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Earlier this week my fiancé called Hilton to change an existing reservation and in the process was roped into booking a 3-night stay in Orlando for $99, as long as he agrees to sit through a 2-hour presentation. They say there are no blackout dates. It's a great deal, but I am always skeptical of these timeshare promotional trips. Searching online, it seems like many people have had bad experiences with these types of trips and consider them a scam. Common complaints are aggressive marketing tactics, hidden fees, and "gotchas" in the contract that void the promotional price.

Seeing as this trip is already paid for and non-refundable, we are very likely to take it. I trust Hilton much more than I do many other timeshare companies, but I am still very wary. How can we get through this trip while avoiding spending more than what we agreed to? In particular I'm looking for common hidden fees, things that would void our discounted price, and ways to get through the marketing pitch without purchasing anything (though that last one is likely off-topic here). I know you can't tell me what's in my contract, but I want to know what types of things I should be looking for or asking about.

While my situation is specifically with Hilton Grand Vacations, I'm looking for advice that applies to timeshare promotional trips in general.

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    Warning: your fiancé has already demonstrated vulnerability to their tactics by agreeing to this in the first place. The financial risk of sitting through two straight hours with timeshare salespeople may outweigh the benefit of taking this trip. – user2357112 Oct 13 '17 at 16:28
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    @user2357112, That's something the two of them should discuss. However, the fiancé, may, or may not, have demonstrated "vulnerability". Another possibility is that they might have coldly calculated that spending 2 hours of the couple's time listening to a sales pitch was worth the extra monetary savings provided in whatever package was accepted, with the knowledge/expectation that they could resist any (legal) hard pressure sales tactics which were applied during that time. I'm not saying it's either way, but it certainly sounds like the two of them need to have a conversation about this. – Makyen Oct 13 '17 at 17:04
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    @Makyen But isn't that one of the most common timeshare tactics...trying to convince you that buying into the timeshare is worth it? And then hitting you with a bunch of hidden fees/changes/restrictions/etc./etc. after you've signed up. – user3067860 Oct 13 '17 at 17:28
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    @user3067860, Those are certainly possible tactics which are used. Some of what you've listed are negotiating tactics. However, some of those are contract issues, which would need to be resolved legally, and may, or may not, be grounds for terminating a contract. – Makyen Oct 13 '17 at 17:47
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    Read a book on manipulation. It will save you from feeling any remorse by detecting their manipulation attempts while still enjoying the discount. My wife and I did it during our trip to Mexico (it was a 1 hour meeting) and got a free 2 hours massage out of it. They tried everything in the book (literally), but we deflected all their attempts. They got pissed in the end but that's the game. – ereOn Oct 16 '17 at 18:25
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It's very easy, just smile and say no. Yes, the sales pressure is high, very high, but...so what? You are not obligated in any way to buy anything.

As for hidden fees, well...sure, there might be a resort fee and of course taxes, but you should settle all of this ahead of time, before the presentation.

How to handle it? Well, it's just two hours with snacks and touring the properties isn't that bad, some of them are pretty nice. You hasten the process by staying in motion, skipping the snacks, asking only superficial questions.

Also, do the presentation first, before any other activity, like right when you get to Orlando.

Note, you can't get out of the pitch. That's the whole point. All you can do is get it over with as expeditiously as possible. And also note, both of you must be present. They will not pitch to half of a couple.

I've done these on occasion and the presentations from the well know operators are not at all shady, Marriott, Hilton, Disney...

Finally, just say no. Then no, again...and again...

One counter I gave that the salesperson really had no good response for was points. Say because of work travel, you have half a million* whatever points and that's good for two weeks a year for 10 years.

*This is just a high number. You may have to adjust for your preferred program.

