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Bali scam (longish)

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A recent Fodors bulletin about popular scams prompted me to post this. It was going to be part of my trip report, but that's grossly overdue, so I'll post this out of context.

Nobody likes to admit they’ve been suckered, but if nobody owns up, nobody will be warned. In our defence, at least we didn’t buy.

Here’s how it went. It’s June last year, we’re in Sanur, haven’t got any plans for the afternoon and decide to pick up a few things at the supermarket, Hardy’s Grosir on the main drag, Jl. Danau Tamblingan. As we walk out, we’re accosted by a pleasant young man handing out win-a-prize tickets, courtesy of the Bali Tourism Board or some such. The prizes are a Sony video camera, or US$500 in cash, or a week in a resort. Amazingly, we win the camera! All we have to do to claim our prize is attend a one-hour presentation on Bali tourism, with a cab there and back provided. In fact, he’ll escort us, because he gets to claim extra commission for selling the winning ticket.

Anyway, we’re whisked off to an office on Jl. Uluwatu in Jimbaran, about 15 minutes away, where we’re excitedly informed that “our manager, Chris, will see you! He’s Australian too!” (oh, goody).

After registering at the reception desk we’re greeted by a genial Chris, who ushers us into a large room filled with desks, all occupied by obvious company representatives talking to mostly Asian couples. From the “Royal Resorts” posters on the walls it’s clear that this operation has nothing to do with any tourism authority.

“Chris” sits us down, orders coffee and with no sense of urgency starts a meandering monologue dealing mostly with his past career in Adelaide, his family and his decision to move to Bali. As an old salesman myself I can see we’re in the rapport-building phase, which I can do without. Eventually, after quite a bit of prodding, he comes reluctantly to the point, which is an outlandish timeshare offer involving several weeks of guaranteed luxury accommodation every year in one of Royal Resorts’ many properties or, through reciprocal deals, hundreds of others of staggering luxury - chateaux in France, villas in Tuscany, a Manhattan club - for a tiny charge.

Time drags, and our increasingly testy attempts to extract the price of this once-in-a-lifetime offer are getting nowhere as our new best friend doggedly grinds through his script. We’re introduced to his boss, a decidedly unpleasant-looking New Zealander, the sales pitch groans on, and we allow ourselves to be taken off to see an example of a Royal Resorts property, a moderately flash apartment in a gated complex not far away. Later I suspect that it’s been rented for the purpose.

I suppose a sensible person would have left well before now. Probably some long-dead Scottish ancestor was sending me a message from beyond the grave.

Back in the office, the pressure is ratcheted up. To take advantage of this staggering opportunity we must sign on the dotted line right now, or miss out on a golden opportunity. Of course we can have our lawyer back in Australia review the contract and bail out then if we want to, but on no account can we take it away unsigned, nor will we get anything in writing summarising the deal, or even a hint of the bottom line.

At this point we politely inform “Chris” that we’ve had our intelligence insulted enough for one day and would appreciate our promised taxi back to Sanur. Faced with our churlish ingratitude our new mate’s demeanour turns frosty; his boss, informed in sorrowful tones of our failure, turns downright nasty and fixes us with a malevolent glare when I tell him that despite having been silly enough to turn up here, we haven’t come down in the last shower.

Of course the company’s entire stock of Sony Handycams has vanished, but not to worry – the consolation prize is a week in a probably non-existent Royal Resorts property in Goa. Subject to availability, that is. We also get a dinner voucher (worth the grand sum of perhaps $20) and the promised taxi.

On the way out we notice that business is still brisk – a few Westerners but many more Asians, some possibly Javanese tourists, are getting the treatment. And they’re still coming through the door. I’m sure they’ve all won the camera.

Incidentally, if you Google “royal resorts scam” you’ll see that this crowd has been very active. Quite a few people claim to have been screwed by them.

Anyway, be warned.

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