Florida, Pt.1: Share time...Timeshares!

3 days into my vacation in Orlando, Florida, my boyfriend and I decided to switch hotels. This wasn't because we were unsatisfied with our current hotel, it was actually the total opposite; the hotel was amazing, but very very expensive, so we Pricelined a hotel for about $60/night and saw where it took us. Our bid got us a 4-star Holiday Inn, which was perfect because recently we'd had really good luck with Holiday Inns. Remember how they used to be really shitty? Sort of like a churched-up Motel 6? Those days are gone, pal - now its clean sheets and piss-free toilets all the way. So as we're checking in, the concierge asks us if we're interested in taking a 90-minute tour of their resort facilities. Uh oh, timeshare presentation!

"No pressure to buy, no pressure to stay. And you get a free breakfast with donuts!"

Sure, why the hell not? I love donuts, I love presentations. I especially love in presentations when you can see someone struggling to keep up with the inflection in their voice. You know what I'm talking about, right? When someone starts talking to you and all their words are enunciated just right, every T stabbing at you like staples through paper, and then all of a sudden it's like their mouth goes on strike and they just start mumbling and losing Gs and can't becomes cain't? Plus, donuts.

"Also, for taking the tour, you will be given $100 in cash if you choose not to buy."

BACK THE TRUCK UP. $100 just for showing up and eating donuts? You're kidding me, right? Hell, I don't have any savings or a credit card, so I couldn't even buy a timeshare if I wanted to, so I have nothing to worry about. All I need to do is remain alive for 90 minutes, eat as many donuts as I'd like, and I get $100 in cash? This was the challenge I was born for. So we both figured "why the hell not?" and signed up. All they asked was that we leave a $30 deposit in case we decide to bail (oh bitch, you have no idea what lengths I will go to for free donuts) and our appointment was booked for 8am the next morning.

I decided I wanted to look the part of a rich foreigner on vacation, so I chose a light blue oxford, pale green corduroy short-shorts, and black leather sandals. I pulled my hair into a side-ponytail, which I had to braid, due to the overwhelming obviousness that I had neither brushed or washed my hair that morning. I also decided not to wear makeup; this was out of necessity, because I had slept in a little and didn't have the time. I thought I looked very good - kind of like an old picture of Jackie Kennedy. But while I thought I was working this:

I actually looked much more like the messy, B.O.-scented version of this:

Yes, because no one is more interested in partial vacation ownership like hipsters, renters, and eccentrics. I'm not sure why I was dressing to possibly impress; it's not like he wasn't going to put on the whole shabangabang (it is a timeshare presentation, after all. You could probably come in shirtless with tissue boxes on your feet and underwear made from an empty bag of Doritos, and they'd still sell to you like you have at least an extra 30-grand lying around your mobile home). Moving on.

We were picked up by our shuttle, which was a small converted white school bus, promptly at 8am and were slowly driven up to the Presentation Centre. I'm sure they instruct the shuttle drivers to pull in slowly for added effect, like when the helicopter first enters Jurassic Park and the music builds in this really slow, majestic way, but instead it just comes across as annoying. I mean, you lose a bit of drama when your passengers realize they could be walking faster than the vehicle they're riding in. After crawling to a stop, we get out and I charged to the door; we were driving to the Presentation Centre so slowly that I was sure we were going to miss our appointment time and forfeit our chance to view extreme luxury at attainable pricing, delicious breakfast cuisine, and most importantly, lose our $30 deposit. We were greeted by three Holiday Inn employees at this phony little hotel concierge desk who helped us "check in" to our tour. First they asked for my boyfriend's ID and credit card number. He balked a little, but they assured him that it was just for security purposes (ie. Run a very quick credit check to make sure you haven't declared bankruptcy 3 times). Then they asked me for mine. First off, I don't have a credit card, which coincidentally are they 5 words all timeshare presenters hate the most. I don't have a credit card. It's like I spat in their faces. The woman who was checking us in then asked me for my ID, something I had failed to pack during my Dress Me Up Grace Kelly session that morning. No dice. Apparently you need to have ID before you take the tour, otherwise it is a total waste of their time (as if it isn't regardless). I politely told her that my boyfriend is the one whom is interested and that, really, the sale would go through him and not me. This still wasn't good enough. She needed to see something. That's when my boyfriend saved us both with a pandering lie and said "Ma'am, I'm the one who makes the financial decisions in this relationship. She really doesn't need to be screened". Yes! Play to their Southern American Sexism! I'm just here for the coffee and sunrises, ma'am, math is hard, don't mind me! And with that, she was placated. Now, here's a quick little note about a very obvious difference between America and Canada. In Canada, that kind of gross sexism does not fly. With anyone. But in the States, particularly in the South, they like to disguise sexism as manners. "I'll get the door for you, little lady" and "Here's your husband's credit card, ma'am" are all little things that say "Shucks, aren't gals the best? They smell nice and look good on your arm. Hell, they even help you pick out slacks at the store when you need 'em" but really mean "Shucks, I sure do hope that there ain't never a lady President."

