Our new Wankers of the Week are a French
Well, they've got a bloody strange way of thanking those 1.5 million women for their trust and continued custom. What is the reward for all these dear old biddies, spending their empty afternoons on the sofa with their Afibel catalogue, poring over next year's twin set or tea dress, or carefully selecting which big knickers will cut in at the leg and which won't? Their reward from good old trustworthy Afibel is to be confused, cheated, deliberately misled, bamboozled, built up and then abandoned.
Take, for instance, dear old Edna Fortescue, a widow in her twilight years who lives in a small town, can't drive, doesn't get out much and has no one to turn to for advice in between the infrequent visits from her son and daughter-in-law. She's a nice old bird, a trusting old soul who doesn't have a whole lot of money to spend and not a lot to spend it on as there aren't very many shops she can reach on foot with her three-wheeled walker.
What is Edna to think when she gets a letter through the post from nice, trustworthy Afibel telling her that she's won £1,000? Naturally she's excited, overjoyed – nothing like that has happened to her, not ever in her life. She falls to considering how to spend the money – perhaps she'll send a little cheque, say £50, to her son and daughter-in-law? And another to her daughter in Australia? And £25 to each of her lovely grandchildren, and to the daughter of her hairdresser who is so kind and gives her a trim-and-shampoo in the kitchen every week and even brings her own newspaper to spread on the floor. And a £20 note for Billy the gardener who comes once a fortnight and keeps the lawn trim and the shrubs and fruit-tree pruned, and is always happy to take on other odd jobs. Recently he spent a whole afternoon up a ladder cleaning out gutters and tidying up the roof of the conservatory.
Lost in pleasurable fantasy about the happiness this windfall will bring, it is some time before she thinks to check. Can this really be true? Is someone really going to give her £1,000 for nothing? Does she not have to do anything in return? How come they've chosen her, and not one of their other 1,499,999 customers?
She reads the letter again. “My heartiest congratulations, Mrs.Fortescue!” it begins. “Your date of birth was selected during our 'Great Success of the Year 2013' Campaign. Look quickly, I have sent you a copy of the Named Selection Sheet; it gives all the details of the steps which led to your designation as a Beneficiary. Congratulations the date of 10th September 1924 was indeed selected at the final result!
Open your catalogue quickly for if you discover the winning personalised envelope, then WELL DONE Mrs.Fortescue, you have in your hands the proof that you have won £1,000.”
Then there's a sheet about a free gift - “This Gabriella Vicenza Waterproof jacket, immediately and free of charge with your order”. That's all right, she was going to order something soon anyway, because she always does this time of year, and they're going to give her a nice summer coat for nothing. But the important bit is this – the free offer has her name and address on it, under a bar code - “Mrs.Edna Fortescue, 3 Montgomery House, Monarch Way, Winchester SO22 5PW” - so they really do mean her. It really is her that's won £1,000!
There's also a whole sheet of photos and information about the Gabriella Vicenza jacket, and it looks lovely, a sort of dark sick colour, and all she has to do is put her size on the order form. And there's more: if she wants she can buy for a mere £9 an animated musical model of a little boy clown called Anatole who usually costs £22. Wow, that's a bargain! Anatole comes complete with a Certificate of Guarantee and Authenticity. The winding mechanism and music box are guaranteed against mechanical failure for a year, and the certificate confirms that Anatole's face, hands and feet are made of real porcelain and painted by hand. By a gorilla, from the look of it, but hey, that's art, isn't it? At least it's real porcelain with real paint, not some plastic imitation.
She searches further. Oh yes, here's the envelope for her order. How thoughtful of them! - they've printed their address to save her the trouble, and a little box to show where to put the stamp. And it has “Special Reply Envelope” and some boxes to tick to make it important, and a sticker saying “URGENT” ... oh no, it's not a sticker, it's printed on.
Now here's the order form, and at the top is printed “The Waterproof Jacket was allocated, free of charge, to our customer Mrs.Fortescue. The Waterproof Jacket will be shipped to her immediately on receipt of her order.” And there's the signature of someone called G.Lee – presumably someone very important. And there's a space to stick a round gold sticker. Now, where's the gold sticker? Ah! here it is, stuck to something else. She peels it off and sticks it in the right place on the order form – golly, even this is personalised. It carries the wording “The Waterproof Jacket is allocated to Mrs.Fortescue”.
And at last there's some mention of the £1,000, because there's a box in the corner of the order form with something to tick - “YES, I've discovered that I'm the winner, I have acquainted myself with the terms and condition. Please send me the £1,000”. That's very important, then. She ticks the box, and searches for the terms and conditions.
Ah, here they are. Well, they're not actually called “terms and conditions”. They're “Rules and regulations”, but presumably that's the same thing. Oh dear. They're written in tiny, feint print, and Edna's forgotten where she put her reading glasses.
