Thursday, 30 May 2013

Let Me Get You Some Comps...

If it sounds too good to be true, it most definitely is too good to be true. There is no such thing as a free lunch or even a free ebook for that matter. To explain why, I will need to take you back to Vegas with me. It is was the first morning after we had arrived and we were both eager to get stuck into the action. Cue Rodney. This was the name of one of the many casino workers who prowl the floors looking for naive tourists. It did not take long for him to spot us.

'Is this your first time in Vegas' he asked me, as I was still trying to figure out the internal architecture of the pyramid that we had just entered.

'Er yes,' I tentatively replied, whilst unconsciously placing a protective hand over my money belt.

'In that case, let me get you some comps,' he said.

We were led to a desk just outside of the main casino, were we were introduced to Joan. She asked if we were interested in seeing any shows whilst we were in Vegas. It turned out that she could get us tickets for anything that we wanted to see free of charge. She then asked if we liked food (is there really more than one answer to that question?) It also turned out that she could get us some vouchers for a free meal. Now I know what you are thinking - there has to be a catch right? I was thinking the same thing myself.

'What's the catch?' I asked.

'No catch,' replied Joan. 'Everything is entirely free. You pay nothing. We simply want to make sure that our guests receive the best possible treatment whilst staying with us.'

I decided against telling her that we were not guests of the hotel. We were staying in the medieval castle across the road. If you have been to Vegas, you will know the one that I am talking about - it overlooks the Statue of Liberty.

'In that case, I love food and shows,' I told her.

During the next twenty or so minutes she talked us through all of the dining and show options and helped us to make our choices. Once everything had been booked she asked for a $50 deposit.

Spot the clue that all was not as it seemed.

Did you find it? Thought so. It was the $50 deposit on a zero fee. She informed me that this was fully refundable, but that she had to take it as a formality (I would find out why later). She then asked if I liked luxury hotels. It then transpired that in order to receive our comps (and $50 refund) we would have to go on a tour of a new development that would take up just 2 hours of our time. Apparently, the developers were looking for opinions and feedback on the resort only and that was why we were being comped so generously. Naively, I paid the deposit ($150 worth of freebies for 2 hours was a good deal) and signed up.

We were booked onto the 10 'clock tour. It left fifteen minutes late, took fifteen minutes to arrive at the resort and we then had a further fifteen minutes wait for our guide to come and meet us. That should have left just an hour for the tour when the fifteen minute return trip was factored in.

Our guide was a Las Vegas native named Maya. She introduced herself and then laid out the basic structure of our 3 hour tour.

'3 hours?' I queried. 'We were told two and we have already been here for 45 minutes.'

'Well you've heard wrong,' replied Maya, her tone pointing the blame for any misunderstanding firmly at my door. 'This here tour is 3 hours, but it can sometimes go on a little longer.'

Katie and I exchanged a nervous look. We had not budgeted for any more than the original two hours as we needed to get to the County Court to pick up our marriage license. We should have left then and there, but the $50 deposit and the prospect of a fifteen  minute taxi fare prevented us.

The first part of our tour was an hour long presentation from a failed actress named Kembra. The presentation was on Timeshares. This was the first time that there had been any mention of this. Kembra though, was an entertaining host. All of the guests present were couples and she created a feel good, loved up atmosphere. She also promised that we would not be placed under any pressure to sign anything. Following the presentation, Maya spent two hours showing us the complex. We were well over time, but with no intention of buying anything, all that was left was to say no, pick up our comps and go home. This proved to be the longest part of the day.

Maya would not take no for an answer. The whole time she insisted that she was not pressuring us to buy, but that it would break her heart if we missed out on such a terrific deal ($39,000 and a yearly fee of $199 for a 1 in 52 share of a holiday apartment fifteen minutes from the strip, when a week at a hotel on strip could easily be found for less than the $199). After 30 minutes of refusals, she explained that only her manager could sign off on our comps. "Rules is rules".

Lindley, Maya's manager was a busy man it seemed. It took him 30 minutes to finally come to us. Did he sign off on our comps? Of course he did not. He just lowered the offer to $25,000 before making a quick exit. It took 30 minutes for him to return, at which time I firmly explained that we will say no to all offers and that we have wasted enough time already. His response? $9,500 and a double length ownership share of 2 weeks. He then left for another 30 minutes. When he returned, my response is not printable as I am writing this pre-watershed. I actually suspected that they were deliberately procrastinating in the hope that we would walk out and forego our deposit/comps.

After a lengthy argument, Lindley finally caved and signed our papers. He then let us know that not only were we bad people for wasting his time, but that poor Maya would never forgive herself for the horrendous cost we would have to bear for all future holidays. We were then told to take our signed papers to a room downstairs. Here, a lady added a stamp of approval before ushering us into a waiting room full of other, equally angry couples. The wait this time - 30 minutes.

By the time that we finally got our refund, our tickets and our meal voucher we had wasted more than 6 hours of our time. With only four days in Vegas, this was time that could certainly have been used more productively. We paid a lot to fly out to Vegas for that holiday and to lose such a large part of that begs the question as to whether the comps were free after all. Time is, as they say, money. With 6 and a half hours, we could have seen a lot more of Vegas or even just stayed in the hotel and read a novel.

This brings me onto the subject of book giveaways. Despite making no income from a giveaway, writers love them, because the potential of gaining readers and reviews can be immense.

Is it a good deal for the reader though?

Well, the answer to that question all depends on the quality of the book. Uninterrupted, an average length novel can be read in 6-7 hours (about the same time as a timeshare sales pitch). That is a lot of time for a reader to commit to. Losing that time in Vegas annoyed me greatly and why should it be any different for somebody who wastes it on an awful story. It does not necessarily have to be a bad book either. Just mismatching reader to genre can lead to disappointment and ultimately bad reviews. I know that if there was a process to review my awful waste of time on the timeshare sales, I would not hold back. Why then should a reader, who has lost just as much of their time?
So the important thing to remember, is that the next time that you offer your book for free, there is still a price to be paid. The reader will be paying, but with time rather than money. Never therefore, give anything away that is not at the same standard as that which you would charge for. Writer's are not the only ones who have a voice and if you waste a reader's time, they may just use theirs...

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  1. Excellent point. I have read a lot of bad freebies as well as ones that just didn't appeal to me enough to warrant a complete read.

    I tend to simply not review if I don't like something and review only if I do. This is deliberate, as I enjoy writing and want to stay a writer and have no interest in becoming a critic.
    The one exception is when I buy something that is simply someone else's book (out of copyright) with a few bits of random text inserted here and there, or a book full of addresses and other rubbish inserted to 'fill pages.'

  2. I think that as writers it is sometimes difficult to write a harsh review because we tend to assume that others will have put as much work into writing as we do ourselves. It may sound ridiculous, but I actually feel guilty sometimes when I do not finish a book. With that in mind, I think that I can forgive poor or mediocre writing, but lazy writing, where I can tell that the author's heart is not really in it does annoy me.

    I definitely agree abut the filler pages. I have read quite a few traditionally published novels that are clearly just novellas that have had unnecessary (and irrelevant) subplots added at the editing stage just to fill them out and bump up the price.