November 4, 2020 – Once upon a ‘timeshare’.

Many years ago, there was a man, a very disreputable, unsavory character that was always trying to find ways to make a quick buck. He tried a few ‘get rich quick’ schemes but they never amounted to much. There were pyramid schemes, but he could never seem to rise above the lowest level, and for a while he sold long distance calling cards but those pretty much dried up once cell phones came into the picture. He was a savvy individual and he knew that it would just take that one ‘idea’, that one brilliant ‘concept’ to achieve his dream, amassing a fortune and living a life of luxury. “What is it that humans want? How can I turn a quick buck?” he’d often ask himself. Then one day, when he was feeling extremely desperate, as his rent was due and he had only 3 cans of soup left in his cupboard, he decided to take action. “What is it that humans want? I’m never going to know if I don’t ask!” he said aloud.

It was at that precise moment that he grabbed a clipboard, several sheets of paper, and a couple of pens (after making himself look presentable), and headed to a nearby mall. As he entered the mall, he came across a group of young adults. They were all standing around drinking mocha lattes and iced coffees and discussing their latest purchases at Bed, Bath & Beyond, Macy’s, and J.C. Penney’s. “Hey folks!” he said as he approached. “Do you mind answering a couple of questions?” They all looked at him a bit skeptically but several nodded in approval. “Ok. If you could do anything, what would it be?” he asked. “Take a luxurious vacation!” four of the young adults shouted at once. “Where exactly would that be?” he asked. “Hawaii!” said one. “Las Vegas!” piped up another. “Orlando!!” two more said in unison. “Fantastic! Thank you for sharing that with me today,” he said. He then continued on to the next group and the next, asking the questions verbatim, trying to figure out what humans really wanted if they had the opportunity.

At the end of the day, he went back to his apartment and heated up a can of soup. As he cradled the steaming bowl of ‘garden vegetable’, taking small sips to make it last, he looked over his notes and it wasn’t long before he discovered that most people wanted the same thing, ‘a luxurious vacation’. “Hmmm,” he thought to himself. “I know there’s got to be a way to make a profit off of this somehow”. So he thought about all of the things he learned from all of his other get rich quick schemes. ‘Bait and switch’ was the first thing that came to his mind. ‘Pressure tactics’ was another. And ‘offer a prize’ was yet another. “How do I get this thing off the ground?” he wondered. “Aha! Who benefits the most off of vacations? Hotels, of course!” And with that kernel of wisdom, he got out the phone book and started calling all of the major hotel chains. “Mr. President of Hilton Worldwide, can I pitch you an idea?” “Madam Chairman of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, I have some info that I think you might be interested in! Got a minute?” “Mr. Co-chair of Marriott International? Oh, you’re just the janitor? Never mind.”

After a few phone calls, some of the top execs started to take notice. In their board meetings, they’d mention Mr. Unsavory and his suggestions about turning a quick and outlandish profit. Finally, one of the larger chains decided to give it a go. “What’s it going to hurt?” they all agreed. “If it doesn’t work out, we’ll just attach some concrete to his legs and let him go for a swim in the Hudson River.” And with that being said, they all got to work. Thinktanks were created along with marketing teams in order to come up with the concept (the ‘Timeshare’ it would eventually be called) that would ultimately and regrettably entice regular, everyday people to hand over thousands and thousands of dollars for the luxury of spending one week at any time during the year (with the exception of blackout dates), at any hotel of their choosing in the entire world.

Haven’t heard of a ‘Timeshare’? You’re probably still a minor. Once you become an adult, one of their marketing teams will seek you out like sharks to chum. You’ll get letters (snail mail) and phone calls and emails with ‘exclusive offers’. ‘Three days and two nights FREE at our upscale hotel, just call the number listed and mention the offer below!’ is one of their tactics. Or your phone will ring and when you answer, a very excited woman or man will announce that you just won a free vacation. Now I must stop you because you heard the word ‘FREE’ and ‘VACATION’ and your heart is starting to race and you’re getting all excited and you’re willing to do just about anything to make it happen. Stop. Right. There.

