Tips for Attending a Timeshare Presentation

By Bradley L. Jones

It is no secret to my friends and family that I own a timeshare. What might not be known is that for my first job out of college, I worked for a timeshare exchange company, Resorts Condominiums International (RCI). I worked for the DeHaans, who are credited with launching the timeshare exchange industry.

I have many conversations with people about timeshares and timeshare ownership. Most of those who I discuss this with have been approached to attend a timeshare presentation. Many people I know have wondered if the reality matches the hype. A few have bought, and one has bought multiple units. Simply put, it rarely does. Let me provide a few of my observations and some tips about timeshare presentations and the idea of timeshare ownership.

Timeshare Presentations

If you have attended a timeshare presentation, then you’ve experienced the high-pressure sales tactics that can be used. Timeshare salespeople make the reputation of used car salesmen look like kids play. You can say “no” over and over, but they will keep asking, plus they will pull other people into the sales pitch to also ask you to buy. The pressure to buy is intense.

Getting the Gifts

The pressure of timeshare presentations starts with gifts. If you stay at a resort or hotel associated with timeshares, you will likely be offered free gifts such as “hard to get” tickets, gift cards, “free” vacations, dinners, or cash. You also see these offers of gifts at mall kiosks, “half price ticket” booths in tourist towns, and other places. You might even get these offers over the phone should if you applied to a raffle to win a free car or vacation at your local mall, fair, or other location. The last resort I stayed at offered a $125 Visa gift card to attend a presentation. Regardless of how you come across it, most timeshare sales pitches begin with the offer of gifts.

Tip 1: Just say no, at least at first…

If you are staying at a resort or hotel that offers you a gift for a few minutes of your time, it is often best to say no the first offer. I’ve stayed at several resorts where the offer at check in was as much as half what the offer was a day or two later. A $75 Visa gift card can quickly become $125 by simply waiting a few days, or by asking if that is their best offer.

Note 1: It will be a high-pressure sales pitch

If you are offered gifts for a few minutes of your time, then you are undoubtably going to a sales pitch, and it will be high-pressure. You might be told that you are simply being asked for feedback on the resort, being given an update on resort changes, or being given an owner’s update. Regardless of the wording, if gifts are being offered, then you are being taken to a sales presentation.

Tip 2: Get the time commitment in writing

Sales presentations rarely last less than 90 minutes and almost always take longer than any amount of time you are quoted. One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen is that people feel held hostage at presentations. The reality is, if you don’t plan, you could be held hostage. As such, you need to mitigate any chance the resort can do that to you. To understand the extent that you can be held hostage, read reviews on a resort prior to attending any timeshare presentation.

I recently stayed at Westgate Smokey Mountains. There are a very large number of public reviews that indicate the promised 90-minute presentation went well over four hours and in some cases over five hours. Because many people are shuttled from other hotels for the presentation, they had no easy way to leave. Additionally, in the case of Westgate, like most resorts, they don’t give you your gifts until after they release you at the end. If you walk out before they release you, then you risk losing the gifts you were promised.

Get in writing how long you are expected to be there. More importantly, get in writing that the time starts at the time you are scheduled (and are there). It is not uncommon to keep you waiting when you arrive, and to also keep you waiting at other times. For example, if they are serving food, they will often consider the time you are eating as not a part of the presentation time – even though they will likely talk to you while you are eating.

Using Westgate Smokey Mountains as an example again, if you are staying on their property, they pick you up at your unit in a golf cart 15 minutes before your scheduled time to take you there. The driving tour to your scheduled time is packed with selling on their part. This is considered time spent getting to the pitch even though you are being sold the entire trip. The drive from your unit can include multiple stops to show you various aspects of the resort and the area.

If there are gifts, ask for them at the beginning of the presentation. At the resort where I own, they provide the gifts when you sign up for the presentation. You have them in advance and sign a waiver that says you’ll be charged for them if you don’t show up to the presentation. They also have in writing that you are committing to 90 minutes. They state that at 90 minutes, you can ask to leave, and they will honor it. This is not the norm for most resorts where I’ve stayed.

