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One year, one prize, 5,000 miles – the stressful adventure of Gerson Ruiz’s iPad

August 23, 2014

This is the story of an iPad. This iPad formed a very important part of a very important membership survey by Hostelling International.

iPad

Tatsuo Yamashita/Flickr

A prize was its role, and the aim for the competition was very clear – pick a winner following the survey and send out the coveted prize.

Simple, you may say, however no one, in anyone’s wildest dreams, ever envisioned our Venezuelan winner would be receiving his prize in August 2014, ten months after the survey competition finished.

Unfortunately we’ve rather ruined the ending of this adventure, but there’s much more to this story then a staff member from Hostelling International popping into the local post office and getting an iPad sent to the other side of the world.

Let’s take you back to November 2013:

Back in Time

JD Hancock/Flickr

In order to gauge how satisfied members were with the membership scheme, HI released a survey. This survey automatically entered the participant into a prize draw to win a brand new iPad.  After Gerson Ruiz, from Barcelona, Anzoategui  in Venezuela was pulled out of a hat, the marketing team at our cosy small town office in England spent time researching the best way safely propel the prize over 4000 miles away.

WGC to Venezuela

This is where the fun really began (brace yourself) – there’s no Apple Store in Venezuela, serious problem. We couldn’t send the money to Gerson, as there’s currently a blockade in the South American country, another serious problem (stress levels rising). You can’t insure something like an iPad to be sent overseas, yet another serious problem (embolism now possible).

With no one able to get it to him in the local area, we needed options before it took so long the term iPad became as quaint as the rotary phone.

Rotary Phone

romana klee/Flickr

We had no intention of letting poor Gerson down so the team hatched an ingenious plan (it now being 3 months later) – we asked our friends at HI-USA to purchase said iPad and get it to Gerson’s brother in Florida.  This worked at first, as Gerson’s brother had a depot post-box and it arrived there in the middle of March. Predictably, like many movie adventures, the story wasn’t as simple as that:  questioning the validity of the shipping documents, the depot refused to release the iPad (searing pain from stress now!)

At this point, the stress had been replaced with determined exhaustion. Very firm letters were sent to this depot from the HI CEO explaining its purpose and that the prize isn’t exactly a bomb threat.

A number of months passed before we heard anything from Gerson, until August, when a short email arrived from the man himself – “Hola! iPad now received!”

There were tears of joy, church bells rang, all the New Year’s rolled into one for everyone at HI. We could finally put this whole adventure to bed, the journey had been done, the book was closing and we were delighted Gerson had finally got his hands on the iPad.

However, like the final scene in Lord of the Rings, this journey wasn’t quite finished. We wanted hard proof. On Wednesday 20th August 2014, we received just that, the very best prize imaginable – an email containing a dimly lit photo of Gerson holding his iPad with pride.

Gerson Ruiz


Do you have any exciting/stressful stories about sending something overseas? Tell us about it by dropping a comment in the box below, or sending your stories by email to socialmedia@hihostels.com.

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