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February 27, 2009

The Most Unusual Timeshare Sales Pitch I've Ever Heard

The spot on St. Martin where we were flagged down by Nicole and Celine, or, "the timeshare twins," as my husband Tim and I call them.

by Wendy Perrin

Just one more story from my recent Caribbean adventures before I get back to covering travel deals and advice:

So we're driving through St. Martin when two women wave us down so emphatically that we pull over. We assume we're going to hear "There's a bridge out up ahead!" or something on  that order of magnitude. Instead they hand us Scratch & Win "Free Jackpot" tickets, urging us to scratch and find out if we've won a prize.

Tim and I decide to play along, just to see where this might lead. We scratch and--lo and behold--each get the exact same number.  The women profess extreme shock at our unbelievable good luck and explain that if we go to the Oyster Bay Beach Resort by 3:00 p.m. that day we can win one of the three prizes listed on the back of the ticket: a $500 shopping credit, a luxury vacation for two, or a video camera. Nicole whips out a form and starts filling it out, instructing us to take it with us to the resort so we could collect our prize and they would collect their $50 commission.

All we had to do to get the prize, they advised, was claim we'd been on the island at least 36 hours (a lie; at that point we'd been there less than a day), claim we were staying in a hotel (as opposed to the villa where we were actually staying), and show up no later than 3:00 p.m. (not to worry about the children: they could swim in the resort's pool while Tim and I sat through the 60- to 90-minute presentation!).

Nicole_and_celine_2 Meet Nicole and Celine, who waved us down as part of an elaborate attempt to entice us into sitting through a timeshare sales pitch, Feb. 9, 2009.

Needless to say, Tim and I opted to spend our afternoon otherwise. But I thought the story was worth sharing.

What's the most unusual timeshare sales pitch YOU've ever encountered? Please click on "Comments" to tell me about it.

March 05, 2007

Timeshares: Deal Or No Deal?

Westin Mission Hills Resort in Spa Rancho Mirage
The Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, California.
Photo courtesy of Westin.

By Wendy Perrin

Question from reader JBreuner:

"My wife and I just signed up for the Westin Vacation Ownership program during a trip to the Westin Mission Hills Resort in Palm Springs, and now my wife, especially, is having a little case of buyer's remorse.  Can you please provide me with some Web-based resources where I can get some straightforward, honest information on vacation ownership programs (timeshares)?  Is there any place out there - on the Web or elsewhere - that rates the various vacation ownership programs available?  We have about one week remaining to cancel our agreement with a full refund if we decide to opt out.  I could really use your advice!"

I know zip about Westin's program and it's been 15 years since I attended a "vacation ownership" (marketingspeak for timeshare) sales presentation, so I can't advise you very well. What I CAN tell you is that 15 years ago, on assignment for Conde Nast Traveler, I pretended to be Joe Prospective Timeshare Buyer and sat through several 2- to 3-hour sales pitches presented by reputable companies such as Hilton, Marriott, and Disney.  Although the timeshare industry has changed since then, my guess is that the advice I learned still applies because, when I was just searching the Web for sites to recommend to you, I found similar advice given only last month by one of the greatest consumer travel experts ever, Ed Perkins of Smarter Travel. (The same Smarter Travel whose blog Today In Travel was one of the finalists I was up against in the 2007 Travel Blog Awards last week.)

So here's what I learned 15 years ago:

Continue reading "Timeshares: Deal Or No Deal?" »