Tip 3: Read reviews for the resort

I mentioned in Tip 2 that many of the reviews for Westgate Smokey Mountains indicated that the presentation lasted more than 4 hours. If you are going to attend a timeshare presentation, read online reviews to see what others have experienced. This help you understand not only what people received, but also what issues they saw – such as being held captive for hours beyond what they expected. If your offer includes free nights at a vacation destination, you can learn about hidden fees or the quality of the vacation.

If you decide to purchase a unit (see my article on the value of a timeshare), then you can often find what people were offered and the pricing. You can see the approach taken to the sales presentation and more. Reading reviews can save you time and money.

Tip 4: Don’t believe what they say

Timeshare salespeople will tell you they don’t lie. At the last presentation I attended (at Westgate Smokey Mountains), I told the salesperson that he had blatantly lied to me, and that I didn’t appreciate it. I was asked to come do a quick 20-minute survey on how well he had served us during the week. He was our concierge person, so this was to help him. I had said I’d be willing to do that, but that I did not want a sales presentation, and did not want to be sold to. I said I didn’t want the sales presentation several times to the point that earlier in the week my wife indicated I was on the edge of being obnoxious about it.

It was quickly realized the survey was a full-court press for selling Westgate with all the normal tricks of the trade. I indicated to the salesperson that he had blatantly lied. He was selling, the person he had pulled over to present numbers for buying a timeshare unit was selling, and that this is exactly what I said I didn’t want. It was what he said he wouldn’t do. His response was, “I don’t consider this selling. I consider it the offer of an opportunity.” My response was that I value my words and my integrity, and that he no integrity and was a blatant liar. This didn’t faze him. Rather he and the additional salesperson that had been brought to present numbers, both focused on making sure others in the room were not hearing our conversation.

Tip 5: Ask their buy-back price

If something is worth a lot and is going to grow in value, the people tend to hold onto it. If a timeshare is going to be worth a lot, and is going to grow in value, then the company should have no problem buying it back from you at the price you paid. Right?

If you paid $25,000 for a unit today, then in 10 years, they should be willing to buy it back at $25,000 because it is going to be worth so much more. Ask about their buy-back program. You’ll likely be greeted with a blank stare. They won’t buy it back. In fact, if you search the internet, you’ll find that people are trying to simply dump their timeshares to get out of the annual maintenance fees. This should be a huge red flag as to the value of a timeshare.

In a recent presentation at the resort I own, the salesperson tried to get me to make a change to my ownership. I stated that I wouldn’t make the change. He indicated that my “old school” type of ownership was something they were moving away from. I own what is considered a specific week at the resort that can be used at any time and not a certain number of “points”. When I indicated I had no interest in changing, he stated that Marriott is willing to wait. More specifically, he said that Marriott will eventually get my unit back because I’ll either die and not leave it to someone, go bankrupt, or simply want to give it back to get out of the annual fees. If a resort believes they can get units back through these actions, then there is no need for them to buy them back.

Going forward, I plan to record future “owner update” meetings at my home resort as a result of this statement.

Tip 6: Don’t be fooled by the math

One week for $26,000 is the same price as 1 week every two years for $13,000. This might sound obvious, but when you are sitting in a high-pressured sales presentation, this is a way the salesperson will cut the cost to try to get you to buy. In the high-pressure sale, this might sound like a better deal. In fact, the offer of the week every other year for $14,500 might sounds like a better deal than the $25,000 offer, but clearly it is not.

Tip 7: The first offer is never the best.

Just as with the gifts that are offered for attending a sales presentation, the initial cost of a unit or for points is never the best. In most sales presentations, when you say no, better deals will be offered. In many cases, after the salesperson releases you, a new person (such as a “manager”) will meet with you to say they can actually get you a better deal. I’ve been told given a price that was the lowest that anyone could offer, only to have a different person provide a lower number right after. The longer you say no, the lower the price can be.

Tip 8: Exchanging isn’t as easy as they indicate – Buying to solely exchange is a mistake

One of the biggest selling points used to get you to buy a timeshare is the promise of being able to exchange to exotic places. You want to go to the Caribbean or Hawaii? By their unit and exchange! They tell you it is easy, and you can go all over the world.