After checking in, they gave us two bright orange laminated lanyards that said VIP. They asked us to wear them around our necks, and I guess the look we gave them prompted the next statement: "You're required to wear those while on the grounds". We obliged, and I felt a little better when we walked into the holding room and we were only 2 of 4 people wearing the VIP lanyards; everyone elses simply said "GUEST". Well La Dee Da, I'm a VIP, I thought. I'm going to walk all the way over to the coffee station and treat my VIP-self to some Very Important Coffee. I'm going to HOLY SHIT, WHAT IS THIS?!?!? Their coffee was probably the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth, and that's counting the one time I accidentally ate a pickle that was soaking in damp mold. I threw the rest of it out (VIPs care not for conservation) and went to sit down with my boyfriend and watch some golf on TV. We were sitting for a little over 5 minutes when we were approached by a balding, tanned man in a black sweater vest named John.

The best way I can describe John is that he reminds you of everyone, and yet have no one at the exact same time. John isn't tall, but he isn't short; he's about 5 feet 9, maybe a tiny bit shorter than myself, but it doesn't mean he's small. John has a very average figure: not fat, not skinny, not too muscular, not weak-looking. John looks like he takes care of himself, but also enjoys Southern fried chicken and grits. John is tanned, but in the same way people from the South are tanned; not too much, mostly the face and arms. His style is very non-descript, but that could be on account of a uniform that Holiday Inn likes them to wear: black slacks, black shoes (golf shoes?), a clean white polo shirt under a black knit sweater vest. His vest is embroidered with Holiday Inn Vacation Club. John's hair is mostly gone, save for the sides, but you wouldn't call him bald: you'd say thinning or 'missing some up top'. What's left on the sides is a sandy brown, and he has no facial hair. When he speaks, I finally realize whom he reminds me of: Champ Kind from Anchorman. He spoke with a slow Southern drawl, something that made me feel like he was from Alabama or one of the Carolinas, and he spoke in hackneyed puns and colloquialisms; I had to stop counting the number of times he said doggone-it and dag-gum. Everything about John was fake, except his enthusiasm for selling time shares, which meant we were in for a treat. I was sure we were going to get the Gil Gunderson of the group; instead we got the Ricky Roma.

After shaking our hand vigorously and assuring us we're all going to have a great time (of course we will, $100 and free donuts? Who isn't going to have a good time?) he lead us over to his 4-seater golf cart. No expense spared here! Before releasing the brake, he turns around (in a move I am assuming he practices no less than 10 times each morning in the mirror) and says, with a smirk on his face: "We all raydie to haeve sum fuuun?" Yay! Go John Go! Put on your little skit and I'll play along for 90 minutes and we'll all have a gay time. John's first stop on his Tour de Holiday Inn is through a forested path next to a black chain-link fence.

"Alright, yoo two, take a look over there in through that faynce. Y'all see what I see?"

Well gee John, all I see is over-grown ferns and Florida brush. Also I think I see a condom, but I don't tell him this. John is classy and I would like him to think I am too.

"I'll tell ya whut I see. I see the closest y'all are gonna get to ownin' property near the big guy with the ears".

He means Mickey Mouse. I like the way he acts like he and Mickey are old pals who go drinking on Fridays and once got busted for DUIs in college together.

