We recently had a blast in Las Vegas after we found some cheap Southwest Airlines tickets. One of the more boring but interesting parts was when we decided to do a Las Vegas Timeshare experience for free show tickets! We know timeshares aren’t a good investment, and like most people we had no intentions of buying one – but then why do so many people purchase one? I’ve always been intrigued by how companies suck in so many people. So when we were approached, I looked at the opportunity as a way to learn a thing or two.
Oh, let me tell you, it was a process! I’ll bold the text of the various psychological tricks they tried to pull.
It all started when we walked into the Venetian and were immediately captured by one of the sales people. She instantly sized us up. She didn’t mention anything about the timeshare presentation, but she did ask us if we were there for fun or business and then if we were married. She even went so far as to take a long look at my wife’s wedding ring. There’s no doubt that we were in their target demographic.
The last time I was in Las Vegas, I was only a few years out of college, and I was there with all of my friends. Needless to say, they didn’t waste any time on me then because they knew I wasn’t a potential buyer.
After we were vetted, they asked if we wanted free show tickets and sent us to the counter to look at what *free shows they had to offer. “We would love free tickets,” we said. “Great! All you need to do is tour a new property on the strip!” The word timeshare was never used, although we knew exactly what was happening. The concept was simple: the new “property” was just on the other side of Mandalay Bay so not many people were going that far south. They would take us by bus and give us breakfast while we toured the property. It would only take 2-3 hours, and in end we would get tickets to Cirque, Blue Man Group or Phantom of the Opera – we chose Phantom.
We figured it would last slightly longer than they said, but we were OK with it because we didn’t have anything planned on Monday. Next, came the first big catch: They made us put down a $50.00 deposit refundable after we took the tour. It truly was a smart move on their part, otherwise many people wouldn’t show up for their scheduled tour.
The next day we showed up right on time at 9:00 AM. They checked us in along with 25 other people. From there we would take a bus to the Grandview timeshare property. After we jumped on the highway, we quickly learned the “other side of the Mandalay Bay” was the understatement of the year. We drove for about 25 minutes and finally exited the highway to arrive at the Grandview. It was in fact on Las Vegas Blvd, but we needed binoculars to see any of the big casinos!
When we arrived, we knew we were in for a circus. There were already a couple of hundred other people on the property. We were placed in chairs in a large waiting room. Slowly, more and more sales agents began to trickle in and call couples by name. That’s right, we wouldn’t be able to hide in a group. We met our sales agent who took us to get our breakfast, which in grand style was donuts and coffee. Then we were seated in another room with the same 25 people we came with, each sitting at tables with their representative getting to know each other.
About ten minutes later, yet another representative started her presentation. She was there to tug on our heart strings and make us realize how important vacations are. I actually went along with a lot of it because I do believe vacations are important for people and even more so for families… that’s also why I started this site. Some of my fondest memories from growing up are of vacations. She showed pictures of her own family and talked about how much they love their vacations.
Then as a group she had us come up with a list of reasons why we travel, our favorite vacation spots and places we would like to go. She even gave us fake money to spend on a dream vacation as she dove into the numbers including how much we spend on vacations in our lifetime. Her total was around $225,000 for a lifetime of vacations. This could very well be true for some people if you plan on vacationing for the next 50 or so years. Of course, their goal was to throw out a big number to make their timeshare prices seem affordable. Then they showed a video of timeshare owner testimonials. This was the first time I felt my anger boiling to the surface.
They had a number of families talk about their great timeshare experiences and how much they love vacations. Once again, I was OK with that. However, then they started playing on death and fear. Some timeshare owners shared their life sob stories and said they wished they would have done this sooner. Then it got even worse.
It was apparent the company was trying to hit every doubt that may be going through our minds. One owner featured said when they bought the timeshare they weren’t in the best position financially to do it. However, he assured everyone that it was still worth it. Next, a woman went so far as to say she was trying to find something meaningful to do with money she inherited when her parents died, so she bought a timeshare that she could pass on to her children. She was certain her parents would want her to buy the timeshare so she could pass on a lifetime of fees to her own children (now you’re starting to see my position!). Finally, another lady said that it was dumb not to buy the timeshare. I bet.
After the video, it was time for a tour of the buildings. Once again, this was to give more time for us to get to know our sales agent. As we walked by the pools and into the buildings, she started giving us some of the personal details of her life. She told us she had some major life changes that brought her where she was today, but she didn’t get into much detail yet. However, we were already starting to warm up to her.
We toured the property, and she explained how the location was basically going to be the next strip… even though it was so far away from the real Vegas we visited. I laughed and told her we took the bus here and know that we were FAR from the strip they were claiming they were on. Her face soured at the first hint we knew this wasn’t what was advertised.
The property was mediocre at best and built quite cheaply. Yes, they have a lot of space and some nice amenities like cool pools, BBQ grills and the condos have spa tubs and granite in the kitchen. But you know how the saying goes: when you put a bow on a turd, it’s still a turd! She also mentioned the first figure associated with the price – the annual maintenance fee is $685! That fee would be assessed every year for the rest of our lives and that’s on top of the purchase price.