The reality is not as simple as that. You can only go to places where people have also given up their units to exchange. If you want to go to Branson, Missouri in the winter or to some of the second-tier resorts in Orlando, Florida, then exchanging can work. If you want to go to a popular destination during Spring Break, then you will need a lot of pre-planning and a lot of luck to get a good unit at a good location. In fact, you should check to see when you can get your unit at your own resort. If you buy a flexible week, you might be restricted as to when you can use it even at your own resort.

Tip 9: Understand the true cost of a timeshare

When attending a sales pitch for a timeshare, one of the key selling points is locking in the cost of your future vacations. There are a lot of costs associated to a timeshare that include the upfront cost, the maintenance fees, property taxes, and other annual fees. If you are interested in exchanging, then there can also be exchange subscription fees and exchange fees as well as insurance and other optional fees. I outline the overall cost factors in the article, “The Value of a Timeshare”. While buying a timeshare can lock in part of your vacation costs, the cost of owning that timeshare and using it will increase.

Tip 10: Ask to see a maintenance fee invoice for the current year

In addition to the purchase price, you will be required to pay annual fees. These are fees that increase each year. You should ask to see an invoice for the current year for the unit size you are considering. This invoice should show both the maintenance fees as well as property taxes and any other costs. For a standard two-bedroom unit, these fees are likely to be between $700 and $1200 annually.

Tip 11: Ask for the specific rate increases for the last 5 years on maintenance fees

The maintenance fees mentioned in the previous tip tend to increase each year. While a timeshare salesman will talk about locking in the price of a vacation, the reality is, the price you pay will increase each year because the maintenance, property tax, and other fees will increase. Ask for the specific rate increases for the last five years for the unit being offered. This will give you an idea of what to expect going forward with the rates.

Tip 12: Ask about special assessments

A special assessment is an extra fee charged for large or unexpected costs associated to a timeshare. This can include damage not covered by insurance, replacement of features such as roofs and siding, or modernization costs. These fees can be hundreds to thousands of dollars in addition to your normal fees. These are not common but can happen every ten or fifteen years.

Tip 13: Make sure you know when the week / points you buy will work (red time)

For most resorts, demand changes throughout the year. For example, demand for a unit in the mountains of Colorado is going to be highest during the summer and ski seasons. During the spring and fall when skiing is over, but it isn’t warm enough to enjoy the outdoors, the resort is less desirable. If you buy during this less desirable time, then you might not be able to use the resort at other times of the year when it is more desirable. You need to know when you can use your unit and if there are fees for using it at a different time.

Tip 14: Ask about availability during peak times

If you have kids – or will have kids – then your travel is often restricted to Spring Break, Summer, and key holidays. As mentioned in the previous tip, you’ll want to make sure you have flexibility to use the unit at any time. More importantly, you’ll want to know how likely you are to get the unit during high-demand times. As an example, I’ve been unable to use my home resort during spring break due to lack of units.

Tip 15: Don’t buy a unit from a timeshare salesman

If you attend a timeshare presentation, the best tip is, don’t buy from the resort. If you don’t vacation for a week every year, then you don’t want to pay for a unit every year. If you add up the numbers, you will find that you might be better off to rent the room rather than own. While the cost will go up every year, the net average is likely to be lower if you plan.

If you know someone that belongs to a timeshare exchange company, then befriend them. They can often rent units that can be transferred via a guest certificate. These getaway rentals are often cheaper than the maintenance fees let alone cheaper than the upfront costs plus the maintenance fees.

Tip 16: If buying to go to all-inclusive areas, consider additional costs

Many resorts in Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean and other locations include all-inclusive fees. If you are looking to exchange into a resort with all-inclusive fees, then it is recommended that you see what the cost to rent the resort is without going through timeshare exchange. Often you can find packaged deals that are cheaper than the upcharge for the all-inclusive fees you’d pay through an exchange company.