"Look, I'll level with ya. A while ago, Disney came on down here and bought up all the land - smart move, I'd do it too if I had the money to spend, but let me tell you - I got two daughters and I call them the Financial Black Hole. I make money, but I ain't seeing none of it! Now, Disney comes down and buys up all the land, and every body's sellin, cause Mr. Disney don't play cheap - he's gonna give ya lots of money to sell your property. But you know who doesn't sell? Mr. Wilson don't, cause he knows that one day all this is gon'be pretty val-yoo-bull, nawhatamsayin?"

What I know that he's saying is that the land is valuable. Wow, this timeshare is practically selling itself! He keeps driving us through the park, and it's actually really nice. There's tons of small palms and we're shaded by trees, and along the left of our path is a man-made pond. It's Florida-pretty. We finally get to our destination, a much better Presentation Centre. Oh, that first one? Forget about it - only shmucks hang out there. This Presentation Centre is for people who they really want to sell to. Although, in retrospect, I see that it's simply a clever way to trap you: keep you moving, and you'll have a hard time getting bored of your surroundings (also a very hard time finding your way home).

John takes us inside the new Presentation Centre (which looks like Scarface's home if he had made it to 75) and tells us he wants to introduce us to someone very special. We then enter a room with lots of posters and displays and several TVs playing homey looking black-and-white television commercials. In the entryway, there is a giant cut-out of a man with white hair and a suit.

"Kids, I wanna introduce y'all to a very special man. This....is Mister Kemmons Wilson. Please do say Hello Mr. Wilson to him, he's a very nice man, and a very good business partner."

I say Hello to Mr. Wilson. My boyfriend does not.

"Look, I'm about to say something very politically incorrect here...but...Mr. Wilson here created something pretty special, and I ain't afraid to say that I believe and trust in this company more than I trust my wife. Then again, Mr. Wilson don't go out and spend all my money on them Gucci purses, neither! Haw haw haw!"

John keeps using the term politically incorrect in completely the wrong way. Here are some of my favourites:

"I'm gonna say something politically incorrect, but my Mama always taught me to speak what I'm thinkun....y'all look like pretty smart people. Is this true?"

"I'm about to say something politically incorrect here, and I don't know bout y'all, but I think vacations are just about the dag-gum best part of my year."

"Close yer ears if y'all don't wanna hear somethin politically incorrect, but buyin a timeshare here with Holiday Inn Vacation Clubs was the best doggone investment I ever made."

John also keeps making comments about his wife and daughters, which I am never fully convinced actually exist. Also he had me read all wrong when he asked me the following:

John: "You seem a lot like mah wife, a little prettier, but that's between you, me, your fella thar, and this golf cart. Now, what's the first thing you do when you settle into a hotel?"
Me: "Um. I guess I take off my shoes? I take off my shoes? Is that...the right answer? I...don't know. Shoes?"
John: "Yep, she's the exact same way - heads straight for the spa and orders up a full mani-pedi-mud-mask-whatever and charges it to me! Figures, right?" (He looks at my boyfriend in a women, can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em facial smirk).

After John has introduced us to Mr. Wilson and thoroughly offended me with his political incorrectness, we head to the breakfast-and-discussion room where I fill up on 5 donuts and more shitty coffee. I had assumed that the coffee would be better than the last place, but they do have better things to spend their money on here, such as the giant cut-out of Kemmons Wilson that you are made to greet. Again, we're moved, this time from the breakfast-and discussion room to the outside. John wants to walk us through the complex and take a look at one of the units we will purchase. As we're walking, John looks around comically and says:

"Hmm. Seems like if this was such a terrible investment, there'd be at least one person runnin up to ya tellin you Don't Sign! Don't Sign! But, I don't know bout y'all, but it looks like everybody here is pretty doggone pleased with the terrific investment they've made. Then again, I think they'd have a pretty hard time runnin up to ya when they be waist-deep in the finest crystal-clear lazy river this side of Mex-ee-co! C'mon, let me show you what you could have been stayin in on your vacation instead."

