Attending a Timeshare Sales Pitch Just to Get a 'Free Gift?'

One of the most common tactics used by timeshare developers’ marketing teams is to offer a free gift to consumers who come and sit through a sales presentation.

Whether the advertising copy or spokesperson is offering a free vacation, a cutting-edge piece of technology, coupons and rewards, or even a cash incentive, this tactic can be a powerful lure for consumers of all backgrounds, whose ears tend to perk up at the mere mention of the word “free.”

This marketing technique is so common, in fact, that it has launched its own subcategory of internet content!

For instance, regular readers of our “News Room” may be familiar with one common type of editorial article on this matter – the one that documents a writer’s experience attending a timeshare presentation, despite having reservations, all for the sake of that free gift, whether it’s vouchers for a casino or $4500 worth of airline tickets. Once they’ve made up their minds to attend, these writers invariably find themselves mired in the notorious “hard sell” sales presentation they may or may not have been anticipating in the first place.

In all, these columns, dispatches, and opinion pieces are often intriguing and informative, offering a perspective on timeshare marketing and sales presentations that can only help better inform and educate consumers. But there is a second type of content out there that is a bit more worrisome.

Search out information on timeshares online for any amount of time, and you’re bound to run across “news you can use” style pieces with titles in the vein of “How to Attend a Timeshare Presentation and Only Get the Free Gift,” or “The Ultimate Guide to Getting Free Stuff from Timeshare Presentations.”

Obviously, there’s a market out there for content like this; if readers are interested, it’s a matter worth delving into. But let’s draw a line in the sand here and acknowledge that any listicles or infographics actually encouraging consumers to seek out that “free gift” from a timeshare sales pitch should be taken with two or three (or even four) grains of salt.

While it’s certainly possible to attend a sales pitch and walk away without purchasing anything, it’s important to realize that, when it comes to timeshare marketing presentations, the deck is truly stacked against the consumer in ways that might leave you stunned – and which could impact your lifestyle, your finances, and your credit for years and years to come.

Our own Michael Finn does a great job of breaking down “The Psychology of a Timeshare Sale” in this article of the same name. As he explains, the timeshare could well be considered the “mac daddy” of impulse buys, given that, as he writes, “timeshares are typically marketed as a same-day purchase.”

He continues:

“Yes: From the introduction of the product to the perpetual ownership and future, conditional use of said product all in the very same day! What's even more interesting from a psychological viewpoint is that most timeshare purchasers have no inclination or sense of a need or want of a timeshare interest the very day they invariably make their purchase! Put another way? Almost no one wakes up in the morning having any inclination or desire to own a timeshare by the end of that day.”

With this being said, it’s important to realize that even the savviest consumer, with the steeliest of resolves, can find him or herself succumbing to the psychological pressures and ploys of a timeshare sales pitch, which, at their very best, tend to run for three-plus hours, bounce potential buyers between multiple highly motivated salespeople, and employ exhausting sales techniques so strenuous that Michael has compared them to “dripping water torture.”

What’s more, timeshare sales personnel – who are almost always independent contractors, working on commission – often use techniques which Michael refers to as “unique to their product,” and are protected by the knowledge that they can fall back on one notorious contractual clause, which our office tends to call the salesperson’s “license to lie” clause.

The “license to lie” is a contractual clause in the purchase contract that, when signed and executed by the buyers, negates all oral representations made prior to and during the presentation, making only the written contract provision representations legally binding on the resort – meaning that the sales team can say absolutely anything and everything it takes to get their mark to close, with absolutely no repercussions.  

Of course, this clause is buried in the veritable mountain of paperwork that is handed over to the buyers at closing, which, of course, must all be done at the same time and as hastily as possible, before the consumer has time to fully grasp the nuances of what it takes to rescind their purchase, or to read up on the enormity of their new financial commitment, which will include not only their initial payments, but also ongoing costs, chiefly in the form of assessments and (continually rising) maintenance fees.

We could go on. Suffice it to say that plenty of consumers, even those who had absolutely no intention of purchasing a timeshare interest, eventually end up signing on the bottom line, whether because they’ve bought into salesperson’s sweet talk or because they’re simply desperate to get out of the grueling pitch. Should this occur, and should the rescission period pass (as it so often does), this consumer will now find themselves saddled with an enormous financial burden, one that can be difficult to cancel, exit, resell, rent out, or even give away.

And, after all of this, we haven’t even begun to discuss that promised “free gift!” Well, at this point, you may be none-too-shocked to learn, consumer expectations often far exceed reality. Stories abound of gifts that fall well short of what was promised, and of consumers actually needing to pay money orders or activation fees in order to receive their supposedly free compensation.

So, at the end of the day, during your long drive back home, you may find your pockets lighter than ever – with not even a “free gift” to show for it. In the end, the best way to navigate a timeshare sales presentation is to do your research ahead of time, educate yourself on the many pitfalls of timeshare ownership and the resale market, and remember – as the old saying goes – “buyer beware!”

Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 45 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don't hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns. 


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