Tip 17: Look at the cars in the employee parking lot

This might sound odd, but if attending a sales presentation for timeshares, review the cars in the parking lot next to the sales building. Specifically, look for the employee parking. The vehicles near the sales presentation area will likely be the cars of the salespeople. If these are high-valued cars, then this implies that the resort is making a lot of money selling the timeshares. The nicer the cars, the more pressure you should expect in the timeshare presentation. It’s not uncommon for me to see BMWs, Lexus, and other high-end car models in the lot for the salespeople.

Final Thoughts

Timeshare presentations are high-pressure events. It is easy to get caught up in the promises being presented, especially if you are on vacation. The value of a timeshare is easiest to understand when you look at the resale value. In most cases, there will either be no resale value, or it will be extremely low. Clearly, a timeshare is an expense and is never an investment.

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The FaceApp Security Issues: Here We Go Again….

Here we go again…

An application that allows you to upload a picture of a face and see it aged is getting public attention for being a security risk. The FaceApp Facebook application is being presented as being extremely dangerous to your personal security. What’s ironic is that a lot of the focus is on the rumor that the application is from a Russian company, and that is why you should be concerned. It is as if the capitalistic exploitation that can occur from American or any other company around the world is less concerning than what the Russians could do.

The reality is that this application should be concerning, but so should every other application you install. While the Russians might exploit your data and information, so might any other company in any other country of the world. In fact, in most cases, the companies don’t have to do anything illegally, because most people give their permission to the companies to use their data. Yes, if you installed that application on your phone or computer and clicked “okay” (or something similar), then you often give permission and rights for your data to be used. Once you’ve given that permission, you’ve opened yourself up.

Facial Recognition

The irony of the FaceApp program is that one of the biggest concerns raised is that of giving away your image. With facial recognition becoming more engrained in security, the issue has been raised that you’ve given the image of your face to the Russians to use going forward.

Should you be concerned?

Absolutely; however, if you are using Facebook, then your concern shouldn’t be with this one Russian company, but with all companies. The reality is, if you’ve posted a public picture of yourself, if you’ve tagged a picture of yourself, if you’ve used your face as the image on your icon for any social media site (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.), then you’ve already given away this key information.

Giving Apps Permission

The reality is, most applications ask for permission to access your photos, phone, contact lists, or other information. If you say ‘yes’ to any of these requests when installing an application, then you’ve given up that information for a company to use. Once you’ve done this once, you have lost most – if not all – of your control of that data. When the original Pokemon Go App was released, it asked for nearly every piece of information on your phone. It wasn’t until after millions of people installed the application that the general public started asking why all the permissions were needed. While Pokemon Go eventually reduced the request for access, for millions, the damage was already done – the permissions had been given.

Tagging Others

While it is your right to give others your personal information, it is not your right to give away other people’s. As such, when you post pictures of others and then tag them, you are giving away that person’s identity as well. Because digital pictures can include location and other information, you might be giving away much more information as well.

If you search the Web for me, you’ll find a ton of information. Due to the jobs I’ve had, there was no way to avoid a digital footprint. If you search for my kids, you’ll find much, much less. In fact, if you find a tagged picture of any of my kids, let me know. With rare exceptions, they shouldn’t exist. Why? For their security.

The FaceApp Scare

The FaceApp scare is real. The Russian piece is silly, but the permissions piece isn’t. With any app, if you give access to anything on your system, then you should expect that it can be exploited. If you don’t want to give a company permission to use your pictures any way they care to use them, then don’t install an app that asks for permission to your folders, files, or pictures. If this is a concern, you are likely to find very few apps you can install.

One Step Further with Websites

If the FaceApp security issue concerns you, then you should also be aware of what websites you use. If you go to a website and use it, then you are agreeing to the permission statement on that website. It is highly unlikely you’ve read the permission statements on a website. If you had, you likely wouldn’t go to many websites anymore. I’ve written on this in the past. For example, the site Angie’s List has (or at least had at one time), a clause in its site usage permissions page that if you posted a negative review, they could fine you. Yes, by using the site, you basically agreed that you would pay a fine if you posted a negative review. Would Angie’s List ever implement this fine? Likely not, but then a Russian site is not likely to do anything with your photos either.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, you should be concerned about he FaceApp; however, you should also be equally concerned with every other app or site you use. Facebook and Google are rumored to be two of the biggest companies that exploit the data you provide. As such, if you are going to be concerned with your security and data, you might want to start by considering what you’ve allowed them to do before you start getting too concerned with a Russian company and your pictures.

