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Author Topic: Is it a scam?
Lisa
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We were at the amusement park on Sunday, and we ran across this booth where they had a sign about free cruises. We were feeling pretty laid back, so we started talking to them.

Turned out it was one of these time-share deals. I've gotten postcards and phonecalls from time-share sellers before, but I've never really paid attention.

Here's the deal they're offering. They want us to come to this resort here near Chicago and sit through a shpiel about time-shares. They know that 90% of the people they talk to will end up not buying one, but they're willing to give prizes for the sake of the 10% that do buy. They promised that they won't high-pressure us (not that it matters; we're both incredibly stubborn, not to mention debt-ridden), and if we go, then (a) we get to stay the whole day there and use the amenities (swimming pool, etc, and this is a real resort that I'm familiar with), and (b) they'll give us a free 3 day Caribbean cruise with Royal Caribbean (I think), including round trip airfare to and from where the cruise is leaving from.

I asked the woman who was going to clean the reindeer dropping off my roof (which she didn't get, but Havah did), and as far as I can see, the only thing I have at risk is a few wasted hours on a Sunday in June at a resort.

Have any of you ever done one of these deals? Is it a scam? If so, what's the trick? They don't have any credit card info or anything from us.

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dantesparadigm
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it sounds like a scam. However, I don't see the harm in trying it. Just don't hand over anything they could use against you.

Reindeer droppings [ROFL]

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andi330
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The scam is that one of those 3 hour afternoon talks can become 5 hours or more, and they also try to bully you into buying their timeshare. They can get very rude about it (depending on the company). I've even heard stories of the place requiring you to sign away your ability to sign up with one of their company's resorts in the future if you refuse to buy right now.

If you don't care about that, then it's only a few hours for one afternoon, and they're usually pretty good about honoring their offers, if only because if they don't you're likely to bad-mouth them and lower their potential customer pool.

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Goody Scrivener
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I got trapped. Major scam. Run away.

We got suckered into one of those after the idiot MIL saw one of those "win a car" boxes at the mall. The place was out in McHenry County, complete boondocks. We were given a quick tour with no use of the facilities - in fact, I think the place might still have been partly under construction - and then stuck in a very intense sales pitch where my protests were completely ignored (including by my idiot ex and his idiot mother). They bring you in with promises of great gifts even if you don't buy, but I swear nobody ever gets the advertised car that was how they got our contact information in the first place. Everyone I saw there ended up with a crappy battery operated FM only radio that couldn't actually pick up a signal anywhere.

My idiot ex and his idiot mother ended up signing us up for this thing, we never once actually used our "membership", went to the "resort" once for Thanksgiving dinner when his family decided to go away for the holidays and didn't tell me in time to make other plans, and cost me several thousand dollars. Because of course they put it all in his name and he never paid anything towards any of our bills. But that's another story.

Oh, and they've already closed the location we were at, but it looks like they opened another one outside Aurora.

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Mucus
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Interesting.

I don't know much about these places, but *very* roughly estimating the cost per person is 120 (for resort) + 500 (air fare) + 600 (cruise) or $1200 in total per person. If its a 90 failure rate, that means they have to invest $12,200 per person that they get to sign up. Meaning that they have to make at least that much per sucker ... but it doesn't actually sound all that difficult to make that much per person. Huh.

Actually, I wonder why its as high as 10%. They must have good salespeople.

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scifibum
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I've been tempted by these things, and I know I could resist the sales pitch, but I'd sooner sign up to have hairs pulled out of my body for three hours than to endure the psychological abuse that would be heaped on me for several hours. If someone's giving away cruises for extended depilatory sessions, let me know.
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adenam
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There was a South Park episode about this.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
Interesting.

I don't know much about these places, but *very* roughly estimating the cost per person is 120 (for resort) + 500 (air fare) + 600 (cruise) or $1200 in total per person. If its a 90 failure rate, that means they have to invest $12,200 per person that they get to sign up. Meaning that they have to make at least that much per sucker ... but it doesn't actually sound all that difficult to make that much per person. Huh.

