Friday, December 25, 2009

Time to share

She seemed like a nice girl, Miranda. Dressed in her tight black leggings and figure-hugging 2010 Vancouver Olympics fleece top, she greeted the Horse Doctor and me with a cheery 'Hi, how you doing?' which we couldn't really ignore. It seems to be the way here, with the lifties, the hotel staff, the mountain guides and ski-school instructors; pretty much everyone wearing an official tag is polite and cheery and welcoming. So we smiled sweetly and said 'not bad, thanks.' Normally that's the end of such transactions, but not with Miranda. Despite the fact we were obviously on our way back to the slopes having just stopped for a coffee, she pressed us with further conversation, then hit us with the first sell.

We, too, could have lovely fleece jackets like hers, she said. Or if we preferred, a pre-paid visa card with $100 on it. All we needed to do was attend a short presentation. No obligation to buy anything, honest. It wouldn't take more than an hour, and they'd pick us up from our hotel, drop us off afterwards anywhere we wanted to go. Food and drink would be provided.

Well, put like that it would have been rude to refuse. And besides, I'm a sucker for a pretty face. So before we headed back to the slopes, we signed up. That evening our chauffeur-driven limo took us down to Club Intrawest, and we were subjected to the second sell.

It was the hardest work I've ever done for $100. Or the two jackets we decided to come away with. Miranda being just the fresh-faced bait used to lure us in, we were now handed over to Barry, a grizzled, time-served timeshare salesman of thirty years or more. He was perfectly pleasant (they all are), and covered the basics of the scheme quickly and efficiently. He even took us up to see one of the apartments we might like to buy a share in. Then another. Then the pool and hot tub area, the gym, the cinema. It was all very nice, in a soulless kind of way, but we weren't going to buy, so just give us the jackets and a lift into town, please.

Oh no. Not that easy.

As a student of pyschology, I suppose it was interesting in an exasperating way. Every little bit of the selling process was fine-tuned to tempt us in. The product was innovative - I dare say if I had a spare £15k and the cash and time to take two international holidays a year it might even make a little sense. At least once the service charges were knocked back a little. The salesman was very friendly, and even managed to empathise with me by telling me about his recent book deal, although I suspect that this was a genuine coincidence rather than a deliberate sales ploy. Then once we'd been shown the room, and talked through the deal, Barry had to go and tell a colleague something he'd just remembered - would we mind waiting a minute or two? It really was that transparent, so the Horse Doctor and I played along, pretending to discuss the deal until Barry came back. Then we told him that whilst his product was great, it really wasn't for us.

That should have been it, but of course it wasn't. First Barry left us alone again to think it through some more. I've no doubt we were being watched, so our sitting quietly, not looking at the paperwork or anything else should have given the game away. But they're persistent buggers, timeshare salesmen, so they came back with a finance plan that might make the purchase easier. In the UK such agreements have to state clearly the interest rate applied to them, but obviously that's not a requirement in Canada. It didn't make any difference, of course, and I told Barry as much. So he left us alone for a bit longer, then brought back a better deal. Well it looked better at first, but didn't really bear up to close scrutiny. We declined again, and this time Barry sent for reinforcements. Perhaps thinking that the initial catch had worked because of a pretty face, he returned with another one, in a very short skirt but apparently quite senior in the company. She concentrated on persuading me, assuming me to be the main breadwinner in the family, and pretty much ignored the Horse Doctor even though she was sitting right next to me. Given the impressive slickness of the operation up until that point, I can only assume she was management, rather than a trained sales professional. Either way she failed miserably.

It should have been time to collect our hard-won jackets and leave, but before we could go, they had to send in just one more gun. This time we were offered one year of the timeshare for a fixed price - effectively four weeks hotel accommodation for $500, so a very reasonable offer - but no doubt to accept would be to suffer twelve months of the hard sell, and we're not going to be able to afford a holiday next year anyway. So we declined, and finally they let us go.

All in all, they took two and a half hours of our time trying to persuade us to buy. We weren't the only saps Miranda had lured in with her siren-song either. I watched quite a few couples happily signing up to the deals on offer, many not citizens of the North American continent. Apparently the success rate for this kind of selling is about one in four, and given the number of Miranda clones dotted around the resort, that adds up to a whole lot of dosh spent over the holiday period. Another thing that's enshrined in UK law regarding this kind of thing is a fourteen day cooling off period, during which time you can change your mind and get all your money back. Not so in Canada, it seems. Once you've signed on the dotted line and given them your deposit, your soul is theirs.

I imagine that might lead to a few regrets in the light of a cold new British year.

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Blogger highlandwriter said...

Wow. They really put the time share squeeze on, huh???? Jeez. Ahh well -- I do hope you & the Horse Doctor enjoyed your holiday!


December 30, 2009 11:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post & nice blog. I love both.

January 04, 2010 9:52 am  

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