According to research done by ARDA (American Resort Development Association), almost 8 out of every 100 Americans owns a time share, but 17 percent of those owners report being unhappy with their purchase. But how about owning a time share in your retirement plan to further your travels in in retirement ? I decided to seize the opportunity to take an “Interval ownership presentation” offered by Wyndam Resorts. Gail and I took a weeklong vacation at the Wyndam Patriots Place resort in Williamsburg, Virginia.
We booked our vacation in an unusual way, we bought a vacation certificate through Endless Vacation Rentals. This is a company that sells vacation coupons that can be redeemed for vacations in resorts thoughout the world. Many corporations use these certificates as give-aways and awards. I paid $250 for our certificate at a special end of year promotion, the normal price is $599.00. Once I had the certificate I looked at where it could be redeemed and chose a Williamsburg trip. Gail and I hadn’t visited the revolutionary city for over 25 years and we both love history. The normal price if I booked on line from the resort itself for the condo we rented would be $560. But even at $560 I felt the price was a bargain for a small condo in a resort setting less than two miles from the Williamsburg visitors center and shuttle. In fact I’m sitting in the condo now, it is a one bedroom, one bath condominium with a separate dining room , fully functional kitchen and living room, two TV’s and is on their free WIFI. Excellent price, even at retail, and in an excellent location.
Gail and I arrived at around 2:30 in the afternoon by rental car (We flew in to Newport News). She stayed in the car while I ran in to check in. I walked up to the front desk, the receptionist had my reservation, ran a credit card for $100 for incidentals while I was there and as I started to leave she pointed to the very crowded concierge desk and told me all I had to do was get my parking pass at the concierge desk. There were three very busy woman behind the desk and eventually I got the attention of a sharp young lady by the name of Shannon. Shannon began asking me questions about my stay, what we wanted to do etc. as she looked at my paper work.
She pulled out a map of Williamsburg and began a short summary of the attractions; I asked Shannon about dining and since she was concierge could she make reservations for Gail and I for a few nights? I told her we would be there all week and gave her some restaurant names I had researched. She told me that the best way to see Williamsburg was on a pass that costs $52.00 each. but if I would go to an free breakfast catered by Roccos down the street, she could get the passes for me for $10.00 a piece. I then would hear a 60 minute presentation about Wyndam. By this time I had called Gail into the office to hear about Williamsburg and we both agreed that we would be happy to hear the presentation. After all it would make great material for www.RetirementNEXT.com (time shares in your retirement plan) and it has been 20 years since Gail had owned a time share. I have always heard how good the salesmen were that sold time shares and I was very curious to see for myself.
We got our promised Williamsburg ticket vouchers immediately, but Shannon ran a blank credit card slip that she warned us would be run if we didn’t show up for breakfast. She also told is that in her “down time” she would work on dinner reservations for us. (She did wind up calling about two hours later and read off three reservations she made for us, she repeated in her “down time”). I tell you this because by this time it occurred to me that while making dinner reservations I consider a normal concierge function, obviously Shannon did not. I think her job was to sell us the presentation. By the way, we never did get our “parking passes”
At the appointed time, 8:45 the following morning, Gail and I entered a very unusual scene at the Wyndam sales center. We were greeted at the door to what looks like a hotel lobby, except there are about 30 tables arranged in the lobby. Each table had two chairs nestled together on one side of the table and one chair opposing. (To me a very confrontational setting – definitely an “us” and “them” arrangement).
We were given bold name tags and pointed to coffee bar, and asked to take a seat at a table and told we would be met with a representative shortly. There are 20 or so couples sitting drinking coffee as one by one representatives showed up, made small talk and escorted them to parts unknown. A hostess of sorts hastily rearranges the chairs in the prescribed manner to await the next guests, while another hostess introduces herself as a greeter and makes small talk to us while we wait. Another employee brings us a clipboard for us to fill out, “Because we came through a third party”. The form asked a great deal of personal information about income etc. which we leave blank.
We are then greeting by a sharply dressed gentleman named Orlando and escorted past the buffet bar. The buffet is a simple matter of scrambled eggs, home fries, sausage and toast arranged in a hallway that we must pass through to get to the next stage in the presentation, this breakfast was not my or Gail’s style, so we both opt for a small spoonful of eggs and pass up on the meat and carbs (after all we didn’t eat that morning figuring we could have a nice breakfast meal).
We are then escorted to another room with identical small round tables with the same two against one seating arrangements Ever the rule breaker, I rearrange the chairs as we sit, and Gail and I awkwardly pick at our eggs while our host in full dress with accompanying spit polished shoes peppers us with questions designed to build a relationship. He adeptly finds common ground with us and spends the next 30 minutes telling us he is not a salesman and that he is not going to sell us anything while he probes into our vacation habits and wants. He is a very likable and personable man. I told Orlando we were thinking about “time shares in your retirement plan” sort of thing.
I told him about my involvement in the Fraction ownership business in the past and we wanted to learn about the current offering on time share. After some questions to us about the costs of our vacations he determines that we spend about $2000 a year on vacations (true; and that may be low) and that he could show us how we could spend the money we are already spend on Wyndam and enjoy the benefits of interval ownership. Both Gail and I make clear we really don’t enjoy resort style vacationing and prefer travel or solitude like the cabin in the woods we rented last month for $1100/wk.
By this time we are there almost an hour and I tell Orlando we have to leave at 10:15 (that gives him 30 more minutes). We also have not had the presentation I was expecting. He insisted on showing us two condos in the resort we were meeting at. But before this he leaves “the table” for a few minutes, comes back for ten seconds, leaves again and repeats this process a few times. It was very strangest thing. I saw the same thing happening at a number of tables. The whole scene made me look for cameras or microphones, but I could detect neither. Being polite, and wanting to leave, we oblige Orlando and follow him out of the property. But after seeing one, I tell him we really don’t need to see the other.
“Oh but you must, it’s more your style and class, Michael Jordan stayed in the next one.”
We toured the large “Michael Jordan Condo” – very nice by the way – and were on the way back to presentation center (where we still didn’t have a presentation); I thank Orlando for his time and tell him we have to get going. He insists we come back to “our table” to finish up, but I hold Gail back as he walks ahead and he is left ten yards ahead of us beckoning to the table. Again not wanting to be rude, we walk over to him but don’t sit down. I thank he him again for his time tell him we have to going. He then takes our “paperwork” and disappears with us standing at his table. We were finally escorted to another gentlemen who “checks us out”. After we decline his polite offer to sit down at another “two against one table”, he briefly fills out a form and points us to a cashier.
Gail and I leave feeling rather upset. We were forced to go against our nature and be rude. We were basically lied to. Best I can say is we felt sort of dirty.
My conclusions are this, Time Shares may be good for some people and may indeed be good for some couples retirement plan, but I sincerely doubt it. Owning time shares do not make economic sense, (but they are for vacation, after all and don’t NEED to make sense). They are, without a doubt a bad investment. Good for a retiree or a retirement plan? Only of you have great deal of money.
I researched Patriots Place, for example. The annual maintenance fees are over $800 per year for one week and we rented one for $250. Even at retail the rent is only $560/week!
I do suggest shopping for a vacation at www.resortcerts.com, we got a good deal, and perhaps you can too.
But resist the Time Share pitch, by whatever name they want to call it. What kind of industry is it that boasts that only 17% of the people that by their product are dissatisfied with it after they buy?