How We Survived A Timeshare Presentation & Got A Free Cruise Vacation Without Buying Any Timeshares



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If you’ve never been to a timeshare presentation and you’re thinking about attending one for the free gift, be warned — you’ll probably never know what a high-pressure sales experience really is until you’ve been to a timeshare presentation!

It may have been easier walking into a car dealership flashing $20,000 cash in my hands and negotiating that dreaded onslaught of ambitious car salesmen than dealing with the series of cunning marketing professionals who ran the timeshare seminar I attended with my fiancée.

This Orlando timeshare presentation we sat through was a harrowing sales experience that felt like the longest 4 hours of our lives.

 

Why We Went To A Timeshare Seminar

We were at a bridal show when a vendor for a major cruise line approached us to see if we wanted to attend a timeshare presentation — in return for a free cruise and free tickets to a professional basketball game in Orlando.

Ordinarily, I’d have passed on the deal right away. But I’ve heard about these free vacation timeshare seminars for what seems like my whole life, and I thought “let’s see what they’re all about.” If nothing else, I knew the experience — good or bad — would make for an interesting story that I could blog about and share with others.

We had to give a $30 refundable cash deposit to attend — with the promise that if we showed up to the timeshare presentation, we would get back the money and also get vouchers for a free cruise for 2 people plus those pro basketball game tickets.

Would we really receive the free vacation offers? And get our $30 back, too?

I thought the experience was worth the risk. So, we went all in and showed up at the vacation club in Orlando, Florida at 10 AM on a Friday for the timeshare presentation.

 

The Timeshare Sales Pitch That Went On And On…

We walked into the vacation club office, located on the site of a major Orlando resort, and were immediately greeted by friendly concierge staff.

We sat down in the lobby as directed, and just a few minutes later, Mr. Salesman (as I’ll call him) kindly greeted us.

We shook each other’s hands and he took us upstairs to a loft area with about a dozen 4-seat roundtables.

It looked like a casual café dining area, but it sounded more like a nightclub — because they had fast-paced calypso music playing at a volume just loud enough that we had to speak up a little to talk to anybody farther than a few feet away.

Already, I realized what was going on here… They were setting the stage for a fast close on some tropical vacation deals. (Don’t believe me? !)

Mr. Salesman proceeded to tell us, “I know you’re here for a free cruise, but will you keep an open mind about this vacation plan?”

My fiancée and I agreed we’d be open to hearing his sales pitch and made polite conversation with Mr. Salesman, who told us a bit about his life story. He soon started showing us pictures of him and his kids having fun on various vacation getaways. Hmm…  looks like he was trying to build an emotional connection with us, his potential customers.

Before long, he knew that I’m a journalist and my fiancée is a certified nursing assistant, and that we spend a few thousand bucks or so each year enjoying road trips. (That was my first mistake — telling him we spend any money on vacations on a regular basis.)

“What would you say if you took that same amount of money and guaranteed that NOT ONLY you and your fiancée could stay in a fancy timeshare, but that the next 4 generations of your family will ALSO have access to this flexible plan?”

I’m thinking to myself, “Wha…? 5 generations?”

“Your great-great grandkids who you’ll never even meet will be thanking you both if you choose this plan,” he went on to say. (No joke.)

Of course, the first thing I’m thinking to myself is “Gosh, how depressing. He’s trying to sell me a plan for the great-great grandkids who I’ll probably never meet?” Then, I wondered, “Will this timeshare company even still be around a century from now?”

I later found out this type of plan is called an inherited timeshareit’s basically a timeshare contract that can last up to 99 years and can be very difficult to sell or otherwise get rid of.

I also discovered through some basic research that inherited timeshares can be a nightmare for those hypothetical, yet-to-be-born great-great grandkids to handle. I can almost hear their sarcasm now, “Yeah, thanks a LOT, Great-Great Grandparents!”

And so the elaborate sales pitch went on, and we learned that the program has like 3 tiers — one where we buy into X points per year, another for Y, and a third for Z.

In this plan, certain timeshares use a given number of points. Choose wisely and you might be able to use those points on a few different vacations each year. “I think where you guys travel a few times per year you’ll definitely want “Y.”

He then asked, “How much do you think that would cost?”

I looked to my fiancée and back to Mr. Salesman and I joked, “Um… like $80,000?”

He replied, “Well, we’ll get to that in a minute…”

Apparently a minute in the timeshare seminar world means about 2 hours — because somehow this tableside chat kept going until noon, with a rundown on the plan’s flexibility, the number of options, etc.

Then came mention of the additional fees associated with keeping this plan alive for 5 generations. It’s $900 per year to activate your points, Mr. Salesman explains. “Oh, a one-time fee?” I asked. “No, that’s per year, but that’s far less than you spend already on your road trips.”

