“Pay Rs 50 through so-and-so website and earn Rs 30 as cashback,” the advertisement promises. I double-check to make sure I’ve read correctly; there’s no mistake. If I pay 50 bucks for something, they’ll simply hand Rs 30 back to me. Then, I notice three small words at the end of the message: T&C apply. And, I’m reminded once again that there’s no free lunch.
Speaking of food, let me tell you of an impromptu dinner party that I had recently. My brother and his wife were visiting and I thought it would be fun to order in some pizza. We had been on a no-ordering out regimen for the last two months, and this seemed like a perfect occasion to break out of it.
The kids hurray at this rare generosity, and so, I immediately get on my laptop and do what I’ve been doing whenever I want to buy/order/browse for something — check coupondunia.com and others for the best deals of the day. (Psst: for those poor souls who’ve been left untouched by the online shopping tsunami, these sites help track down the best deals, so that even before you start checking out the many competing options, you have a platter of discounts, codes and vouchers to choose from.)
Coupondunia obliges. Freecharge is offering a 25 per cent discount on all orders at our favourite pizza joint and after logging in, transferring money into Freecharge from my bank — the bank servers now have us at their mercy just like their staff did in the good old days — I finally place the order: a few margheritas, a couple of pizzas with chicken salami and some garlic bread. The total bill is around Rs 1,400 and I calculate that after 25 per cent off, I’ll be paying just a little over Rs 1,000. Awesome!
The kids keep yelling for me to join them at the table tennis game in progress upstairs. “Coming!” I shout back, my fingers flying across the keyboard; it’s been 20 minutes since the guests have arrived, but, aside from waving them upstairs, I’ve seen nothing of them yet.
“Coupon not valid,” the message insists. I try again. And again. No use. There’s a number at the bottom of the screen and I promptly dial Customer Care. “But I don’t want to order a pizza on the phone. I just need help with my online order,” I explain to the woman who insists that I place my order with her. “Call the helpline,” she responds.
I want to shout back, but I rein myself in and call back. “Sorry, ma’am,” the young man who hears me out informs me. “This coupon code isn’t valid for basic pizzas.” Of course, all the pizzas I’ve ordered are “basic”. I suddenly remember that I had paid my Tata Sky bill online last month as they’d promised a bunch of discount coupons for online purchases. Now, there were a set of 20 per cent discount vouchers for this very same pizza company in my inbox, waiting to be used.
The young man is also enthused by this information and helpfully states that discount vouchers as against the more humble coupons can definitely be used to order all kinds of pizzas, even basic ones. Of course, my order is now too old to be processed and I’ve to log in all over again and reorder everything. At last, I’m back on the payment page and I triumphantly type in the voucher code.
“Voucher not valid,” the pop-up informs me politely. “It’s not valid,” I holler down the phone (impolitely).The young man and I go through the payment page three times, and, finally, the poor fellow gives up. “Sorry ma’am, you’ll have to call Tata Sky. The voucher should have worked…” I think back on the times I’ve tried to call them for more desperate reasons, and my nerve ends shrivel and die.
I take a deep breath, punch in “pay by cash” and place the order. Of course, cash payments these days are for lowlifes who deserve no offers, and so, we will be coughing up the full Rs 1,400. My brother would probably have to foot the bill as I never have any cash on me nowadays, but, at least, I can join the family again.
A pleasant half hour passes in a flash and we head down, hungry and sweaty, all ready for a nice, hot slice of cheesy goodness. But there’s no sign of the delivery boy. I instruct Offspring No. 1 to call them. He protests a bit, but then gives in. “Mama, I don’t know what he’s saying,” he returns and waves the phone in my face. Normally, it’s a moment where I’d lose my cool and shout at him to get with the plot, but I’m in a strange mood and I take over. “No order placed, madam,” someone barks down the phone. They all sound similar — rude. “But I’ve got a message saying that the money’s been debited,” I yell back. (Maybe, it has something to do with their customers.) He says it will be credited back later. There’s no order on record for this mobile number. I instruct him to check for my landline number, but that’s a dud too.
And so, for the hundredth time this evening, I repeat the order, this time down a phone line. The doorbell rings almost as I disconnect. It’s the pizza guy. I call back to cancel and the agent discovers that the only reason that the order was not registered was because someone had entered the last two digits of my mobile number wrong.
The pizzas are terrible, but we eat them determinedly. “Next time, we will just eat tasty home food, Mama,” the younger brat whispers kindly. I nod, my mind preoccupied with the best way to get my hands around someone’s neck in Tata Sky who can answer for the five discount vouchers that lie unused in my inbox. In the meantime, Paytm is promising 100 per cent cash back if I fill up at the nearest petrol pump and it’s time to end this party.
PS: I later discover that the cashback at the gas station was valid only up to Rs 50. My account was credited with the grand sum of Rs 7.50 after I’d filled gas for Rs 1,000. After all, like the first-born scoffed when I told him this, “Which fool will give you the full amount back?” Which fool indeed!
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