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    Another tip is to note when the presentation is scheduled to end and leave at that point. It's worth noting that these are often not painful high-pressure hard-sell sessions, they are trying to impress you with how wonderful it would be to have a timeshare. – DJClayworth Oct 13 '17 at 13:22
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    A common tactic is they try to engage you in a debate, but they've heard all the arguments, know all the rebuttals, and always have a counter-point. They will win an argument about why its affordable/smart/convenient/etc. Remember that you not need a reason to say "no". You can say "no" just because you feel like it, no matter how many good reasons they give you to say "yes". You can completely lose the argument, and still say no. – abelenky Oct 13 '17 at 16:10
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    The presentation is often not two hours. The first hour is usually setting the scene for it to be much longer. – Valorum Oct 13 '17 at 17:18
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    "Just say no". And don't take your credit card, cheque book, more than loose change, whatever, with you to the presentation, so you can't buy anything even if you wanted to. – Andrew Leach Oct 14 '17 at 6:58
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    @Joshua - These seminars are designed to break down the will to resist. They're long, overheated, repetitive and pressurised. Lots of people have said that they've been willing to sign on the dotted line simply to get out. My advice to anyone who's thinking of going to one is just 'don't'. – Valorum Oct 15 '17 at 18:22
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I was originally going to make this a comment, but I think my personal experience will showcase some of the tactics and how to recognize them and avoid them.

But first off, be skeptical and say no.

I once attended a timeshare presentation in Ft Lauderdale. Due to a previous hurricane I actually had a free plane ticket to burn, so it didn't cost me anything to get there.

I arrived early and the receptionist thought I was one of the sales people who was running late. So I was ushered into the pre-work day sales pep meeting. And all I can say is that the guy leading it was amazing. As I walked in he used me as a example of what could be achieved. After asking me my name he instantly turned to the crowd of sales people and started telling my (invented) backstory to them of how I had come down from Pittsburgh (a lie) to earn money to support my wife and kids (a lie - I was single), and how I was here to make a go of things (a lie). It was a great show and I was really impressed about how much lying this guy could do with a smile on his face. That set the tone for the rest of the experience. (I left the meeting before it ended)

Eventually I was assigned a sales guy who assured me that he was not on commission and didn't mind if I wasn't interested in buying a timeshare.

He drove me in his flashy convertible to see the model timeshare unit. On the way back to the office he absent mindedly gestured to another building and said "that's where your unit would be". It was 12 hours later that I actually realized that that was a "bait and switch".

Back at his desk he told me that he had the perfect 2 weeks just waiting for me. I remembered that there were 200 to 300 people who had come to see the sales presentation and that this basically ran 7 days a week. So with that many people being offered slots and only 52 weeks in the year I was skeptical about him having "the perfect two weeks".

He then profited up a $$ amount for yearly fees etc. I looked at the what was required, and how much it was going to cost me to get there and came up with a more practical, but much higher $$$ per year amount. He basically denied my analysis to my face, and obviously didn't care what I thought about my own finances.

As I was obviously moving away from buying, he started out with a whole bunch of subtle statements that were designed to punch my buttons. He questioned my financial ability to pay, he questioned my masculinity in not being able to make a decision. And finally he even offered me women if I signed on the dotted line. I was amused by the list he went down as tried to find anything that would make me act.

Finally after it was obvious that I wouldn't sign, he face took on this angry look, he swore under his breath and he stormed off from me. So much for him not being on commission. I had obviously wasted too much of his time and had cost him $$.

And then as I left the main sales office I entered a secondary office where I was asked "Did you forget something?". When I asked what they meant, they said something like "Did I forget to buy a timeshare", and then they jumped into a sales pitch of the timeshares that people were trying to get out of. These offerings seemed to be a steep discount over the "new" prices. So if you are actually interested, discounts are possible.

So to cap it off:

  1. Be skeptical
  2. They will lie to your face
  3. Say no
  4. And once again, say no.

And remember that there is a whole marketshare of companies that are helping people to get out of timeshare commitments. If they were so good then that market wouldn't exist.

Aside from all that, enjoy the freebies.


