Tag Archives: vacation

Modern Day Torture, aka The Timeshare Presentation

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.

Sailboat ride.

For the whole family.

At sunset.

With a baby whale.

And dolphins.

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.

The spiel

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?

The pressure

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.

The deal

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!


Aloha, Family Style

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It doesn’t get much more spectacular than this. Jagged black rock underfoot, ocean spray on my cheek, thundering waves in my ear and the hot Hawaiin sun beating down on it all. This cliff feels a little closer to the Creator. It smells like vacation: salt water, sunscreen and those little hotel soaps.

Sure, there are still meals to scrounge and pull-ups to change. Public toilets are infinitely more scary with their wide bowls and roaring flushes. I slink out of airport washrooms with an apologetic shrug. Fellow travelers must wonder what cruel torture my pint sized offspring is enduring as she shrieks and wails her displeasure. I can only hope their concerns are put to rest with her happy shouts of “I pee, Daddy! I pee!” as she runs down the concourse.

Bedtime is lost in the shuffle, though wake up time remains absolute, even with the time change. Communal sleeping arrangements are not that relaxing. Less so than ever when the eldest child begins puking up every thing she has ever eaten.

Apparently Gravol is one of the only things I forgot in my 43 hours of packing and re-packing. The U.S. has 17 flavours of M&Ms, but no Gravol (a foolproof cure for nauseated Canadian children, in case you’re wondering). So, the wee hours of the morning are spent re-decorating the bathroom at Waikiki Best Western, wide bowls and all.

Fortunately, after a few hours, her stomach is empty and she’s feeling much better. Now, she’s hungry. I may never be hungry again.

The continental breakfast wins us over, despite the cold eggs and warm milk. The fresh pineapple is sublime and POG (passion-orange-guava juice) is a new favourite. We are bound and determined to enjoy all activities which are preceded by the word “complimentary”.

Traveling with kids is not for the faint of heart. When we show up with our 3 kids, 7 carry-on bags and Tigger-themed stroller, we get looks that are half admiring, half pitying and half horrified. Don’t ask me how that math works, but it is predictable. Whether on a plane, tour bus or trendy restaurant we seem to cause a stir. It’s not like we have that many kids!

Also predictable is the doting Grandma-type we find everywhere we go. They are sweet and kind and, often, determined to give my children candy. Should I mention the puking to them at this point? Also, does our “no taking candy from strangers rule” apply to Dorothy from Saskatoon? After all, she has been sitting across the aisle for the past hour AND she’s Canadian.

The Polynesians believe that we are all “ohana” = family. These warm and approachable people called us “cousin” wherever we went this week. The cynic in me wonders if this is just a gimmick to charm tips from the wide-eyed tourists. Perhaps, but not entirely. After all, this is a culture that uses the same word for “hello”, “goodbye” and “I love you”.

And I think they are right. As crazy and overwhelming as traveling with kids can be, most of the people we meet along the way are friendly and helpful. They’ve carried our bags, entertained our children, given us directions, advice and even money. B fell in love with a small wooden frog, but we had used up all our cash. The lady beside us whipped out her wallet, before we could even protest, and bought it for her. We had never seen her before and we never will again.

Strangers like that remind me we really do come from the same big family. I’m thrilled my kids have seen the amazing sights, woven toys out of palm fronds, made music with bamboo sticks, learned to snorkel on the reef and eaten pig that had been roasted in a pit all day long. But mostly I’m glad they’ve learned that all people, even those with strange customs living in far off lands, are just cousins they’ve never met.

So here’s me, knowing that someday I will be the kindly Grandma across the aisle, foisting lint-covered candy on strange children everywhere I go.


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