Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Timeshare Resorts Sky High and Neon Flashing Lights in My Eye, Oh My!

Towering timeshare resorts, flashing neon signs, cut throat priced all-you-can-eat buffets, knock off .99 cent souvenirs, and, well, you get the point. This is not Hilton Head, yet, at least, thankfully. But I did recently visit Florida. It was my mistake, really. Grapefruit League baseball or not. My Cardinals did win both games, yes. And a very nice Astros reliever gave my son his first baseball. So there were certainly some highlights, no doubt. But is this what I have to look forward to? Will this be Hilton Head 2020?

I stayed at an undisclosed timeshare (front) hotel to get the timeshare experience which I have never had personally. This appeared to be the hotel where families unwittingly purchased mini vacation packages for discounted rates in exchange for their taking a timeshare tour or "real estate presentation." I walked into the front lobby with my infant son and Mother and checked in. I was directed to the Guest Services desk to my right. No, not the one to the left, the one to the right. This is where they are supposed to rope me into a timeshare tour.

The lady behind the counter was wearing black-rimmed glasses with fake diamond studs on the outer edges. Her skin was crackly and she looked 20 years older than she probably really was. She spoke and sounded like a frog after she wiped the frappa-whatever from her lips. I could taste the cigarettes from across the counter. Mmmmm! She glanced at me. Then my mother. Then my son. "Here you go," she said. It was a folder with general information. "That's it?," I said. "Yes," she said, "we just make sure it is all correct." Disappointing.

Apparently I did not "qualify" for the tour. By qualify, I mean, they were sizing me up, pursuant to their timeshare guidelines, as to whether they could likely persuade or harass me into buying a timeshare. Or maybe they have me on the "do not tour" list. They should by now. Normal "qualifications" for a tour include attributes such as a mediocre to average household income, married or living together, and whatever other requirements that guide them in this decision-making process. No matter. She directed me to the second Guest Services desk. Hope still!

The guy was nice enough. He changed my dollar for some quarters to play my Mother in Galaga later on. My Mother is really good and taught me the Galaga ropes. The guy said something about discount tickets, etcetera, it was difficult to understand what he was getting at, like I was supposed to ask him if I could pay him money for something. Unfortunately, I did not receive the offer for the timeshare tour and was not lucky enough to line up on Saturday or Sunday morning on my vacation to be harassed into buying a worthless timeshare. I don't know if this timeshare company's timeshares sell for $1.00 on eBay as do some others. Apparently a lot of people purchase a timeshare just to get away from the timeshare sales people and the high pressure sales tactics. So they can get on with their vacation, you know, the reason for being there.

Embarrassingly, I have also done the same thing. It was not that long ago, but before I started suing timeshare companies and representing victims of timeshare fraud and timeshare scams, that I, too, was suckered into purchasing a similar item. And over the phone, nonetheless. It was a vacation package. Something to do with a cruise for a discount price. And I almost bought the upgrades too. I will absolutely and forever blame this purchase on the insistence of someone else. Regardless, and of course, I could never actually use it and the purchase was a total loss. I was taken for a few hundred dollars. Life lesson learned, hopefully!

But victims of timeshare scams are often not out a few hundred dollars, or a few thousand dollars, but sometimes and oftentimes a few or several tens of thousands of dollars. That many of these victims are senior citizens and the elderly obligating their future fixed incomes and retirement savings compounds the despicable nature of... well, need I say more? And it made me wonder: is this Hilton Head 2020?