Totally unrelated anecdote from this same trip. I was at the desk of the hotel chatting with the receptionist when this other guest came up to the desk and started chatting too. I'm from Australia and this other guy was from the UK. The receptionist looked at us and said "I can't tell you two apart". We both looked at each other and instantly burst out laughing. I'm pasty white and this other guy was several inches taller than me and black.

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    "1. Be skeptical" - I'm a little skeptical of this story. – David K Oct 13 '17 at 16:09
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    @DavidK That's your problem. – Peter M Oct 13 '17 at 16:10
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    My wife and I attended one a couple of years ago, and it did become very high pressure, and extended beyond the hour they had stated on the sign-up. It was closer to 3 hours, had some very heavy tactics including querying masculinity, decision-making etc - but didn't go as far as offering women. They also doubled up as the sales man left us with the closeout team who tried to sell...Lots of "No" required, and it was a slog, but aside from that they did treat us very well, and we had a lovely stay in Manhattan for very little spend :-) – Rory Alsop Oct 13 '17 at 16:52
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    @RoryAlsop Go by yourself, I'm sure then you will get offered women! – Peter M Oct 13 '17 at 17:07
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    @DavidK After all of the timeshare sale pitches my parents have sat through, this story sounds extremely plausible and even likely to me. Some of them are actually friendly and informative, but many are very high pressure and some are extremely rude. – reirab Oct 14 '17 at 1:11
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My approach is to not feed them anything to work with. When I have been to one of those deals, my only commitment was to attend the presentation, not to supply any information or discuss anything.

Questions about myself and my situation get response "Please continue with your presentation.". Actual sales questions get "No". If asked why not, back to "Please continue with your presentation."

They plan to spend some time in relationship-establishing conversation, getting information about the target's finances, and overcoming objections. If you strictly limit the interaction to their actual presentation the sales person may run out of material in less than 2 hours.

  • Loved that. Reminds me of the military version: name, rank, and serial number. – Emilio M Bumachar Aug 16 at 11:37
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I have gone through quite a few of these. The easiest thing to do is do a little research in the area that you are going.

Then during the selling phase:

  1. Do not go into any private room to talk one on one alone with anyone. Simply say, I prefer that we talk "out here" or "in public".

  2. Remain very unimpressed with the property, setup, rate, everything. It is really easy to kill the conversation by saying "I really wouldn't want to come back here, not sure I could get renters, I am not impressed with the property."

And the reason I said do homework... If you know a couple of rates or selling prices of properties nearby and do the math most of the time you will see a 2-5 times markup for the timeshare. By staying in the group or out in public most of the time the sales manager (there is always a boss and it can be someone who is selling to) will pull your sales person aside and tell them to get you out of there. The last thing they want is someone who hates the property sending negative vibes to others. Boom you are done. I have never been hassled for 15 minutes after any presentation - and some of the properties I actually liked.

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    Love the idea of closing the information gap for the rest of the group, which is the one thing that seriously threatens their profits. – Ben Voigt Oct 14 '17 at 4:29
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    @BenVoigt - the acting part is the funnest. My wife says I am way to good at this. It is funny being mean about a property when it is really nice. But it all comes down to math. The sales guy is making a really really large commission. If you were getting a good deal and the sales guy has large commission that means the developer is really taking a loss... and we all know that isn't happening. – blankip Oct 14 '17 at 17:44
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    Very good idea. Also, note that even if the price is reasonable. Timeshares are ticking timebombs. Every time timeshare owners successfully get out of their timeshare either through bankruptcy or death or some shady deal, the timeshare maintenance fees for the remaining owners increase to make up the difference. – Stephan Branczyk Oct 17 '17 at 8:19
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...and finally, be aware that the free thing you will get may technically fit the description you were promised but may not be what you are expecting.

A friend of mine sat through a 3 hour high pressure sales talk to get a "home entertainment system", to finally be reluctantly given a crappy pressed metal tea tray with some equally crappy platters and condiment pots. "It's a system for entertaining," he was told.

