That Time I Owned A Timeshare for Three Days

August 6, 2016

That Time I Owned A Timeshare for Three Days

I recently came across the article, I Sat Through a High-Pressure Timeshare Sales Pitch (and It Wasn’t the Nightmare I Expected). It brought back to memory my long-forgotten experience with a timeshare. It’s amazing how easily we can suppress memories of our stupidity.

You might be familiar with the common practice used by timeshares of offering free or low-cost vacations in exchange for a “few minutes” of your time to sit through a sales presentation of a property.

Years ago, I encountered one of these offerings. At the time, my husband and I were vacation hungry — and we were dumb. A bad combination. This is the story of how I owned a timeshare for three days.

The Plan Was Simple

It all started with a call. A four-day, three-night vacation PLUS an additional bonus vacation PLUS theme park tickets were all ours. All we had to do was attend a brief presentation and then we would be on our way…vacations in hand. Simple enough.

Well, we were hip to their game. We knew that we would be pitched a timeshare. How dumb did they think we were? (Apparently, they knew exactly how dumb we were.)

We hatched a rock-solid plan: say, “no.” No matter what they threw our way, the plan was to say, “no.” Plan in hand, we set off to pick up our awesome vacations, fool the unsuspecting sales people, and be on our merry way.

Timeshare Sales People Are Good At What They Do

The location of the sales presentation was at a resort in the Poconos, Pennsylvania, a substantial, but not-too-far drive, from our New Jersey home at the time.

We were warmly welcomed, noticed the several couples sitting at small tables having discussions that resembled those held in a used car showroom, and patiently waited for our “tour guide.”

Our presentation began with a tour of the Poconos property — a representation of one of the many properties available in that particular timeshare network. Our tour guide asked us simple questions: what we did for a living; how old were our children; where we lived, etc. You know, regular small talk. Little did we know that that information was gathered for a purpose.

As we continued to visit the property, our tour guide began to paint a picture for us — a picture of what our lives could be like if we purchased a timeshare. It was a beautiful picture. We were vacationing at least once a year. Our teenaged son had an automatic place to vacation to for his future college vacations. He could even bring his friends and have Spring Break in a controlled, responsible environment.

We would be purchasing within a timeshare network, so we would have the flexibility to visit several different destinations. This was not our parent’s’ timeshare — this was new and current and necessary. (I hope you’re catching my tone of sarcasm here.)

Wait a minute. Did our guide just use all our answers to his questions to craft our ideal future and manipulate us into believing that future was right around the corner? Who could tell? This property is kinda nice…

Just Stick With the Plan

Our tour concluded, and while we were clearly beginning to be swayed, we still remembered our mission and why we were there— to say no and get those free vacations.

We were brought to a small table in the room and joined all the others we saw when we first entered the resort. We were questioned about our opinions of the property. We politely provided answers, bracing ourselves for the hard sell. It eventually came, and we said, “No.”

Phew, that was easy! Way to stick with the plan! Oh wait, we have to wait here a few minutes and talk with your manager? Oh, okay…I guess.

The manager comes, and because we’re sticking to the plan, we continue to say, “No.”
“Why?”
“Oh, we can’t afford it, we have other obligations, etc.”

There was some back and forth, but we were firm. Unfortunately, the manager was more firm. We silently pleaded with our four-year-old, who was with us, to throw an uncontrollable, mouth-foaming tantrum. He silently reminded us that he did not do that and would not comply.

We were subjected to the third round of pitching. At this point, the picture that was painted for us by our tour guide, began to come into focus. Maybe this was a good opportunity. We could vacation yearly, provide our older son (and his friends) with a Spring Break destination, and secure the future of our vacations…FOREVER.

We caved. We gave into the pressure and foolishly decided to buy a timeshare. And more foolishly than that, we decided to finance it.

What Did We Just Do?

We signed on the dotted line, somewhat excited about our vacationing future, and not quite fully understanding what we just did. We asked about those free vacations we were promised, but since we bought the timeshare, we really didn’t need them, right?

“Oh yeah. Okay.” Dumb, dumb, dumb.

The drive home was interesting. We alternated between, “Yay, this is so exciting!” to “What on Earth did we just do?” I believe the price we paid was $15,000. We paid (financed) $15,000 for a dream.

Over the next couple of days, as our buyer’s remorse began to settle in, it occurred to me to read all the fine print in the contract we signed. Remember, we were dumb, so we signed before reading. Our contract permitted us three days to cancel the transaction. OH MY GOODNESS!! We were saved! We took the steps to cancel the purchase. We owned a timeshare for three days – and then we backed out.

Lessons Learned

Looking back at that experience, we felt bullied. We felt pressured. We felt manipulated. And maybe we were, but in the end, the decision-making was ours and a bad decision we did make.

I wish I could revisit that scenario and tell myself that no one can be forced into purchasing something they don’t need or want. The pressure may be there, but there is always the choice not to succumb to it.

To this day, I get the occasional call asking if we want to sell our timeshare. Those calls serve as reminders that we narrowly escaped a bad financial decision. One that, clearly given all the calls asking if we wanted to sell, we would most likely be looking to unload — at a loss to us.

My biggest takeaway from that experience is to follow the path (financial or otherwise) that you know you should be on. There will always be pressure and temptation to veer from it; that doesn’t mean you have to. Be firm in what you know, and if necessary, avoid the part of the path that is laced with pitfalls.

Have you been pressured into a financial decision? How did you handle it?

You might be familiar with the common practice used by timeshares of offering free or low-cost vacations in exchange for a “few minutes” of your time to sit through a sales presentation of a property.