offered under the scheme. Anyway, most of us are mature enough to whether to fell for the bite!