Remember the old saying, "Rolls-Royce don't advertise". The worse the product, the more it has to be sold using these techniques. Why would you put yourself through it?

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    "Rolls-Royce don't advertise" is great to keep in mind during all social interactions. Never heard that particular phrasing before though. Thanks for that. – Mad Physicist Oct 17 '17 at 15:24
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Adding to what abelenky said, remember you don't always have to do the logical thing -- they can show you that it's completely logical, you can even agree with them, and still refuse to buy. Why? Because you can do whatever you want, whether it's logical or not. You don't need to offer any explanations for not buying. (At this point, they will probably say something like, I don't understand, but it's their job to not understand the word "no".)

As far as questioning your masculinity for not making a decision, just point out you have already made a decision -- just not the one they wanted.

And it is common practice to have both the husband and wife there -- if the husband can't be convinced to want it, maybe they can convince him the wife does want it, and he should say yes for her -- while simultaneously doing the same with her.

Maybe you should have a list of questions you could ask each other, all to be answered no. Such as, "did you catch the game last night?" "No." Have a series of these lined up, and when the pressure gets intense, start the dialog. It will increase your resolve to not buy anything.

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    One strategy to battle working the wife vs the husband is speak a second obscure language. My wife and I do this to relay honest information in these situations and the sales people hate it. But really all you need is a signal or code to communicate where each of you are on the deal without letting the salesperson in on the situation. – Ukko Oct 16 '17 at 16:54
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Set a 2 hour timer on your phone, when it goes off stand up and walk out. Job done.

As others have said: leave your wallet behind, sit through the presentation, rebuff any questions, avoid one-on-one sessions, politely say no.

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    Is this allowed in the contract? – Belle-Sophie Oct 16 '17 at 19:24
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    Alternatively, if it's going to be tough to get out of it any other way, arrange for someone to phone you during the presentation with some "really bad news". Even the most hard-nosed salesperson will let you leave for an emergency. You just have to be comfortable with faking it and confident enough to pull it off. – Simba Oct 17 '17 at 12:55
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    @Simba I have no experience with these things. However, the sales people must allow you to leave. I presume their leverage is that if you don't sit through their 2 hour pitch then you will be charged for the amenities. If they do not allow you to leave then it is the crime of false imprisonment. – emory Oct 17 '17 at 17:04
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    @Belle: if the contract specifies it's a 2-hour meeting, then if it extends, then they didn't hold the specs, and IMHO you're not obliged to stay longer. If the duration is not on the paper, often verbal contract count as well, but may be harder to use in a lawsuit, you'd probably need some other guests to confirm they heard the same. – quetzalcoatl Oct 18 '17 at 7:54
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There is a single question that you can. and should answer here and now. This one question concludes everything else: Do you want to do timesharing?

If the answer is "no" (which is likely the case, given your question), then everything else is inconsequential. You have no obligation to do something you don't want, and you should never do something you don't want, no matter what someone says, or what good reasons they might bring up.

This sounds quite obvious and superfluous to say, but that's really all to it.

To take advantage of the "special offer", you (your fiancé) have agreed to attend a 2-hour promo. Since you said "called", do you actually have this in writing? If not, absolutely make sure you do, and before the trip. You do not want to discuss the terms, surprise fees, and what was said and wasn't, and what you apparently didn't understand properly in retrospective. That's a very bad situation to avoid.
You want exact conditions, written on paper, before going. Every not totally fraudulent company will give you these (even though, unluckily, they are not strictly required to do it in your case, phone deals are exepted from the rule that says they must).

Then, if you want to do the trip and avoid extra cost, you will have to comply with the agreed terms as written, to the letter. That is, you need to attend this presentation for the full 2 hours. But you do not need to do anything more, and in particular you do not need to agree to, buy, or sign anything. You don't need to become the sales person's friend either (secret tip: you're not anyway).

