Jul 152011
 
Alligator wrestling is as scary as Timeshare pitches!

Alligator wrestling is less scary than Timeshare pitches!

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.

Colin carefully petting a baby alligator in the Everglades.

Colin carefully petting a baby alligator.

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.

Would you like this as a summer job? Not I.

Would you like this as a summer job? Not I.

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?

This baby alligator looks like a freaky dinosaur.

This baby alligator looks like a freaky dinosaur.

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.

How to move an alligator, should you need to know.

How to move an alligator, should you need to know.

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 sign on Florida should be: "Beware of Timeshares."

The sign on Florida should be: "Beware of Timeshares."

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!

Teamwork! That looks like a great idea: poke stick at alligator.

Teamwork! That looks like a great idea: poke a stick at an alligator.

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.

Is this baby alligator's Timeshare? He should've read this article.

Is this baby alligator's Timeshare? He should've read this article.

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! 

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  26 Responses to “How to Use Timeshare Pitches for Travel but Avoid Buying”

  1. As a single woman years ago, I was called and invited to come for a lower cost 3 day, 2 night vacation stay in an Orlando hotel if I sat through the timeshare presentation. I wasn’t told there was a minimum salary requirement over the phone. I think the hotel deal was around $100 or less. I really wanted the vacation, so I said yes. I asked the rep on the phone how long I would have to stay for the whole timeshare presentation. They said it was no more than 3 hours. I got to Florida, got my own rental car that I paid for myself, and settled in the nice hotel room. I used the outdoor pool and hot tub. The hotel was clean and air conditioned.
    There was a chef to make your omelets and other breakfast food in the morning, all for free, and that was great. They offered discount coupons in the lobby. The next morning, I drove my own rental car to the timeshare location. Then, they put me in a golf cart and took me away from my car to another building at the same timeshare location. I met a very, very friendly woman who ate breakfast with me and asked me loads of questions about myself and my life and my family. (This was all used later to try to sell it to me and to overcome any objections I came up with). They brought in a number of salesmen and women, I would say at least 4 or 5, cut the price to less than half, used all kinds of tactics, saying things like Don’t you deserve this? and You know, your friends can afford this and Why are you here if you don’t make the required XX,000 amount of money? and I thought they told you that you had to make X amount of money to accept the vacation package. I told them I was never told of an income requirement. I told them I couldn’t afford the monthly payments on my budget and that I didn’t want to make monthly payments forever. After a little more than 3 hours, maybe 3.5 hours, of very high pressure sales tactics, I finally had to very strongly say to them that I was promised the presentation would be no more than 3 hours, I do not want to buy this at any price, and if you don’t take me back to my car and let me go, I will call the police. (This was long before most of us carried cellphones.) They finally gave me the voucher to receive the discounted hotel stay and took me back to my car. Not a fun experience but I was even so polite, that I thanked them for the hotel. They had belittled me, nearly said I had lied to get the deal, and pretended to be my friend when all they wanted to do was sell me the timeshare. Yes, it was a beautiful furnished hotel, near THE places in Orlando you want to go, but I ended up saying no. I think the timeshare was within 10 to 15 miles from “Mickey”. Even if I had wanted the timeshare, I’m glad I said no because of the shabby way I was treated. It’s really too bad they had to treat me so poorly. If they had emphasized the beautiful condo and how you could share it (with separate locked door) with other family members and treated me with respect and not insulted me, talked down to me and patronized me, who knows? It was almost as high pressure as weight loss programs or fitness club memberships, but actually longer and more insulting than those.
    After reading this, I see that lots of fees are charged, the monthly fees are never ending, and that sometimes you don’t get the exchanged vacation at another location that you want. I’d never buy a timeshare now.

  2. I have had to endure the presentations 3 times over the last 5 years for discounted vacations. I say go for it if you have to but be very careful, if you are easily swayed or convinced they will pounce and pounce really hard. The contracts are legally binding.

    For the Sales Rep-I understand reading this probably is hurtful to you and you are just doing your job but you are in the business to decive people in order to earn commission. It’s just the cold hard truth.

    For the consumers such as myself, go in there with 1 focus You will “NOT BUY” ( unless you want to) and you will be fine. They pulled out the big guns on my last presentation. For the 2nd and 3rd Interviewer, they got a sexy sales man for me, I suspose eye candy LOL, and a hot girl for him ( eye candy)…It almost worked but on him ( his will power is not as strong and he started to feel like why not) but good thing he had me, I can sight the tricks a mile away. I mean at the very end they tried to sell us the SAME package for a year for $2000, really? The same package that would have cost me $10K plus? It was a hellish 3 1/2 hours BUT at the end of it my answer was the same no and they used 5 people on us all together or 6, I lost count. I think they were sure I would break but nope….Will of steel. I didn’t care what math they worked, didn’t care what they said at the end I smiled and gave a friendly no.

    • Ahhh! I’m stressed again just reading about these experiences. I definitely wouldn’t do a timeshare vacation deal again! Thanks for sharing your story, though.

  3. We went on a trip to Florida last year. 5 nights at the resort and free Seaworld tix for a total of $200! Yes, we had to sit through the sales pitch on our second day; it was 4 hours of SERIOUS stress, but we managed to get out. They are good, I can see how cults brainwash people because that’s what it felt like. You feel like you must be crazy not to buy, like I said SERIOUS stress!

