Have you ever been to a timeshare presentation? Chances are, if you’ve stayed at a resort, you’ve at least been offered the chance to attend a timeshare presentation.
While timeshares often get a bad rep, many people still attend timeshare presentations because of the attached incentives that are typically included. Whether it’s free hotel stays, promotions, discounts, resort credits, theme park tickets, or Visa gift cards, there are often very attractive reasons to sacrifice a few hours of your vacation to listen to a timeshare sales pitch.
Alas, no matter how much resolve you go into a timeshare presentation with, the sales tactics used will try to pressure you into making an impulse purchase that you may later regret. Don’t get us wrong, timeshares make sense for many people, but you should never buy one directly from the resort.
We’re also not saying you shouldn’t attend timeshare presentations. If the incentive is good enough, it’s definitely worth a few hours of your time. We’ve taken advantage of great incentives at Westin, WorldMark, and a selection of other timeshare brands by sitting through a timeshare presentation.
However, it’s important to know what to expect and be prepared before you enter a timeshare presentation so that you don’t end up making a purchase you’ll later regret. As we all know, timeshares can be difficult to get out of.
Just remember to be prepared to decline the offer no matter what they promise or what incentives are given. There will always be cheaper options available than buying directly from the resort.
While each timeshare company might have slight variations in how they run their presentations, I’ve been to enough to know that all will likely follow the same basic pattern.
Here are 10 things to expect at a timeshare presentation so you can be prepared for your first timeshare experience.
10 Things to Expect at a Timeshare Presentation
1. Getting to Know You
After getting checked in, the first thing that will happen at a timeshare presentation is you’ll be introduced to a representative who will be your dedicated person throughout the entire experience.
Think of this person as a salesperson because that’s exactly what they are.
Like all good salespeople, this representative will be extremely friendly and attempt to establish a rapport with you. They are personable, and you will almost certainly like them.
While it’s perfectly fine to be friendly and get to know one another, remember that this person is purposely trying to make you like them and establish trust so that you’ll be more likely to buy from them.
We would also recommend being upfront with them that you unequivocally have no intention of making a purchase. Although it’s early in the game, and they will continue to try and change your mind, being upfront from the beginning will hopefully take some of the pressure off and let the representative know early on your intentions so as not to create any confusion for them (more on that later).
One nice thing about attending a timeshare presentation is hospitality. The whole presentation is set up to create an atmosphere of luxury and well-being, including an attempt to make you feel taken care of with food and drink.
The specifics of the food and drink arrangement will vary by presentation (and may be lessened now due to Covid precautions), but you will typically be treated with various drinks and snacks and even full meals.
I’ve even been to presentations where I was offered unlimited drinks, including lattes and other fancy coffee drinks. Sebastian attended a presentation once that offered a complimentary breakfast.
The point is, be expected to be wowed and wooed with various complimentary food and drinks at a timeshare presentation.
3. Dream Destinations
After getting set up with food and drinks and some time spent getting to know one another, you’ll likely be directed to a group presentation with other potential buyers and representatives.
This presentation typically follows this pattern:
- Representative leading talks about how they used to be deprived of travel and how they shifted careers into the company
- Representative asks various would-be buyers what their dream vacation is and how much it would cost
- Representative typically will put pressure on by asking when people will actually take their dream trip
- They then segway into discussing how the timeshare could make their dream trip a reality for a fraction of the cost (all while conveniently forgetting to include the cost of airfare, food, and other vacation expenses)
- They discuss various options and the basics of how this particular timeshare point system works
- They give examples of how you can use your weeks and where (usually using a moderately expensive plan as opposed to the cheapest option, which they don’t disclose)
- They may or may not end with an incentive for signing up for their product that day (one presentation I attended offered to your dream trip, all expenses paid, if you were the first to sign up for their product)
While the dream trip tactic is the most common hook in our experience, you may also attend presentations that attempt to convince you that you deserve to travel more and should travel more. These hooks are usually based on statistics about stress and health, as well as the number of vacation days taken by the average American (it’s pretty low, in case you were wondering).
