Trial Programs

By M. Beddingfield

Imagine that you are on vacation and you are approached by someone who offers you an amazing deal. All you have to do is attend a three hour long presentation and you will get two free nights stay in your beautiful resort condo. You know that the presentation is for a timeshare, but you figure that giving up three hours to attend a presentation is cheap enough if you get to stay an extra two nights.

Before the presentation you have all ready decided that you will not buy a timeshare, but then they offer you something called a timeshare trial program and you start to get interested. A timeshare trial program is the enticing wiggly worm on a wicked hook; if you nibble you will get caught.

Timeshare trial programs are often pitched at vacation hot spots and high profile resorts as a way to try out timeshare ownership without having to commit to the long term purchase. When you buy a timeshare trial, you get the full benefits of ownership for a shorter term, usually between 12 to 18 months. You are issued a number of single usage points and you have to use those points in that time period.

It’s the points that get you interested and the developer or salesperson will press you to book your points quickly, so as to keep your interest level high and infect you with what the timeshare marketing people call “timeshare fever”. That’s when a potential customer lets their enthusiasm for that beautiful, relaxing timeshare vacation take over and they are ready to sign on any dotted line to continue the experience.

In the past, timeshare trial programs were used as a marketing tool at the closing table to potential customers who were sitting on the fence; those who liked the timeshare but didn’t want to make a lifetime commitment. It was a way, albeit costly, for them to experience how the timeshare system worked. For the developers, it was an excellent marketing tool that netted them a 60% follow through with the customer to buying a timeshare.

Now, with money belts tightening due to economic pressures and smarter consumers, the timeshare trial program is being used to lure in unsuspecting tourists. People that have never even considered purchasing a timeshare are being taken advantage of. These people are on their vacation, they are in a relaxed mood and more accepting. And they don’t have a clue about timeshares. They are the perfect catch, easy to lure and easy to reel in.

Timeshare trial programs are being sold for thousands of dollars. The buyer compares the price of staying at a resort hotel for a week to the cost of the temporary timeshare and thinks that they are getting a real bargain. That comparison is a selling point. Say you are staying at a luxury hotel in Hawaii and the cost per night is $400. So the cost for a one week stay would be $2,800. The cost of the timeshare trial program is only $2,500. Wow, you’ve saved $300. That sounds like a bargain. You can use the extra money to buy fancy drinks served in coconut shells.

There are at least three problems with this set-up. One is that you could have bought the timeshare outright for the same price because timeshares are reselling for pennies on the dollar. Two is that you could have rented the timeshare for much less and still had the timeshare experience. The third is that the salespeople have you primed and ready to purchase a timeshare from the developer for super inflated prices.

Developers and salespeople are taking advantage of lack of knowledge. A timeshare trial program is being touted as a miniature version of owning a timeshare. It’s not. It’s more like a slice of cake with extra frosting to make it sweeter. Owning a timeshare is a lifelong commitment with ever increasing fees and assessments.

If you want to sample the good life, save up the money and vacation in your dream resort. Don’t try out a timeshare. You may like the fit of the trial program but the real thing isn’t a dream come true.