Tango with a Timeshare

Last summer, WonderMan and I visited the beaches of Puerto Vallarta for  a week. The weather was amazing. Everyone was warm and friendly. The much needed downtime was sorely overdue.

There is one, albeit strange, vacation pastime that I secretly enjoy – timeshare presentations. I could do without the high pressure sales tactics and the gauntlet of “managers” which appear every time the word ‘no’ is uttered. However, I do enjoy the freebies, the low-budget location tours, and visits to model properties. I know … I need a new hobby.

This fascination started a few years ago, after we purchased our own timeshare and began the Timeshare Tango. Yes, in 2003 we became one of the 48 million American households that own a timeshare. Since then, we have definitely used the timeshare. My husband and I love to travel. However, if I had to do it all over – I would avoid this industry like the plague.

So before I give my laundry list of “why nots”, I tried to objectively list the positives.

1. We’ve visited some very nice, under the radar locations.

2. We like the larger accommodations that one and two bedrooms units provide.

3. We have taken friends along which reduces the overall tab for our companions. They just need to fund their transportation costs.

4. If you live within driving distance of a decent property, then your vacation costs can be significantly reduced.

While I detest timeshares with a passion, if you have one and can, you might as well use it. Timeshares or vacation ownership plans are basically a prepaid vacation with a hook. The hook – you owe the management company an annual fee (maintenance fee) each year whether you use the property or not.  The fees can range between $300 and $1500 per year.

For this most recent excursion, I had yet another reason to attend the presentation – research. I feel bad for the poor sales person who picked our group because we weren’t biting. I did, however, leave with great material for this blog and our next radio show. As with all presentations, we encountered the following cast of characters.

Skimmers

We hadn’t even made it out of the airport before the first wave set in. Under the guise of providing some useful tourist information, you are invited to a short presentation – only 60 minutes of your time including breakfast. The first lie! Now these guys request a refundable deposit to guarantee your space. I would advise you to walk away and find your taxi. However, if you’re intrigued tell him to nix the deposit. It’s not necessary.

Sea Shells

These are the nice representatives who greet you upon arrival. They offer you refreshments. Seat you in the nice, comfy chairs and take all the pertinent information. There’s an exorbitant amount of paper work floating around.

Surfers

You meet with a fairly affable host. You’ll have polite conversation while touring a well manicured property. The talk turns to possibilities for vacations. You’ll spend time in the model units. This is designed to pull you deeper into the abyss that is timeshare sales. Now it’s time to step into the project details.

At this point, there are never any prepared documents. Everything is always hand-written on a yellow, legal note pad. There must be a timeshare sales 101 class. The surfer is talking and writing and circling and underlining. This is all to wear you down and distract you from the idea that you are about to make a very costly mistake. Then they hit with the number. It’s always some ridiculous amount. This time takes the cake though…$50,000. I was hoping that was in pesos. What self respecting person would pay $50,000 for this? No thanks. Trust me, they expect that response.

Sharks

Now you start receiving visits from other timeshare sales people. The sharks always have a manager title. If you like the vacation plan, but not the price then perhaps you’ll be interested in another deal. Say no enough times and they’ll offer to pay you to take the timeshare. Even then you should walk away.

The Sea Crab

This is the latest addition to the cast of characters. After emphatically saying no for the bizillionith time, we met the Sea Crab on the way out for one last hoorah. Unfortunately, by this time (3 hours later) I was too tired to continue my research and was not interested in the additional pitch.

Why do I sacrifice a good day of Mexican sunshine on the alter of the timeshare gods? It doesn’t make good cents! Neither does purchasing a timeshare in the first place. I’ve made the mistake so hopefully you don’t have to.

In Part II, I’ll look deeper at the reasons to avoid timeshares and some resources for those trying to unload these monstrosities.

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