Surviving The Time-Share Pitch

Front of our' vacation package' condo in Williamsburg

Front of our ‘vacation package’ condo in Williamsburg

Many of you have probably sat through a time-share presentation. Some of you may have bought a time-share. I imagine a lot of you who bought one are perfectly happy with it. But I’ve mostly heard about those of you who aren’t happy. And who want to get out of their time-share, but can’t. There are even time-share resale brokers out there.

So, we weren’t in the market for a time-share, but we agreed to listen to the pitch in exchange for a three-night stay at a two-bedroom condo in Williamsburg, Virginia, for $189 plus tax. A nice deal for roomy comfortable accommodations in that historic area.

We had seen this ‘vacation’ offer at a home show in Raleigh. Of course, the pitch at the home show and the reality we found at the actual resort site diverged a bit. To get us to buy the vacation package, we were assured that we would just be given a golf-cart tour around the property to familiarize us with it so we could recommend it to others in our sphere of influence. We were assured that it certainly wasn’t a time-share pitch.  Nosirree.

Well, since we hadn’t just fallen off the turnip truck, we knew going in that we would be getting a sales pitch. And, probably some pressure. So, on the first morning of our stay, when we walked into the main building at the resort, we had our loins girded and our defenses up. Oh yeah, bring it on…

Right away, I got p****d off by the blunt attitude of the receptionist who unsmilingly informed us we needed to provide two forms of identification. WTF for!? In case we might be impersonating someone else? It was as though she worked at DMV instead of a resort. It was obvious that the up-front personnel weren’t in on the uber-friendly mindset of the rest of the cast of players.  That attitude, plus the music blasting in the place set my teeth on edge.

Shortly after, instead of getting one of the attractive non-threatening young ladies we had seen cruising through the foyer, we got this big, over-friendly stereotypical salesman type who immediately made me start to hate my own first name. One of my pet peeves is perfect strangers using my first name as though we’re long time pals. It gets my back up, and definitely doesn’t put me in a receptive mood. I remember from my road-repping days the common sales wisdom that we all ‘love to hear our own names.’ But I have learned that a respectful “Mr. Jones” will go a lot farther than the immediate presumptuous use of a first name. Especially if the person being addressed so familiarly has a decade or two on the user.

We were led back to the boiler room where various couples were seated around small tables with sales reps. Ellen noticed that all of the prospects were seated so that their backs were to the room. Probably so they couldn’t make eye contact with another victim and exchange eye rolls.

Our representative began talking and scribbling boxes and numbers and arrows on sheets of paper, spinning them around periodically so that we could briefly see them. It was immediately obvious that he’d been through this presentation many, many times. He was almost like a performer on stage, with practiced mannerisms and gestures. Except, he rarely made eye contact. He was mostly looking up at the ceiling or off to the side. And occasionally making crude gestures I thought inappropriate in front of Ellen.  Turns out, she didn’t notice them but I sure did.

I paid attention to my own body language, working not to cross my arms or look away, but instead to assume an open posture and look at him head on. Ellen and I were both careful about our answers to discovery questions – we would look at each other as if to mentally confer about our responses.

I knew that any information we provided would be incorporated into the pitch to try to build a chain of logic, with the inevitable conclusion that we just HAD to buy this thing. And we were determined NOT to buy this thing.

Finally, after an hour or so of this, he suggested we go look at a model unit, and so we headed out the door for a short walk to a two-level ‘cottage.’ It was pleasant enough, but we still weren’t tempted.  And around this time, the rep started to get the idea that we weren’t going to be buying today.

We walked back to the main building where he quickly scribbled some numbers on one of those sheets of paper of his with more circles and arrows and other confusing stuff. What jumped off the paper at me this time, though, was a figure – $48,000 – which floored me. But then he quickly deducted something like thirty percent off of that, which didn’t help at all. I was done and just waiting for the bell.

He knew we were done and pretty much skated through the last couple of minutes and then showed us where to go for our free ‘gift’ for listening. The gift, and the reason we’d agreed to listen, was four tickets to Colonial Williamsburg. We had to talk to one more guy whom I thought would be batting cleanup to give the sale one more try, but he only asked questions about our treatment and our salesman’s performance.

He then walked us over to the receptionist where he produced an envelope with our names on it, placed it in my hand, and before I could even say “thank you,” abruptly turned his back to us and began speaking to another prospect. Obviously, our value had expired and he couldn’t be bothered with any further interaction.

What did I learn? In high-ticket sales situations, if you don’t buy, you are merely in the way. Suddenly, you are no longer their bestest, long-lost friend and the syrupy friendliness is exposed as the sham it really is.

