This is a guest post from Jeffrey Strain. He is a digital nomad with a personal mission of trying to help people avoid falling into the timeshare trap. He’s also a writer on a large number of other personal finance issues.
The next time you travel to a resort destination, there’s a good chance that you’ll have an opportunity to get free stuff simply for attending a timeshare presentation. Don’t do it. While it may appear that it’ll be an easy way to get some free stuff, the reality is that there are a lot of catches that come along with that “free” tag. The reality is that timeshares are a terrible deal for the vast majority of people. If there is any chance at all that you may get pressured into purchasing a timeshare, that “free” gift will end up costing a small fortune. Even if you are sure you can withstand the high pressure sales presentation, the “free” gifts still come with some costs. Here are four reasons that those free timeshare gifts are anything but free:
Sales presentations are always longer than they say:
One reason these freebies aren’t really free is that sales agents waste your time. They promise that in just an hour or two, you could have a free vacation or tickets to a popular local show. What they won’t say is that the presentation is specifically geared to keep you there as long as possible, and much longer than they initially promised. One hour can turn into three very quickly when multiple sales agents use
tactics to keep the conversation going. Basically, they sales agents use time to wear you down and become more invested. They know you want the freebie, but if you leave early, you won’t get it. There hope is that you will sign a contract just so you don’t leave the presentation
with nothing (often giving the assurance that you can cancel the timeshare if you aren’t satisfied), rather than sit for another couple
Sales presentations can be invasive:
In order to get a better sense of who you are and how much you’re willing to spend on your vacations, sales agents will ask you a lot of questions. Many of these questions may be personal and financial in nature. They will sneakily ask about your vacation budget and other private matters in order to find that sweet spot price that you just might fall for. Even if you don’t buy, they may sell this information to other companies to solicit you.
Gift promises likely aren’t what they said:
Timeshare prizes and gifts are rarely what they first appear. Once you attend a timeshare presentation, the gifts are often presented in some sort of surprise or lottery in which each person must blindly draw for which prize they will receive. After sitting through that whole
presentation, surprise! The prize you’ve drawn is a “free” vacation, sponsored of course by the timeshare resort. Rather than go home with a brand new TV, you face a vacation with hidden fees and more mandatory presentations.
When timeshares offer free tickets to local events or shows for attending the presentation, the free tickets often come with catches.
The entrance to the show may be free, but there may be a two drink minimum at outrageously inflated prices. It’s important to know the
fine print in detail before you set off to get your freebie because it probably isn’t nearly as free as you think it is.
Small prizes are not worth your time:
Sometimes after attending a presentation, the sales agents will indeed fulfill their promises to you and hand over some free gifts. Everything from hotel stays to gift cards can be up for grabs, but is a $25 dinner or a $50 hotel stay really worth the hassle of attending and being pressured into an expensive buy? Consider how much it cost you to travel to the destination, and how much your time is really worth. Vacations are meant to be enjoyed outdoors with family and friends, not indoors with a stranger who’s asking about your spending habits. This is just another reason these free deals are not truly free.
It might sound cliche, but the old saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” aptly applies to freebies at timeshare
presentations. If something sounds like it would be an amazing freebie, incredible value, or smart buy, there are probably plenty of
associated hassles and fees. Always remember that the salesperson’s motive is to make money, and the first step towards accomplishing this is by luring you into a presentation with the promise of freebie gifts.
Thanks to Jeffrey for this great guest post! Have you ever thought to own – or do own – a timeshare?
ETA: Some more interesting reading on timeshares: