You are here because you want to know how to survive a timeshare presentation. How do I end the sales pitch? How do I resist timeshare sales tricks and just say “no”? After going through the process ourselves and chatting with a sales insider, we are here to share what we have learned. Read on for all you need to know to escape the formidable high-pressure timeshare pitch.
What’s the Deal with Timeshare Presentations?
Everybody knows the classic “high-pressure timeshare sales pitch”. You get offered 3 days and 2 nights at a fabulous resort for free, no obligations – you just have to attend a sales presentation. They promise the pitch will be pretty short and that there’s no obligation to buy.
Sounds great, right?
But we all know the catch – it’s infamous. The timeshare presentation is excruciatingly long. Every time you think you’ve said “no” for the last time, they bring in a new salesperson or take you to a new room to start pitching you all over again. It’s a high-pressure sales marathon. To top it all off, if you don’t meet your obligated time at the presentation, you’re on the hook to pay for your accommodations.
So why do people still go to these things? Well, because a free “3 days and 2 nights” at a resort is just too good of a deal to pass up sometimes! In fact, many travelers are trying to find out “How can I attend a timeshare presentation just for the free vacation?”
Well, we wanted to see what all the hype was about. When we got a call saying we’d “won” a vacation package, we shrugged and signed up. Worst case scenario, we walk out and have to pay for the hotel stay.
When we started asking around, so many of our close friends had either fallen for the timeshare pitch themselves, or knew a family member that had. We heard story, after story, of high-pressure pitches, salesmen that were insulting or rude, being led between rooms for hours upon hours, etc. Hearing stories of people so close to us motivated us to write up everything we learned from our experience.
The Initial Screening
Cecilia signed up for a “contest” on Facebook that would enter you into a “drawing” for a free stay of 3 days and 2 nights at a resort and a $150 gift card. We got a phone call saying we’d “won” while we were driving.
We were asked some basic “info” questions (i.e., name, phone, address), followed by some “survey” questions. The survey questions were things like:
When was the last vacation you took?
How much did you spend on accommodations?
How often do you travel?
They also asked us if we only needed a reservation for 2, or if we’d like to bring anyone else up to 4 total. Of course, we opted to take the 4-person reservation because the more the merrier, right?
After all the identity information, survey questions, accommodation arrangements, and a spiel about our vacation/gift-card winnings, then came the hook – we’ll have to attend a timeshare presentation. We were assured that we were only obligated for 90 minutes to 2 hours of the presentation; and with that, my wife and I looked at each other with a “do we believe that?” stare.
But sure – in for a penny, in for a pound.
Two things caught both of us off-guard towards the end of the phone call:
One, we had to book the dates for our stay immediately. We had to pull over from driving to frantically look at our calendars and figure out a weekend that worked in both of our schedules. The caller would just suggest a block of days from their availability, and we had to tell him if the range worked out for us.
Two, we had to pay a $99 “refundable deposit” using a credit card. When he asked for our credit card information, a giant alarm started going off in my head, yelling at me “this sounds like a scam!!” I almost put the phone on hold to have a conversation with my wife about backing out of the whole thing. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that our credit cards have fraud protection on them; and we’d just have to keep a closer eye on our credit card statements for awhile.
Although we haven’t completely confirmed this, our strong-suspicions are that the initial phone call is really a screening. They want to see how susceptible you’re going to be to the timeshare sales pitch. It felt like a test to see if we were people that would make a fast decision, without much information, and commit money instantly for a “too good to be true” deal.
Well, whatever we did “worked,” because as we later learned, they put us in the “prime candidate” group for the presentation. More on that later.
Arriving at Our Destination
Because of the Covid-19 policy, only one person from our party was allowed into the lobby to check in to our room; our timeshare presentation was scheduled for the second day of our stay at 8 am. Only the person who checked-in signed any paperwork at all; and the other 3 members of our party didn’t sign anything or give any names.
8am, bright and early, we drove over to the location for the timeshare talk and waited in a small line for a teller. The person in front of us was having an unfriendly banter with the teller. The only thing I picked up from my eavesdropping was that all the members of his party weren’t there so he wasn’t able to get signed in. We got called next and checking in only took a few seconds. She asked if all members of our party were there, we said yes, and she said to wait in a corner for our “agent” to come and get us.
After a few minutes, our salesperson came out of a room, introduced himself, and walked us outside. He said because of covid restrictions, he wouldn’t give us a tour of the entire facilities and grounds. Instead, we would drive separately over to a condo where he would give us a talk.