Actually, I wonder why its as high as 10%. They must have good salespeople.

Revise that number downwards. They buy those cruise tickets in bulk (and the plane tickets most likely), which means they'll be a lot cheaper than what the average person gets, and even for people who don't buy in bulk, a 3 Day Cruise with no frills costs less than $600, and for that matter, the plane ticket for one person would probably be more in the $200 range than the $500 range.

I'd also be willing to bet a lot of money that there are travel restrictions which will force you to travel during an offpeak time of the year when cruise lines are desperate to fill cabins anyway (and for that matter, the cabins will be interiors with no windows).

If you planned it yourself without getting it for free through an offer like that, you could do a 3-Day cruise for a heck of a lot less than $1,100 per person including air fare. I'm positive it'd be even cheaper for a company that buys those rooms and seats in bulk way ahead of time.

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scifibum
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I suspect you end up enduring sales pitches on the cruise too.
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Goody Scrivener
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After posting here, I did a search on the company I got nailed by. Pages and pages of complaints about their business practices, including proof of contracts being forged by the sales people after the targets had left.

And hundreds of complaints about not being able to redeem the vacation tickets they'd been given. Deposits of up to $500 were required just to select dates, all of the chosen dates being unavailable, replacement dates chosen to also be rejected, and when the customers finally got annoyed enough to want to cancel the "free" trip, suddenly nobody would answer them about getting their deposits back. The "free" vacations weren't being managed by the timeshare company, and gee, all of a sudden the company that was supposed to be handling them was out of business? With their money? Seems they got tagged to clean up Lisa's reindeer droppings.

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Lyrhawn
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I don't see how they could possibly force you to attend such a pitch. Unless there are just roving bands of pitchmen who pounce when they see you, in which case the non-pitch attenders would be assailed just as much.

Unless they literally bought out the entire cruise, but I can't imagine a company like Royal Caribbean would agree to that.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Deposits of up to $500 were required just to select dates
My biggest scam radar alert is if anything that purports to be free asks for money for any reason, it is automatically a scam. That might always be true, but I think it's a pretty good rule to live by.
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andi330
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It's like any industry, there are good companies and bad companies. There are oodles of the timeshare companies in Orlando that let you stay on their resort a certain number of nights free, and/or give you tickets to Disney World/Sea World/Universal Studios if you will listen to their pitch. The last time I went to Disney with my parents we stayed at a resort for something like 5 days for free, all because my parents were willing to spend one afternoon in a sales pitch.
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Lyrhawn
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Have your parents forward us the name of the company. [Smile]
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
... but it doesn't actually sound all that difficult to make that much per person. Huh.

Revise that number downwards...
Sure, revise the number downwards when I'm already tempted to turn to evil [Wink]
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Goody Scrivener:
After posting here, I did a search on the company I got nailed by. Pages and pages of complaints about their business practices, including proof of contracts being forged by the sales people after the targets had left.

Can you tell me the name of the company? The one we talked to was Silverleaf, and the resort is Fox River, which sounds like it's close to where you said it was.
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paigereader
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I "won" a free trip to Jamica but had to go to the time share meeting while there. What's the catch? You have to pay all the taxes and fees on plane ticket, hotel, and sales tax... not free
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Lisa
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Really? Oh, that bites. I hadn't even thought about the taxes.
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The Pixiest
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In Vegas, the timeshare people hound you on the streets. "HEY WANNA SEE A FREE SHOW??"

Hubby and I take porn from the smut peddlers and give it to them. It doesn't stop them from bothering us but their reaction is always a laugh.

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andi330
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Even if you have to pay the tax, it's still a really cheap cruise by comparison. Of course, that's up to you whether you really want a cruise or not if it's not totally free.
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dem
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These are not really scams, just high pressure sales pitches.

Clark Howard (consumer guru) says you can go to these and take advantage of the free stuff, if you are 100% sure you will not buy.

Their success rate is ~30%, so a lot of people cave and pay 3 times what the secondary market rates are for these timeshares.

