I wrote this story when doing a creative writing course in 2003. It was rejected for publication by The [New Zealand] Listener, so it probably shouldn’t see the light of day, but it may be a warning for anyone else subject to the hard sell of a timeshare evening!
The Presentation by Vivienne Morrell (based on an actual event)
“…Which is FAN-tastic”, Dylan exclaimed. He took hold of his “Leisure World” t-shirt and briefly lifted it off his shoulders, letting it fall again. There were sweat beads on his forehead.
Dylan was explaining to us all the benefits of owning a one-week share of the Beach-la-Mer Resort in Coolangatta. By joining the ‘advantage’ scheme, the advantages were truly fan-tastic:
You could exchange your one week for a week in one of the 3,500 resorts the company owned worldwide. Seven nights’ high-class accommodation in a two-bedroom apartment for only $200. The savings compared to an ordinary holiday – he did some calculations – were fan-tastic. If you wanted you could save up your one week – up to a maximum of four weeks – and have a great holiday every four years, in Europe perhaps. This was called spacebanking.
“Tenerife. Have you been there? It’s where all the Brits go.” We had been enticed to this travel evening by a phone call promising prizes in exchange for ninety minutes of our time: ‘seven nights accommodation on the Gold Coast, or Goa or Phuket; or a portable CD player; or a $50 dinner voucher’. Our choice. We were undecided between the Gold Coast or Goa. We were given a list of the prizes again on our arrival. There were plenty of other couples there besides us and each couple had a personal consultant.
When Dylan began his sales pitch, we had already been there for two hours. Our personal consultant, Diane, had chatted and laughed with us, showed us the maps with pins pin-pointing the resorts worldwide, the glossy travel posters, the photos and descriptions of some of the resorts. We had watched the twelve minute video with endorsements from happy holidayers – “We come back every year, it’s like meeting up with old friends”….
“It was great to look out the door and see the hippo walking past”.
But Diane said she couldn’t answer all our questions, like how much the one-week share of the apartment cost. So Dylan, her manager, was called over to join us. We shook hands.
“You can have unlimited bonus weeks with the advantage scheme. This is fan-tastic.” (He adjusted his t-shirt). “And the company can book your flights and because it gets bulk discounts it’s cheaper than with a travel agent. Look at these brochures – special offers, package deals, group holidays; fan-tastic”.
“We don’t like group holidays.”
“Oh well, the company also owns an international car rental firm and in the advantage scheme you get 30% discount on a rental car, which is fan-tastic.”
“How much is the title?”
“You never even need have a holiday in Coolangatta. The real advantage of the scheme is it buys you into the worldwide exchange. This is not one of those old-fashioned timeshare schemes.”
Diane compared those schemes to the computers of ten years ago.
“Yes, but how much is the title?”
Finally we were told it was $19,000 for a one-week share in a two-bedroom apartment in the multi-story Beach-la-Mer Resort. We looked sceptical, so he offered a one-bedroom apartment in the Tapa Resort in Surfer’s Paradise for a few thousand less. But then there were the add-ons: a one-off $3,000 fee to join the advantage scheme and a $550 per annum maintenance fee.
Even at quarter past ten I realised that one week’s accommodation was really $750 (rent of $200, plus the maintenance fee of $550). Not to mention the joining fee and the capital cost. The scheme was beginning to look less attractive.
“We need to know your decision tonight. If you want to join we need a 10% deposit”, said Dylan.
“We won’t decide tonight. Can we come back tomorrow if we decide to join?”
“No, sorry. The standard option is available anytime, but the advantage scheme is only available tonight.”
Dylan called another manager (not wearing a Leisure World t-shirt) over to confirm this. We shook hands. Now there were three of them and two of us.
“What is stopping you from deciding tonight?” she asked.
Diane held up the comparison figures that Dylan had calculated – “See how much you can save. It’s a great scheme.”
“Perhaps. But we don’t decide important financial matters under pressure and this is a pressured situation.”
The manager immediately apologised for the behaviour of her staff – in front of them – and we immediately felt obliged to absolve them of any blame. However, we remained firm in our ‘no’, so Dylan asked what prize we had chosen.
“I thought the seven nights on the Gold Coast. I presume that’s in one of these resorts?” I said as I waved my hand loosely over the brochures on the table.
“No, actually that’s with another company and you’ll have to attend another presentation.”
We were too tired to argue, so we took the dinner voucher. Which was fan-tastic.