Thursday, October 28, 2010

Read Your Paperwork, Or Suffer The Consequences

If you've ever purchased a timeshare, you know how lengthy the paperwork is. And most of it is written in very small type. So many people don't read it and then months later when they receive their annual bill, or try to make reservations, or find out that the resort is filing Chapter 11 papers cry foul.

I've said it before and it bears have to read and clearly understand everything in your documentation. Most people are not going to take the time to read the paperwork in the closing or documentation room in the case of buying from the developer (yes, some people are still buying from the developer) or when they receive the paperwork in the mail in case of buying on the secondary market.

Here are three questions that you absolutely need answers to before proceeding with any purchase:

* what is the five (5) year history of the annual maintenance and special assessment fees
* is the HOA under owner or developer's control
* who are the developer/broker/HOA President

These are three of a long list of questions you absolutely need clear, concise anwers to. For the entire list, see "Timeshare Vacations For Dummies" as well as our new e-book which will be out in early 2011.

We'll also be posting an entire new set of FAQs on our website the first week of November.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's My Blog and I'll Rant If I Want

WARNING: This post is being written while I'm angry.

I'm fed up and don't mind saying so. Years back in 2001 and 2002 while I was still a timeshare salesperson, I kept asking questions about the timeshare sales strategy that was being used everywhere. You know; the bribe, the 90-minute, the "must buy today or the price goes up" spiel, the lack of follow-up (a/k/a there are no be-backs), etc.

I wrote about my questions, my ideas, my thoughts on consumers hating to be sold anything, including timeshare and their embracing of purchasing, on the need for timeshares to advertise and other things in the now (unfortunately) defunct The Timeshare Beat and in the following years in my first two books, "Surviving A Timeshare Presentation...Confessions From The Sales Table" and "Timeshare Vacations For Dummies."

And what did I get for these thoughts? Riducule. Outrage. Blackballed. Shunned. Lobbied against. Dirty looks. And while I didn't go into this with the plan to make a quick million dollars and get out, I did anticipate my ability to make a decent living being The Timeshare Crusader and HELPING consumers and resorts alike through the mish-mash of timeshare. Well, THAT certainly didn't happen. Not even close.

Flash forward to 2010 and the timeshare conferences, the timeshare industry publications and the timeshare talking heads are all about "the need to come up with new marketing fundamentals" and "consumers like options and will share information" and "it's time to change the sales strategy", etc. etc. etc. And all these people are making gazillions of dollars spouting the exact same stuff I was talking about and writing about years ago when no one listened.

While it is true that even with 10 years experience in the industry, I am a relative newcomer and I will be the very first person to admit that I have a lot to learn about the industry, I'd like to know where the hell I went wrong. "Timeshare Vacations For Dummies" should have been a huge seller. Timeshare resorts had the opportunity to create custom editions of this book and include it in all of their kits as an anti-recission tool. Timeshare resorts also had the opportunity to talk to me about new and improved marketing and selling strategies.

Instead, I've had to suffer the indignation of watching other people get rich, get speaking opportunities, get quoted in mainstream and industry media by saying the exact same things as I said years ago...sometimes verbatim! Glad to see they're reading my stuff...NOT.

I'm glad to see that there is some positive movement in the timeshare industry and I hope that it will continue. Timeshare is a wonderful product as I've maintained from the beginning. I just wish that "they", and "they" know who they are, would have the decency to give credit where credit is due.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Selling vs. Buying...Continued

People don't like to be sold anything, but people do like to buy. People don't like to tell other people that someone sold them something, but they do like to tell other people that they bought something.

No one comes up to you and asks, "that's a nice pair of earrings, who sold them to you?" Rather, they ask, "Nice pair of earrings, where did you buy them?" Chances are you did just that, you bought them. I don't know about you, but if I walk into a jewelry store and I even sniff "salesmanship" going on, I walk out.

That is not to be confused with a helpful sales person showing me things, educating me, offering me alternatives and then letting me make up my mind.

