Have you been invited to attend a timeshare presentation? Perhaps you’ve been offered a steal of a vacation deal – the only catch is that you have to attend a mandatory timeshare meeting. Buying is optional, of course. The timeshare company just requires a little bit of your time. Sounds great, right?
Timeshares are arrangements whereby people own the right to use a shared property for a designated period of time, usually one or two weeks per year. In some cases, the timeshare owner can trade the use of his or her property for the use of another location in another vacation destination. Because of the high initial cost of purchasing a timeshare, in addition to the monthly fees, many people consider timeshares to be a bad investment. However, timeshare companies offer enticing promotions designed to get potential buyers to take a look at what they have to offer. And whether or not you’re seriously considering buying, taking advantage of these promotions can make sense – in certain circumstances.
Timeshare Presentations Can Offer Cheap Trips
Timeshares are often available at some of the most popular vacation destinations, including Walt Disney World, Las Vegas, and various ski resorts. These are all attractive places to visit, but the costs of hotel rooms, show tickets, and amusement park tickets can make such trips difficult to afford.
In order to entice prospective buyers to visit their timeshares, many companies offer special promotions, including discounted or free stays to hot-spot destinations, as well as tickets to nearby attractions. Typical promotions might include:
- Three nights in an Orlando hotel and two tickets to Disney theme parks for $99
- A stay in a Las Vegas hotel and free gambling credit for $44 per night
- Three days and two nights in a luxury resort, plus two theme park tickets for $169
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The Obvious Catch
While these timeshare deals can seem like an incredible bargain, remember that very few things are ever free. In exchange for the deal, you are required to attend a timeshare presentation. This requirement is mentioned when you book your package, and typically the company offering the promotion explains exactly what is required of you. In most cases, you must attend a 90-minute sales pitch, and sometimes take a tour of the timeshare resort as well.
It is also important to note that not everyone is eligible for the timeshare package. The requirements vary by company, but you may need to be married or in a relationship, and you almost always need to be over the age of 25 (or in some cases, over 30). Additional requirements may be imposed and should be stated upfront before you book your timeshare package.
If you fail to attend the presentation, don’t bring your spouse (if required), or otherwise don’t fulfill all of the mandates of getting the timeshare deal, then you’ll have to pay full price for the accommodations.
The Less Obvious Problems
Having to give up 90 minutes of your vacation time may not seem like a big deal if you are getting a significant discount, but most people who attend a timeshare presentation report that it was a lot more than they bargained for.
First and foremost, be prepared for very high-pressure sales tactics at the presentation. Some of these tactics include:
- Keeping You for Longer Than the Allotted Time. Many visitors report being kept for hours, or even full days, at presentations that were supposed to last only 90 minutes.
- Creating a False Sense of Urgency. Timeshare presenters paint a picture of how much you can benefit from owning a timeshare, and then tell you that you must act now or buy before you leave the presentation.
- Not Disclosing Cancellation Periods. When you do agree to sign a timeshare contract, it is unlikely you will be told of your right to cancel.
- Arguing Aggressively Against Objections. Timeshare presenters usually have an answer for everything, and they always have a way to counter any excuse you might come up with.
- Using Guilt as a Means of Coercion. Timeshare presenters may say anything to make you feel guilty, from alleging that they won’t be paid if you don’t buy a timeshare, to trying to make you feel bad for accepting the “free” stay without making a purchase.
- Lying About the Investment Value. Timeshare sales reps often significantly overstate the benefits of owning a timeshare and the value of the timeshares they are selling.
- Obscuring the True Costs of Ownership. The focus during presentations is on the low costs of ownership, and you never hear upfront about any of the restrictions or fees.
- Bombarding You With Multiple Pitches From Different Salespeople. Before you are able to escape, you may need to deal with multiple salespeople, as well as “managers,” all of whom use different, highly aggressive tactics to get you to buy.
These are just some of the high-pressure tactics employed by timeshare marketers. In fact, many people on various online complaint and scam message boards report that as a result of the high-pressure tactics that they faced, they bought timeshares despite their clear intent not to. While you may believe that you can stand up to the pressure, you won’t really know until you’ve dealt with the sales professionals whose sole job it is to get you to buy a timeshare – even if you don’t really want one.
While high-pressure sales tactics are often the biggest reported complaint among those who take discounted timeshare vacations, there may be other problems as well. Some customers report not getting exactly what they were promised. For instance, you might not be put in the hotel of your choice, or the discount tickets offered might have restrictions that make them difficult to use. If you don’t get what you expected, your recourse may be limited, and you’ll probably have a hard time recouping any money you spent on the vacation.
Of course, not every single timeshare company is going to entrap you in long sales pitches or put you in sub-par accommodations. It may be possible to find legitimate timeshare deals, and have a fine experience on your vacation. However, the bottom line is that you take a risk when you accept free gifts from timeshare presenters, and you need to remember that the gift does not come without strings attached.
Have you ever attended a timeshare presentation? What was your experience?