Support Me – Even Though I’m Not Here…

This week an issue came up more than once , so I thought it worth writing about. Many things that I believe are obvious, clearly aren’t for many other people. One such issue is the expectation to gain support for something when you don’t bother to show up.

If you are running for a position, or if you are asking people to do something for you, then it would be expected that you would be present when asking or when decisions are being made. Surprisingly, there were two incidents that people failed to show.

The Goat Incident…

At a City Council meeting, a local school asked for approval to have goats at the school. When the issue came before the city council, nobody from the school that could answer questions about the goats attended. Due to concerns including the potential of goat stampedes, the city council ended up discussing and finally delaying a decision.

At the June city council meeting, talks about the goat request from the school were addressed again. The difference this time was that a representative from the school attended and was able to answer questions. After the meeting a city council member commented that the thing that made the difference for the voting was the fact that a person from the school attended. Clearly, if the school was expecting to get support from the city council, they needed to be represented at the city council meeting.

The Board Meeting Incident…

This past month, a member of the HSE School Board resigned. The existing school board members get to determine who will fill the position for the rest of the term. Twenty-four people applied to be considered for the open position.

Because it was stated that the school board would determine the replacement, you’d expect these 24 candidates to do what they could to influence the board members. There was only one school board meeting between the application deadline and the time the decision would be made.

Being that these candidates were apply to be a part of the school board, you’d expect that all twenty-four would attend the next meeting. After all, what better way to solicit a vote that to attend a meeting with the people who would be making the decision. Attending the meeting would also be a chance to see some of the discussion and topics that the board was currently addressing.

Sadly, only about a half dozen, or roughly 25% of the candidates attended the board meeting in person. It seemed the other roughly 75% wanted to be voted into a position to attend future meetings even though they were unable to attend this one.

The school board announced at the meeting the four finalists for the position and asked them to stand. Only two of the four finalists stood. It is assumed the other two were unable to attend. They, like the other candidates not there, had hoped for support, even though they were not there. Of course, the two that were there had the opportunity to talk to existing board members and be seen by the administration.

The Lesson to be Learned….

For most of the school board candidates, it ended up not mattering that they didn’t show up, because they were not a part of the four finalists that the board announced. It will be interested to see at the next school board meeting if the candidate that is voted into the position is one of the two that did attend, or if the board supports a candidate even though they didn’t take the time to show up to a meeting.

From the city council meeting, the lesson to be learned is that if you want a request approved, then it is critically important that you have someone present to support your request. If you can’t take the time to show up to support your own request, then how can you expect others to support it?

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The Fear of Zika

mosquitoThe Zika virus has many people concerned about epidemic outbreaks across the world. Recently, a person I know posted that they were concerned with the number of reported cases of Zika in Chicago. Being in the Midwest, it seemed to her that the spread of the disease happening, and that we should be frightened for our lives. Even at a recent school board meeting, the topic of the Zika virus came up as something that schools needed to address. The fear of Zika is growing, but is it justified?

My school district is being asked to have a plan regarding protection for the Zika virus. As a result, information was presented to the school board on the Zika virus showing that the fear has been blown out of proportion to the risk. This is not to discount that there can be severe issues with Zika; there can be. The fear around this, however, needs to be put into perspective.

First, the Zika virus is spread primarily through mosquitoes, and primarily by the Aedes species of mosquitoes. It cannot be transmitted from person to person with normal contact, so if someone in Chicago has the virus, others in Chicago don’t need to ostracize that person. Being that the Aedes mosquitoes are primarily found in the tropics and very southern parts of the United States, those of us in the Midwest have very little to fear. In fact, while there have been people who have traveled outside of the United States that have contracted the virus, until recently there have not been any reports of anyone getting Zika while in the United States. Recently, a case in Miami (the hotter, lower areas of the US) was reported.