    Note: the salespeople will say it is a one-time offer and you have to decide right then. Who makes such a commitment in four hours? Trust me if you decide you want one, they’ll be there tomorrow to take your money.

    After they realized we weren’t buying, they still tried to sell us the same trip for the next year for $1500– uh, no we got this one for $200, why would we spend $1500??

  4. Time shares can be great for some people. My parents had quite a few of them and they LOVED them! It was true that you had to book very early to get the best deals, but they planned their schedule way in advance and worked the scheme to their advantage. For them, the time shares were perfect.

    For us, however, they would not be. We don’t need the level of luxury my parents wanted and are happy to stay in cheap hotels. When we’ve sat through the pitches, we’ve just maintained that we can travel just fine staying in hotels for $20/night so it would be crazy to get the timeshare. When they hear that, they generally back off.

  5. DISCLAIMER: This article has produced a LOT of angry messages since its publication in 2011 saying that getting a cheap vacation by tricking timeshare salespeople is dishonest and mean. I now really see their point. Though I will keep this article up as an account of something that happened (and still happens frequently), I vow to never again do this, and I recommend that others do not, either. There are other cheap ways to travel without causing this type of stress on both sides.

    • Lillie,
      Please make no apologies. (Oops, forgot to mention I’m a 6 ft tall speech pathologist in Phoenix) My husband and I have sat through numerous time share presentations without buying and sometimes felt too guilty to take the gifts. But….we had the receptionists in the front INSIST on us taking them because, as they said, most people don’t buy until the 5th presentation. And believe me, the rest of the company knows full well how deceitful the sales personnel are! A second reason for no apology is because the hard sell that accompanies these presentations and the outright LIES they tell is ridiculous! I know because in time, we actually did buy two timeshares. And yes, the second agent LIED as much as the first one. (I know–how stupid are we??!!) The agents will fabricate definitive falsehoods to get people to buy. I only wish I had taped the presentation because once you sign on the dotted line, all the things the selling agent tells you verbally are gone. If you go into a presentation believing the agent is truthful, you will be fleeced! So please, Lillie, do not apologize!!

    • Mary, thanks for your comment! The fact remains that, though we had a relatively good experience, for the reasons mentioned below, we won’t be doing any more timeshare vacations again!

  6. My poor sister and her EX husband bought a timeshare in Aruba on their honeymoon—they didn’t even get a free trip out of it. They spent all their wedding gifts to buy the timeshare which promptly went bankrupt. Horrible!

  7. I am a Florida resident so I can’t take advantage of those nice little time share deals for the most part. However two years of my life I lived outside of Florida and every time I came home I used these packages to save big and get hotels, park tickets and other things. I saved a lot of money and only wasted a few hours of each trip to save big it was totally worth it.

    • Glad to know it worked well for you!

    • I have worked in timeshare for ten years. Sally did a great job, as a timeshare sales representative you are trained to reduce the objection to nothing but the money, I like her style. I doubt she was drunk, actually she is right on point. I am not crazy about marketing companies who offer mini vacs. In this manner, however he or she also did a great job, you bought the package. Timeshare is a great way to travel, thank you for talking about us we in this business always love the attention.

  8. These tips are important and useful. These alligators scare me. I would never touch an alligator like that.

  9. That’s cool, but I kind of feel bad for the baby alligator with its mouth shut up like that.

  10. As someone who has been doing this for years your info is a little dated or you lucked out.

    To even qualify now you must have a minimum salary of 50k to 60k.

    Your best bet is to tell the agent right off the bat you are not buying no matter what and are only are there because you have to be to get tickets or a lower room rate.

  11. I never knew you should move an alligator by the tail. It seems rude because you are holding the alligator’s back side. Also I would be scared since the alligator could twist and bite you.

  12. I never even contemplated using time shares as a way to get myself a cheap vacation. Thanks for the tips. I’m going to keep my eyes peeled from now on, haha

  13. Congratulations to the escapees! The pics call to mind a weary addage: don’t let your alligator mouth write checks your bird cage ass can’t cash.

  14. Thanks for the great info! I might actually say yes to one of these “pitch trips” after reading this , at least I would know what I was getting into. didn’t know you could negotiate the price of the package. A good friend has had a time share for over 20 years. There are so many hidden expenses and she has found it almost impossible to travel where she wants to because those locations are booked years in advance.

  15. Very good advice!The article is quite interesting and full of great tips!

  16. I should have read your post earlier. I have committed to a Time-share program in Malaysia..(eaten by the “Malaysia Alligators” Haha

  17. As hairy as the timeshare experience was, it was still totally worth the 6 days of utopic vacation! I hope this article helps lots of people who are not interested in timeshares get through the sales pitch more easily, and not be so afraid to snatch up a great travel deal if you find one.

  18. Very good advice! I have been to two of these events and managed to escape without getting eaten alive by the alligators. The first time it was many years ago in France. They spotted me on the streets of Paris (looking like an American) and invited me to listen to their sales pitch about a time share in Florida. The second was in the Berkshires. Even without having to use Sally’s trick, I figured out that it would be far less expensive to rent a different place every year instead of being locked in to their ‘deal’. I had no idea it followed you after death though. Funny that I am now going back to the same place every year anyway but it is far more exotic than Florida or Massachusetts.

  19. Wow thanks for the tips! I have been to a couple of these things to get a free jeep in Mexico and another time free accommodations. But now I know the trick, and instead of squirming I’ll know exactly what to do!
    Great article! eva

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