Really free? Or just a scam?
Timeshare Presentations: Free Vacation?
TDS Reader Solutions
I don't know if this is the proper way to pose the following question, but I am curious to find out if these so-called "free Florida vacation offers" that come by occasionally are legitimate or not. I understand that the main goal is to sell you a vacation timeshare of some sort, but are they worth cashing in on even if you have no intention of purchasing anything? I'd like to hear from others that have followed through on the offers.
Thank you for any light you can shed on this question.
Free Vacation Offers Are Legitimate
Yes, these offers are legitimate. Basically, they are hoping that the "try before you buy" tactic will entice you to do just that. Most of the timeshares in Florida, especially the Orlando area, are absolutely beautiful! However, even though the salespeople can be a bit on the pushy side, you are never under any obligation to purchase. Personally, my family and I have been involved in timesharing almost since its beginning (1981) and wouldn't vacation any other way. We go to these little mini-vacations quite often and even though we would love to purchase an additional week or two, we are not in a position to do so. We just enjoy whatever offer the place is giving away like cash, gift certificates to restaurants, dinner shows, etc. It's a good way to see what's available, without having to buy. So, yes, they are legitimate and if you are in a position to purchase a week somewhere then Florida is the place to do so, because its the hottest buy a timeshare market in the country I believe.
"Take No Prisoners" Free Vacation
I used to work for one of those timeshare resorts that offer the free vacations. Please be sure to read the fine print on all offers you are considering. The "cruise" may be free, but there are port charges, etc. that you need to know about before you consider the cruise free.
These companies will always ask for a credit card to "hold" your reservation, etc. The truth is that they will run a credit check on you before you get to their timeshare presentation. A representative will be assigned to you based on your ability to pay for the timeshare they are trying to sell you. If you have enough available credit, you will be treated to a very hard sell, no matter how sweet they appear to be.
You know yourself and your sales resistance better than anyone else. If you have a tough time saying no, I wouldn't risk it. These guys are professionals and "take no prisoners". If the first one doesn't sell you, there will be others right behind him who will do their best to sell you.
Free Vacation Offers a Good Deal
In 1997, my girlfriend and I did a free vacation to Tennessee. Was a little afraid at first, but it worked out pretty well. We had to listen to a talk regarding their shareware property and buying into it. Usually the lecture took 4-5 hours, but the gentleman that did this talk, knew from the front that we were not interested, and shorten it to one hour. They still let us stay on the property. We stayed in a $300,000.00 home, with a golf course right by our back patio. We were able to use all of their facilities, golf, boating, etc. We were able to stay there for 4 days, 3 nights. Not bad for free.
While I was in Las Vegas, I listened to a 3-hour talk regarding share ware, and received show tickets. Was hoping that our person doing the presentation would shorten it, but of course he didn't.
As long as the person is strong and doesn't listen to the talk and gives in, it's the best deal around. The organizations that do this know for a fact that most people are not going to buy. The gentleman in Tennessee stated that only about 1 out of 9 people buy the timeshares or properties. But the organization feels this is the best way to lure people, because maybe that person who is taking advantage of this deal won't participate, but if they tell someone at home, now they might be interested.
Free Vacation Isn't Worth the Hassle
Having recently returned from Florida, we took advantage of a 4-night vacation in Orlando for $199.00. This included only room charges. We also got 2 adult passes to Universal Studios and a dinner show. It is a hard sell for a timeshare resort. We were required to go to a Breakfast meeting of which they said was 90 minutes. However this was 3 hours long! The hotel where we were staying was Comfort Suites and was normally $109.00 per night. So the savings per night was $50,00. You were responsible for daily taxes on the room which were around $5/day. We did not purchase a timeshare but it was a very hard sell. So beware! Would I do it again? Probably not since you could easily find accommodations for $59.00/night in Orlando.
Free Vacation is Not Always Free
My wife and I recently completed a "free vacation of 5 days, 4 nights" to Orlando, FL. Included with the offer are 2 additional trips: 3 days, 2 nights in Williamsburg, VA, and 3 days, 2 nights in Las Vegas, NV. Remember that if you live across country from Florida, it may take most of a day to get there and to get back home.
Therefore, our 5-day trip was slightly more than 3 days in Orlando. We had to pay a fee of a couple hundred dollars up front, about $20 per person per trip when we made reservations, plus local hotel taxes. We got one free meal while listening to the sales presentation. We paid for all other food. We paid our airline expenses to get there. We paid for a rental car in Orlando. They offer you promises of "discounts" for rental cars and airline tickets, but with Internet specials, I was able to beat their discounts. They do offer arrangements to allow you to stay longer.
Some of these Florida "free" trips include cruises to the Bahamas, but with much more money up front ($750). Reservations have to be made 60 days in advance of your trip. The company that handles your reservations is not the same company that you will be talking with about the time-share. The time-share presentation was supposed to be 90 minutes; but with a breakfast, a tour of the facility, and having to say "NO" 4 times (to steadily decreasing price offers, by the way), we spent a few hours there. They have many different types of purchase plans. But we needed to get them to sign a voucher to pay for our hotel room before we could leave.
Our hotel room was only a 2 to 3-star room, which resulted in a net cost for us of about $50 per night. When I initially signed up, I thought we would be staying at the resort with the time-shares. Those rooms are about 5-star.
Time-shares purchased this way are not the most economical vacation packages. Everyone I've talked to has been disappointed every time they attempt to "trade time" with another resort area. You can find time-share property on the real estate market much cheaper than these companies offer. Remember, someone has to pay for the "recruiting" expenses! Bottom line is that these vacations are not free!
Lecture is Boring But the Free Vacation IsWorth It
I have responded to several of these offers. Yes, it is often a boring lecture and tour of a facility as they try to sell you. I have had agents become angry, even after telling them up front that we are not interested in a purchase, but will hear their pitch. Some have been very nice. Once, there was a microwave as a "gift". On the day of our visit, we were told that they were short on staff and if we were only there for the gift then to come sign a list. We were presented our gift and away we went.
Once I had one of the Florida vacations, which I gave to my uncle and aunt. They went and had a wonderful time. They did attend a sales pitch, but the time was well worth their efforts. Just check out the location and get some background on the company. You may have a great time!
Beware of Free Vacation Scams
Let me give you some real life experiences from "free vacation" Last year I was contacted by a company with a great deal with the most well-known cruise lines. Although they weren't with the company, they had been authorized to offer a 3day-4night cruise, 3 day-4 night total stay in Florida, airfare and hotel if we would watch a video at the end. They needed $199 to insure we would stay for the sales pitch. Phone numbers and web sites were given to me. I checked with my state and Florida state attorney generals' offices, local better business bureaus and a friend who works for a travel agency. I also searched the Internet for other companies with similar names, phone numbers, etc. The travel agent told me that companies do that type of promotion and all the agencies we contacted came back clean. After 2 more calls from them to me, my husband and I agreed to the $199 charge. We were to get the packet of information in 2 weeks. In the meantime, we started monitoring our credit card account via the Internet. They charged us $328.00 instead of $199. Why $328? That was the available balance on the card, if the card had a higher credit limit, I'm sure they would have maxed it to that. Interestingly enough a week after the charge hit our account; there was an article in our local paper about the company we had done business with. Toronto police closed them down for operating a scam. We took all precautions possible and were still scammed. My advise, don't do it. We are still trying to get back our money.
Reviewed January 2018
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