My folks own a timeshare vacation property in Palm Springs. It’s a wonderful place, owned and operated by Marriott, and they love it. Every time I get to stay with them at one of Marriott’s first-class properties I always think back to the first timeshare presentation my wife and I attended. It was a little different.
We were thirty years old and newly married, vacationing with good friends in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We all signed up to go to a timeshare presentation on the first morning of our trip, in order to gain free passage on an all-you-can-eat-and-drink catamaran “booze cruise,” and free desert ATV rentals. (Wisely, they had scheduled those activities for two different days.)
We were to be served a complimentary breakfast while we chatted delightfully with the sales representative about the merits of Mexican timeshare vacationing, then we would be whisked off to our all-expense-paid fun in the sun. During the sign-up in the hotel lobby, all I heard was, “Free beer, free food, free beer, free food, free boat ride, free beer, free ATV.” I was in.
The next morning we met our delightful sales representative at the hotel’s restaurant and had our breakfast. The breakfast was great, but our delightful sales representative turned out to be a Canadian Tony Danza look-alike with slicked back hair and a cigarette hanging from his lower lip. He kept talking about how owning a timeshare in Cabo was really just “pre-paid vacation insurance.” I couldn’t get him to explain what he meant by that. Every time I asked, he would say, “You know what I mean,” and move on to another topic. The only actual piece of information I was able to extract from him was that this was not the type of timeshare where you actually own a piece of the property. It was just an annual fee to be able to rent a hotel room at the resort.
After our delightful breakfast and hotel room tour, we were invited back to the sales office to further discuss the amazing opportunity that lay before us. I politely declined and asked Tony Danz-eh if he had our booze cruise tickets handy. He informed me that the free swag was not available until after the full presentation, so off to the sales office we went.
Now it was time to talk turkey. Dollars and sense. In this case, Canadian dollars and sense. It turned out that the entire operation was staffed with Canadians. Apparently they had become fed up with cold weather, and Mexico has either non-existent or very lax anti-discriminatory labor laws, because there wasn’t a non-Canuck among them.
Our delightful sales representative finally got down to brass tacks, and threw out the number for the big-time, all-access pass to vacation paradise. All of our future vacations would be completely insured in a pre-paid manner for a mere $30,000. I didn’t bother to ask if that was in American dollars, Canadian dollars or pesos. I just laughed out loud.
We were thirty-year-old newlyweds who had recently purchased our first home. I think between us we had about $8.50 in the bank.
After my wife helped me gain some measure of control over my previously uncontrolled laughter (by kicking me under the table), I explained our financial situation to our salesman and told him that we could not afford to “buy in” to the timeshare today. I also informed him that I still didn’t have enough information about the “fabulous pre-paid vacation insurance” deal that he was offering us, and that I would really like some written literature about the resort.
Apparently, this was not the kind of operation that puts facts down on paper because no matter how many times I asked for timeshare informational literature, my request was met by a change of subject. After our salesman decided that he was making no ground with us, he called in the big guns. The closer was summoned, and the real dealing began.
Apparently, unbeknownst to our original salesman, the Smiths had just unfortunately had to sell their long-held timeshare due to an illness in the family, and that had freed up some once-in-a-lifetime deals that could be ours today at rock-bottom prices. Our ticket into the club was instantly 50% off, down to a measly $15,000. I repeated the process of explaining why I could not afford that amount and, no matter what the cost, I would not be writing any checks until I had some literature to read over and a night to sleep on it.
My requests for literature signaled to the closer that further price slashing was obviously in order, so we then learned of another unfortunate family, the Johnsons, who had recently been forced, due to uncontrollable circumstances, to give up their treasured timeshare, opening the door for us at a mere $5000 price tag.
Three or four unfortunate family situations later, our closer got to the final number. We could buy our way out of the delightful timeshare office for $1200.
“Could you go ahead and write us a check for that right now?” We were asked.
Let’s see, here. You started at $30,000, and got all the way down to $1200, and apparently I’m “buying” the same thing? I still don’t know what “pre-paid vacation insurance” means, and I’m getting the feeling you don’t either. I haven’t seen one shred of paper with any writing on it, and you seem petrified at the thought of giving me a day to think about this glorious opportunity that you have laid out before me. No one, including you, seems to know exactly what the Joneses just gave up that you are trying to sell me, and to top it all off, I have been in this office for over an hour and no one has offered me a free beer.
I’m in Mexico, dude. I didn’t even bring my checkbook. And even if I had, I wouldn’t write you guys a check for a dollar. American, Canadian, or otherwise. Go get me my booze cruise tickets.
The moral of the story: You can’t trust Mexican Canadians. At least, that’s what I took away from it.
The two hours we lost that morning turned out to be totally worth it, however. The booze cruise alone was reward enough for being subjected to the Canucxican timeshare hornswoggle. As we sailed back to the dock after a half-day of fun in the sun, while sipping my umpteenth free beer, it occurred to me that the Canadian sales team would probably do a lot better if they made their pitch after the booze cruise, instead of before.
“Pre-paid vacation insurance” almost starts to make sense if you’ve had enough alcohol.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen
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