Getting a cheap travel package in exchange for sitting through a Timeshare presentation is a bit like wrestling an alligator. Sometimes you escape, unscathed, and sometimes you get… caught. For that reason, this article on surviving Timeshare hard-sells without buying is accompanied by photos from an alligator wrestling show we saw in the Everglades, Florida. Logical, no? Well at the very least, let it be entertaining.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of Timeshares, here’s how they work. When you buy a Timeshare, you shell out several thousand dollars (or more) to buy the deed to a week or three each year in a specific vacation apartment. You “share the time” in the place you’ve bought with other people who have also bought time there, and you pay “maintenance” fee every single month of the year. Through a complex system of week credits and bargaining power, you can sometimes swap your specific Timeshare apartment with a place in another location, state, or country.
Why do we care about dowdy old Timeshares on this ultra-hip travel blog? Because, first, Timeshare salespeople are so keen on selling their properties that you can often find great cheap travel package deals if you agree to sit through a sales pitch at the end of your vacation. Second, many Americans own Timeshares and use them as the chief way they travel with their families, and there is a keen debate going on now about whether Timeshares are a GIANT scam and rip-off, or whether they’re great for specific groups with specific vacation desires. We shall address the secrets behind each of these Timeshare facets in this article. This is the article I wish someone had shown me before we sat through the sales pitch!
1. How is it possible to use Timeshare promotions for cheap travel?
Before he met me, my significant other, Colin, got a phone call from a Timeshare sales company offering a vacation to Florida and a Bahamas cruise. Joking, Colin offered a far lower price. And the agent was willing to bargain! Once the price was down temptingly low, Colin did some internet research to affirm that the vacation deal was legitimate. It was, and Colin bought it: a week-long vacation package for two which included Florida hotels, all food, the rental car, and the three-day Bahamas cruise… and the Timeshare hard-sell on the last day. Lucky me, I was the Plus One who was able to come along! The hotel, food, car, and cruise quality were solid, the experience was super fun, and the price was reasonable– though you MUST be ready for unexpected daily surcharges on everything: service charges, tax, fuel surcharges, and (our favorite): the daily “tire charge” for the rental car.
The lessons of this for YOU regarding cheap vacation deals in exchange for sitting through Timeshare presentations are as follows. First, prices and details of the vacation packages are always negotiable. Colin was able to get the vacation for less than half of the original price offered, and once we were on the trip, we were also able to switch our hotel for free. Second, do make sure you do background research on the company to make sure it’s legitimate, but a surprising number of them are. Third, whatever price you agree on, remember you will ultimately pay at least 25% above the package quote because of the bill for the daily surcharges which you add on at the end of your stay.
2. Ok, so the cheap vacation package is fun, but how do you survive the Timeshare hard-sell at the end?
If you are not aware of the reputation of Timeshare hard-sells, let me tell you now: these presentations have a terrifying reputation, and all the rumors are true. During a Timeshare hard-sell, you will see between three and four different sales agents, each of them trying a different slippery, sneaky tactic to get you to sign that lease, and you will not get out of there in any less than three hours. Oh, and did I mention that you have to successfully endure the entire presentation before you can get the voucher for your final hotel night?
How did we survive our Florida Timeshare hard-sell? It helped that our Timeshare agent, Sally, was drunk.
“If you can’t tell already,” Sally slurred, “I’m a little tipsy. Just a few shots in, that’s all. I mean, it’s July Fourth! I can’t believe they have me working today! Let’s get you in and out of here as fast as possible so that I can bounce. My friends are all already at the beach with a huge keg.”
“Um, okay,” we said.
The “Speed Tour So Sally Could Drink” was still three hours. We were taken through all three (sterile, soulless) Timeshare vacation apartment buildings, up and down icy, air-conditioned elevators, past pools teeming with screaming children, and along strip mall-style eateries hawking hot dogs and fried dough. We were told that this was a particularly desirable Timeshare because “this town does not allow in poor people.” Oh. Through this all, the pristine Everglades beckoned us from the distance.