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Lisa
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Andi, that's a good point.
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scifibum
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You could ask yourself whether you want to take a vacation at the expense of the poor suckers who buy the time share.

Of course, that might be the lesser evil compared to letting the salesmen keep all the profit.

(Maybe the truly moral choice would be to organize a lot of attendance to these things by people who won't buy, putting them out of business!)

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Mucus
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30% now, not just 10%!?

I really want a videotape of these sessions or something, thats really interesting.

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scifibum
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They have lots of bogus math that shows you how you can hardly afford NOT to buy their stuff.
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Sterling
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As it's been said, it really, really varies. Google the company making the offer before anything else.

My wife and I got some very nice gifts for going to a vacation plan pitch several years ago, including a couple of significant restaurant certificates and a hotel stay in Hawaii. And the pitch was relatively low-key, we were given refreshments during the presentation, and people were generally quite pleasant, even when we said no.

Note that was several years ago. Vacation companies are being hit like everyone else in the current economic climate, and many have spaces they're having trouble filling- that can mean they have a lot of vacation spaces to offer as incentives, but it can also encourage dishonest and overly aggressive salesmanship.

Conversely, we went to a pitch in Puerto Vallarta which gave us a couple hundred dollars worth of gifts and still wasn't worth it. The "ninety minute" presentation went on for five hours, with people mysteriously going absent when you needed to check into particulars or try to get the offerings and escape.

I have a lot less patience with time-sucking sales pitches since my daughter was born. [Smile]

Tentatively, I'd say go, with provisos. If they mention a specific time frame for the presentation, make them stick to it. If they promise you something for your time, be sure they follow through (and have it in writing going in, if at all possible.) If there are specific financial terms in order to "qualify" for the "free" gifts, look them over closely- it's not uncommon for them to want to know you have a credit card, but some groups may be ruthless about income levels or debts which might "disqualify" you from the offer. (In other words, depending on the group, they may try to weasel out of their obligation.)

And definitely Google them, with a particular eye for complaints. Sometimes "free" is too damn expensive.

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andi330
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One thing you do need to be sure of is that you have the correct income level before attending. Many timeshare companies require that you make a certain amount before you qualify to buy-in to their resorts. If you don't qualify to purchase, it generally makes you ineligible for their incentives. After all, they are giving you the gift in the hopes that you will sign up for their program, if you aren't financially eligible, there's no reason to give you the gift.
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Team 2012
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It comes down to two issues:

One, what's your time worth?

Two, if you're going into this assuming that you will take their bait but not buy... should you really assume that their motivations are less venal than your own?

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Lisa
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You can call it venal, but they put up a sign that said they were giving away a free cruise. We talked with the woman, and she said outright that they expect a large percentage of people not to buy, and that it's worth it to them to give away the cruise anyway.

We can't afford to go on vacation. We've gone out of state to relatives for things like bar and bat mitzvahs, but the last time we've actually been able to take any kind of a vacation whatsoever was before Tova was born.

So they want to gamble. They want to offer us a prize on the chance that they can convince us to buy a timeshare. Well, good luck to them.

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dabbler
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Don't forget that port fees are extra on top of a cruise fee. At the most, port fees can cost the same as the cruise itself (like my Alaska trip).
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Kwea
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I have a friend who worked for these types of places here in Orlando, and it is high pressure sales at it;s worse. Most of the time they get people to buy because at the end they reveal that they can finance anyone in house.

As most of the objections at that point are financial, it cuts the arguments about it down to size, and a lot more people buy than you would expect.


It all depends on the companies involved. Since the fine print says you don't get the gift until the presentation is over, they always have an out of you get ignorant with them. And no one ever follows up on complaints about them for failing to give the gift as advertised, really.

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aspectre
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Actually there is far less of a downside for them than normal: Caribbean cruise ships and hotels are nearly giving their products away at the wholesale level.
Between a very small number of nasty incidents involving tourists (especially the yachting community) and the worldwide credit crunch, the bottom has dropped out from under island economies. And their vacation industries are dropping prices well below sustainability in hopes that secondary tourist spending will prop them up through the downturn.
Cynically put, better to lose some money in the short term than to have their businesses burned to the ground by starving rioters...or rapacious bankers.

