Have you ever been offered a deal you just couldn't refuse in return for sitting through a presentation on the benefits of owning a time share in a vacation condominium?
The first time it happened to me was when Doug took me to Hawaii for our fifth wedding anniversary. (We hadn't married until we were in our forties, about 20 years later than most people in our age group; so we figured we'd better have a "25th anniversary celebration" on our fifth, before we got too old to be able to enjoy it.)
In the first day or two of being in Hawaii, we broke our camera and had to pay fifty dollars to have it repaired. So, when we were approached by a time share hawker, offering us fifty dollars if we would just come to one of their presentations, we saw it as a way to recoup that expense.
The presentation was held in a room with a number of small tables, allowing couples to each have their own table. Refreshments were served, and the presenter spoke glowingly of the benefits of owning your own time share.
When the general presentation was finished, an individual salesman sat with each couple at their individual table, prepared to move the couple closer to a decision to purchase, all the while with loud and annoying music playing from a sound system. The music accomplished the dual purpose of scrambling our brains and keeping us from overhearing discussions from neighboring tables.
The salesman asked about how many nights a year we spend in hotels, then showed conclusively how much we would save if we had our own time share condo. He assured us that we could easily trade locations with someone else if we didn't want to go to the same place every year. And all for the low price of $25,000, or some such figure, for one week every year.
Wouldn't you think he would have known that only a couple of tightwads would agree to sit through this torture for a measly fifty dollars?
But, ever the bargain hunter, I said, to Doug's horror, "Is there any discount if we purchase TWO weeks?" At that, our salesman excused himself, and a man who looked and talked like the mob bosses you see on television took his place. That man was not going to let us out of there until we signed the deal.
Well, we didn't sign; and he did let us out, but not without some serious trauma to our internal systems. Our stomachs were in knots; our minds were reeling; and we were mentally exhausted by the time we made our escape. I was thinking I'd rather have BURNED that fifty dollars than put myself through that.
And two weeks after we returned home, a hurricane struck the area and damaged that $25,000-for-one-week-a-year condo.
Since then, we've subjected ourselves twice more to these presentations. Once was for a free weekend get-away, complete with a meal coupon and tickets to a play. But, instead of putting us up in the condo in which they wanted us to purchase a share, they gave us lodging in an old run-down motel that wasn't comfortable and didn't smell all that good.
The other time was because our friends wanted to go to a presentation in the Smoky Mountains. I think we were given free tickets to some live entertainment or something like that.
In every case, the promise is that the only requirement we have to fulfill in order to receive the "gifts" is to attend an hour-long presentation. And, in every case, the "hour" stretched to a half-day gone from our vacation and emotional exhaustion that all but ruined the other half of the day.
So, now, when we go into a hotel or a grocery store or a restaurant that has a booth or table set up offering discount or free tickets to something, I remind Doug, "Don't make eye contact."