Are timeshares a scam, or merely a ripoff?

I can’t believe I did this.  I got suckered into another timeshare spiel.  (At least I didn’t get suckered into the timeshare itself!)  After the last spiel, I thought I’d never do that again.  Argh…  I learned my lesson for real this time; I’d prefer to be waterboarded.

My first timeshare experience

One of my girlfriends (the big bodacious one) used to have three timeshares with the same company.  Surely that seems like overdoing it.  The thing is that she got a much better deal on them than you’ll get these days, and was “grandfathered” into a special program.  The way it would’ve worked is that she could’ve stayed at one place for six days, then taken the next day to drive somewhere else, then stayed at another of their facilities, et cetera and ad infinitum.  She figured that it was going to be like a rotating retirement home.  The company quit offering arrangements like that, so you can forget about it if you want a similar deal.

However, she seldom actually used the place.  We stayed there one time, and that’s it.  There were ways you could rent it out to other people.  Since it was near a major convention area that frequently gets accommodations all booked up, that should’ve made the thing pay for itself.  One of our friends actually worked for a company that made those arrangements.  Despite all that, nothing ever came of it.

Anyway, she talked me into attending one of their presentations.  For submitting to a couple hours of that, we’d get free vacation tickets, even if I didn’t buy.  With great reluctance, I went.  So we got the rundown on how it worked, with a video presentation.  Then we got to talk with one of the sales droids.  I got the spiel where we took our current estimated annual vacation expenses, then extrapolated things into the future.

The point was that the deal looked expensive, but I’d save money over time, especially with rising inflation figured in.  I caught them in some fuzzy math, but didn’t call them out for cheating.  I had to feign narcolepsy to get out of the spiel.  I was dead tired anyway, so method acting wasn’t hard.

Then my girlfriend lost her job.  (It’s all a long story.  Her former manager deserves to be stripped naked, covered with barbecue sauce, and tossed into a pen with a dozen junkyard dogs.)  After she no longer could pay the timeshare, I bailed her out a couple times – what a mistake!  The bills kept coming, and unfortunately I never found any pirate treasure buried in my back yard.  So after she couldn’t pay the bills for it, they filed a foreclosure action on her.

Then they went through the motions in court of selling the “property”.  She actually went down to the courthouse to see all that.  Note well, a timeshare is an option to use a room for a limited time every year.  That’s not the property itself, which always belongs to the company, so what’s the deal with going through the hoopla of selling it?  I figured they’d pull a number out of their asses and charge her for it; like I said, they’re skilled at fuzzy math.  However, she’d be a better one to tell the story of that particular dog-and-pony show.

The next timeshare spiel

So we were on vacation at a fashionable tourist destination commonly called Lost Wages.  My finances were already stinging from unexpected vet bills and car repairs.  (The first was a catalytic converter that cost me a king’s ransom to fix so I could pass inspection.  Later, it had a brake malfunction on the freeway.  NOT fun, and we came within inches of splatting into construction barrels.)  Still, the trip was booked, so backing out was not an option.

A friendly droid came up and offered us free comps on shows and other attractions.  Hey, what a deal, right?  I figured she was a hotel rep.  Later, I found out it was going to be a timeshare spiel.  Alarm bells went off, but in a desperate effort to keep further costs down, I figured that I’d let them make their case for two hours, and I’d get some tickets.  We had to put down a $40 deposit for the thing.  Against my better judgment, we ponied up.

After tossing sixty bucks into the slot machine, Lady Luck forsook me.  She wasn’t being kind to my girlfriend either.  Yes, I’m aware that those machines are designed to separate you from your money.  (Heck, that’s the purpose of the Vegas Strip itself.)  Mainly I like the people-watching and the free drinks.  She gets more out of the casino experience, though.  On the way back, I got bit by a foo-foo dog.  I thought that was funny, but perhaps it was a bad omen?  Anyway, we retired to our room and slept off our travel fatigue.

So in the morning, we went to the blessed timeshare presentation.  Much like before, it started with a video explaining the deal.  This plan had a point system, and you could use your X number of yearly points on rooms in different locations that were priced differently in terms of points.  I believe a maximum stay would be seven days in a year.  Maybe that’s in Mule Shoe, Kentucky or something.  In Hawaii, you’d burn through your yearly points in three days.

Then we got assigned to a sales droid.  The guy did put on good rapport, and had decent sales vibing.  Still, there was just something about him that set me on edge.  This will sound strange, but he gave the impression of being a shark in human form.  If he’d turned to someone casually and then bitten off a hunk of raw flesh, it wouldn’t have surprised me much.  Come to think of it, he did look a bit like an alien.  Perhaps he’s one of the disguised Space Lizards I wrote about in Tomorrow the Stars?

