Article by: Quincey Ross
It was a great summer day by the seashore and the boardwalk was crowded.
Tourists Bob and Emily Sorenson and their two children had been casually strolling along enjoying the sights when they heard,
“Hi! Are you folks here on vacation?”
Bob turned to see a young lady snappily dressed in crisply starched khaki shorts and a white golf shirt.
She sat perched atop a high wooden stool next to a tiny exhibit booth just 3 feet away from the exit doorway of the area’s most popular souvenir shop.
Her eyes met Bob’s and she flashed a big smile. She repeated the question.
“Yes we are,” