When my husband Alex filled out the entry form to win a new car, we had no idea that we were actually entering the aggressive world of timeshare sales! It turns out that timeshare companies actually set up these types of contests in order to get your contact information—who knew? Of course we didn’t win a car, but we did win a free stay in Hawaii and two free airline tickets within the continental U.S. The catch? We had to sit through a timeshare presentation before claiming our prizes.
What Is A Timeshare?
When you own a timeshare, you have purchased the ability to stay in a fully furnished resort condominium, usually in one-week increments, for a fraction of the price of owning a vacation home. Once the timeshare is paid off, which could take years of monthly payments, you own the deed outright, and can will it to family and friends. Sounds pretty good, right?
The Timeshare Point System
One of the biggest perks of owning a timeshare is that in many cases, you don’t have to vacation in the same condo every year, but can often trade for destinations all over the world! The trades are based on a point system, so it’s important to own a timeshare in a desirable location such as Hawaii, Park City, Orlando or Las Vegas. That way you have more points, making it easier to trade your location for the destination of your choice. For example, owning a week in Hawaii during the winter will give you more points than owning a timeshare in Oklahoma during tornado season… you get the idea!
Our friends Ron and Jen know all too well that timeshare presentations are aggressive, high-pressure sales pitches. They woke up after a drunken night on their honeymoon only to discover they had purchased a timeshare the night before! When they confronted the people that they felt like they had been scammed, and that they couldn’t afford the fees, they were told “Tough luck—you signed on the dotted line.” If you attend a timeshare presentation, and you’re not a serious buyer, prepare yourself to say no! The sales seduction techniques can be shockingly convincing at these events, even for the most frugal vacationers!
The Set Up
Here’s what they told Alex and me…
Timeshare owners have fun simply because they vacation more than you do. They are more rested and they have better lives because they own timeshares! (Who knew finding happiness was this easy?) The pitch typically happens in a room with as many as 20 other couples attending. They pump up the cruise ship music to get you into the ‘I need a vacation’ spirit. Everything is meant to distract you and pressure you into being envious that other couples are getting some amazing deal.
Each couple is paired with a salesperson who begins by asking a million questions: When was your last vacation? Where did you go? How much money did you spend? Where you would go on your dream vacation? How long would that vacation be? Would you bring the kids? How much vacation time do you expect to take over the rest of your life? How much money do you think you’ll spend on those vacations?
Once you’ve established whether you vacation one or two weeks a year, the salesperson will start to entice you with all the beautiful places you could be vacationing rather than visiting your grandparents in Ohio. Forget grandma! Why not visit the Italian Rivera instead for just $168 in annual maintenance fees? They will show you all the luxury resorts they have visited with their own families and neglect to tell you how much it actually costs upfront to buy the timeshare rather than just pay the yearly fees.
At this point they bring in their ultimate closer to start talking money. The closer will make it seem like you won the vacation lottery before slyly slipping in the actual costs. In our case, the timeshare they were selling was in a new resort right in the heart of the Las Vegas strip. The price tag? As much as $20,000 with $350 in annual maintenance fees. That is almost double the fee they mentioned earlier! Vegas is one of the top three destinations in the U.S. so it does cost more than the average timeshare which is about $10,000 with $200 in maintenance fees.
After 1.5 hours of a torturous sales pitch, it was time to talk freebies. We got $50 to Restaurant.com, a free five-night stay at one of their resorts in Hawaii, and two free airline tickets to anywhere in the continental U.S. However, anywhere in the Continental U.S. actually ended up being anywhere on their list of major cities. And because we couldn’t use the tickets to Hawaii, we’d have to purchase those tickets separately if we want to take that vacation.
Our so-called prizes also had hefty hidden fees that must be paid upfront or they’ll rescind the offer. Turns out our “free” tickets weren’t any cheaper than buying the tickets ourselves on Orbitz!
The Moral Of The Story
At the end of the day, if you like to travel and have the cash, purchasing a timeshare could be totally Fab & Fru! But unfortunately, the high-pressure sales tactics used to get people to buy seem geared toward folks who don’t actually have the money. These dreamy eyed hopefuls often end up taking out high interest loans on the spot to finance a time share that they can’t even afford the airfare to get to! As we’re sure you know, there is nothing Fab & Fru about that.
So, while fun and enticing, unless you can pay for your timeshare upfront, don’t attend sales presentation just to get the free loot. It isn’t worth your time or the risk to your financial security. Until you’re financially ready, you’d be much better off just paying for a hotel room or vacationing with Grandma—at least she probably has your best interests in mind!