In traditional timeshare sales (there's that word again), that doesn't happen all that much, though does it? Sure, there's a bit of showing stuff, but all of it is done (and taught) so that the end result is a sale. Salespeople are even taught that. This is a common saying at morning meetings around the country: "There's a sale made every day...either you sold them, or they sold you."

Show people a better vacation alternative and they will buy in droves. And everyone will be happier.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lying Salesreps?

There's a story going around about a former Wyndham timeshare salesperson who is claiming to "uncover" the "fact" that Wyndham management encourages their sales staff to lie to consumers.

I should say that I've only done a 2 week stint at Wyndham here in Orlando many, many years ago. Why only 2 weeks? I didn't like the atmosphere and felt uncomfortable around some of the people there. In my time there, as well as my years of bouncing around timeshare resort in the Orlando area, I've never encountered management who encouraged me to lie.

Encouraging people to lie of course is different from turning blind eyes and ears to the lies, which is what my experience has been from the sales side. You can read my entire article on the issue of lying or not salespersons in the November/December issue of TimeSharing Today.

Later this week, I'll talk about the other lies that happen on sales presentations...those that come from consumers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Just a word about timeshare resources. Here's a small list of people/companies/organizations you should be following or at least know about:

The National Timeshare Owners Association
The Florida Timeshare Owners Group
Owners Perspective Magazine
The Timeshare Authority Blog
The Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers Association

More to follow.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why I Don't Think Facebook Is Relevant For Businesses

Yeah, I'm sort of surprised myself. However, after reading "The Facebook Effect" and seeing "The Social Network", both of which I highly recommend, I've come to the conclusion that Facebook may be a nifty way of communicating, it is not the business messiah that everyone thinks it is.

Here's why:

I've never purchased anything at all from an ad that I saw on Facebook. Never. Have you? Come to think of it, I can't remember even clicking on an ad I saw on Facebook. That's not why I'm on there.

Everything that I "like" or been a "fan" of in months past I already "liked" long before Facebook. I "like" both Miatas and iPhones for instance, all Facebook does is give me a platform to share it with the world, which I don't think anyone cares about. (See my next point.)

I have never bought something because one of my Facebook friends "liked" something. Again, I ask you, have you?

Sure, 500 million Facebook users, even if only half are active, is a huge number. But from my personal experience and what I've learned from both the book and the movie, I don't think that anyone can make the jump from that number to "oh, I have to advertise on there."

There's also this nagging feeling that I can't seem to shake that since Facebook is free (and always will be if you believe the home screen) something is up. But I'll leave that for another post.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

There's Nothing Wrong With The Timeshare Sales Method

Wow, you weren’t expecting that were you? But really, think about it…there is nothing wrong with timeshare sales…the current method of bribing people to come in for a 90 minute sales pitch, insisting that they purchase right then and there and never doing any follow up with those who don’t buy is working to the tune of more than $7 billion dollars in annual sales.

Here’s a list of other things that there is nothing wrong with:

Rotary dial phones
Non cable television
Using the card catalog in the library to find books
Writing checks to pay bills and then mailing them
Buying a used car without a CARFAX report and hoping for the best
Having a refrigerator without an ice maker
Driving a car with an AM radio and manual windows

There’s a difference between “nothing wrong with” and “a better way of doing things.” If you make rotary phones, you could be making some money, but not as much as if you changed your product.

$7 billion? A drop in the bucket to what it could be if everyone acknowledged that there’s a better way.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's The Definition of a Resort?

My recent article on the need for consistency and transparancy left out two issues; the whole business of "resort" and the whole issue of "gifting."

My thoughts on "resorts" first.

Did you know that any property, hotel, motel, timeshare, etc. can use the word "resort" freely? There are no standards for what is and what isn't a resort and that can obviously lead to some confusion and anger.