Since you want the "special offer", you must look at / listen to what they show / tell you, that's the agreement. But you need not disclose anything about yourself, or discuss with them, or even buy something.
Any kind of discussion is, from your point of view, detrimental. There is nothing you can win. You do not want to buy something, you've already decided that. You do not need to "prove" that to yourself or anyone else. On the other hand, you are certain to lose a discussion against an experienced salesman specifically trained for the task. Thus, the best thing you can do is avoid discussions.

But even if you get into a discussion (you probably will, very few people manage to be impolite enough to avoid them), and you lose the discussion insofar as you would be a complete idiot if you didn't take that great offer... you can, and should, still say "no".
You have the right to be an idiot and lose out on the greatest ever offer. There needs not be any reason for that other than "Because. I don't want.". You can say that more politely or less politely, as long as it remains "no", it's all the same. Again, you're not intending to become the sales person's friend.

Also, never, never ever, follow them into their office. Stay in the hotel's meeting room or whereever the crowd is. Not only will a one to one session be a lot more stressing, also see last paragraph below for a good reason.

I personally deem the advice to leave your credit card and wallet in the safe a bad approach. It's like going to a bar when you are an alcoholic. Leaving the gin bottle at home won't prevent you from drinking, if you go to a bar. You must either have an ironclad will, or you must not go to the bar in the first place.

On the one hand side, you can sign a binding contract just fine without your wallet, so it doesn't truly protect you. In the strictest sense, even saying "yes" without signing a contract is a contract (though it is unlikely a company like Hilton will attempt to enforce that). To be on the safe side, just don't say "yes", ever.

On the other hand, if you know that you are so suggestible (read as: weak) that you believe you might otherwise (if you had your wallet) sign something although you decidedly don't want it, then by all means do not go there. Don't. That's a lost cause.
If you are unsure, scratch the offer, consider the $99 that you already paid forfeited, all in all this will come a lot cheaper.

If, despite all, you later find out that you were silly enough to sign up anyway, hand in a cancellation note within at most 3 business days. Actually, if the contract is signed in Florida (but be careful about place of jurisdiction!) you should have 10 days, but do not needlessly tempt your luck. Better be safe than sorry, do it within 3 days.

Do not do this on the phone, do not talk, do not discuss. You will lose the discussion. Written on paper, handed over with a witness (registered mail will work, too). You need undeniable, hard evidence of having handed in cancellation.

Also relevant: 16 CFR 429.0, 16 CFR 429.1. Note the wording "place other than the place of business of the seller (e.g., [...] hotel or motel rooms, convention centers, ...".

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I would recommend leaving your wallet (and chequebook, and phone if you use internet banking) in the hotel safe when you go to the presentation. As well as forcing you to stop and consider before you actually spend any money, it notifies the salesmen that you are a (deliberately) hard target, so their charm and pressure would be better applied to somebody more likely to respond.

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    Not of much use, often what it takes is signing a paper. – Rui F Ribeiro Oct 13 '17 at 20:53
  • Hmm, odds are against being able to leave your writing hand in the safe. Maybe get a fake cast, put it on your writing arm, in a sling.... (yeah, I know that wouldn't be sufficient either) – RDFozz Oct 13 '17 at 21:17
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    @Rui: Usually you are allowed to cancel a contract within a reasonable period, but it's harder to get your money back. – TimLymington Oct 14 '17 at 17:11
  • Back in here you can cancel a contract within 7 days. There are ways around it, like giving the contract to sign on Fridays (or preferably before a big extended holiday week where you have a couple of holidays in a row) and asking for an advance payment which by law is not recoverable except in door-to-door sales (due to lobbying of the auto industry). Usually the extra gift, if slightly more valuable, is "out-of-stock", an only given in the 8th day, as you can keep it even if you call out the contract. – Rui F Ribeiro Oct 14 '17 at 18:27

protected by JonathanReez Oct 15 '17 at 12:15

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