We recently attended our fifth timeshare sales pitch. They’ve all been interesting in their own way – the product itself, the style of the sales pitch, the interaction with the salesman. The first event we attended was near our Seattle home and probably just months after we were married. The man running the slideshow asked folks to raise their hand and tell the group what they got for their sixth birthday. No one had an answer. Their 10th birthday? Christmas when they turned 16? There were a few timid answers but not much. Then he asked “OK, then, tell me about a vacation your family took when you were a kid.” Hands shot up in the air and everybody started talking. I know, I know. It’s unfair because he didn’t ask for a vacation the year we were some specific age and we were all there for a travel pitch because we liked travel, but it was powerful! Maybe that timeshare sales pitch even changed our lives? Since then we’ve dedicated a large amount of our parental energy to traveling with our kids. It is, after all, what they will remember.
A different sort of timeshare was pitched to us on a Christmas Eve in Florida – that 2 hours was a disaster. The salesman was virtually begging us to help him save his family’s Christmas. It was also fascinating. He kept showing us photos of beautiful gated communities, stressing that word “gated”. Blick! Then he showed us some ski resorts and our eyes lit up but he didn’t even notice. He went right back to gated communities with high-end golf courses. He may have been in Florida too long?
Anyway, we’ve strangely always had fun at these sales events. The various rewards have ranged from three-day getaways (we went skiing! Dang that salesman missed his opportunity) to useless hotel coupons (50% off of the listed price – which is more than twice what we would ever pay anyway). How do we keep it fun?
1) Make a date of it! If you have kids, you can’t bring them so you already had to have arranged for childcare. Take advantage. Go a little early, enjoy dinner, and maybe even a drink. Be careful. If you don’t think you can resist the sales pitch after a drink or two, wait until post-pitch to imbibe.
2) Do your research. Check the website of whatever company wants to sell you something. Look for blogs and customer comments describing positive or negative experiences with the company. Of course, check the Better Business Bureau.
3) Avoid any early statements such as “I just want you to know that we are not here to buy.” It’s like saying “I dare you to make me spend ten thousand dollars.” You may also get some prickly resistance and anger. We had one saleswoman tell us that we needed to get up and leave if we weren’t serious. Wow! Even if it doesn’t induce anger, this sort of declaration will certainly not have the effect of making the salesman say to himself “Shucks, I guess I won’t make a sale tonight so I’ll just lay off these nice folks and give them a cool gift for stopping by.”
4) Lie a little. I can’t believe I’m saying this but, go on, lie just a little. You’ll get all tangled up if you lie big, so stick to little, fun surprising lies. (Even if you’re being a little silly, do stay respectful. The sales agent is a person trying to do a good job.) If you always wanted to live on a farm, mention something about your cows. If you dream of a cabin on a beach, talk about that cabin like it’s yours. To be honest (pun intended), we actually haven’t ever lied at one of these events. I don’t think we’d be any good at it but we have had a lot of fun dreaming up lies we might say if we were a little braver. “OK, I’ll own my own small business selling soda pop and you’ll be a famous writer with a nom de plume.”
5) Don’t ask too many questions about how the system (whatever system they are trying to sell you) works or about financing. They have answers and they will tell you all of those answers. They will also latch onto you as a potential customer and increase the intensity of their sales pitch.
6) Reminisce about past vacations with zest! This is generally their hook. Remembering about past vacations is fun and makes us all want to travel more. That induced travel lust, they hope, will nudge you into buying their product. But you don’t have to buy to enjoy the ride. What was the best vacation you went on as a kid? What is your dream destination? Where is the best place you’ve ever spent the night?
7) Assuming you have no intention of buying, be ready to explain why you don’t want to buy their product. Find yourself a reason that they can’t refuse. If your reason is price, they will have a solution. “It’s just too expensive” is what they’re expecting. If you have questions about the program or concerns about how much you’ll use the condo/club/timeshare, they can convince you that you will use it and love it. If you need time to think, they have “regulations” that limit the deal to “tonight only.” But, if there is something about the product that you simply don’t like, they’ll have a hard time continuing to pitch their product to you. For us, it’s usually pretty easy. We don’t really enjoy traditional resort-based vacations. What’s your reason for not buying tonight? Were you expecting something that you could rent out? A place you could decorate in your own style? Do you now realize that you actually prefer B&Bs? Those are all reasonable objections to most products we’ve been pitched. Do I feel guilty that I haven’t bought anything yet? Absolutely not! Am I never 100% sure that I won’t buy when I attend. I do wish to invest in future vacations. I am interested in their products. But nothing that has been pitched to me yet is the kind of vacation product investment I’d buy into. If they want to give me a promotional offer for listening to their next investment opportunity, that’s fine.
8) About that promotional offer … expect it to be a challenge. If there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is definitely no such thing as a free three-day getaway. Read the fine print. Expect restrictions. Expect to pay reservation fees. Know, deep in your heart, that the promotional offer is a gimmick. It will be like solving a puzzle to find some value in whatever you are awarded. No problem. After all, you’re not really just there for the free gift right?