He then led us up from the table and walked us outdoors to a golf cart. “I’m going to show you the types of places you’ll be staying in,” he said, whisking us at a brisk 12 miles per hour to a timeshare unit similar to the ones advertised in the program. “And this is a 3-star place. The ones available in our plan are 4- and 5-star timeshares,” he added.

We reached our destination and proceeded up to a 4th-floor suite. “It’s got a private kitchen, 2 bedrooms — you can fit up to 10 people in here,” he said, opening up the door to the showroom. “Remember the places where you’ll be staying are even better than this,” he said.

Frankly, the place he showed us wasn’t too bad. But I couldn’t help but think I’d have no trouble finding similar rooms in a resort community for a competitive rate and without that century-long commitment.

“Your great-great grandkids are gonna thank you,” he said, taking us around the 2-bedroom suite.

“How big is your family?” he asked my fiancée as we look around the suite. She told Mr. Salesman about her big family and many siblings — which he jumped on right away. “Imagine bringing them here. Can you just see the look on their faces when they step in here?” he asked her, leading us into a tropical-themed bedroom.

The rest of the time in the timeshare showroom went this way — no longer involving just us, but also all of our family and those future great-great grandkids who he says we’ll never meet.

By this point, the only door I was looking for was the exit from this high-pressure sales experience. “All I’ve got to do is say ‘no’ at the end,” I kept telling myself.

For some reason, I kept thinking of Nancy Reagan and her “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign in the ’80s. However, just saying “no” wasn’t going to be so easy at this timeshare presentation.

 

Where’s The Exit Door?

By this point, we were getting to the 3-hour mark in what was supposed to be a 2-hour sales seminar. Even Mr. Salesman said it was getting late in the day (nearly 1 PM) and time to move on.

“OK, well thank you for showing us around,” I told him.

“Let’s head back to the sales center,” he said, motioning us back to the golf cart.

This is where the timeshare session went from being drawn out but polite to, “Get me the heck outta’ here — PLEASE!”

We headed back to that roundtable again — a little more tired and sweaty for the wear (after all, it’s January in Florida and a hot 75 degrees). Basically, we were presented those 3 timeshare contract options again: X, Y, or Z.

But this time, Mr. Salesman quoted us prices. No need to go into the messy details here, but the most basic plan began at $15,000. “You know, I just bought a car for $15,000, and now we’re looking to buy a house,” I informed him. “I don’t think the bank’s going to like me spending another 15 grand on a vacation package before buying a home.”

“But it’s a timeshare, and it’s for 5 generations,” he insisted.

“Look, I’ve got really good credit, and I don’t think buying a timeshare is the best idea right now,” I explained, assuming this is what he needed to hear to know that we were simply not interested.

Like clockwork, Mr. Salesman brings over his supervisor. “Hi, I’m Mr Supervisor, how are you?” he asked, extending us a handshake as he sat down across from us at the table. “I hear you guys are interested in buying Plan X.”

My patience was growing thin… “Actually, no, we’re not interested in buying anything. You see, I just bought a car for $15,000 — which I didn’t even plan on buying, but my old car quit and I needed something I can travel long distances in. We’re also about to buy a house, and there’s no way I’m ruining my credit now to buy a vacation plan.”

He countered, “It’s a timeshare plan.”

“I know, and I’m in no position to buy one now — we aren’t even married yet, and we need to get hitched and buy a home first before we do something like this together,” I affirmed, lovingly looking over toward my fiancée, who was sitting beside me.

“Yeah, man — but ‘happy wife, happy life,'” he said, smiling at my fiancée. He then pulled out photos of him and his bikini-clad fiancée soaking up the sun in Mexico, the Caribbean, and several other balmy destinations.

Then my fiancée spoke up… “I don’t really believe in that cliché, ‘happy wife, happy life,'” she said. “Happiness goes 2 ways, and we we’re about to get married and buy a house.”

Mr. Supervisor smirked, probably miffed that he wasn’t going get a sale by using his typical spiel. “Look, if you sign up today, how about we double your points during the first year?” he asked. “We’ll even give you the first year of membership free,” he added. “You mean the $900 annual points activation?” I asked.

“No, the $250 membership fee,” he replied.

“You mean there are point activation fees AND an annual membership fee?” I asked.

“Oh, yes — but don’t worry, all of this and the $15,000 will pay for itself in just the first few years as you guys go on vacations and use your points. Remember, this plan lasts 5 generations.”

By this point, whatever patience I still had after wading through all of this was pretty much gone. “Look, I know this is probably a good deal for those who have the money, but we’re in no position to sign this contract and pretty much ruin my credit score with an inquiry and a $15,000 purchase on top of that.”

Just when I thought THAT was going to end the conversation, Mr. Supervisor said, “Well, we can do in-house financing — that way there’s no credit pull!”

“Look, we’re not signing the contract,” I insisted. “Nothing, I’m signing my name on nothing. It’s been almost 4 hours now and we were told this would be a 2-hour seminar,” I told Mr. Supervisor — not angrily, but clearly ticked off at the endless path we seemed to be going on here. “I’m ready to leave.”