We loaded up into our vehicle and were on our way without ever signing any official paperwork. Also, we had been told over the phone, and on our “terms and conditions”, that we needed IDs and a credit card, but we didn’t need anything. I’m not sure if that is normal, or just because we showed up during covid restrictions.
The TimeShare Pitch
We followed our salesperson’s car to a condo. On the ground floor, they had free continental breakfast and drinks set out on a table behind a rope, and someone with gloves handed us whatever we asked for. We took an elevator up a few floors and our salesperson took the stairs to meet us at the top, then he showed us to a room and left so we could eat our breakfasts without our masks.
We thought the room was stuffy, because we were all in our winter jackets, so we opened all the windows. It was ~30 degrees outside. When he came back, he sat in a chair across from our sofa. I imagine he thought we were trying to freeze him out, but we were just hot.
For the first 20 minutes, there was some minor small talk about nothing. It might have been to put us at ease? Either way, we were pretty guarded with personal info. He probably expected us to talk more about ourselves, and we were expecting him to ask us more direct, pointed questions.
When he started to transition, I asked for an outline of what to expect for the meeting. How was our time going to be broken down? What is our obligation? How many people will we talk to? Are we going on a tour? What is our time frame?
He said we were there for a timeshare presentation – “yes, it’s a sales pitch.” We had to be there for “an hour and a half, or 2 hours – whatever they told you.” Then when it was over, he’d take us back to the main building where we’d get our $150 gift certificate and a voucher that waived the cost of our stay.
And then our “presentation” began.
He flew through a lot of “numbers” and acronyms. He talked so fast, to the point where none of us absorbed anything. To this day, I have no idea what he was even saying. Either way, as fast as he spat out numbers, the topic would always change. I’m not sure if it was him, or us, or both; but we talked about movies, Pokemon, shoes, horses … just about everything except timeshares.
After 40 minutes of struggling to sell us, he took us to a luxury apartment in the same complex. I think the intention was to give us a tour and really sell us, but other families walked in on us. Because of covid, only one group was allowed in at a time, so we left and let them see the rooms; but then we just kind of wandered off, back towards the door of the building. I feel kind of bad for the salesperson, because trying to keep track of the four of us was like trying to wrangle cats. He’d try to show us to a room, or tell us to wait for another family to get done, and we’d just wander back towards the exit. He’d run to cut us off, and we’d just all meander around him, chatting about something else.
We weren’t intending to be rude or purposefully being space-cadets or anything. There was just random downtime, so we’d do what any group of friends would do – we’d chat amongst ourselves. We also were never given any real clear instructions on what to do, so we’d just assume we were done and start walking back. It wasn’t until we looked back on our experience that we realized we were probably sabotaging his sales pitch without meaning to.
We went back to the “pitch room” and by now it’s about 1 hour and 10 minutes in. Cecilia leaves the room to go to the restroom. (She was 3 months pregnant at the time, so bathroom breaks happened ALOT.) The salesperson looks at the 3 of us and says, “Okay, just be honest with me here. Why in the world are you guys at a timeshare talk?” There’s a pause while we all just stare at him, wondering what we should say and he fills the void with, “if you’re all so scared of covid that you’re even opening the window when it’s 30 degrees outside to get fresh air, why did you come here in the first place?” I reply,
“… well, you want honesty? My wife clicked a link on a Facebook contest that said we could win 3 days and 2 nights at a resort. They called us while we were driving to say we’d won. My wife was excited, and I wanted her to be happy, so I said sure, I’d go along with it. The guy on the phone asked if we had 2 friends that would want to go, too, and we said we weren’t sure; so he said he’d put us down for 4, just in case. We asked our friends, they said they wanted to come, and here we all are.”
He nodded along; looked at the 3 of us; pulled out his phone; and started playing Pokemon Go.
Once Cecilia got out of the bathroom, he ran through his pitch at lightning speed. He showed us a piece of paper with numbers on it that had a large down-payment. He rambled on and said, “but you don’t have that much in the bank, do you?” After a pause, Scott said “no comment” – because the entire morning, none of us gave away any information about our financial situations. He instantly flipped the paper over and showed us another price, the “only for today” offer with a lower price with financing; and asked if we wanted to buy at that price. I said “no.” He said “alright then,” and texted his boss, then went back to playing Pokemon Go.