John takes us through a pretty standard looking 2-bedroom unit. It's really nice, but we're not from Buttfuck USA, we're from Toronto, so it's not as if we've never seen a nice condo before. Even though I'm not that impressed, I'm Ooohing and Awwwing like I just stepped out of the swamp. John can tell he's doing a great job, and I keep ribbing my boyfriend for fun. I mean, we have absolutely no desire to buy a timeshare, but it's John's job to convince us we're wrong, so I let him have at it. Plus, he just seemed so dag-gum honest, that most of his scripted jokes and tired anecdotes were starting to work on me. Really John, you live in Orlando AND you have a timeshare here too? Why, you'd have to be some kind of highfalutin millionaire to afford that kinda property! But you're so down-to-earth John - what's your secret? Tell us! Tell us! We want into this exclusive club too!

We finish in the model condo and John walks us back to the Presentation Centre (remember, this isn't the one with crappy coffee. This is the one with donuts and crappy coffee). He tells me he'd like us to help ourselves to more donuts while he grabs some papers for us to look at. I am now on my 13th or 14th donut and my 3rd cup of terrible brown water, and I have just toured a very nice looking resort with a very charming Southern gentleman, so it goes without saying that I am starting to get hooked. Nothing about it seems like a scam. Everything he tells me I believe with my whole heart because, well, why would my best buddy John lie to me? He doesn't work for Holiday Inn because he needs a job; he does it because he believes in this brand and he really just wants to see hardworking people like you and me take the kind of vacations we truly deserve. He's sick to death knowing that there are people out there getting snowed by the Howard Johnsons of this world. He's doing God's work, really.

John comes back to our table with "just a coupla papers" (aka Contracts) and tells us he's super excited to tell us how little it will cost for us to own a place here. Unfortunately, math makes my brain hurt (for real, that wasn't a joke way up there in the first paragraph) and I start zoning out; all see is a blurry Foghorn Leghorn in a sweater vest sitting in front of me waving around a pen. What finally snaps me out of it is when my boyfriend says "16.9% is higher than prime. That's worse than a credit card" and I realize they're talking about interest rates. Fuuuuuuuuck, someone give me a Snuggie, I'm ready for a nap. It gets even worse when I hear the words 'Foreign Investment' and I know it's time for more donuts. On my way to the donut table, I pass a family of 4 who are hemming and hawing over their contract. It's then that I realize that this is just a terrible idea; what if the Dad loses his job? What will Holiday Inn foreclose on? Holiday Inn really needs to detract families with more than 1 child from owning, because timeshares are the best investment you can make, but not if Justin gets kicked out of school and you need to send him to a pricey Cadet Academy or Meghan gets pregnant and MTVs Teen Mom doesn't choose her audition tape.

When I got back from Donuts Round 3, John was gone. I was told that he was going to grab some Exit Forms or something, which made me sad because I already missed my best bud John, but happy because I knew I was about to get some hard-earned dollars. John returned, but this time he brought his friend. I can't remember his name, but I will tell you he looked like a blonde Ben Stiller.

Pretty much exactly like this, but with a cheaper suit and a bright turqouise shirt and tie. Blonde Ben Stiller kept assuring us that we "we're almost done here" but he just wanted to go over a few numbers, just in case John missed a few. I took a look at John who was now sweating profusely through his sweater vest: this was either because he was very very nervous that we weren't going to buy a property and become his BFFs for life, or because putting on the Sale Charade takes a lot of energy and it tires you right out. My boyfriend said it was definitely the second, and I agree. Imagine having to do a 90-minute comedy set with no laugh breaks on the toughest audience of your life? And throw into that a manager back stage that is pushing you to make the audience sign a contract to become owners in the very comedy club you're performing in. Now do all that in a sweater vest, and I think I'd be sweating my ass off too. So Blonde Ben Stiller keeps reminding us that tons of Canadians like ourselves have invested in Holiday Inn Vacation Club and all of them are reaping the rewards right now. He also tells us that those same Canadians are able to secure financing with the institution of their choice, and that the interest ends up paying for itself (or something). Basically he got us in a loophole and there was no way we could say no. So I pulled out the craziest, yet most sane, thing I could think of:

"I'm scared because when the economy tanked last year, you guys were screwed, and then that scared Canadian banks, and now they don't lend money to nobody unless its for a house or a car. I know I wouldn't secure financing because they know I'd default."