Shortly after this, we had a brief encounter with a man also staying in our building who walked up to us and asked if we’d bought. We replied ‘no’ and he, in a thick southern accent, said that he hadn’t either, but that his wife and her friend were upstairs in the condo ‘weeping’ because they had wanted it so badly.  I didn’t envy him the ride home…

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9 Comments

  1. Tom Harrington
    Sep 16, 2013

    Barry,

    We purchased the same trip when we were at the home show last year. Wendy and I have been through these pitches before but this group was over the top with “high pressure” tactics. First, they took us out for breakfast off site. 2 hours. Then we had to sit through the pitch but we declined. Before we received our “gifts” we were cornered twice more by other reps with “even better” deals. These types of sales pitches is what give the industry such a bad name.

    With that said we had a completely different experience with a company called BlueGreen Resorts when we purchased a great deal on an Orlando/Disney/Universal Studios vacation. Wendy and I went into the sales pitch as a unified force of “NO WAY ARE WE BUYING”!

    BlueGreen’s approach was a breath of fresh air. They presented a nice overview of their program, company, properties, cost, benefits …. and so on. But then they simply stepped back. We said “No thank you” firmly We really could have walked away right there and then and received our great bonus gifts that were part of the deal.

    But then they made an extremely polite second offer, left it on the table, stood up and walked away to leave us alone. No pitch, or high pressure tactics.

    That offer was so good, and fit our needs so well that we did buy it and did not feel guilty or buyers remorse afterward.

    I have to say that the Williamsburg approach vs BlueGreen were lights years apart in approach and value to an owner.

    With that said, I am happy that we went tp Orlando and ecstatic that we will never sit through another high pressure time share sales pitch ever again :-)

    • Barry
      Sep 16, 2013

      Tom, Thanks for commenting. And thanks for your input. I’m glad your second experience was better. We didn’t get the off-site breakfast, although we went to Shorty’s and overheard someone talking about the resort. When we saw them a bit later at the resort, we put two and two together… Guess WE weren’t worth a free breakfast to them… ;-D

  2. Ray
    Sep 16, 2013

    Been through a few of them to get free nights at RV resorts. They try to sell you a membership. Goes much the way you describe. I always do a good internet search first and find out about the company and read some reviews. Armed with that info I find they soon don’t want to talk to me, hehe. A recent one we sat through the guy pitched his price and a few people left and suddenly the price dropped 25%. If you’re think skinned and disciplined like me it’s a good way to get some free camping. :)

    • Barry
      Sep 16, 2013

      Ray – Thanks for commenting. I can be pretty thick-skinned too, but have to weigh the experience against how badly I might want the “free” camping or lodging or vacation. I, too, listened to a camping membership pitch about ten years ago. Didn’t do it again until last week. Like your site, by the way.

  3. Robin
    Sep 16, 2013

    Had to laugh, been through these before in various places. Family’s got numerous time shares, and like previous poster said, presentations are so variable, even how gracious they are (or aren’t) when told no. Why is it that it always seems to take twice the ‘allotted time’ to get through it all, I’ll never know. Hey you got the freebies, so it’s good. :)

    • Barry
      Sep 16, 2013

      Robin, Thanks for commenting. Glad to provide a laugh or two…

  4. I’ve done only one of these… and it was also in Williamsburgh VA. We were promised tickets for 4 to Busch Gardens and a $100 Visa Gift Card. We were told the “presentation” would take 90 minutes.

    Firstly, it did NOT take 90 minutes. They took us on a golf cart with our two small kids for a tour of the grounds that was supposed to take 20 minutes but in reality took more like 50. The kids were hot, cranky, and overdue for lunch.

    Then we were brought into the “pitch room” where we politely watched the slideshow and sat through another person’s sales presentation. After about 20 minutes, when we could see that all info had been presented and we were now moving into the repetitive phase of trying to close us, we said “thanks but no thanks. We’d like to receive our tickets and gift card and go.”

    This did not go over well. We were then sent into a very rude manager’s office, where he was closely bordering on nasty and did give us our Busch Gardens tickets but refused to give us the gift card. Thankfully, I’d brought a printed copy of our confirmation that showed–in writing–what we were supposed to receive, which he grudgingly did finally provide after some mild threats of Better Business Bureau reporting.

    We agreed that it’s just not worth it. Not only do we not accept timeshare deals anymore, but in fact, we won’t even stay at a hotel that offers them, due to the representatives that harass you, trying to book a presentation every time you walk through the lobby.

    • Barry
      Sep 16, 2013

      Lori, Thanks for commenting! My post seems to have struck a nerve. Check out some of the other comments.

  5. Isabel Crovetto
    Jun 12, 2014

    Timeshare fraud has been around since the timeshare idea was created, but they increase during poor economy. When times are difficult, timeshare owners are stuck with properties they can´t travel to or even afford. Desperate to recoup some money to pay for bills, they can easily become victims to scams artists pretending to be their timeshare salvation who will take upfront fees -as much as five number figures in some cases- but fail to fulfill their promise.

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