Heck, with a proper search, you might find Caribbean travel packages cheaper than the cost of attending an out-of-state wedding or bar/bat mitzvah.

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Goody Scrivener
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
quote:
Originally posted by Goody Scrivener:
After posting here, I did a search on the company I got nailed by. Pages and pages of complaints about their business practices, including proof of contracts being forged by the sales people after the targets had left.

Can you tell me the name of the company? The one we talked to was Silverleaf, and the resort is Fox River, which sounds like it's close to where you said it was.
That's exactly who it was. I think the facility we were at was near Woodstock. Fox River is the one I found on their website that looks to be new.
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scholarette
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We did a presentation in Puerto Valluerto for some free stuff (I believe we selected scuba diving) and it actually was well worth it. The guy was very interesting, told us lots of funny stories and told us his favorite places to eat (which I am sure were the places he was paid to like, but they were really yummy and had discount tickets).
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Glenn Arnold
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Just for another perspective, my wife and I sat through a timeshare pitch in return for which we got a cruise from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas, and three nights at a hotel in the Bahamas. We has to get to Florida, which cost us some, but the cruise really was free (including a meal each way) and the hotel really was free.

On the cruise, there was a short lesson on how to survive in the Bahamas, including not going for time share pitches while on your vacation, because it's not good use of vacation time.

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Xann.
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My brother and his friend used to go to these as a "couple" then listen to wireless headphones and play suduko untill they got their free prize.

It was also my brothers misson to get as many people as possible not to sign up, on the sly of course.

Just remember that it probably a horrible investment and refuse to buy, then your good.

And never sign anything! without inspection at least.

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Darth_Mauve
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I've done three of these. One because we wanted free tickets, one because a friends parents pushed him into asking so they could get $50, and one because we wanted to take advantage of a free weekend in Branson.

The first time, friends parents wanted the $50 bonus they would get if someone else came a few months before we were going to visit this friend, not stationed in Germany. We got our free AM/FM radio, and told them no. They insisted, bargained, pleaded, and finally offered us a temp membership for one year in their vacation club, that gave us discounts on air-fairs and a weeks free lodging in any of their world wide resorts, for about $200.

We took it and saved more than $200 on our Airline tickets to Germany. Then we used the free week at a resort in Northern Italy, making our European vacation very cheap. Good one.

Next we tried one in Vegas. We stayed one weekend in Vegas because the first group--we used in Italy, kept extending the offer so that we would sign up. While in Vegas we tried another one to get some show tickets. The show was not that great. The pressure was even worse--they kept pointing out the growth in Vegas real estate values, and that this offer included our purchase of some of the actual property. Since nearby hotels had sold for multi-millions, this place could make us all millionaires overnight. I pointed out to them that the small bit of land I was buying meant that I would have to split that millions with thousands of other owners, meaning that I would maybe get most of my money back.

They let us wait in the bus to go back to our hotel.

When my parents did this in the 70's, they drove a bus load of people 30 miles out into the desert to hit them with the sales pitch. The fact that they didn't want to drive anyone back to their hotels till they made their quota, and that there was nothing but desert for 20 miles around worried my mother. It angered my father, and the company decided it would be safest to return them.

The final one offered free week at a condo in Branson in exchange for the meeting. We agreed, stayed all week and had a lot of fun, then left and went home before the meeting occurred.

They still call us every 6 months or so and try to get us to do it again.

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BelladonnaOrchid
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My Dad does these once a year to go to Branson. They give him tickets to Silver Dollar City and pay for his hotel for three days as well as several of his meals. He goes to their meeting on the last day, spends three hours, lets them know when their time is up, and stands up and leaves.

I think that we may go with them this year, since his three day vacation (sometimes four, if he pays for an extra day at the hotel) costs him and his wife between $70 and $140 for the food and whatever else they decides to do.

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