So most of that is true: Canadian banks don't just give Jim and Jane Turdburglar money for just anything, and there is a very real, 100% likelihood that I would definitely end up defaulting on a loan for a timeshare, but remember - I'm not the one who was interested in buying, my boyfriend was. So they just directed their questions to him again. And he trumped me with his answer:

"No. I don't think I'm interested in investing in something so risky. But thank you very much anyway; that was a lovely tour."

Rats! Why didn't I think of that? There was nothing they could say. And John - oh god, our best friend John! He just frowned and shook his head. Then he uttered what has come to be a frequently quoted line between my bf and I:

"Look, I just gotta tell ya...never have ah seen a young couple so fulla doom and gloom like y'all. Yer so young! Y'all got yer lives ahead of ya! Heck, when I was yer age, I was spending all my money on any ol' thing ah wanted, and it made me so happy. Y'all gotta start livin, takin chances, spending yer money. Soon enough you'll be my age and you won't have nothing to give your children but a box of receipts."

Um, WHAT?!?!!?! John, seriously guy, this is how America ends up in recessions and shit! You can't just spend all your money on high-risk timeshare investments; you need to save a little to invest in your neighbor's pyramid scheme he's been trying to sell you on for the last 2 months. But for real, I know that John wasn't mad, he was just disappointed. We shook his hand and I told him I had a really great time being shown around the grounds (truth) and that I would tell people about this when I got home (double truth - if you're interested, this is it right here. I mean, it's not a terrible investment, but they said the same thing about Beanie Babies, so proceed with caution). Finally, after John left, a THIRD GUY MET WITH US! He was actually the best, because he had this "I don't give a shit about being the closer" attitude. I think they send him in right before you're about to leave to get you to change your mind because he was very big and intimidating. He was about 6'4, Hawaiian, and looked like a wrestler. He sits down with us and goes "So let me just go over a few things with you two before we get you your parting gift". He draws a few arrows around the contract and tells us that financing is available and bla bla bla, and then my bf throws him a curveball and asks if he recently lost weight. Huh?

"Yeah, I did, actually. I lost 100lbs. I still got about 20 to go, but yeah, I feel great man. Diet and exercise."

How the hell did he know he lost weight?!? Apparently it was his knuckles. My bf lost a bunch of weight about a year ago (before I met him, so I have no knowledge of this knuckle theory) and he immediately saw that his knuckles were sort of loose looking. I told him that I was super proud of him and that his wife (he had a wedding ring on) must be really happy for him.

"Yeah, she's pretty happy. We can do stuff now. I can keep up with her. It's great. Hey, let's go get your money, k?"

It was so nice - it's like he forgot he was trying to close a deal and instead just got flattered and wanted to give us some money. By the end of the morning, we left with $100 in cash, a coupon booklet filled with useless 2-for-1 coupons to Sizzler, and piece of paper that looked like this:

I still have no idea what all that means. Anyways, all in all, if you have the opportunity to attend a timeshare presentation, you totally should. It's always fun to meet someone new, especially if that new person has an over-the-top personality and/or accent. And if you want to skip being sold to, just watch the timeshare episode of South Park, Asspen. It's pretty much the same thing.


rose said...

My BFF and I stayed at the Days Inn across from Universal Studios and we got roped into a very similar time share tour! The line about being so close to Disney was almost identical. We got a free lunch (it was awful!) and $100.

They're pretty good though. About halfway through it started to sound like a good idea. Luckily we were playing good lesbian/bad lesbian... and she was the tough one in charge of finances who had to say no.

Did they take a souvenir photo and print it for you? We got one!

avabutler|mexican timeshare solutions said...

Timeshares need to be looked up as a purchase and not an investment. Regardless of how timeshares are presented, they don´t perform as well as a house or stock investment. If you look around the resale market for timeshares on websites like EBay, Redweek, or TUGBBS will find that you can buy a timeshare for far less money than what the first owner purchased it for.