You know me – I’m a numbers guy. I just couldn’t wait any more so I asked for the total price. She wasn’t giving that up yet and told me we’d go over it later. She led us into a large conference room and we passed by quite a few couples meeting with other sales agents. As my wife made a move to go grab a table she said no and explained to us these were current owners who are upgrading their timeshares. It was another hit. How could you not want to buy – look at how many people are so happy they are upgrading what they have!
We went to another large room filled with families and their sales agents. When we sat down, she pulled out a worksheet and asked us to plan our travel for the next few years. She added up all of the expenses for us, which as you can imagine led to another big scary number. How could we afford to travel like this? Seeing as how several hours had already passed, I knew we had to be close to the final pitch. She pulled out a pricing binder, but wait…
Hold on… she opened the binder to lamented page with pictures of her parents and her son. Then all of the little personal hints that made us feel like instant friends came to a head. She dove into the details. She told us her son’s father died when he was only four years old. She also said she was the victim of violent crime. Later in life, she moved to Las Vegas to be with her Dad who is now sick. They went on one of their first few family vacations when she found out. Her goal was now to get her Dad healthy so they could vacation again. While the story was genuine and definitely sad, it was clearly used as part of her pitch. It really put us in a tough spot. We felt sorry for her and almost connected to her in a way; however, it was also a turn off to see someone exploit their family sob story for a sale.
She was prepared to offer us a great deal for two weeks at the Las Vegas timeshare property, but it gets so much better than that! It’s flexible and you can exchange your time for time at other Vacation Village properties. It would only cost us $48,000!!! That’s right, what a great deal! When compared to our $225,000 dollars that we’d spend on vacations the rest of our life, this tiny little number seemed to be a steal! At least, that’s what they wanted us to think.
As part of the financing terms, we could get an eight year loan that would only cost $849 per month! However, it was based on their interest rate of 17.9%. Then she said most people get a loan on their own, which would make it much more affordable. She asked if the numbers made sense for us. Our response: no. Actually, I pretty much laughed, but tried to be respectful in my decline seeing as this is her job. Her demeanor changed when she realized she wasn’t going to get a sale. However, she asked what price I was expecting, and only answer that I thought I was going to be around $10,000.
I stepped away for a few minutes but left my wife to talk with our sales agent. My wife asked her how many sales they actually acquire from this very slick pitch. She said you’d be surprised that actually one in four people usually buy. She even mentioned most people had no intention of buying in the first place. She had told us earlier the couple she talked to yesterday had no intentions of buying, but by the end she sent them off in a limo as new timeshare owners! She also mentioned they sat on the board of a timeshare in Hawaii (more proof we were idiots for not buying). I knew we wouldn’t get the limo.
Our agent finally relented and said they’d prepare our gift, but her manager would come over and sign off on it first. Just when we thought we were done – the closer moved in. She was a hyper little lady who I wouldn’t call friendly. She offered us about three different packages that were a lot cheaper than the first one! This was a limited time opportunity. She then explained how she made money off of her timeshare and how she loved traveling to exquisite and extravagant parts of the world. She was very belittling – basically touting how wonderful she was because she could now afford to go to these far off lands, and we could not.
Finally, I can’t believe it took this long, but I was so angry I just shut down and sat there quietly. Not my wife. She wasn’t going to let this woman make us feel bad about ourselves. She fired back, and the manager, who wasn’t happy, finally got up to go get our exit paperwork started.
We had to wait 30 more minutes to see ANOTHER representative to process our exit paperwork and finally give us our free tickets. The entire process took more than 5 hours, and we got back to the Venetian at 2:20pm.
As we waited for our gift to be processed, we talked with some other couples who ultimately said no, and we heard some even better stories. One couple’s sales agent told them to make the decision based on emotion instead of logic! Another couple’s rep told them the timeshare was a better investment than buying their first house! That rep apparently went so far as to say the couple should, “ride the coattails of billionaires” by buying the timeshare.
In the end, we actually got the tickets vouchers and went to the box office to pick out some of the best seats in the house. The tickets had a face value of $148.00 each. Was it worth it? For us yes, we got the free tickets, but more importantly I was able to do some research into the world of timeshares. If you choose to do the same, just know what you are getting into before hand, and don’t buy!
Here are some lessons learned from our timeshare saga:
1. If you don’t have self-discipline don’t go on the timeshare tour!
2. If you don’t want to give up your whole day, don’t go on the timeshare tour
3. Negotiate up front to get the best possible deals for your gift
4. The faster you get through the process, the faster you get to leave
5. Don’t believe anything they say 🙂
If you can stick to these five lessons and know what’s coming your way, you can actually get something out it. However, if you aren’t strong enough to say NO, you might be going home from vacation minus thousands of dollars and the proud owner of a timeshare you will have to give away to get rid of!
If you’ve gotten this far, you deserve a treat! If you want to see a cartoon example of what we went through and aren’t offended by South Park, check out their timeshare cartoon!
Have you ever had a Las Vegas Timeshare Experience? If so, I’d love to hear about it!