Monday, August 30, 2010

Imagine This

Imagine this…you own a car…free and clear. You paid $25,000 for it four years ago. As with any car, it needs periodic maintenance such as oil changes, tire rotation, front wheel alignment, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Now imagine that your driving needs change…you either move somewhere where you don’t need a car, such as New York City, or you buy a newer car with more “stuff” like a GPS navigation unit. Happens everyday.

So, what to do with the car that you no longer use/want? Well, if you are like most consumers, you put an ad online, put flyers up in heavily trafficked areas, tell your friends, family and co-workers that you have a car for sale or advertise it in a newsletter, newspaper, magazine, etc.

Just to see if you’re paying attention here…you don’t expect to sell the car for $25,000 do you? How about $32,000? Of course not.

What if you received a phone call out of the blue from a company that told you that they had a buyer for your car and that all they needed was $1,500 for the paperwork? Chances are that you’d hang up on them.

OK, what if you received a glossy, four-color postcard from a company that said in part, “…we provide a contractual agreement that guarantees the transfer of your car out of your name…” and said that they were going to be in town for three days next month and that you should call to secure an appointment?

What if you were curious and took them up on their offer only to find out at this meeting that the “transfer” they were talking about consisted of you handing over the title to your car AND a cash payment of $3,500, thereby relieving you of the cost of the oil changes, tire rotation, etc.?

Oh and by the way, just so you aren’t confused here…the $3,500 is JUST to transfer the title…if this company actually ends up selling your car to someone else, say for $10,000, you don’t get ANY of the proceeds. You are just supposed to give them the free and clear title and the cash.

I know, what you are thinking…are you out of your mind? Who would ever do such a thing? Heck, it would be better to just GIVE the car away outright rather than pay someone $3,500 to transfer the title, right?

Well, change “car” to “timeshare” and change “oil changes, tire rotation, front wheel alignment, etc.” to “maintenance fees” and you have the insane story of what thousands of timeshare owners are doing every year. To the tune of over $40 million dollars annually in “transfer fees.”

There is nothing at all to stop companies from doing business like this. There is nothing illegal about it at all. But there is something that timeshare owners can do…they can educate themselves and wise up.

Use some common sense people or suffer the consequences.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Have Nothing Against Salespeople, However...

As many of you know, I was a timeshare salesperson for 4 or 5 years...a lousy salesperson, but an honest one.

This morning I read a piece of "advice" to salespeople that made me shudder and stand firm in my belief that there must be some way for a consumer to get the real price of a timeshare upfront.

The "advice" was that the salesperson should get the consumer to agree on a monthly payment before showing the price of the timeshare, thereby enabling the salesperson to "add on" to the price and pocket the difference. So, if the package that the salesperson was attempting to sell was $13,000, the salesperson should "bump up" the price to $14,000, adding only a small amount to the monthly payment and pocketing the additional $1,000. Bad idea all around, and I have yet to see a resort that lets the salesperson actually pocket that $1,000 anyway.

Must the industry constantly fall back on these hackneyed sales tactics, making themselves out to be worse than the lowest used car salesperson?

Consumers need to know what the average price of a comparible timeshare is and make their own decisions. The time of the high-pressure, sales tactic full salesperson is done...and so should it be for all the "advice givers" out there.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It Works For Starbucks

I'm in the middle of reading "The Starbucks Experience" by Joseph A. Michelli...not because I frequent Starbucks...I don't drink coffee, but I wanted to find out about their corporate culture. I decided to do some research into what their employees are trained on. I was NOT at all surprised because I figured that they had to have something that enticted people to spend far more for a coffee than another place.

Here's some of what I found:

Every partner/barista hired for a retail job in a Starbucks store received at least 24 hours training in the first two to four weeks. The training included classes on coffee history, drink preparation, coffee knowledge (four hours), customer service (four hours), and retail skills, plus a four-hour workshop called "Brewing the Perfect Cup."

Baristas were trained in using the cash register, weighing beans, opening the bag properly, capturing the beans without spilling them on the floor, holding the bag in a way that keeps air from being trapped inside, and affixing labels on the package exactly one-half inch over the Starbucks logo. Beverage preparation occupied even more training time, involving such activities as grinding the beans, steaming milk, learning to pull perfect (18- to 23-second) shots of espresso, memorizing the recipes of all the different drinks, practicing making the different drinks, and learning how to make drinks to customer specifications.

