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Confessions of a time-share salesperson

By Lisa Ann Schreier
Budget Travel
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(Budget Travel Onlineexternal link) -- The slick, fast-talking time-share salesman still exists. He may no longer wear a lime-green leisure suit, but he's solely focused on the sale -- and he's largely the reason the industry has a less-than-stellar reputation. Some salespeople talk, talk and talk, and never listen to the client. There's no shortage of unseemly tactics, with questions like "Don't you think your children deserve better?" I've seen a salesperson give a tour of one time-share and then at the last minute try to sell a property in another part of the country. To avoid falling for a trick, pay close attention and never let a salesperson tell you what you want.

A scripted pitch

Although time-shares each have their own phrases, and salespeople have leeway to improvise, there are certain steps all staffers are trained to follow. The script begins with a Greeting; moves on to the Intent, in which a client hears what's going to happen during the presentation; and then gets to the Warm-up, which is basically small talk. At some point, the salesperson will steer the conversation to the Product, with an introduction to terms such as "fixed week" and "floating week," before proposing a Vacation Problem Solution in the form of a time-share purchase. Depending on the salesperson, the steps might feel like natural conversation or an extremely awkward blind date.

The puke price

Asking the client to buy is the final step. The salesperson will show a price sheet, often with a figure known as the "puke price" because it's so high, it'll make a client feel sick. Shortly afterward, a sales manager -- whom insiders call a T.O., as in Take Over -- will come in and say something about how that's the price for anyone who just walked in off the street. The T.O. may then say, "I'm not supposed to show you this . . ." or "We have a special inventory that's going to sell fast . . ." and offer a much cheaper price -- what we call the Nosebleed Drop. Personally, I hate the whole game. It's a crock. If you want to avoid the gimmicks, insist up front that salespeople show you one price only. If they don't deliver on this, walk away.

Fuzzy math

I remember how one salesperson used to describe hotel price inflation to an unsuspecting client. "If you pay $100 for a typical hotel room today," he'd say, "and figure an annual inflation rate of 10 percent, that means that in 10 years, that same hotel room will cost you $1,000!" Actually, even if such inflation occurred, the amount would be $260 in 10 years. Be doubly sure to check the numbers when it comes to financing and monthly payments. In fact, avoid the developer's financing, which is typically a rip-off. You're better off finding financing on your own.

No means no

I sincerely believe that for the right people, buying a time-share is a legitimate alternative to paying for hotels year in, year out. But if you're really not interested in investing in a time-share, don't waste your time at a presentation. In my opinion, the discount you receive on lodging and entertainment is not worth the few hours of vacation you're giving up to hear the sales pitch that goes along with the deal. That said, if you're curious enough to listen to the pitch and decide a time-share isn't for you, just tell the salesperson so as firmly and plainly as possible. But salespeople don't give up easily: You may have to repeat yourself a half-dozen times before the message gets through.

Lisa Ann Schreier was a time-share salesperson and manager in Orlando for six years.


© 2006. Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

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