No matter the tactic used in the presentation, the point is to get you thinking about traveling more and, more importantly, that you deserve to travel more. They show you beautiful destinations and make it seem like the world will be at your fingertips if you buy their timeshare product.
Don’t be fooled.
Many of these so-called dream trips are only accessible through timeshare exchange programs, which are typically presented as easy to navigate but are never fully explained.
While exchanges and access to other destinations around the world may be possible, it’s important to remember that the timeshare product you’re being sold includes a finite number of properties. If you were to buy, it would be those destinations that you’ll most likely have access to.
Even then, popular resorts in your timeshare portfolio may still be difficult to access. I have a friend who is a Westin owner, and they often must book properties in Hawaii and Mexico as soon as the window opens 8 months in advance.
4. The Pitch
Following the group presentation, your dedicated representative will take you back to your table and begin to discuss the program and options. They will also discuss resorts in the portfolio, the redemption program (usually points-based), and likely show you a book of resorts you might be able to access through an exchange. The length of this part of the presentation will vary depending on how many questions you ask and where the conversation takes you.
Note: They will not discuss price or other costs at this point. They always wait until after the tour when they think they have you hooked to discuss the cost of their product.
5. The Tour
The fifth thing to expect at a timeshare presentation is a tour. While the tour may include the whole resort and its amenities, the tour’s main purpose is to showcase the room types available if you become an owner.
Again, the specific room types and options may vary by brand, but you can guarantee that the property will be putting its best foot forward when showing you the rooms. All the room/villa tours I’ve ever been on were extremely luxurious, and I wouldn’t have minded staying in any of them. However, know that not all properties in the portfolio may offer the same level of luxury, again depending on the brand.
6. The Money
At this point in the presentation, you’re likely feeling good and yearning for all the luxurious places you’ve been shown. You’ve also toured the rooms and have imagined yourself lounging on the bed gazing at the beautiful views.
Then, they hit you with the price tag and trust me, it’s not pretty.
Let me just say the lowest price tag I’ve seen was in Mexico and came in at about $15,000 for one week a year, plus annual maintenance fees at about $900 a year. That was for Westin, which was not horrible considering that Westin is a high-end brand (the price tag may vary depending on which property you are at, even within the same brand).
More likely, you’ll be seeing price tags of $50,000 and up, plus yearly maintenance fees close to $1,000. Spread out over 20 years, a timeshare product with the price above would cost you $3,500 a year for a week worth of vacation.
Remember that doesn’t include airfare, car rental, food, or anything else, just the hotel.
If you’re someone with a large family who spends a lot on vacations, then a timeshare might make financial sense for you (even though we still wouldn’t recommend buying directly from the resort).
But, if you’re anything like us, we never spend anywhere near that amount on hotel accommodations, and in fact, may not even spend half of that on an entire trip. Instead, we use travel hacking to access free or reduced-cost hotels and airfare. While there is no such thing as a free trip, we get pretty darn close!
Do you remember earlier when I said you should try to be upfront with the representative from the beginning? Here is why.
This is the point in the presentation where you will need to turn down the offer. If you haven’t already stated that you have no intention of buying and may even have seemed interested throughout the presentation, this news will come as quite a shock to the salesperson.
Your interest level led them to believe they had a sure buyer, and they will likely really lay on the pressure at this point. Whatever your reason for declining, they will continue to push and impress upon you what a deal their product is.
Some people may cave at this point, but if you stick to your guns, your representative will have no choice but to bring in the closer.
7. The Closer
If you turn down the timeshare product, you can be sure to expect your representative to bring in a closer.
The purpose of the closer is two-fold. First, they continue to pressure you to buy the product, making you justify your decision again. If you are steadfast, their second purpose is to offer you some special deal or incentive, or both.
The two of us have experienced a myriad of incentives and special deals from closers, and while you may not be offered both, you are sure to be offered a “special deal” at the minimum. After all, if they can’t get you to buy the full product, maybe they can get you to purchase something a bit cheaper.