Sally led us into a restaurant overlooking a neon-green golf course and laid out a binder’s-worth of glossy pamphlets. “Look at this!” she squealed, pointing to a cottage on azure blue water. “You could trade a week of your Timeshare here for this place on the beach in Thailand! And it would only cost you a few hundred dollars! I couldn’t help be deliciously arrogant and informed her that during the four months I traveled in Southeast Asia, I usually paid $10 a night for a gorgeous bungalow on the beach to myself. Sally looked a little shocked. That fact was not good for a Timeshare sale.
She then asked us straight out: were we interested in buying? We replied: absolutely not. “Why?!” she gasped.
“Because I know how to travel for a WHOLE lot cheaper than this,” I replied.
Sally started to argue back, and then remembered her friends with the keg on the beach. “All right,” she whispered conspiratorially, “if we all are going to get out of here, do EXACTLY as I say. First–” Sally pulled out an information sheet and wrote down $18,000 near each of our names, “–THIS is your yearly income. Just say it is. Another agent is going to come to you with an even better deal than I just showed you, and make sure you remember your income is $18,000, no higher. Next, ACT INTERESTED. That is key. Then, say: ‘This looks so great. Can we just have a minute alone to crunch some numbers?’ Ask for a calculator and paper and do some math. When we both come back, look very sad and say: ‘This stinks. We’ve done the calculations, and with our incomes as teachers, we really can’t even make the monthly payments.’ It is key that you say the MONTHLY payment is the problem, because anything else you say, she will have a different deal to throw at you. Got it?”
We nodded vociferously.
The plan worked like a charm. You should have seen my artful calculations on that sheet of paper, and our dejected sighs when we told the agent in the bright red suit that we couldn’t make the monthly payments. Annoyingly, that second agent went into her office and came back with ANOTHER deal, but thanks to brilliant, drunk Sally, our “$18,000 Annual Salaries” just would not calculate to pay the monthly fees. “What a pity,” we all said.
“Well, what can you do?” said the agent in red. “Just walk to that room there to get your hotel vouchers.”
We entered and sat down, and who should greet us but… a THIRD agent! He whipped a sheet out of his pocket which offered a Timeshare for an “even better deal, hot off the presses!” We, in turn, whipped out our handy sheet of calculations, and said: “We can’t afford the monthly payments for that, either!”
It was late afternoon and a searing 95 degrees when we finally were handed our hotel vouchers and staggered into our car. We were exhausted, but had not signed our souls away on a deed!
To recap: To survive a Timeshare hard-sell without buying, do not reveal your real annual income. Just say $18,000. Do whatever fake math you need to do “prove” you can’t make the MONTHLY payments. (Focus on the monthly payments, not the down payment.)
Remember that there will always be at least three agents, each of whom has a lower price in his or her sweaty pocket, and will be extremely friendly.
Remember all this and you will emerge, victorious, from the presentation without being strong-armed into buying!
3. Why do people buy Timeshares? Are they any good for anyone, or just a scam?
Well. I would holler, hands-down, that Timeshares stink and they mathematically and financially make no sense at all and are a total rip-off… BUT I know several people I trust and respect who own Timeshares and enjoy using them with their young children and for family reunions. So maybe for some folks they work out just fine.
But one woman on our cruise summed it up well. “In my will,” the woman chuckled, “I’ve left our stupid timeshare to our son.” She let out a loud laugh: “HA! He likes using it now, but he’s gonna hate me so much when he has to pay those monthly maintenance payments!”
You OWN timeshares and they never go away, even when you mosey along to heaven. Yikes!
So what are your thoughts, readers?
What are YOUR opinions on Timeshares and Timeshare promotional vacation deals? Chime in!
I wrote this article in 2011, and it’s had over 56,000 views and hundreds of comments since then. Lately, it’s become clear that trying to get free or cheap travel by sitting through timeshare presentations isn’t how I want to travel. There are so many other ways to vacation affordably! Examples:
- Travelocity has great cruise deals (click to see)
- TripAdvisor now compares hotel prices so you spend less money
- HomeExchange provides accommodations almost free
- LivingSocial offers shockingly affordable vacation packages
- For more, I’ve compiled 40 Travel Resources to Save Money