I vaguely knew what I was getting in to. My girlfriend and I arrived at an MGM owned casino. We get a bite to eat and as soon as we began our exploration of the Casino someone approached us offering vouchers for free play in the casino worth $75. I’m usually hesitant to ever get sucked into something like this but my girlfriend insisted that we do it. “They give it to you for showing up, we’ll just say no, I’ve got friends who did this too, etc.” I went along and decided to keep an open mind about it.
We talk to this guy who convinces people to attend this “seminar” for two hours and you’ll receive the vouchers, plus a hotel room for a few nights from a selection of locations, plus free breakfast. He insists that all you need to do is say “no, not interested” once the 2 hours are up and you can just leave with your vouchers. Obviously his incentive isn’t to sell anything but fill the buses with as many people as possible.
The next day we get on the bus to the seminar location. My initial thought was that we’d all crowd into a room and watch some presentation before given the opportunity to bounce. I was caught off guard when every couple was assigned a salesperson. We meet our salesman and he immediately compliments us, is incredibly impressed by any of the words we string together, and has now become our fake best friend.
We go into the presentation and the speaker does his thing. And everyone here should be aware that much of what he said was true, but his conclusions were abhorrent. He pointed out that in America we do not use all of our vacation days. We tend to waste them. We are also constantly putting off that one trip to our dream destination to “someday”, but “someday” never comes. Next, he points out that most people, dying people, regret working so much and wish they spent more time with their families. These are true facts.
But then he concluded by suggesting we should all buy into this program which will allow us to take these dream vacations. It was the kind of sound financial advice you’d expect from someone who would directly benefit from the purchase and would never hear from you again.
I want to note, the speaker was talented and entertaining. He was loaded with jokes, self-deprecating humor. It was funny, but holy shit. Looking around the room were the salespeople with the obnoxious fake laughter. They saw this probably a hundred times. It was creepy. It was surreal. 1/3 of the audience was in on the sales pitch.
The salespeople used every joke as an opportunity to measure the responses on the faces on their paired couple. The speaker would crack a joke and all the sales people would simultaneously throw their back out laughing before turning to the couple they were with to see if they were laughing too.
There were no opportunities for me to speak with my girlfriend without the salesman eavesdropping. The presentation moved fast enough that looking anything up seemed like too much of a distraction. As skilled as they seemed at controlling my behavior, the whole thing was throwing up red flags.
Anyway, the presentation ended and our salesman led us to a table. On the way over there were other couples sitting out in the open with their assigned salesperson. They seemed excited about what they were hearing and excitedly signing papers. It was…weird.
We sit down and the salesman goes through the program in more detail. Here’s where I get genuinely turned off. I work in IT, I’m about to finish my bachelor’s degree, I don’t think I’m a sucker but my love of science puts me at odds with a person who’s giving me overwhelmingly biased information. He reiterates all of the great things about this program. He turns to my girlfriend, “what do you think about that?” “It sounds great!” Then he turns to me. “And what do you think about that? Is it something you’d want to do?” And I reply “Depending on the cost, yes, I’d do it!”
Next, he has us estimate the cost of a hotel we normally pay for. Then he asks us how many vacation days we take per year. This is fine and easy math. If the average cost is $115 per night, and you take 10 days, it’s $1,150 per year in hotel costs. The “program” (timeshare but they completely avoid the term) lasts 20 years. It’s still vague at this part but the salesman insists on focusing on how much we are gonna pay for these hotel rooms over the next 20 years.
Cost per year multiplied by 20 years is 23,000. But that’s not the equation they’re doing. They’re not accounting for interest! Ah! It would be more over that time! How much does it really cost? About $250,000. They estimate that the hospitality industry has an inflation rate of 11%!! Everyone should have it ingrained in their heads that inflation across the entire economy (in America) has been around 3% per year.
He was willing to tinker with the numbers but, generally speaking, we’re spending a fuck ton of money on just hotels according to their calculations. And any close observers would note that the number should have been much lower. $1,300×20 years×1.120=$174,914.99. I could have been wrong in my calculation but their cost estimate was obscenely high.