These deals may come in the form of special pricing with the option to upgrade later, a one-time special deal to stay at the resort, or something else.
The closer may also offer incentives along with the special deal. These might include loyalty points, free trips, or other special offers.
Often they’ll even go so far as to say that whatever deal they’re offering is “not normally available” and that they’re doing it “just for you.”
While these deals and incentives may sweeten the pot, remember that you are ultimately paying thousands of dollars to access them and that these deals are not free or really a good bargain when you look at it from that angle.
9. The Cold Shoulder
You’ve been through the presentation, and you’ve turned down the product, special deals, and incentives. Your representative, while likely taken aback that you didn’t buy the initial product, has continued to be friendly throughout.
They’ve been your best friend up until this point, but once they realize they won’t be making a sale, they will likely give you the cold shoulder.
Both of us have had this experience, and it isn’t pleasant, and it’s why we recommend being upfront about your intentions. In the first timeshare presentation I attended, I mentioned I likely wouldn’t be buying anything, but I also was attentive and showed a lot of interest (because I wanted to write a post). The rep working with me thought he had a sure sale and was obviously displeased about my seeming change of heart.
Put simply, don’t take it too hard if the representatives have a complete change of attitude once they realize you won’t be buying. This is normal and probably to be expected since they probably don’t make much money unless they make a sale.
10. One Final Hook
Despite the cold shoulder, the timeshare company still isn’t quite ready to let you go.
The last thing you can expect at a timeshare presentation is for one final offer to be presented after the closer.
Once you’ve declined all the deals, yet one more representative appears in the guise of getting you checked out. They will be seeking information from you about the presentation, the job your rep did, and connecting you with any incentives you earned from attending the presentation.
They’ll also typically offer you one final deal. This deal will likely be the lowest-cost option presented to you, and it may actually turn out to be an attractive offer worth taking for some. Just remember, if this final deal involves buying into their timeshare product, you will likely be able to find a better price on the resale market. If it’s a trip at a discounted price, it might be worth it.
However, if you also turn this offer down, you’ll almost always be met with continued pressure from the representative. In fact, I had a recent experience where the final rep became downright combative and rude. I was informed that “I would never find a better deal no matter how much travel hacking I did.”
What can I say? A timeshare bought directly from the resort simply isn’t a good deal no matter how they try to twist it.
What Companies Offer Timeshares?
Now that you’re equipped to resist the temptation of a timeshare presentation, you’re probably wondering which companies are the big timeshare players and where you should expect to be offered the chance to partake in a timeshare presentation.
While there are upwards of 5,000 resorts and around 200 independently and publicly owned timeshare companies, vacation clubs, and resort groups, the following are some of the biggest names in the game.
- Hilton Grand Vacations
- Disney Vacation Club
- Marriott Vacation Club
- Hyatt Residence Club
- Westin Vacation Club
- Worldmark by Wyndham
- Holiday Inn Club Vacations
Along with the above-named vacation ownership companies, there are certain destinations where you’ll find a large timeshare presence. These destinations include:
- Las Vegas
- Hawaii (especially Kauai and Maui)
- Florida (especially Orlando near Disney World and Daytona Beach)
- Lake Tahoe
- North and South Carolina (especially Myrtle Beach)
Moral of the Story
Attending a timeshare presentation can be a stressful ordeal, with some even comparing timeshare presentations to going to a car dealership.
While there is a ton of pressure applied by the representatives and the presentations are a masterful piece of marketing and social psychology, knowing what to expect from a timeshare presentation before going to one will arm you with all you need to survive unscathed.
And if you’ve already fallen prey to a timeshare presentation, check out how to make the most of your timeshare and timeshare resale markets if you’re not satisfied with your purchase. You can also get the timeshare treatment without buying one with timeshare rentals through Redweek.
The next time you’re offered a timeshare presentation in exchange for some great incentives, discounted deals, and some yummy food and drinks, you can go in knowing you’re prepared for whatever they may throw at you.
So, grab yourself a latte and a sandwich, sit back, and politely say no.
Talk about Money Saved.
Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.