A string of robbery and hold-up incidents in Bacolod City gave rise to the hashtag #BacolodisNotSafeAnymore just recently.
The police and the government have since increased their visibility around the city, and some suspects had already been apprehended. I guess we all feel just a little bit safer. I personally have thankfully not experienced such crimes in my years of roaming around the streets of Bacolod.
However, I got a taste of feeling not too safe from where I expected it the least– SM Bacolod.
It is not the typical knife-or-gun-to-your-side robbery, but it felt like it for sure. At least for me, it was my time that was robbed. Also, thankfully it was just that– my time.
Let me tell you a story that serves two purposes:
One, to warn those who are just like me– naive and sometimes forgetful how cunning others can be.
Second, to let those who had experienced this before know that it is still happening, and no one is stopping them. Here’s a rough summary of my personal experience:
One rainy afternoon, I decided to buy some stuff at a mall’s department store when I was approached by this sophisticated-looking lady who asked me if I was 21 years old already. What? Of course I am. I politely said “Yes.” This was my first mistake… and the beginning of a terrible end to my day, since I was not feeling 100% physically.
I avoid these people like a plague, and have successfully done so for the past 27 years, but I guess there’s always a first time for everything. Having had no previous experience as to how these conversations go, I decided to answer her questions as quickly and as politely as possible.
She then handed me a piece of paper where she asked me to write my name. I asked if all she really needed was my name. A nod. It will be my entry to a trip to Singapore raffle draw. I mentally said, Why not? I later on was strongly reminded of the reason as to why not.
There, I wrote my name. I motioned to leave. Oops, please also write your address, phone number, etc etc. What is going on now? THERE, ALL DONE! I motioned to leave once more. This is why I avoid these guys at all cost. I mentally noted to stick to that next time I’m at the mall. I was feeling a bit vulnerable and testy after having just been from a doctor’s appointment.
I allowed her to rant on for a few more minutes. She explained that she is from Cocolife. She said they have an office just right there at SM. She asked if I have seen it. I said “Yes”, but aren’t you guys selling insurance? She said NO, and clarified that they are a SAVINGS company. She reiterated SAVINGS multiple times. She asked a few more questions and eventually asked me about financials.
I must have qualified for something because she extended her hand for a congratulatory handshake. I looked at her, confused. She said I won!
Won what? Apparently 20K worth of gift certificates! Exciting right? She said she’ll take me to their office to get my “prize” and reminded me to smile wide for the pictures when I finally receive my freebies.
Cocolife is a reputable institution in the Philippines, and I was told very clearly by the lady (probably around 3 times) that all I needed to invest was my TIME to learn about the company and spread the word about them. She mentioned that I do not need to pay for anything to get my reward.
While we were walking to their office, she then asked me out of the blue to get a receipt of my active BPI ATM from a nearby machine. I was taken aback. I was already way in too deep into this than I initially planned for and this is just getting ridiculously fishy. Then, as if I snapped out of a hypnotic trance, it dawned on me: the 20K GC offer was a bait and like I fool, I took it. The agent was sensational at her job (not a compliment in this case, unfortunately). She was goooooood. By good, I meant that she was amazing at leading people on, putting them under a sales pitch spell. Not good in a sense that she values other people’s time and hard earned money.
To make the long story short, I pretended that my ATM did not work, and I will come back some other time. Talk about wasting each other’s time. She already had another agent next to her that was ready to pounce on me. The whole ordeal felt extremely unpleasant and I hated myself for not knowing better.
On my way home, I researched about this strategy and established that Cocolife is legitimate, but these tactics their agents use to lure people in are abhorrent. Some people lose tens of thousands and there was one who even lost over 80k. Apparently, checking the ATM was to ensure that your card is active so they can swipe money from it later on after their agents pressure you into signing up for a plan. Credit card holders are the biggest victims.
Some of real-people experiences are found below:
It just goes to show that not all those who intend bad things wield guns and knives. Not all of them wear ski masks. Some wear ties, nice clothes, and are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing. After reading what sooooo many people had to endure, I felt thankful that I dodged that bullet before the trigger was even pulled. They can hide behind the legalities of their techniques, but the schemes are disgusting and makes me lose a little bit of faith in humanity.
PS: This is not meant as a smear campaign to the company or employees. Rather, it is a warning to help others to be wary and vigilant.
PPS: As I rushed out of the mall (I even neglected to buy what I was supposed to buy), I hailed a taxi and tried to re-compose myself. I felt shaken, but glad it was over. After the driver successfully drove me to the bus station, I handed him the payment and he handed me back my exact change! What a rarity, LOL! Well, faith in humanity restored for now 😉