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We’ve all heard the horror stories of timeshare sales tactics or ongoing expenses. Some of us have been subjected to classic timeshare sales pitches. Some of us have actually succumbed and purchased a timeshare. In fact, many people have. And not all are unhappy. So what makes the difference between a happy and an unhappy timeshare owner?

Full disclosure: I have been subjected to good and bad timeshare pitches myself. And yes, I actually owned a timeshare for a period of time. So this is the first in a series of posts about my thoughts and experiences and the reasons I owned, but no longer own, a timeshare.

The bad of timeshare pitches: exaggerations, pressure and outright lies. How so? Well, first the pitch usually lures you and your spouse in with the offer of a freebie – it may be a free restaurant meal, a show at a casino (a favourite Vegas ploy) or even a weekend get-away at the timeshare resort. Then once they have you roped into to sitting through the presentation, they will show you some cheesy film likely starring a B level movie or TV star. The film to which I was subjected starred the original Vegas show Dan Tanna actor, Robert Urich, buff and emerging from the surf, extolling the benefits of buying into this timeshare project. After all the propaganda, you get the face-to-face treatment with a timeshare sales person who has been highly trained to rebut your every argument or reason for not buying. Right. This. Minute.

The timeshare sales person will be well trained in body language and have the sense of a shark going for blood in discerning any difference of opinion between you and your spouse. Whichever of you shows weakness in being susceptible to any of the arguments being made, will then become the focus and they will try to turn you against your spouse by asking questions that would be laughable in any other circumstance, such as who wears the pants in your family? But by now you are tired, overwhelmed with information, and just want to get out. But you can’t because they haven’t given you your freebie yet.

One piece of advice – whatever the freebie may be, it’s not worth the mental anguish of sitting through that timeshare pitch. And if you have ever doubted that the timeshare company could possibly be making money off you once they drop and drop again their purchase price during your hard-ball negotiation, then you need to watch a little indie film called the Queen of Versailles. It’s about the family that owned the Westgate Resorts Timeshare Company and their obscene wealth accumulated by doing so. Well, right up until the great economic collapse occurred in the United States and people stopped buying timeshares because they were in the midst of losing their primary residences.

On the other hand, decent timeshare companies will offer minimal incentives to bring you in the door and will always encourage you to take their literature, go away and research the product, and determine on your own time if this is a product for you. For many people, it’s a very worthwhile investment. But a timeshare’s value very much depends on your lifestyle and you must do your homework.

Sales approach is what I would identify as the biggest tip-off whether or not a timeshare project is worth investing in. But there are several other no-brainers hints. Who is the company behind the project and what is their reputation? Disney and Marriott are two big timeshare brands, both of which excel in customer service across their other brands. That bodes well for a good customer service experience in their timeshare business. As it happens, they are also two of the main timeshare companies that have gone to a ‘vacation club’ model where you receive points annually, for use across a variety of timeshare products, rather than a standard one-week stay in the same location and same size unit annually. Many timeshares sell a specific week of the year in a specific unit at a single location – so you must travel at the same time every single year. That’s a pretty specific product and one that doesn’t lend itself to much in the way of customer flexibility.

On the upside, there are opportunities to rent or sell off those less-flexible timeshares. Websites like RedWeek.com allow timeshare owners and those who wish to vacation in such locations to connect and make a deal. But if you want some idea of just how awful a purchase timeshares can be, check out that site’s Bargain Resale listings. Most of them are going for $0 so long as you are willing to legally assume title and all maintenance expenses. That’s a serious loss of value for the original owners. And that is exactly the opposite of my timeshare experience, which I will share in an upcoming post.