I just came back from a vacation this past weekend. We had soo much fun! My boyfriend "won" a 3 day, 2 night vacation in Virginia that we decided to take advantage of. Who wouldn't want a free vacation?! Well, of course it came with a couple of strings attached. Here is what I learned:
Enticing You to Arrive
My boyfriend put his information into a sweepstakes to win a 3 day, 2 night vacation at his local Pizza Hut. A few weeks later he recieves a phone call saying that he won! Of course, he was excited and so was I! They explained on the phone that not only did we get the vacation but we also get a $50 Longhorn Steakhouse gift card and 2 vouchers for 2 more 3 day, 2 night vacations. This sounded to good to be true but since we only had to put $75 down as a deposit that we would get back after we listened to a presentation on one of the days, we decided to give it a go. We booked a date and marked it on our calendar.
While I was there, I learned by both observation and by chatting up some of the sales people that they target certain demographics. All of the people there on the day of our presentation were minorities and mostly couples with families. After chatting with one of the sales people, they also only look for people that make over a certain amount. This one used $40,000 as the threshold. Another salesperson I talked to from another resort said $50,000. When I acted like I was interested, they asked my age. When I told them 27, they said I may not be old enough and that it’s usually 29 and up. This tells me that there is also an age target too. I believe my boyfriend “won” because he checked all the boxes and they invited him up.
The property was gorgeous! We spent our days at the pool and enjoying the local scenery. I will say it was a wonderful getaway. I actually felt relaxed and that was much needed! We were in a building with four units. Our unit was on the top floor which I was a little nervous about because of the kids but it ended up being fine. We didn’t stay in the room much anyway. It had a bedroom with full bath, a pull out couch in the living room, and a full kitchen complete with a dishwasher (winning)! They had tennis courts, a basketball court, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a playground, and a place where you could check out games and DVDs. They also had activities and events the whole time we were there.
OMG! These people used every sales tactic in the book. It was supposed to be a 90 minute presentation but it turned into 3 hours! When we arrived to the presentation. The receptionist asked for ID and our offer letter. They wanted to make sure we were the same people which I can understand. However, she also slipped a piece of paper to us that asked for demographic information again (salary, marital status, and occupation). I guess this was to make sure we still qualified before the sales pitch. They took us to breakfast which was awesome because we were starving. During breakfast, he chatted us up to get to know us and the boys. He asked about how we currently travel and how much we normally spend. Then, he crunched the numbers and said we could save $120,000 over 40 years by getting a timeshare (this estimate is flawed but I'll get into that later). Also, trying to sell us on the thousands of locations around the world that we could travel to if we purchased. He asked where we would like to go if we could travel to anywhere in the world. I said Ethiopia (which of course they didn't have a location) and my boyfriend said New York. We sat there for a good hour to hour and a half until my youngest son started getting restless and I told the salesperson that we were ready to move on.
After breakfast, we moved on the see the newest property that they built (not the location we were staying in). The condo was GORGEOUS! I will give them that. It was very nicely set up and decorated. The whole time he was showing us the property and unit, he was trying to sell us on it but never mentioned a price. He was trying to get us to say that we loved it and would love to be there (which never happened). LOL! We are much smarter than that. So, I asked him upfront, "what is the cost". He avoided the conversation and said we can discuss when we get back. We hopped in the car and went back to the property we were staying in. This is when the real selling happened!
Once we got back, he took us sightseeing around the property. We visited the pools, tennis court, and lobby area. He took us upstairs to the "sales floor". I call it that because all you saw were sales people and their clients each going through the same spiel. Our salesperson took us to a computer and asked for our zip code to type in. He explained that there were 200+ people in our zip code that were already owners (Sales Tactic #1 - If they have it, I must need it to). He, then, showed us all the locations listed on the wall and explained highlights of each (Sales Tactic #2 - Highlight the positives, skip over the negatives). After walking around looking at the walls, we sat at a table. At the table, he brought up how much we could save on vacations by purchasing a timeshare and that money can be used towards saving for the kid's education. What?! (Sales Tactic #3 - Flip it onto the kids. Don't you want the best for them). He also said that the timeshare could be passed on from generation to generation so my grandchildren could be vacationing in the same spot (Sales Tactic #4 - Highlight the opportunity to have something to pass on. Again, don't you want what's best for the kids).
After wading through all of the sales talk, I ask about price again. Finally, he told me... $32,000 upfront with a $400 yearly maintenance cost. What?!!!! How much?!?!! Let's pause here for a moment. $32,000 a year with a $400 yearly fee in perpetuity (that means forever). Not to mention, they do no credit check financing which the salesperson kept highlighting. I asked him what was the interest rate and he said 17%!! That is a loan shark rate especially on what is pretty much another mortgage payment. When he saw that I looked appalled, he stated that if my credit is in good condition, I could go get it refinanced as soon as I leave. What?!?! On top of that, if you decide that you don't want to stay at the same resort every year, there is a $200 transfer fee for domestic and a $300 transfer fee for international travel. Mind you this is on top of the upfront cost and the yearly maintenance fee. How is this a deal?! My boyfriend and I both politely declined. Our salesperson explained that he would not be able to reproduce any of the deals offered today and that if we didn't buy, we wouldn't be eligible to come back for 10 years (Sales Tactic #5 - Tell them it is a limited time, exclusive offer). He then went to get his manager to see what he could do (Sales Tactic #6 - Call in reinforcements aka the manager). This is when it started getting real interesting. The manager comes over and he is a very fast talker. I can tell he has been in the sales game for awhile. He had former car salesman written all over him. So, manager now enter the table "gauntlet" because at this point the negotiations have to get serious. He comes over and says he found an offer for a 2 week purchase for not $32,000 but $11,000. If you didn't catch that, he added an additional week and chopped the price by more than half. Me being a very financially inclined person, I ask how was he able to get such a deal when it was just $32,000 for 1 week a few minutes ago. He explained that due to foreclosures and people selling off their property, he is able to get me a timeshare only paying the balance they left. OK, I get it but I explained to him that it is still not in my budget. He went away and came back again. This time he sweetened the deal and said that it would be at their Orlando property. They almost had me at that point because I have family in Orlando but I still declined. Finally, they gave up and took us to where we could collect our additional "gifts". I am thinking we finally got through the 3 hour sales pitch! What a relief! But then, the lady who was surveying us on our experience asked what was offered by the manager. She then says that she can offer the same deal but at a $4,000 upfront cost. This is when I realized that this is really a scam. They started high at $32,000 then went all the way down to $4,000 after we repeatedly said no.
Unfortunately, there are people who fall for these gimmicks. They almost had me but I was able to think through the cost-benefit analysis. The amount you save is very minimal once everything is considered. You can just continue to book vacations normally and build it into your budget. After declining for the last time, we collected our "free gifts" and left.
It's Not All Bad
We were able to get a free vacation, vouchers for two more vacations (in which we don't have to listen to a "presentation" again), a $50 gift card to Longhorn Steakhouse, and some pretty awesome memories. If I was approached for another all-expenses paid timeshare vacation again, I would go! Excellent way to save money! I just wouldn't purchase at the end. I am glad I went because I learned something new and also collected the information to share with you all. I felt like I was on covert operations! This way you don't have to fall for the many sales tactics they used.
What has been your experience with timeshares? Did you regret it or are you happy you made the purchase?