Yes, it happened. My wife and I agreed to attend a time share sales pitch. If you know me personally you’re probably wondering why I decided to sell-out on just about everything I believe in when it comes to personal finance but keep reading. I think you’ll like this story.
What’s a Time Share?
None of this will matter if you don’t know anything about a time share. Here it is in the most general sense. Find 51 of your friends, purchase a condominium in a beautiful place. Each of you gets one week in exchange for a 1/52 ownership in the property. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? Read more here.
But don’t be fooled. Timeshares are an awful investment. Their value almost always goes down and it’s not a real estate investment. You’re basically pre-paying about $16,000 worth of vacation costs. Why not invest the money in a mutual fund and withdrawal it when it’s time to go on vacation?
Enough of that for now.
Why We Went
My wife and I were going on a trip and called a certain hotel to book our stay. (I won’t tell you who just in case there is some legal something or other that prevents me from talking about them)
They transferred us to another rep who offered us a free weekend stay in certain cities, a 4 night Bahamas cruise, and a $200 voucher for a future stay at any of their hotels. All we had to pay was $249 and attend a time share presentation.
Knowing what we paid for the cruise alone last time we sailed, we knew that this was a good deal. We weren’t excited about attending a timeshare presentation but we agreed. For the purposes of living a life of integrity, we made sure to tell the person that we were in no way interested in a time share. The person basically said that everybody says that so we felt good about accepting the offer.
We chose to go to Orlando–90 minutes from our home because we weren’t going to pay for airline tickets to listen to a time share presentation. We also knew we wouldn’t be tempted. It’s not like they’re going to sell us on the tropical beauty of Florida or family awesomeness of Disney. Being Florida residents we knew that Disney awesomeness equals a TON of money spent on overpriced everything.
We had a secret weapon with us–our 2 year old foster daughter. We tried to reschedule the trip because she had just came to our home but the company was going to charge us $120 to change the reservation so we said, “fine, don’t blame us when you experience the wrath of a bored 2 year old.”
We arrived on a Friday and our presentation/sales-pitch was the next morning at 8:00am. We arrived and were asked to wait for a sales person. We only waited about 5 minutes until Nina introduced herself to us. She took us to an area to grab some breakfast. Anybody in sales knows that people are more agreeable when they’re fed. Good move, Nina.
She then took us to a table that would serve as home base for the next 2 hours. We went through the normal get-to-know-you time where we talked about ourselves and developed the repore that would hopefully make the sale easier for her later.
She laid out for us what we do. First we watch a 10 minute video, then talk through what they had to offer. If we decide that the answer is no at the end, we should know that we’re still honored guests and there’s no hard feelings. Clearly, they’re in a difficult spot because our loyalty status with the hotel means that they can’t sell us too hard or we might book our stays elsewhere.
First, we watched a video. It was what you might expect. 10 minutes full of beautiful imagery of people having the time of their life in exotic locations around the world. There were plenty of motion graphics that said things like, “Your Dream Begins Here” and other bits of sales copy filled with power words. (Power words are what we writers use to invoke emotion in you the reader. If I say things like “dream” it probably evokes a subtle emotion.)
After the video, we went back to our home base where Nina asked us where our dream vacation would be. We said things like Australia, London, and a few others. From there Nina said, “What if you could stay in London or Australia for only $299, would you do it?” Of course, the right answer is, “yes” but I wasn’t taking a bite of that Apple. I brought up the fact that $299 would certainly be good from a lodging perspective but her question doesn’t account for all of the other expenses. She wanted us to only focus on the lodging, she said.
She also did a worksheet with us that estimated our vacation costs at $15,000 over the course of 30 years. Of course the timeshare was going to cut those costs, according to her.
We found out that all we need is 5,000 “points” and that Australia trip could be ours for that amazing price. She showed us other exotic destinations that would cost that same $299 and 5,000 points. Others only required 3,000 points.
Now, if you’re sharp, you noticed the same thing I did. Why is Nina talking about points and going to other destinations BEFORE talking about the actual timeshare? So I starting asking questions. How do we earn points? The more weeks we use our timeshare, the more points we amass. So I asked, how much we have to spend to earn 1 point because the actual cost of this $299 trip to paradise was actually $299 plus whatever the points cost. She said we would go back to that. (She never did.)
Next, she took us on a tour of the time shares available at the Orlando resort where we had the presentation. I was amazed at how empty the pool areas were but I’ll skip a breakdown of the tour.
We went back to the home base and Nina asked, “if you could pay about $900 per month for a few years to earn trips to destinations all over the world, would you do it?” The answer in our minds was, “We wouldn’t spend YOUR money on this, Nina,” but we were polite so I said, tell me about the terms of the loan. She said, “let’s not worry about that. Would that be a comfortable payment?” I again said, “tell me about the terms of the loan.”
We did this little financial dance a few times until she showed me that the loan was priced at a 17% interest rate. I told her that I would never take out a loan for 17%. She again said not to worry about the terms but I kept coming back to absolutely not so she lowered it to $499. We again said, “no” so she left the table and brought her boss over.
He offered us a deal for $199 after telling us that there were all kinds of special incentives that come with the offer. Again, we said, “no” so another person came over and offered us some other deal that we didn’t really listen to. We again said, “no.”
After that, Nina promptly left the table after saying a cold, “thank you for your time” and we were escorted to a desk where we got vouchers for our cruise and hotel stay.
If you feel like there are some holes in the story, you’re right. Nina never did explain to us how the timeshare worked. She spent almost all of her time explaining how we can travel the world instead of telling us that we would pay about $16,000 so we could vacation in the same place the rest of our lives.
She also didn’t tell us that there were maintenance fees with our timeshare. She basically told us nothing about the actual timeshare purchase.
We told all of the salespeople that we would like to take some information home with us to look over and consider. They gave us nothing to take with us. Not one piece of paper about our presentation.
The presentation was completely about making an impulse buy based on emotion and little information.
Here’s what I want you to know. I hate to say “never” and people will disagree but I’m comfortable saying that a timeshare is never a good idea. You don’t need to prepay your vacation, you don’t want to be tied down to 1 destination for the rest of your life, and you can invest your vacation money until you need it and at least get some return from the money.
You ARE NOT investing in real estate and if you really want to take advantage of a timeshare, there are websites where people are selling their time allotment. I’ve not researched this but I know that a lot of people get good deals.
Don’t fall for the high-pressure, high-emotion sales pitch. Don’t ever say yes to something you can’t think about and analyze on your own.
Also, this presentation was through a well-known hotel chain. There are other presentations that are just plain shady. Be very careful when you’re chasing free offers.
Nina was nice, pleasant, and respectful. She’s a single mom trying to make a living. We respect that and don’t fault her for working hard to earn our business. There was never a chance that she was going to sell us on such an awful business model.
But that’s ok…we’re going on a cruise!!!!!
Have you ever sat though a timeshare presentation? What was your experience?
Have a question about anything in your financial life? Click below to ask me. I respond to all questions.
Disclaimer: All financial advice in this article is for educational purposes. Not all financial advice is appropriate for everybody so don’t make decisions until you talk to somebody who can look at your personal financial picture.