Please do pay attention as I attempt to warn you. Please do not think I say this in jest. NOTHING IN LIFE IS ‘FREE’ and READ THE FINE PRINT. Look, I do understand that there will be no fine print to read if you’ve been contacted over the phone, but it’s important that you ask the right questions before you get lured into a trap that many have fallen for. What do you need to look for or what questions should you ask? There is always a ‘catch’. Unless your uncle is Mr. Rockefeller, you can be assured that this person calling you about a free vacation is just some schmuck working on commission in a call center or out of a timeshare office. If you get a phone call and you’re informed that you’ve won a vacation, the first thing I’d advise you to do is to hang up the phone. But if you’re willing to play with fire, after their big spiel, ask what is required of you in order to qualify for this FREE vacation. “We’ll just need a few minutes of your time,” is what they’ll tell you. Why do they need a few minutes? They need a few minutes (90 actually) to use every sales tactic that they can throw at you to get you to ‘buy in’. And if you get the notice by mail, if you read the fine print, you will see ’90 minutes’ referenced as well. DON’T. DO. IT.

Still tempted? What do I have to do to convince you?! Ok. How about this? Do you remember how it felt to go to a car dealership to purchase a car? Let me remind you. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. You were pressured and manipulated and after you sat down in the sales office to talk ‘numbers’, when the original salesperson wasn’t able to persuade you to make the purchase, he summoned his manager. And his manager wasn’t a very nice guy. I mean, at first he was. But when you didn’t budge, he got a bit nasty. And you started to feel like a caged animal. They’d already had you there for at least 3 hours, trying to negotiate a deal. What was it going to take? And should you leave, you’d better believe, they wouldn’t be able to offer that same great deal at any other time. Alright. Now do you remember? Are you starting to feel that anxiety in your gut again? Good! Now take the way you’re feeling right now, and multiply it by ten. That’s what you’ll experience if you dip your toe in the ‘timeshare’ pool.

Worst of all? Should you do it, you won’t even have an actual tangible item to show for your investment (like a car or a home), all you’ll have is ‘time’ at ‘someplace’, ‘somewhere’. My husband and I almost got sucked into the trap twice. The first time it happened, it was when we’d taken a trip to Vegas. The usual ‘draw’ is free tickets to one of the shows on the strip. And I am a sucker for ‘free’. We went through the whole insidious process, and by the time they were done with us, I think they had 3 or 4 different men working our table trying to get us to ‘buy in’, we could barely stand erect. But I am stubborn and I knew better, so fortunately, I was able to get us out of there with our savings still intact. Our prize? A horrible musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber that had people roller-skating up and down the aisles. I think the prize was actually a punishment for not handing over our hard earned money, but nevertheless.

Why am I writing this today? Because, my friends, I am trying to save you from entering into a contract with the devil. Ok, maybe it’s not with the ‘devil’ necessarily but it’s at the very least with one of his/her minions. And, of course, you must know that the first few paragraphs about how the ‘timeshare’ came to be was fiction. I mean, I think it’s fiction. I’ve never actually researched how the concept came about, but I sure had fun writing the story. The thing is, I’ve got time on my hands, time to share. But my time won’t cost you several thousand dollars, it might cost you some brain cells but so will a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. At least, I hope what I have to offer is somewhat helpful, or insightful, or at minimum, slightly entertaining. Just do me this one favor, will you? Take my advice. Just this once. I have been wrong about some things in life, but I am not wrong about this. If you get the ‘call’, HANG UP. If you get the ‘letter’, THROW IT AWAY! If it’s an email, DELETE IT! And for crying out loud, whatever you do, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT ATTEND THE ’90’ MINUTE PRESENTATION. I don’t care how nice those folks seem, or how beautiful their smiles are, or how stylish they appear, DON’T FALL FOR IT!

Sorry, hope I didn’t frighten you with all of that yelling. Was trying to make a point. Anyway, that’s the end of my rant for the day. You have been duly warned. Thank you for your time. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

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