An offer from Hyatt Residence Club inviting me to Hawaii for a 5 night stay in a 2 bedroom/2 bath villa at the new Hyatt Residence Club, Maui for just $198/night, inclusive of all taxes and resort charges. On top of that, they'd throw in a $100 resort credit to use during the stay.
According to the flyer it's a savings of $5,920 off of the regular price for a similar trip. That's probably a bit of a stretch, but a 2 BR/2 BA villa like this can easily run up to $500-$1000 per night, so it's definitely still a great deal.
So, what's the catch?
My first reaction? Sweet! I took a closer look at the fine print. Buried deep, deep, deep in there was this:
"Participants must attend a 90-minute sales presentation at our Hyatt Residence Club sales center located at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa. If married, cohabiting, engaged, or single and bringing a companion, is it required that both persons must attend the sales presentation."
Of course there's a catch! This was one of those timeshare vacation offers, which provides you with a fantastic deal in order to get you through the doors of their sales center.
Now what happens after you cross through those doors is up to you, but independent of that, simply having to sacrifice 90 minutes of a 6 day/5 night vacation to receive this type of offer is a tradeoff I'd be willing to make every single time.
My experience with the timeshare presentation
For some people, purchasing a timeshare can make sense. However, the sentiment I've most often heard expressed from people who've bought timeshares is buyer's remorse, which is evident in the number of secondhand properties for sale on sites like TUG and VRBO.
I'm by no means an expert on this topic, since this is just the 2nd such offer I've ever received. My wife and I gladly took Starwood up on a similar offer a couple years ago, and spent 5 lovely nights at the Sheraton Kauai.
Hiking in Kauai
On the 4th day of our stay, we walked into the sleek sales center for our 90-minute timeshare presentation. We expected the salesperson to size us up from the moment we walked-in, so we made sure to wear our ugliest, dirtiest outfits.
My wife and I had chatted ahead of time and had made sure that we were on the same page. I'm usually the one that can get suckered into things, so I was going to rely on her to be the bad cop.
Each sales person is different, but in general these are low-pressure situations. Don't be mistaken, that doesn't mean they won't try to sell you, because that's their job and they absolutely will try to. We had scripted excuses to some of the questions we knew we'd get, and the saleslady was good at diffusing or re-directing all of them:
"We just can't afford a large purchase right now, since we're saving up money to buy a house"
"Don't worry, you can finance the timeshare just like any other house and take out a mortgage"
"We may have kids in the future and aren't sure if we'll be traveling much"
"These are long-term investments, just imagine bringing your kids here 5, 10 years down the road"
"We don't want to come to Hawaii every year, we like to go to try new places"
"No worries, you can convert your ownership points into standard points to use at any property in the world"
But the one that nearly got me...
"We're getting married soon and really want to save money"
"Congrats! I'm so happy for you. Well if you buy today how about the honeymoon is on us, we'll happily give you 500,000 Starwood points"
My jaw simply dropped, and my mind was racing with all the possibilities for what I could do with those points.
Stick to your guns, no means no!
Our saleslady was good, and with her sweet and calm demeanor, she had the soft-sell approach down perfectly. They play a bit on your guilt-strings, having brought you here on vacation under such an amazing deal. A bit on your aspirational-strings, showering you with points and letting you dream about where those can take you. And even for a numbers guy like myself, they figure out ways to present the costs in a way that doesn't seem intimidating or scary.
What happened next is the really funny part. Our saleslady had me in the palm of her hand, and had even turned my wife, who was supposed to be the bad cop, into a believer.
I had mentioned to my dad that we'd be going to a timeshare presentation, and he said to just use him as the bad guy if needed. And that's exactly what I did - I told the salesperson I had to make a call, and his exact words were "walk away right now", which is what we did.
I shared more details of the experience with him afterwards, since him and my mom would be going on the same vacation offer a couple weeks later. He knew exactly what to expect, and yet I got an unexpected call from him.
The salesperson was so good that she even had him spinning around, and now seriously considering buying a timeshare! You can guess what my exact words were to him.
"Walk away right now."
Don't let the sales pitch keep you from taking the offer
At the end of the day, nobody is going to put a gun to your head and force you to buy the timeshare. They will certainly try their best to sell one to you, but you can always just walk away. For those that have been through these, that can actually be easier said than done. But if you hold firm, they will release you and move on to the next.
And honesty is the best policy. In some cases if they truly believe that you have no interest, they may let you go well in advance of the 90-minute mark.
So, what's the best way to get targeted for one of these offers? One good source is the Hotel-specific (SPG, Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott) Flyertalk forums. If you look up the timeshare ownership thread in each forum, you can often reach out to existing owners who can then provide you with a referral offer for a similar deal to the one I received.