This time last week, we were on holiday, in Hawaii, but not anywhere we wanted to be. This time last week, the sun was shining, the beach was calling, but we were stuck indoors. This time last week, we experienced one of the unique tortures of modern society:
The timeshare presentation.
Reeling us in
They’re so friendly. Pushy, but friendly. First they butter you up with free chocolates and gifts for the kids. Then they pull out the big guns. The “no obligation whatsoever cause we’re not pushy and high pressure like those other guys” FREE gift that they are just dying to give you.
For the whole family.
With a baby whale.
And food. Free food.
We did that super secret, silent discussion that evolves sometime after the first decade of marriage. The eyebrow raise. Half shrug. Wink… no wait, he’s got something in his eye. Ah yes, the slight nod.
Okay, we’re in. But we are absolutely NOT going to buy anything. In fact, we felt better making that clear from the outset. “We don’t want to waste your time. We are absolutely not in any position to buy a timeshare right now, but yes, we’d like the free gift. Thank you for mentioning this trip to see the whales in front of our children, by the way. Okay, fine, sign us up.”
But just to be polite. And thrifty. Because free stuff is even better than baby whales. But we are absolutely NOT going to buy anything.
Setting the mood
And this is how we find ourselves setting the alarm insanely early ON OUR VACATION for a 90-minute sales pitch. Blech.
Now, to be honest, the only other time we did this, we ended up buying in. Perhaps we were just excited to finally have the salary level to make it into the “free stuff so we can woo you” club. And it’s been better than we expected. We’ve gotten our money’s worth and then some. We are timeshare believers.
In fact, without timeshare, we would never have been able to take this super-cheap vacation to Hawaii. The timeshare week was free (a limited time bonus, because we were a pretty hard sell). The airmiles paid for car rental and a few extra nights in the hotel. Cheap airfare came in the form of red eye flights with absurd layovers – 3 different flights to find our way home.
But we are absolutely NOT going to buy anything, this time.
So, here we wait with our cups of free cocoa. Neither of us drink coffee, which is a shame because the snazzy machine makes everything under the sun. The doughnuts aren’t half bad. Fresh fruit plate – breakfast of champions. There’s a popcorn machine in the corner. It’s like sample day at Costco. Be still my frugal little heart!
I shamelessly eavesdrop on the tables near us. What do you know, all the salespeople are just hitting it off with their new customers. They draw out the small talk and act disappointed by the need to broach the subject of the day.
“Cause, gee, I’m just having such a fabulous time yakking with you about your 14 grandchildren and your cat’s bursitis, but my slave driving boss insists that I go through this material with you. Did I mention that I have a cat too? Now that we’re such good buddies, I’m sure you won’t mind helping me out with it.”
Ya, I’m onto them. This is the “building rapport” part of the spiel. But they don’t fool me. No. I’m cool. I’m detatched. I’m a rock, I’m an iiiiiis-land… And I’ve got plenty of friends already. Bring it on.
That worked for about 2 1/2 minutes. When he asked about my kids, I chatted. I appreciated that he laughed at my jokes. I pulled out a picture. I’ll be honest, I gushed. What! Can I help it if my children are incredibly interesting and engaging?
It was like a really weird date, with me, my husband and some strange guy who was determined to befriend us.
He shook his head. Acted very concerned about the timeshare situation we were already in. He didn’t want to alarm us. It wasn’t his place to trash talk the competition. Obviously, we are very giving and trusting people, without the keen business insight that is needed to navigate the treacherous timeshare game. Good thing we now have our brand new friend to help us.
As he proceeded to tell us about the company, there just HAPPENED to be pictures of his family there. And his dogs.
Now, I’m not much of an animal person, but I’ll tell you, those sad canine eyes were accusing me. Of wasting his time. Of denying him the commission he so desperately needs. You know, to feed his sad dogs. And his family. How could I do this to my new FRIEND? Why the heck are his dogs so pathetically depressed anyway?
This is the part where you hear ALL about the amazing life that you will lead if you buy in (no prices shared of course, no matter how many times we asked). Apparently, the world is my oyster if I sign up. My children will have the wedding of their dreams. Paris will become my home away from home. And I will OWN a piece of paradise. My children will rise up and call me blessed. My children’s children will be brilliant and well-travelled because of our investment in their future.
Strongly implied is the fact that non-timeshare holders (or those like us who are with another company and are destined to be cheated, extorted and ultimately disappointed) will lead lives of sad desperation. There will never be time or money for a real holiday. The best we can hope for is quiet days spent huddled in a dank basement, braiding armpit hair into a scarf.
Eventually even the slickest salesman must put a price on it. Also the various comparisons and mental gymnastics we are put through to convince us that $50,000 is a ridiculous steal! Oh, and the $2000 yearly fee. If that is not exciting enough, they are generously offering to finance our investment at only 17%!
Now, I’m not much of a math girl, but my husband tells me that 17% of $50,000 will be $8,500 in interest that first year. With that much money, I’m pretty sure I could HIRE someone to braid me an armpit hair scarf.
Until they invent teleportation (after 3 red eye flights with a head cold I am deeply invested in this possibility) and food pellets for children (like for a fish: a week’s nutrition in one cheap, easy to serve patty), accomodation is only one small piece of the holiday puzzle. If we spend all our money on this timeshare, taking on additional debt (and, as a result, jobs and possibly bankruptcy), I’m not sure our vacation prospects will look up, no matter what our new friend and his shiny brochure promise.
In the end, I had to walk out. After 2 hours, my kids needed me and we were done with it all. I came back to sign the refusal paper and talk to yet another sales person about an even better deal (tip: be a hard sell and they will offer you something better). We were almost there a few times, but as we said many times throughout the whole process we are absolutely NOT going to buy anything.
So here’s me, timeshare presentation survivor and as rich (read: solidly middle class) as ever! And YES, the baby whale was totally worth it!