Attending a Vacation Club Presentation

THE PRELUDE

About a month ago, I attended the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show at the LA Convention Center in Downtown.  While there, a friend and I wound up at the Wyndham Vacation Ownership booth (or I should say we wound up at one of many of their booths there that day).  When you’re at their booth, you spin a wheel and then they tell you that you won a stay at one of their properties in various interesting locations such as Hawaii or Cancun.  The only catch is that you have to listen to a presentation about their vacation club ownership (aka timeshare presentation).

They weren’t the only people trying to reel people into a timeshare presentation and my friend and I did wind up at a few booths but they were more convincing.  The representative we spoke with told us they have two locations for their presentation and we would receive our free 4-night stay after attending a presentation at one of those locations.  This isn’t really all that different than what other companies were offering.  However, she then asked us if we’d ever been on the Queen Mary.  For those not from LA, the Queen Mary is an ocean liner that use to sail on the Atlantic but was eventually retired and permanently moored in Long Beach, CA, serving as a tourist attraction with restaurants, a museum and is apparently also a hotel (I had no idea it was a hotel until I went).

My friend and I looked at each other and had to admit, though we’ve both lived in Los Angeles for quite a while, neither of us had ever been on the Queen Mary.  She was like perfect!  If we attend the presentation on the Queen Mary, it’s like a free opportunity to go on the ship and explore, plus parking will be free and lunch will be served.  She would just need a $40 deposit per person (for food) that would be returned when we checked-in for the presentation.  We thought about it and decided why not, at least we could finally say we’ve been on the Queen Mary.  We put down the deposit and selected a date which just happened to be this past Saturday.

THE PRESENTATION

First off, there are requirements to attend the presentation.  If you’re married, your spouse must attend with you.  Therefore, my friend had to bring her spouse along.  Also, there is a annual household income minimum and for this presentation I think it was around $60,000-ish.  You also had to bring ID and a major credit card for verification purposes and I believe you couldn’t have attended a presentation in a certain amount of time.  There may have been a few more requirements but those are the ones I remember.

When we arrived on the Queen Mary, we went up to the third floor and checked-in for our presentation.  They had us fill out informational sheets basically verifying some of their requirements and checked our identification.  We then sat down and waited to be called by our sales representative.  After maybe 5 minutes or so, our sales rep Kobe called us over and took us to grab some food and drinks (breakfast burritos, coffee, orange juice and tea) and sat us down in a small room where a few other groups and their reps also sat.  We talked a little bit before another sales representative had us all face forward so he could speak to all of us and show us a powerpoint including facts, photos and videos.

I found the presentation to be interesting in that the representative was not entirely selling their vacation ownership per se but was really selling the necessity of vacationing in general.  Their sales tactic was basically that everyone needs and deserves to vacation and to vacation more often.  Vacations create memories with family, with friends and those are priceless.  They asked how often everyone vacationed in a year and talked about how they should try to vacation even more and the benefits of vacationing.  Only after they drove that point home did they say of Wyndham Worldwide and the Wyndham Vacation Club could help you save money on those vacations.

I should back-up really quickly.  Unlike some timeshare presentations, the Wyndham Vacation Club isn’t really selling one primary location with the potential to exchange for nights in other locations but was rather selling all Wyndham properties as a package so that you’re not locked into one place.  Hence, their hard sell on the idea of vacationing in general since they believe that no matter where you go to vacation, they have a property for you to stay at.  They also pushed that they had one-bedroom, two-bedrooms, even houses that are far superior to staying in a cramped hotel room.

After this group presentation, we once again broke up into our smaller groups with our personal sale rep.  Our sale rep, Kobe, then tried to get a feel for our vacationing habits and how Wyndham could help us save in that regards.  It was definitely a process.  I don’t think my friend and I are the typical clientele Kobe talks to because we seemed to throw him for a loop.  He would ask us how much we typically spend per night on hotels and we told him it really depends because we often leverage hotel points for free nights or pay partially in cash and partially in points.  We also asked him more detailed questions about the actual ownership in regards to possible inflation of credits (points), etc. which was apparently above his knowledge level and he had to grab another sales  representative to answer our questions.

Both reps spent a lot of time talking about the number of properties they had, how large the spaces you’d stay in were and how the vacation club ownership would get you out on trips more and connecting with family more.  This was where they really lost me.  I know most people are destination-driven when they plan trips but I tend to be more airfare-driven.  I follow the cheaper fares and am fairly flexible.  Also, when I vacation, I spend most of my time outside the hotel.  I tend to travel mostly to big cities where I’m constantly outside exploring and eating so the size of my hotel room is not my primary concern.  Of course I won’t turn down an upgrade to a suite but honestly I’m barely in the room except at night.  As for vacationing with family, I already tend to go on at least one or two trips a year with family and even another one or two trips with friends.  Overall, I don’t have a lack of travel problem that they seemed to be targeting.  Every year I take multiple trips either with family, friends or solo travel.  The costs of lodging are not my issue with traveling more, it’s the vacation days since I max mine out every year.

Also, and I was upfront about this.  I like to choose nicer hotels to experience or more unique places and I usually do it through points.  The Wyndham label is not the most upscale and I find their hotels either low-end or very cookie-cutter.  Also, I don’t like the idea of being locked into a brand.  For example, though I primarily stay at Hilton Hotels since I’m a Hilton Gold member, there are some pretty interesting SPG, Marriott and Hyatt hotels I’d like to try.  If I’m locked into ownership though, I’d probably stay with those properties since I’m already paying.  Not to mention, they kept stressing space for families and children.  That was one of the biggest cons for me.  I don’t have kids so I’d like to stay away from places with too many families.

CONCLUSION

I don’t regret attending the presentation.  It was very interesting and I think I’m just not in the right time of my life for this kind of ownership.  I learned a lot and it gives me something to consider in the future.  The sales reps were pretty insistent but not overly so.  After we concluded with Kobe, they did have another rep speak to us under the guise of an exit survey but he was fairly chill about it all.  At the very end, we did receive information on our free accommodation.  It seems a bit complicated so I’m not 100% sure I’ll end up using it especially since I’m pretty booked this year on travel.  If I learned one thing though it’s that I shouldn’t be afraid of these presentations.  As long as you stand firm, the representatives won’t push you too much.  And afterwards, we did explore the Queen Mary though, it wasn’t quite as interesting as I thought it would be.  Perhaps I need a tour guide explaining things to appreciate it more…

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