There were sessions on how to clean the milk wand on the espresso machine, explain the Italian drink names to customers, sell an $875 home espresso machine, make eye contact with customers, and take personal responsibility for the cleanliness of the coffee bins. Everyone was drilled in the Star Skills, three guidelines for on-the-job interpersonal relations: (1) maintain and enhance self-esteem, (2) listen and acknowledge, and (3) ask for help. And there were rules to be memorized: milk must be steamed to at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit but never more than 170 degrees; every espresso shot not pulled within 23 seconds must be tossed; customers who order one pound of beans must be given exactly that—not .995 pounds or 1.1 pounds; never let coffee sit in the pot more than 20 minutes; always compensate dissatisfied customers with a Starbucks coupon that entitles them to a free drink.


All of that training...and that's just where it starts...for a $4.00 or $5.00 cup of coffee. Imagine what the timeshare industry would be able to do with that kind of training. I would imagine for one that the term "ups" would vanish...and that the term "vacation counselor" would actually apply.

Consumers want personalized service. Consumers want to go on vacation. Consumers need trust in order to purchase. What does Starbucks know that the timeshare industry doesn't, or doesn't want to learn?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Not Interested

I sent out an e-mail over the weekend to a local timeshare property in Orlando asking them for 30 minutes of their time to discuss:

a) their website, which contained the "latest" photos of new construction from 2008
b) their blog, which is non-existent
c) their social media strategy, which they don't have

Their answer was typical of companies who just don't want to admit that it is 2010 and the old "bait 'em, hook 'em, take their money" strategies aren't working any longer. I quote "this is just something we're not interested in right now."

Be "not interested" all you want, so long as you understand that your clients and potential clients are really, really interested.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I have been working on a blog post/article on the good things that ARDA-ROC (the entity that most timeshare owners "donate" $3.00 per year to sometimes without their knowledge) does when I unfortunately came across this piece of bad news:

Stay tuned.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Difference Between Wanting And Choosing

I recently read "What Got You Here Won't Get You There" by Marshall Goldsmith, which I highly recommened.

I found these paragraphs to have particular relevance to the traditional timeshare industry:

"One of the first things that I have to face with clients is the difference between miswanting and mischoosing. It's subtle, but real. Wanting, after all, is different from choosing. So are those moments when we get either process wrong, when we miswant or mischoose.

The distinction comes from psychologists studing the science of shopping. We want a sweater, for example. Then we choose a certain sweater based on the thought matrix that went into wanting it. For example, there are all sorts of reasons people want a certain type of sweater. They may want it for warmth. They might want it for its feel. They might want one that looks great, or is reputedly the best in the world, or the most expensive (or cheapest), or the most au courant in style, or that complements the color of their eyes. The reasons for wanting a sweater are almost infinite. Basically, we want a sweater because we think it will make us happier. Miswanting occurs when we discover that what we wanted did not make us happy.

Choosing is something different. Once we decide what sweater we want, we must choose among a vast array of options that fit the bill. Will it be the blue cashmere sweater with the Armani label and the $1,000 price tab? Or the blue wool from Land's End for $49? Both will keep us warm and accent our eye color (if that's what we wanted), but if we're on a limited budget, the latter is a wiser choice than the former."

What does this have to do with the timeshare industry and the timeshare product, particularly when the heat index today is going to be 107 degrees? Very simple; people want a vacation (after all, that is what a timeshare is for) because it makes them happy. Choosing which is where the fun begins.

Traditional timeshare salespersons have been taught this on a simple (the customer) simply has to choose which vacation style makes you happier...spending money on a hotel or spending money on a timeshare.

I think the industry as a whole could and should do a lot better. Having timeshares available to consumers at their local travel agency, or online at any of a dozen travel sites or (wait for it) as a choice at a travel expo would move the timeshare product to the mainstream and forever bury the misconception that "timeshare is not a sought after product." Vacations are a sought after product/service/experience and one that brings happiness. It is high time that the timeshare industry wakes up and realizes that timeshares can indeed be a sought after product/service/experience that brings happiness.

Stay tuned for the first part of the proof later this year.