The unknown millionaire

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Above: A detail of artwork assembled from multiple image elements to celebrate DigicelTT’s 777 promotion winner.

BitDepth#1172 for November 22, 2018

The press release announcing the winner of Digicel’s 777 promotion was a little odd and not only because of the appalling Photoshop compositing.

The photo of the winner, typically a celebration of a winner’s joy at landing the grand prize, was quite determinedly pixellated, her face obscured digitally.

This was the end of a series of random draws among the telecommunications provider’s customers that had dispensed more than a hundred thousand dollars in cash, smartphones and phone credit.

Ms C Ragoonanan, who reached out to me by phone after Digicel relayed my interest in her win to her, was bubbling with excitement days after she took the fateful call that let her know that she’d won a million dollars in the company’s draw.

It took the combined efforts of Penny Gomez, the company’s PR Director and Jabbor Kayumov, the new CEO and architect of the company’s refreshed push to reward customers and encourage more switchers, to persuade Ms Ragoonanan that yes, she’d won a million dollars.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” she said.

“The guy, the DJ who called put Miss Penny on, then Mr Jabbor, then I began to believe.”

Then reality set in.

“When I settled down after, I was numb at first,” Ragoonanan recalled, “I wasn’t thinking about the million, then I talked with my family and we decided to limit my identity.”

“Some people have recognised my name. I saw a picture of me in the paper, it looked like me, but it didn’t look like me.”

“I am still in denial. Some people might have been screaming and bawling, but that isn’t me.”

Ragoonanan lives here, in Trinidad and Tobago today, and in retrospect, winning a million dollars is both a tremendous gift and an onerous curse.

“My family…some I’m not hearing from, some genuinely happy for me and some aren’t saying anything at all. Same thing at work.”

The new winner, unsurprisingly, didn’t quite know what to do with her windfall and during our conversation mentioned that she was still to get back to the company about her bank transfer information.

“They were going to do a check, but then decided to do the bank transfer, but I don’t know that information offhand.”

Then she asked me something surprising.

“What you think I should do?”

I remembered the buzz that began in my head when my retirement plan matured and the way that everything looked like a problem that could be solved with cash. It’s actually true. When you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

Like everyone skating by on a salary in lean times, Digicel’s new winner has stuff she needs to do.

There are loans to settle, a landslide threatening her home to deal with and with Christmas coming, she would like to do a little charity.

By this point, our conversation had drifted from being a cross-examination into her circumstances into the kind of jerky narrative that people share after going through a shocking experience.

Journalists aren’t supposed to intervene, but I’d been asking all the questions and getting an unhesitating flow of answers.

“I think you should talk to a serious financial advisor,” I finally responded.

“Not some insurance agent calling himself a financial advisor, but somebody who acts independent of any business and in your interests only.”

I offered a couple of names and left it at that.

Digicel did not respond to a request to comment on the winner’s request to mask her identity.

In a past that now seems so very long ago, winners were photographed gleefully getting their envelopes, the PR of the moment enveloping the organisation in a warm glow of largesse.

But Digicel shouldn’t worry much about their winner who has been a customer since it began operations in Trinidad and Tobago. She’s probably an evangelist for life.

“I plan to stay with Digicel,” she said firmly, “I find I get value for money.”

Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com. An expanded version of this column can be found there.