After a long search she finally discovers her glasses and takes the form into the conservatory where the light is better. But it's all a jumble of formal words and legalistic phrases. Ah, here's a sentence written in plain English: “Each participant owes it to him/herself to pay careful attention to the conditions governing the obtainment of the prizes”. Obtainment – is that a word now? She is sure it wasn't when she was at school. And each participant should pay careful attention – isn't that what she's doing now, by reading this? What kind of advice is that – do what you're already doing?
Ah, now here we get to the nitty-gritty. “The winner of the cheque for £1,000 has been drawn. A personalised envelope has been made out in her name. This personalised envelope has been placed in the winner's catalogue. The other customers receive a non-personalised envelope.”
Edna shivers with excitement. Her senses seem unusually acute today, probably from excitement. For instance, she notices the wording “envelope has been made out in her name”. Not “his or her name”, you notice, but “her name”. That confirms it – they already know the winner is a woman, and obviously that woman is ... herself!
On the back there's another congratulatory letter signed “G.Lee”. This turns out to be the signature of good old Gerald Lee, the Afibel Gifts and Prizes Manager. Good old Gerald, what a generous bloke, giving £1,000 to old ladies. Let's hope good old Gerald sleeps easy at night. (Well actually, let's be quite honest about this. We don't hope he sleeps easy at all. What we hope is that his dreams are terrorised by rapine and torture, that he wakes at fifteen-minute intervals drenched in sweat and rushes to his children's bedroom to make sure they haven't been wrenched apart by the monster who lives behind the toilet, then returns to find his sleeping wife has been abducted and replaced by a hideous succubus dripping with ichor who seizes him and does ... whatever succubi do to men who deserve nothing better. And that he wakes in the morning unrefreshed, that when he stumbles half-awake downstairs his wife is beside herself with vicious rage and throws his breakfast at the wall, his kids are whining and unreasonable, the cat's been sick on his chair and his car won't start. Yes, that's what we hope. That'll do. For a start).
But Edna is still on a high of excitement and anticipation. There's only one thing left to find, and that's her envelope with the prize confirmation inside. It's the last thing left on the table. With bated breath she opens it and feels inside. Yes! A little metal clip, and in the clip ... four miniature bank-notes, each labelled “£250”! This is it! The proof! She's been selected, just her out of all those 1.5 million customers, and she's won £1,000! She almost faints with triumph.
Then she takes a moment to look at the outside of the envelope. Sure enough, there's good old Gerald's signature again, over a red stamp, carefully faded so it looks like a real stamp and not something printed on. And there's the wording “Important. Grand Afibel Banknotes Campaign Concerns the sum of £1,000 intended exclusively for ...” and in script ...”our designated customer”.
Well, there you have it. She knows she's the designated customer because the other sheets have got her own personal name on. She's been picked. She's won. And you can't argue with four miniature bank notes printed “£250”, can you?
It is a bit of a worry, mind, that the envelope spoke of “designated customer”. Why didn't it have her own proper name, Mrs.Edna Fortescue? They'd managed to print that on all the other sheets, so why couldn't they print it on the envelope? They could print good old Gerald's signature on it, but not her name? Oh well, that was a mere detail. She trotted back in to the kitchen to put the kettle on. She'd have a nice cup of tea and a Rich Tea biscuit, and then make out her order form and put a cheque in. Then she'd get her three-wheel walker out and totter up to the post. She wondered how long it would be before the £1,000 arrived.
The GOS says: I think you can make the rest up for yourself, can't you? The envelope wasn't “personalised” with her name so she hasn't actually won any bloody thing. There is a cheque for £1,000, true enough. It's been cashed by a Mrs.G.Lee.
Meanwhile, about 1.5 million dear old ladies whose only mistake has been to buy their clothes from a catalogue called Afibel have received envelopes that contain four £250 notes and are perfectly worthless. None of them had the wit, the experience, the understanding of English, the suspicious minds or the glasses to work out what was really going on and that the whole thing is an outrageous fraud.
Oh yes, we know it's all perfectly legal. The rules and regulations have “barrack room lawyer” all over them, and would no doubt stand in a court of law. Not that any of the 1.5 million biddies have the courage or the cash to take it to court. They're old, they're innocent, they're fair game.
We also know that it's not just Afibel. Dozens of other companies (including the AA and the Readers' Digest) do the same thing. The difference is that this company unapologetically targets elderly customers who were brought up in an age when you didn't suspect everyone, whose eyesight is failing, who typically have little money, who can't get out much, who often have no relatives or friends close at hand to offer advice ... sitting old ducks, you might say.
This is an entirely legal but unscrupulous, vicious trick played by unpleasant people without conscience or decency. No punishment would be too severe for them, and if anyone reading this can think of any suitable retribution, you might just drop a line to ...
1 Apollo Rise
Southwood Business Park
Farnborough GU14 0GT
or to their parent company at
129 rue Colbert
59493 Villeneuve d'Ascq
or go on their website www.Afibelco.uk where you'll find their phone number.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
Copyright © 2013 The GOS