Friday, February 8, 2008

Today's Column

A timeshare crusader lays in wait for the couple walking down the beach
My "surveillance" photos of the timeshare golf cart crusaders in action. Here is one who just got the brush off from the couple behind her

Psst, wanna buy a timeshare?
By Lara Bricker
February 08, 2008 6:00 AM
I've just returned from a timeshare with the family and have made some discoveries. Despite the endless exciting activities one can take part in at a timeshare — you know the shuffleboard tournaments, the hermit crab races, make your own Popsicle stick photo frame, the bingo games — the timeshare industry seems to be struggling. You don't say.
What evidence did I collect?
Well, plenty of firsthand data, you know, what an investigator might call "field work." Picture our first experience as we are driving down A1A in our rented mini-van. I know, I know, we practically had a day glow beacon projecting from our van, what with me in the front with a map, Kenny driving below the speed limit as he looked around, and an old lady and baby in the back seat. We practically had a billboard above our van proclaiming "Tourists, Tourists, Tourists, Get your new Tourists here."
And they did.
A small car pulled up next to us with two men inside waving at us frantically. They rolled down the window and started yelling at us. Were we being car-jacked? Did they need directions? Had we accidentally put grammy on the roof in a rocking chair like in National Lampoon's vacation?
Not exactly.
Do you want to buy a timeshare? They yelled at us.
Say what?
They told us they worked for the timeshare up the street that was having an open house. And we, the shiny new tourists in our shiny new rental van, were one of the few, the select, the chosen ones invited to attend said open house. They managed to convey all of this important information to us while driving next to us down the road. It was amazing, you know, like the thrill of winning the lottery or something. I mean out of all the people on the beach, we had been selected for this amazing behind the scenes tour. Imagine our luck.
All set, Kenny waved as he finally put the mini van over the speed limit to lose their tail.
And this, folks, was my first sign of the plight of the timeshare industry, which, when my grandparents bought into it, was a good deal. Now, they're hiring two guys who looked like they got lost on their way to spring break on Daytona Beach to accost people in traffic.
Maybe people don't want to bet in hermit crab races. Maybe it's that they can't afford the amount of silver and gold jewelry you are required to wear by the pool with the permanently tan 80-year-old men in their Speedos.
Evidence of the timeshare's woes continued when Kenny had another encounter on the beach. Now I'd spotted golf carts going up and down the beach and assumed they were part of the beach patrol or something. That's what they want you to think. It's their plan — fool you into thinking they're there to help. As Kenny was taking a walk one morning, a woman on a golf cart pulled up next to him and told him he had been selected as a special guest for an exciting timeshare tour down the way. We were really beating the odds this week. Imagine that, not only had we been the lucky winners on the street, but the beach also. Our odds were so good it might be time to take that casino cruise off the Florida coast for the night.
Kenny waved her away and managed to escape.
But others were not so lucky.
Elderly people were being abducted from the beaches at record numbers by these golf cart crusaders. The cart drivers would see a couple walking slowly, stop, and offer then a seat on the back of their golf cart. How considerate. They before the elderly couple could catch their breath, the cart was off and running back to the timeshare.
We've got some live ones here, they no doubt radio ahead to the timeshare people at the other end.
I managed to snap some "surveillance photos" from my timeshare window of these cart crusaders in action. They really have the cover down well. Some even pretend they are innocently stopping to feed the sea gulls in the same area as some unlucky, or lucky, tourists.
Still, despite all of these guaranteed tactics, they were coming up short. I can't imagine why.
By the end of the week, they were getting desperate, in terms of making an actual sale and finding competent help. No doubt, these salespeople work on some kind of commission basis and with no sales, well, that was the end of them. Their pool of prospective sales weasels was dwindling. By the end of the week, Kenny was approached by another sales person on the beach who looked like the after photo on the "don't do meth" public awareness commercials. In a raspy voice, she offered him $100 in cash to just look at the timeshare. Hey did I hear they were handing out free cigarettes too? Oops, sorry, that's what they were now paying their salespeople in these days.
Yes, he turned it down. Cigarettes and all.
Lara Bricker is a correspondent for Seacoast Media Group

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