If you are a time share owner and in love with the way the process works, I applaud your patience and efforts. This post is to warn future people whom might find themselves considering investing in a time share of my recent experience.
And so it begins….
Long story short, we inherited two time shares. The first was with RCI, a company I will never understand; one that still uses the DOS computer system, has systems “down” each and every time I call for help navigating, and has so many hoops to jump through that I almost feel like just paying them to take the points off my hands. The second is with BlueGreen vacations, whom I used to book a family trip to St. Augustine in May.
We arrived at the Grande Villas at World Golf Village in St. Augustine to a beautiful property. Our check-in was seamless and they provided our WIFI code, a map of the area, some discount options for tour tickets, local restaurant information, and keycards for our room. We were on the top floor of building four, which does have elevators, and our two bedroom, two bath condo was spacious and in nice condition. It was complete with a full kitchen, washer & dryer, small screened patio, and jacuzzi tubs.
The grounds featured a large swimming pool, hot tub, corn hole, volleyball, kids play area, tennis courts, basketball court, and grill areas. Caution: the hot tub does have fluctuating chlorine levels and my new bathing suit was ruined after use, though there were warnings posted on the wall.
However, this is not the post on my vacation; this is a post for those of you have never dealt with time share procedures. This is a heads up for what truly transpires in the world of time shares.
Occasionally the time share company wants you to attend a meeting for Ownership Review. They sweeten the deal by telling you that you will receive $300 worth of gifts, the most they can offer, more than they offer anyone else, and after six years, we finally decided to devote the one hour, as they promised it would not take any longer than that to complete our obligation.
Please keep in mind that I am an optimist, a very happy and passionate person. I find good in almost everything and give credit when it is due for good things, service, and people who impress me. I am writing this “buyer beware” because I hate to think of the countless people taken advantage of by these companies. I witnessed it first hand and want to share my experience. Perhaps it will save one of my readers or friends time, money, or a headache.
I got a bad feeling….
My husband and I arrived at our meeting at 9 am the next morning. We were ushered into a unit with cubicles next door to go over items such as: how can I extend my vacation days for FREE, how can I offset my maintenance fees, and how to maximize the Traveler Plus program. Our hostess, Vivian, was friendly and began explaining our level of points and the point system within the newly privatized company. Several times she was interjected by her supervisor, Jody, who stopped to bring enthusiasm and pep to the process. Basically we sat around a table, were drawn out a map of the entire company and shown how we were part of the 86% of their business who really had nothing special, only access to 27 resorts. The other 14%, which is what they think everyone should aspire to achieve, was pumped up to be this elite membership with all these superb benefits; but hurry, as the new CEO was not ever going to allow that percentage of members to exceed 15%. (do the math, only 1% more people in their 200,000 membership directory can move up to those better benefits).
The meeting was promised to not take longer than 60 minutes and then we would be awarded $300 worth of swag- a $70 prepaid VISA card, a $100 dining dough card, and a photo session valued at some crazy price range, that included a free sitting fee at the resort for your family and you get a whopping 8×10 included. Well past an hour later, we were told that “they” (Jody and Vivian) did not know what kind of offers we would be given, it is a mystery in the computer, and once the almighty Oz speaks, they will print it out and offer it to us. I might add there are 5 levels of membership, the crappy 86% of us own the bottom of the totem pole, and the upper levels are bronze, gold, and so on.
Jody came back so thrilled that we were offered two options. First, for a mere $35,000 we could jump up to the bronze level, which would give us 15,000 points per year (we currently have 5,000) to spend at their 27 crappy resorts (hey, they termed it that, not me) and they will be adding more this year for a total of 72 resorts to choose from. The second offer, which I thought Jody was going to tap dance over with all his charisma dripping, was to pay a smaller amount to get to 8,000 points which would give us at least a weeks vacation (rather than only a few days that we currently own). We declined both of them as we do not particularly like the time share way of traveling, nor the locations the resorts with BlueGreen are located.
At that time, Vivian gave us yet a third offer. For a much smaller amount, we could buy 9,000 points, for a one time deal only, and keep both of the other two offers on the table for a year in case we would decide to revisit them and take them up on it. With this new offer, and more locations to stay at being opened, we figured it would be worth the money to go ahead and pay it to have a weeklong vacation in a resort that would house our entire party under the same roof and there was a location we were interested in. We gave her the okay. Now, being there at 9 AM and being told to bring our drivers license only, we would have no reason to come to this meeting with money or a credit card in hand, though we had one on file with the hotel for incidentals. We completed the paperwork and were asked for a credit card. My husband explained it was in the room and they were ready for us to just run and get it; it was raining hard outside. We asked if they could just use the one on file but they could not. Not only did they want him to go get his physical card, but they wanted us to sit and wait while someone else typed up this purchase agreement so we could sign. By this time, we had been in this Ownership Review meeting for 115 minutes, taking up precious time in our family vacation. We refused to sit there for the amount of time they were insisting on and offered to run the card over, go get breakfast, then come back to sign the document. That was not okay with them, so fish on the hook got loose and they lost that catch of the day.
You must be joking…
We asked for our swag bag that we had been promised, which they did not physically have in their presence. We then had to follow our rep back to the main office so she could go get the items we were to receive; talk about disorganized. Now comes the good part. When they say nothing in life is free, I am a firm believer in that. This process did nothing to dispel that belief.
Our swag bag consisted of the coupon for the free 8×10 photography, a $70 prepaid VISA (thank heaven that actually worked with no problem) and a $100 dining dough gift card, which is the most comical “gift” I have ever received. This card first required me to create a log-in and sign up, then you narrow down the restaurant choices by listing the zip code in that area and indicate how many miles you wish to travel. The restaurants that came up in St. Augustine were dismal, and many were already closed. I ended up purchasing 4 $10 certificates for a barbecue restaurant, with 4 being the optimum amount that was allowable. We stopped by the restaurant for dinner and were told we could use (1) gift certificate (keep in mind, this is not a coupon but a pre-paid gift) per visit. Being that our party of 5 would be saving $10, for a restaurant we really did not want to be at anyway, we declined. I then looked at the restaurants in my hometown of Vero Beach and Charleston, WV, where I moved from. Almost all of the restaurants are unheard of (and I am a foodie, I know my restaurants), closed, or too sketchy to visit even if it were free. This whole $100 dining card was a joke, a worthless waste of my time to even search their site.
I wonder how many people get suckered in to purchasing these offers on a daily basis or during their annual reviews. The company tries so hard to make you feel special, laughing all the way to the bank. If one is foolish enough to finance the amount that is needed to move them to the next level, that interest rate is a shocking 19.99% rate. I feel sorry for people who are suckered into these false claims, pyramid scheme of ownership, or just too timid to stand their ground and say no. The time shares also offer discount airfare and cruise tickets. If you ever feel like wasting your points on these items, please message me the details of your vacation and I will help you find a much better deal doing nothing but looking online. No fees or dues required for a better deal. Time shares work for some people, but I would say they were nothing but a gimmick and waste of time for me.