A retired couple shared their personal experience after reading a recent column on the pressure-packed marketing routines of some condominium timeshares.
They filled out a card at a local department store offering a chance to win a free trip to Hawaii. They usually pass on such department-store promotions, fearing that huge new piles of junk mail would follow their signature and/or there would be a hard-sell string attached to a new vacuum cleaner or fitness-club membership.
But the couple always had a soft spot for the islands, and dreams of warm paradise returned when they saw the signs for the contest.
A few weeks later, they were informed by mail and telephone that they had won a trip for two to Las Vegas - three days, two nights and airfare - if they would first attend a 90-minute presentation on timeshare ownership. They're not the Las Vegas type - preferring heat without glitz - but, at that moment, the lure of a warm break was very appealing.
The couple agreed to go, but immediately began having second thoughts. They said they could picture themselves being chained to a desk in a room with no windows until they signed on the dotted line, and the Vegas deal probably would be valid only on Christmas Eve and Christmas night.
When the dreaded day came, they armed themselves with all the defensive responses and explanations they could muster. The couple vowed not to spend one second more than 90 minutes at the presentation. If they were required to do so, they would threaten to call the National Guard.
The time-share presentation turned out to be quite painless. About 12 couples, seemingly a mixed bag of young newlyweds, retirees and calloused mid-lifers, were ushered into a small theater. After a verbal description of the company's background, resorts and exchange options, the group was asked to make a mental accounting of costs for previous and future vacations. This was followed by a color video showing people of all ages and races enjoying the company's condominiums in the western United States, British Columbia and Hawaii.
The couple then met with a company saleswoman in an adjacent room to discuss costs and contracts. The environment was casual with similar conversations going on at other small tables. The representative assigned to the couple was a timeshare member in the company and explained why she thought her membership was a good decision. The rep had recently returned from a week's stay in Hawaii and mentioned how her affiliation had enabled her to stay four extra nights at a significantly reduced rate.
The couple was informed that if they purchased a timeshare that day they also would be eligible for this reduced-rate "bonus time" at the company's condominiums, but the offer was only good for that day. Obviously, they had anticipated some sort of sales incentive that carried a limited-time tag. However, it was extended without any arm-twisting or pressure-cooker sweat scenes.
The couple remembers feeling ill-prepared to make a $21,000-plus decision then and there. The amount of information to digest was considerable and there was no time to investigate the company or chat about their ability to afford such a lavish expenditure. The representative ended up extending the bonus offer for 10 days to give the couple more research time. The couple was not pressured or pestered to stay longer.
The couple was escorted to an office where another representative issued the Las Vegas voucher. The lady congratulated the couple on their good fortune (not everyone present had been given the Vegas deal) and offered them a choice of Las Vegas accommodations.
The couple left without feeling hammered or that unachievable promises had been made. They then researched the time-share company, confirmed that the condo units it owned were first-rate, and purchased a week's worth of vacation a year, in perpetuity, for $20,200.
"I know I will spend that much on vacations in the future," the woman said. "It's a lot of money, but hotel rates will only rise. It's also something I can leave for the kids.
"The only misleading thing was that the contest said nothing about Las Vegas. I was satisfied with what I did, but I wonder if anybody got the trip to Hawaii?"
Next week: Bonus time and day use
Tom Kelly's new novel "Cold Crossover" is now available in print at bookstores everywhere and in both print and Ebook form from a variety of digital outlets. Follow real estate agent and former basketball coach Ernie Creekmore as investigates the disappearance of his star player on a late-night boat. Check out the national reviews and put "Cold Crossover" on your list.