Mr. Supervisor pulled out what I presume was Plan D from his proverbial hip pocket. “So, I told you we’d double the points, right?” Before I could even answer back… “I’ve got to keep this quiet, I don’t want the boss to hear, but what if we knock this down to $9,500? Lowest I can go.”

I felt like I was talking to a brick wall that had 2 mouths and no ears. “Sir, look — we’re not buying anything. Can we please call it a day here?” And a day it nearly was… The clock got past 2 PM, and there was still no end in sight to this timeshare presentation.

Mr. Supervisor must’ve signaled to Mr. Boss to come out and close the deal or something, because before long another guy came walking up to the table. Mr. Supervisor sneaked off and Mr. Boss sat down. “Hi, I’m [Mr. Boss], good to meet you.”

“You, too, sir,” I kindly returned, “but I’ve already told Mr. Salesman and Mr. Supervisor that we’re not interested in buying any plans. We’re about to buy a house and…”

You’ll never believe what came out of his mouth next!

“No way!” he said. “I also manage a realty group here in Orlando. Give me a call sometime and we’ll talk about getting you guys set with a good mortgage.”

No exaggeration — all of this actually happened. 

Now the guy was trying to sell us a timeshare and a house! Were we the unassuming “victims” in a Candid Camera skit or something?

I really don’t know what other polite thing I could’ve said at this point but, “No, thank you, I’ve already got a credit union lined up.” (I did — so no lying there.)

“Look, you’re getting married soon, right?” Mr. Boss asked. “Yes…” I hesitatingly replied. “I’ll throw in X points more — so you can have a free honeymoon. That will leave you more money for buying the house.”

What was I to say? These guys had played on more emotions than should be legal. “Sir, listen, we appreciate the offers — thank you — but for the last time, we are NOT buying any timeshare plans. Can we please wrap this up now? It’s been 4 hours, and your representatives told us it would be 2. This is enough.”

Mr. Boss stood up from the table and stormed out of the room, and I heard him mutter under his breath, “I can’t believe this — total waste of time.”

Wow… How professional.

We were escorted downstairs to the main lobby by Mr. Salesman in a somber fashion to the front desk, where we were issued a voucher for our free cruise and pro basketball tickets.

Of course, the sales pitch didn’t quite end there…

The guy who issued our vouchers asked if we could supply the names, email addresses, and phone numbers of 10 people we’d like to invite to go through the same timeshare presentation.

“No thank you,” I said, mumbling to myself, “there’s no one I despise enough to put them through the 4 hours of misery we just experienced.”

We got our $30 back, too.

 

Are Timeshare Seminars A Scam?

I’m no financial guru, so I won’t spend much time talking about the cost of buying a timeshare versus not buying one. Whether or not you should buy a timeshare is something only you and your financial advisor can decide.

I have a few family members and several friends who have (or at one time had) timeshares — some seem to like them, others not so much.

Here’s what I will say…

From the info I picked up through this timeshare presentation, it sounds like you’ve got to count on being able to take a vacation pretty often to make it worth your while over the long haul. And that’s assuming you can take enough time off from your job.

And then there’s the amount of money it would cost in keeping up the timeshare plan that we were advertised. Theoe costs include:

  • Activating the points ($900 per year)
  • Staying a current member of the program ($250 per year)
  • Booking a trip ($200 and up per vacation)

Even then, you’re confined to using only the timeshare suites that are in-network — not really beneficial to you if you’re one for backpacking through little-known places and staying in independent mountain lodges or rugged hostels.

I can’t say the timeshare seminar is necessarily a scam, nor can I say it’s a terrible idea to buy a 99-year timeshare contract. We did get those free cruise tickets, the basketball game tickets, and our deposit back, in full — so we got what we were promised.

But the timeshare plan itself certainly wasn’t for us, not at that time — not before buying a home and saving for other things like fixing a broken water heater, repairing a leaky roof, or handling any of the other things that might come up after we become homeowners.

Not to mention the fact that the grueling 4-hour timeshare presentation was emotionally and physically draining — probably not worth the free gifts.

I just hope those great-great grandkids won’t be too disappointed that we turned down a 99-year-long contract on an inherited timeshare.

 

More Info About Attending A Timeshare Presentation

In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are some other resources to help you decide if attending a timeshare presentation makes sense for you:

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Joshua

I’m a Florida native, a roller coaster junkie, and a frequent traveler. (Long road trips are my favorite.) Born and raised in Tampa, I grew up visiting Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. I authored the book Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Images of Modern America, which details the colorful history of the Busch Gardens theme park. As a local historian, I've also written about other popular landmarks and attractions for a variety of publications. Here, on this Travel Guide, I like sharing little-known facts and fun stuff about all the places I've been -- so you will have a good idea of what those places are like and what you should know before you go. I especially enjoy helping others plan fun trips... on a budget!

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