Then he asks if we have any more questions. Uh, yeah, how much are we talking about here? They never mentioned up to this point how much it costs! But I’m skeptical and the questions I’m asking are things like how do you actually book a vacation? What happens if I change my mind about it? Is it transferrable? The salesman doesn’t know the answers to these questions so a higher level salesman comes over. He’s very happy to meet us. He loves the outfit I’m wearing. He compliments various other features and, with the limited amount of information I’ve provided, seems completely ready to compete with the other salesman for the title of my new best friend.
He answers some of my questions but can’t provide any documentation to back up his claims. They still won’t provide a price but they hand an iPad to my girlfriend to start filling out personal information. I look over and as soon as I see there’s a field for the social security number I damn near slap it out of her hands. They were literally going to do a credit check to see how much the cost would be for us! Huge red flag for me. First, the inquiry shows up on your credit report. While that may not be so bad, I want to be informed on making a purchase and at least know a price range before taking that kind of step.
This throws the salesman off. Apparently, no one stops at this part of the process. The head sales guy says it’s fine, and offers for us to check out a room which would be the type of room we’d be staying in if we join this program. I still don’t know how much this program costs. We go and the salesman leaves my girlfriend and I alone to explore at our own pace.
This is where I frantically looked for the Reddit thread where personal finance gurus say “GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE, THEY KIDNAP REDDITORS LIKE YOU AND YOUR CLONE BECOMES A SALESMAN”. I found a few threads, and they did warn against this, but they were at least a year old and it didn’t all seem timely.
I couldn’t find costs online either, so I thought to myself “how much per month would I be willing to pay for something like this?” I concluded $45 per month. But I still had misgivings about making a big commitment on such short notice when I couldn’t even read anything like a contract. I’d rather go home and read independent reviews so I can be confident in my decision. I couldn’t get to that point.
Once again we end up back at the table but this time the salesman has a laminated piece of paper with prices on it! I immediately I see huge numbers and realize why they waited so long to show it. They wanted approximately $130,000 for the total program. It would be $13,000 down to get started, and almost $500 per month.
(Note: when I did the math later, the actual cost we’d likely pay is around what they wanted for the program. But we’d be paying a fortune upfront and have a monthly payment. We could only go to where Wyndham had properties, which was in America or Australia or some islands, but if we wanted to go to Europe it would be through RCI, which cost about $300 per week. That’s about the cost of an AirBnB in some locations, so if you’re a smart traveller it may not be worth it at all.)
“Would you rather pay this?” The head salesman circles the $174,000. “Or this”, he circles the $130,000. Ooga not want pay big number when ooga pay small number instead. I didn’t want it. $45 dollars was as high as I’d go.
This is the part where they tried to pit my girlfriend against me in an amateurish attempt at manipulation. First, they go through the list of everything we ever told them about what we liked about the program (before we ever heard a price). They even sneak in a “you should be willing to sacrifice something for it” and gave a few examples like eating out less or having fewer cups of coffee from Starbucks. So I’m telling the salesman that this is way too expensive and once again the head sales guy shows up. He says things like “I thought you said you liked the program? You said it was a 10/10. Are you saying it’s not a 10/10? You said you’d be willing to sacrifice for this!” He was getting irritated. Then he turned to my girlfriend and says “it doesn’t sound like he’s as rich as he says he is”. At this point I was infuriated. Best friends don’t say things like this to each other. But I held my cool. I looked him dead in the eye and firmly said “I’m gonna pass”.
But damn, the manipulation didn’t stop and they didn’t give up. They leave us alone to fill out a brief survey with a guy who definitely doesn’t sell anything. So this guy shows up, introduces himself, and asks us about why we didn’t buy it. I was truthful, it was too expensive and I wasn’t willing to spend all that for it. I also felt pressured to make a big commitment on something that hours earlier I knew nothing about. So then he offers to sell us a “trial” program. It’s a fraction of the price and it only lasts two years. It starts to be appealing, but then it is also limited to certain locations. I ask to see the contract and the guy says “what do you want me to do, sit here and read you a contract”? At that point he gets frustrated and offers to walk us to the exit. It had been 4 hours. We get our vouchers and leave.
Tl;dr: it would have been a bad financial decision.
Disclaimer: This content does not necessarily represent the views of IWB.