We drove to their nearby hotel.  Overall, it did look pretty good.  Actually, the only better one I’ve stayed in is the Plaza in NYC – deep in the heart of the Mothership – and that one’s pretty top-notch.  They even had a couple of swimming pools and a mini-theater.  So yeah, it’s indeed a nice place.  Still, I’m a cheapskate, and I’m fine with anything that’s not a crack motel.

We got back, and the Space Lizard whipped out the paperwork.  I was still a little tired.  (I’m a terrible Mormon, hopelessly hooked on caffeine.)  Despite that, as well as being a dumb blond from Flyover Country, I was able to crunch numbers in my head.  The figures weren’t looking good to me, as I’ll explain shortly.  He tried to haggle.  That didn’t work, so then he laid on a guilt trip.

That didn’t work either.  One of the cool things about being a White Nationalist is that I’m immune to feeling guilty about doing things that aren’t actually wrong, likewise (of course) about bad things I didn’t do personally.  Anther deplorable right-winger benefit includes a free set of high-gain bullshit detectors.  Other than that, I’m a stubborn bastard, and I escaped unscathed.  I would imagine that many other people might’ve buckled under the pressure.

Timeshares by the numbers

So the deal as it was presented to me was that there would be a $25K mortgage on it, payable over ten years.  (That involves interest, which will be an extra cha-ching.)  So that means over two hundred bucks a month for a decade.  However, when I flat out refused, the Space Lizard offered to waive the mortgage entirely.  Generous guy, right?

On top of that is $200/month in maintenance fees.  That’s not for ten years; that continues in perpetuity.  I’m a cheap bastard, and that would eat into my beer budget too much.  (My favorite is Pay Lay Ale.  That’s a Mormon joke, BTW.)  So even though the mortgage turned out to be optional after all, it was still no bueno.

What happens if you want to call off the deal later on?  You can’t get their hand out of your pocketbook.  The best thing you can do is get someone to buy out your obligation.  For this reason, there are hordes of people on EBay trying to sell their timeshares for one measly buck after they’d paid thousands into them.  (If you really want one of those things, why not find one of these woebegone souls and make their wishes come true?)  What happens if you stop paying?  From my girlfriend’s earlier experience, I knew that meant that you’re screwed, and not in the fun way.

This isn’t like an apartment where you simply can move out after your yearly lease is up.  Besides finding someone to sell it to (good luck with that!) or having your credit ruined, the only other way to get out of a timeshare is DEATH.  I’m not sure what the company does to the customer’s heirs, but they’ll have to deal with it; after people end up six feet underground in a pine box, finally it’s no longer their problem.

OK, so they have to build these places and maintain them.  I get that.  Also, what I saw did look pretty snazzy.  However, there are also nice hotels which likewise have to defray construction and upkeep costs, but are cheaper.  You book the room as needed, and aren’t locked into an obligation that lasts until you’re pushing up daisies.

Now let’s have a closer look at the numbers.  So the deal I was presented is to option a stay that’s one week, tops.  For that, you have to pay $2,400 a year in maintenance fees.  You’ll pay over twice that for ten years if you didn’t haggle away the silly “mortgage”.  Now, let’s pro-rate one week’s stay, merely for the annualized maintenance fee.

Again, this must be in a low-demand area to get a whole week, or the point cost means you’re getting fewer days.  This is like paying about $343 a night.  If you got suckered into the “mortgage” too, then you’re looking at more like $700/night for the first ten years.  Think you might be able to find other decent accommodations in Mule Shoe, KY that are a bit cheaper?  Again, if it’s in a popular place like Hawaii, you only get a three day stay, with the pro-rated room rate equivalent to over twice that.

Finally, if you don’t get the chance to use their service that year, then it’s tough luck.  That’s not their problem.  You’re still paying for it that year, even if you get nothing out of it.  (That’s how it rolled for my girlfriend most years.)  Later, we were chatting with some fellow damn Vegas tourists about all that.  Those guys got stuck with a single-facility timeshare in Mexico.  It’s now in a no-go zone because of drug cartel activity, but they still have to pay for the thing.

Anybody – does this still sound like a good deal?  I may be a dumb blond, and surely a real dimwit compared to a Space Lizard, but at least I know better than to get locked into something like that.

Are timeshares a scam, or merely a ripoff?

2 thoughts on “Are timeshares a scam, or merely a ripoff?

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