Take for instance the case of two timeshare "resorts" in the Orlando area. Both are RCI point-based properties. One is on a lake, has 4 pools, 2 spa pools, several water features, 3 children's pools, numerous bars and snack areas, a large general store, boating, jet-skiing, 2 children's play areas, free shuttle service to a nearby grocery store, a large, fully-equipped fitness area, a basketball court, 3 tennis courts, other outdoor sport areas and much more.

The other one has a pool, a tiny spa pool, a small children's pool, 2 BBQ grills and a sadly-in-need of repair basketball court.

You guessed it...both of them have the word "resort" in their name. One is not mis-leading, the other one definitely is mis-leading...I can't imagine anyone using the word "resort" to describe it after seeing it.

Timeshares aren't the only ones using this word though, as I said, any schlocky hotel or motel can tack up the word "resort" without any fear of misrepresentation.

I think it's time the timeshare consumer comes up with a new word and standards for it's use. Ideas?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

And What Now With All Those Timeshares?

As most of you know, it seems that Holiday Group out of Seattle has gone out of business. As in completely gone out of business.

The last time I checked, there were hundreds of timeshares for sale on their site. There has been some speculation that trying to pay all of those annual fees was one of the contributing factors to their apparant demise.

So what is going to happen to all those timeshares and more importantly, what is going to happen to all those unpaid annual fees? My guess is that the resorts in question are going to take a hit and then pass that hit onto other owners. A raw deal for everyone concerned.

I'd appreciate knowing if there is a "spike" in annual fees around the country or in a specific geographic region owing to this debacle.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Calling Darth Vader

Attending the sales and marketing breakout session yesterday at VOIC (Vacation Ownership Investment Conference), I kept expecting to hear the "Evil Empire" music from the Star Wars saga films everytime someone on the panel used the word "Internet."

People, it is 2010. The Internet has been around for quite some time now and it has been widely in use in homes and businesses throughout the country experts agree since 1998. In fact, many timeshare developers get their clients from marketing companies touting the "3 day/2 night stay for $99" (just Google "timeshare presentations" to prove my point) on the Internet.

So, although the timeshare industry continues to enthusiastically use the Internet, it is not so fond of the attributes that consumers have embrased the Internet for; availability of information and transparancy. Ah ha...and now you understand why I kept expecting Lord Vader himself to show up on the dais.

The industry can not have it both ways; it can't use the power, reach and frequency of the Internet while running away from the leveling power that it holds. If it continues to do so, I'm confident that their sales centers will continue to be packed with people there for the hooks-who then promptly buy their product on the secondary market for 60%-70% less.

May The Force Be With You!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reporting From VOIC

I'm writing from the annual VOIC (Vacation Ownership Investment Conference) being held at the newly expanded Peabody Resort in Orlando.

I'll have a full recap of the conference on Friday, but I'm pleased to report that the industry leaders here seem to be fully focused on business, as opposed to fun and games, and for the first time, I see a hint of being open to...wait for ideas. The economic downturn and the extension of that downturn has opened some ideas within the industry, which I feel is a good thing...there is a silver lining in all of those black clouds.

While I am here, I've been asked to be interviewed for a full-length profile (much nicer than pushing my own PR pieces!) as well as being asked to write an article about how (or if) salespeople at resorts are trained. This in response to a large number of consumer complaints about lies...sorry, misrepresentations...that they have encountered while at sales pitches...sorry, resort overviews. That article will be in the November/December issue of TimeSharing Today.

There has also been some interest shown in "Surviving A Timeshare Presentation...Confessions From The Sales Table," "Timeshare Vacations For Dummies" and "Timeshare Management-The Key Issues For Hospitality Managers." All good news as people in timeshare are talking more about educating consumers instead of ONLY trying to sell them something.

No news to report on the apparant demise of Holiday Group in Seattle unfortunately. Also, this conference is not designed to discuss the "post-card" companies...although I have overheard some rumblings that those horrid companies have finally upset the powers that be, We shall see.

Check back on Friday for a full recap.