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Leisure Suit Larry
After a few minutes of the party chatting about nothing again, in walks the boss – we’ll call him Larry. Larry looks the part. He’s wearing an olive-green suit that has the kind of texture that looks expensive; and a very high-maintenance hairstyle with a lot of gray speckles. Larry’s entire presence is summed up by the uncertainty of whether his hair was naturally gray, or if it was purposefully dyed to look older.
Larry has a calm, methodical delivery any time he speaks, like someone reciting a script that’s been rehearsed to perfection but then delivered so many times until it’s lost its meaning. He speaks without pauses, taking a big breath before each section of his ramble. He would emphasize words by deliberately stretching out the word, not by raising his voice. Every point he made was framed as if the decision has already been made for you – you will lose money if you don’t make this choice because you are already spending money on vacations.
Larry is what a used car salesman would be if used cars sold for more money.
Larry ended his spiel with a piece of paper, which had a unit available for “today only.” They’re always “only today.”
He passed the piece of paper over to us, and the age of the paper suggested it wasn’t the first time he’s handed it to someone.
The number on the paper was drastically less than any of the previous offers – it was less than half of the previous lowest offer. I looked at the paper, folded it back in half, handed it back, and said no. Larry was reluctant to take the paper, and asked “why?”
We knew this moment was coming and prepared for it. We reminded ourselves that we don’t have to justify any of our answers. Socially, it’s polite to justify yourself; but you’re never under any obligation to justify yourself.
We answered, “we don’t make large financial decisions that quickly. We talk through financial decisions together.”
Larry gave another ramble – this one I honestly didn’t listen to. I just zoned out for a moment. Then Cecilia answered him, “and we have a kid on the way, which makes it more important to spend time on big financial decisions, so the answer is still no.”
Larry asked, “so … is there anything I can do or say that’s going to change that decision for you today?” I said “no,” expecting to have to say that a lot at this point. But then Larry abruptly said, “Okay, thank you for your time,” stood up, and walked out without a second look at us. It was just an immediate withdrawal.
The first salesperson, who had been sitting there quietly during Larry’s entire spiel, slapped his thighs, said “okay, I’ll take you back to the main center to claim your prizes” and visibly ripped up the piece of paper he’d shown us earlier. He started to make some comments about wasting his time, but we were already walking out the door and didn’t really catch them.
The Final Boss
We drove back to the main center and through a conference room that, in non-covid times, would have been the first room. He took us close to a receptionist’s desk and asked us to stay put while he went to talk to someone.
We wandered up closer to them, trying to look out of a window to see a pool, which was just close enough to eavesdrop on the salesperson’s conversation. He was giving her details about the conversation we’d had with him and Larry – that we “don’t make large financial decisions that quickly.” He was giving her everything she needed so she would know the right angle to close the deal!
It turns out, the woman he handed us off to was the Final Boss. She asked us to go into another room, and Cecilia wandered off to the bathroom. The three of us walked into the room, realized Cecilia wasn’t there, and wandered back out. When she got out of the restroom, the four of us went in together to see the Final Boss.
She was sitting behind a small table with two chairs set up in front of it. She said we could sit down, but we remained standing. There were four of us and only two chairs. You could tell that having 4 people there instead of 2 really threw their usual gameplans off.
She asked us what the final price Larry quoted us was, and I told her; then she said “What if I could offer you that same unit at this price?” She wrote a number on a piece of paper that was, again, exactly half of what Larry had offered.
We repeated our line, “We don’t make large financial dec–” She interrupted, “Okay, take this slip into the next room and we’ll settle you up.”
We hadn’t noticed, but there was a slip of paper already sitting on the desk in front of her. With the paper in hand, we headed into the next room and handed it to an old man who was polite, friendly, jovial and looked like he was having the time of his life at work. He slapped a stamp down on the paper, handed us a voucher, and we were out in no time. We managed to survive the timeshare presentation.
Total time: 1 hour and 39 minutes.
After we left, we spent a lot of time talking with one another, trying to understand why we’d been let off so easily. All of us had heard the nightmare stories about high-pressure timeshares – that people spent an entire day being shuffled from room-to-room, the aggressive salespeople, the insults, the good-cop bad-cop routines, etc. We got none of that. We were practically shoved out the door at one point.
One theory we had was that we were a group of 4 that weren’t related to one another. We were 2 couples, so they couldn’t pin one of us against the other. They also couldn’t sell to all 4 of us, because we would never buy something together.
Another theory was that we were just too chaotic for them. We constantly changed the conversation – but not really on purpose. We just filled the silent pauses with jokes or comments that became side-conversations.