If you were to get bitten by an Aedes mosquito and get the Zika virus, there is about an 80% chance you wouldn’t even know it. Of those that do get the virus, 80% show no symptoms. Even those that do show symptoms generally don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. The general symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eye. Some people also get muscle pains or headaches. While the symptoms can last for a few days up to a week, the virus itself last about a week for most people, although it can remain longer.

The Zika virus is real. For those of us in the Midwest, the risk of infection is near zero unless you travel out of the country or to the very southern regions. With such a near zero risk, what should be feared more than the Zika is that there are people who will sensationalize a topic to levels of causing excessive fear as well push schools create plans for protective measures on something that is unlikely to ever happen.

The state of Indiana has even allocated $3.6 million in funding to protect Hoosiers from the Zika virus over the next five years. It is amazing how much money fear can drive.

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Note:
While the Zika virus is currently low risk, the West Niles virus is one that does happen in the Midwest. This post is based on publicly available information, as I’m definitely not a mosquito expert!

 

Update (8/22):

Mosquito-borne Zika cases have been found in two neighborhoods of Miami-Dade County. These are the first areas in the US, although other very southern states have potential exposure.

Drug Testing for Government Handouts – Let’s Do it Right

There are those that believe that in order to receive welfare payments, you have to pass a drug test. There are those that believe this should apply to food stamps and other government entitlements as well. What do you think of this concept?

States like Maine, Michigan, and Missouri have pushed hard for drug testing people in order to receive welfare, food stamps, or even unemployment. Other states like Kentucky, Montana and Texas have tried to push forward testing as well.

These testing programs have actually been done. It has been stated that the number of people who have been found to fail drug testing related to these entitlement programs is minimal. In fact, they state that the cost and burden to do this testing exceed the results. Regardless of the failure of testing to justify their cost to implement, people continue to push for these testing programs.

My initial inclination was that testing for these government entitlement programs was not justified based on their costs and on the prejudicial statement the make toward those in need of government services. The issue of testing gets even more complicated as some states begin to legalize the use of drugs like marijuana.

Regardless, the idea of testing still remains a discussion point. The biggest argument seen for testing is that if a person has money to buy drugs, then they have enough to buy food or cover living expenses. Of course, a thrifty person could grow their own marijuana at no cost.

Recently, I’ve changed my stance on drug testing.

Originally, I considered the testing a waste of tax payer money based on the number of people found. Now I’ve decided that the idea of testing people in order to receive government subsidies is something we should consider and talk about a lot more. If we are going to do this, however, then let’s go all-in. Let’s make sure we test everyone getting a handout from the government. Rather than start with the people getting small amounts from the government (such as those getting welfare and food stamps), let start with those getting the big handouts.

Let’s start by going back and testing all of the CEOs and corporate officers that received bailout money. Let’s make sure they get tested, and let’s make sure everyone knows they are being tested. Let’s treat them the same as the person getting food stamps. Consider the auto bail outs and the more recent bank bail outs. Let’s start with the CEOs and CFOs of those companies. If they fail, then they need to give back the billions. After that, let’s look at all the businesses getting tax breaks or tax kick-backs for locating in specific towns. This includes big box stores, restaurant chains, and businesses of all sorts. In exchange for those tax breaks (which is effectively getting to keep money that should be going to the government), let’s again test all the owners of those companies.

The question comes down to, why only target welfare and food stamp recipients? If we are going to do this, then let’s be fair and apply the testing to the people getting the big dollars from the government. Let’s not stop there. Congress, the President, and all the other politicians are receiving money from the government. Let’s put them at the front of the line. Based on what a lot of these folks are doing, they must be on drugs. Let’s get them to the front of the line just ahead of the bankers.

It makes you wonder, which group will have more people fail the tests. Those getting food stamps so they can eat or those in politics and running big businesses that tend to not worry about their next meal. I bet the results might surprise us.