Travel & Outdoors | December 2008
|Classic Timeshare: Dateline Puerto Vallarta|
Mark Silverman - Examiner
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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – You’ve left the plane, you’ve collected your luggage. Before even leaving the airport, it begins. You are approached by one of the many neatly dressed, official looking men or women. They all speak English fairly well, and offer a free taxi to your resort. Or, you stop at one of the street booths with signs promoting fiestas, dinner cruises and all manners of tourist activities. You ask about the prices, they tell you it’s free.
|Should you feel guilty, attending the presentation just to get the freebies? Absolutely not. If the only those with serious intentions of purchasing a timeshare attended, those showrooms would be pretty darn near empty.|
Have you stumbled upon some kind of Shangri La? A paradise where money is not needed? No, even south of the border, you can’t get something for nothing. You have met timeshare’s first line of offense in the quest to get you into the world of vacation ownership. The Offsight Personal Contacts (OPC). Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for parasailing or a luau, simply take a tour of the “beautiful new resort” being constructed nearby.
In Mexico, Hawaii, Tahoe and many other popular tourist locations, timeshare is marketed intensively to visitors from around the world. After all, what better prospects for the benefits of low cost, luxurious travel than those already on vacation? Often the booths appear to be kiosks where you go to purchase a snorkel trip, or dinner cruise, and they are. But they are also the representatives for timeshare clubs in the region. Their job is to put warm bodies, such as yours, into one of the six million seats to be filled this year at timeshare presentations. And they are legitimate. The will give you access to the very same fiesta or lift tickets that you can buy retail in exchange for a couple of hours of your time. When you are in line to go to the event, notice how many people seem to be holding the same chits acquired by attending a presentation.
The types of inducements OPC’s need to offer have certainly changed over the years. I went to my first presentation more than twenty years ago in Atlantic City because a pretty girl in a bikini asked me if I liked to travel. Now it takes food, money, and dinner cruises - although the pretty girl in the bikini never hurts.
Here’s the thing about OPC’s that most folks don’t realize – once you show up at the presentation, their job is done. What happens after you get there has no effect on their commissions. They can be negotiated with. They will offer you two tickets to the fiesta, and you say “Gosh, but we’ve got our two kids with us”. Chances are pretty good you’ll get four passes, worth between one and two hundred dollars. Hesitate while deciding between the luau and the dinner cruise, and you have a good chance of ending up with both of them.
When my wife and I travel, professional curiosity usually compels me to attend at least one presentation. My better half is generally reluctant, right up until we’re quoted $45 per person for the luau and $30 each for the boat tour. All of a sudden, she doesn’t mind seeing what’s new in the resort world.
In Puerto Vallarta, we were able to negotiate for a fiesta, a dinner cruise, a blanket, and a lift to and from the dinner cruise (that turned out to be especially fortuitous because there was a huge thunderstorm when we came back from the cruise). In the interest of honesty, I must say that we never got the blanket; my mistake was in not collecting on it before attending the tour. What we did receive was well worth the time we invested, plus I truly enjoyed the presentation.
Quick story about the presentation – our tour guide was a mid-twentyish American woman, who told us that she had just moved to the area from the States when her husband’s job had been transferred. She couldn’t tell us a whole lot about the property, her manager would have to do that; she was only doing this part-time and had only been there for a couple of weeks. When she went to get us some coffee, I looked around the showroom a bit. Upon her return, I pointed to the plaques on the wall and complimented her on the fact that she had been awarded “Salesperson of the Month” six out of the past eight months.
You will see OPC’s in casinos – usually a developer will lock in the exclusive right to market in particular casino. In Tahoe, for example, Embassy Suites markets out of one, and the Ridge Tahoe out of another. They generally offer $50 in cash, chips or food. There’s not a whole lot of negotiation. The representatives stateside, while persistent, are considerably less aggressive than their South-of-the-Border counterparts.
Should you feel guilty, attending the presentation just to get the freebies? Absolutely not. If the only those with serious intentions of purchasing a timeshare attended, those showrooms would be pretty darn near empty. Most folks who attend not only figure they are not going to purchase, many have concocted specific stories to tell, to justify why they cannot purchase. Yet day in, day out about one out of ten will become new owners! The sales company just builds that into the cost of the program they are marketing.
This is a piece that ran in the Examiner in my original column - 2001-2003