Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Are you cheap enough to hang?

As Chad brought up in the comments section under the Colin post, we were in Myrtle Beach courtesy of a timeshare company. We had to pay $30 and about $19 total in taxes for a two night stay in a Holiday Inn Express. Rates right now (high summer!) are about $75-$85 a night for this hotel (which was cheap for the area), so that alone is a pretty good deal. We also got a $50 dining certificate for Carrabas. Yum-O. We didn't get to choose the hotel - they gave us the voucher when we showed up, and I have to say that it was old, the beds were uncomfortable (at least for me), and the pool was pitiful. However, it was just a few blocks away from a uncrowded beach with tons of free parking, so we didn't really hang out at the hotel. Plus it had a continental breakfast, which we took full advantage of, and free wireless internet. In exchange for all of this, we donated 2 1/2 hrs (they always say it is going to be 90 minutes, but it never is) of our time to listening to a guy who asked us to call him "Stubby" (we didn't) trying to sell us a timeshare.

This timeshare business started about 18 months ago. We were driving to Myrtle Beach and saw a lot of billboards advertising a Myrtle Beach Visitor's Center ahead with free drinks, popcorn, and a kid's play area. We decided we could use a little stretch, so we pulled over. Oh, how naive we were. This center's sole purpose was to sign people up to listen to timeshare presentations. Being the cheapskates that we are, we were totally okay with that and signed up with the promise of three free tickets to see Medieval Times. We went to the presentation, got our tickets, and went to the show (which Colin loved!), where we were approached by a different company to listen to a timeshare presentation the next day. This time we would be rewarded with $100 in cash. Not bad at all. We went, got our money, and treated ourselves to a seafood buffet. By the way, that "visitor's center" is just one of many that you see on the way to Myrtle Beach, and within the city. It has to be the timeshare capital of the world.

Last year, Chad's grandparents were not going to be using their timeshare, so they offered it to us. It is in Canada, so we paid a $136 exchange fee and instead used a different timeshare in Orlando, FL for a week. It had two bedrooms, a living area, a full kitchen and a washer and dryer so we figured that with all that room we could take Bobby's family along. We had a great time playing with in the pirate kid's pool with slides, and the onsite miniature golf. It was quite a vacation.

As soon as we got there, Bobby and Chad found some little kiosks down the main drive saying that they sold discounted tickets - which, of course, we knew meant they signed you up for timeshare presentations. They each signed up for two. We got two free tickets to Disneyworld, and two free tickets to SeaWorld.

So we are old pros at the presentations. As soon as you get there you are assigned to a sales rep, or in one case, a group of people with one rep. Your kids can either stay with you or go to a play area. Colin has never wanted to leave us (don't blame him!) so we have always had both kids there. Sometimes they have crayons or something, but I usually don't worry about keeping them too busy because it puts the pressure on the rep to finish quickly. The rep then asks if you want to get some drinks and snacks. One time they had breakfast. You sit down with them and they tell you all the reasons why you are vacationing irresponsibly if you don't have a timeshare. They explain how their particular timeshare works - some are based on points, and others are a set week in the year. Then you tour the facility. They are generally very nice - two or three bedrooms, big tubs, pools and activities on-site. When you get back from the tour, the pressure starts. They always say they just want a "yes" or "no" but when you give them a "no," it definitely isn't the end. They will ask you why and debate with you, and then say you are done but actually send in one final person. Women representatives tend to take the "no" much easier than the men. Chad and I have found that we don't argue with them about whether it is a good deal or not because they will just try to explain more and more about why it is a good deal, and act like we just don't get it. We say something about how it isn't a priority in our lives (we used to use our student loans as the reason why), which they still argue with, but not as much. When you finally get through the closer, who is sometimes a little annoyed with you, they shuffle you out with your free stuff pretty quickly.

To these people, vacations are your life. If you don't own a timeshare, you are "renting" your vacation instead of "owning" it, and they actually act like you are irresponsible. The numbers they throw out are ridiculous (you CAN'T stay in a hotel for under $100 a night? YEAH RIGHT! The inflation rate of the vacation industry is 10%? SURE!), but the more you argue with them, the longer the whole thing takes, because there is no way they will admit that vacationing any other way is sensible. At the first one we ever went to, I told the sales lady that I really liked camping, and she actually said, "Well, you can't camp anywhere in the world and you CAN use our timeshare anywhere!" HUH? This same lady told us that she was working there to pay for the timeshare she had with them. Working to pay for one week a year?!?!?! Does that make sense?

Just so you know, they always tell you when you sign up that you are under no obligation to buy or even to be interested in buying, so I don't feel too bad going time and again.

You do have to make a certain amount of money to attend (usually ranging from $30,000 to $ 60,000), and you have to attend with your spouse.

And in case you can't tell, no matter how much money we make, we will never own a timeshare. We think they are are big rip-off. Just think about how much money they are spending just to get someone to listen to a presentation - how much money they can throw down the drain - and they are STILL making money off the few that do sign up. That will tell that you are the one getting the raw end of the deal if you sign up. For further clarification, read Chad's comments.


Ash said...

Yeah, when I was trying to get people to go to these presentations (the one day I did telemarketing) we weren't making nearly enough money to actually do it ourselves. Maybe next year we'll be making enough and can sign ourselves up for some :)

Ash said...

Oh, and if timeshares are such a "fantastic deal", why do they have to bribe people to come and hear about them? Shouldn't there be enough people coming on their own?

Sandi said...

I don't think we'll ever buy a timeshare either, but we have gotten some nice free dinners gift cards to stores just for listening. What can I say, we are suckers for free stuff.

James said...

The camping thing really got me. Apparently they don't have any veterans, scouters, or outdoorsy people on their sales staff.

Picnic tables make great camp beds during the summer.