Timeshare Presentation Basics: Insight From an Industry Insider
We had to know why our experience was so different from the ones we’d heard about, so we called up a friend that used to be in the industry as a timeshare salesperson.
Here’s what we found out:
The reason some salespeople are pushier than others is because if they don’t sell for awhile, they’re suddenly given “one last chance” to sell, and if they don’t sell on that day, they’re fired. If someone wants to keep their job, they have to sell; and that can lead to a very high-pressure sale.
Sometimes they’ll get mad if you’re rude or just blatantly not interested from the start of the talk. They’ll toy with you and keep you longer on purpose out of spite. This can happen when you tell the salesperson from the start: “look, we’re just not interested in buying, we’re only here for the free stay.”
Often, the salesperson lies about their background to identify with the “prospect”, like saying they have kids too; or they will lie about how long they have been selling; or that they have a dog, are also divorced, etc. When our insider told us that, we all blinked. Had our salesperson lied about everything he told us the entire time? At one point, he gave us his kids’ names – and now I’m not sure he even had kids.
If a salesperson makes a sale on the previous day, then they get “first pick” in the morning; and the 8am timeslot is reserved for people they think are absolutely going to buy. We were the 8am timeslot. I have no idea why they put us in that group.
If enough people are lined up that day for talks and they don’t have enough salespeople, they go on rotation. As soon as a salesperson finishes their talk, they can go back and get another prospect. The earlier they can pick a prospect, the higher the chances of getting a sell. That’s why there’s more incentive for them to end a tour earlier if they know you aren’t going to buy and your tour is in the morning. Tours in the afternoon aren’t so lucky.
What if someone owns a timeshare and gets someone else to sign up for the timeshare talk? The timeshare owner gets a kickback – usually waived fees.
But ultimately, why did our salesperson let go of us so fast? Because Cecilia was pregnant. At one point, our salesperson asked why Cecilia was going to the bathroom so much. We told him she was pregnant, and when she came back in the room, he commented, “I didn’t even notice you were pregnant until you said that.” That’s when he started flying through his presentation. That was the change. Apparently, people who are expecting a child don’t make sudden or “big” financial decisions. They’re too focused on what’s good for the baby.
Tips on How to Survive a Timeshare Presentation
So here we are, everything we’ve learned boiled down to our top tips for surviving a timeshare talk.
1. Go in prepared.
There is no reason to be mean or rude. Just know your stance, be assertive, and remember that you don’t owe anyone anything. It’s not impolite to say “no” without an excuse. “No” is a complete answer that doesn’t need to be justified.
2. Remember that you’re in a sales pitch.
For salespeople, ‘being nice’ is part of the sale. Similarly, ‘being relatable to you’ is more important than them telling you the truth. They butter you up in order to get information out of you, and they rely on the information you’ve volunteered for their pitch. Things like your job, hobbies, or even your last vacation are used to determine your personal wealth and spending habits.
3. Silence is your strength.
It’s really, really tempting to argue, or to call the salespeople out when you catch them in a ‘blunder’ or ‘ah-HA’ moment. But just remember: if you argue, you just feed into their pitch and you’ll end up staying even longer. They want you to argue so they can sell you harder. Don’t get into a back-and-forth.
4. Be on guard for the angle.
The salesperson is always fishing for an angle. If they don’t know what is important to you they cant sell you. They’ll try to get you emotionally invested. They might try to insult you, or dig at your ego, with things like “you can’t afford this, right? This is too much for you.” Don’t defend yourself. Don’t justify yourself. Just say “no” and leave it at that.
5. Decide on a secret reason against buying and never disclose it.
If they don’t know why you won’t buy, then they can’t give you a pitch or argue against it. For us, we knew that a timeshare is just a bad financial decision. The financing is really expensive, and you don’t “save money” in the end. That was our secret reason; and when the numbers were explained to us, and we saw the paper showing that it was a bad decision, we didn’t go “ah-HA!” We just nodded along and kept it inside. They can’t sweet-talk their way around your roadblock if they don’t know it’s there.
6. If you really want a timeshare, don’t buy at the pitch.
Maybe you really do want a timeshare and it just works for your lifestyle. If that’s you, then don’t buy at the “pitch”. Go across the street (literally, usually) to the place that buys them back. They’ll sell them to you for much cheaper than the lowest price offered by the timeshare.
7. And, of course, if all else fails – be pregnant.
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