My wife loves free things. When we go to any expo at the Hawaii Convention Center or the Blaisdell, she’ll be the one hoarding free pens and reusable bags. So, I should not have been surprised when she stopped at a table run by a hotel chain that was offering a free dinner, six hours of validated parking in Waikīkī and a two-night stay at a hotel. According to the salesman, all we had to do was review a hotel from pictures they would show us. The whole process would take only 120 minutes (not two hours?).
While my wife politely listened to this young man, I pulled out my smart phone and Googled the hotel chain, and its free dinner and hotel stay offer. Instantly, warning posts and You Tube videos popped up about the unscrupulous sales tactics and confusing contracts used by this company when selling timeshares. But as the salesman tried repeatedly to get my wife to sign up for this “hotel review,” he never even mentioned “timeshare” once.
When I asked him if this presentation involved any discussions about timeshares, he paused and said he didn’t actually do the presentation himself, so he couldn’t say for sure. When I asked if after the entire two-hour presentation we will get everything he promised, he corrected me: “It takes 120 minutes” — and there may actually be fees and taxes associated with the “free gifts.”
I walked away from the table with my wife in tow. I later showed her everything I found out about this scheme and how the fees and taxes they charge on the “free gifts” equal the full value of the items. I told her they say “120 minutes” because they don’t count the time they spend introducing themselves and bringing in other salesmen to work on you, and the time they take for breaks. (Some people claim they found themselves at the “120-minute presentation” for over six hours).
After this experience and phone calls I received at my office, I started paying more attention to how timeshares were being advertised. In the next few articles, I will explain exactly what a timeshare is, why there are so many commercials for them, and why there are so many companies advertising their ability to help people get out of timeshare contracts. I’ll also cover some common timeshare scams and what warning signs to look out for.
Please remember, there really is no such thing as a free lunch (or dinner and hotel stay).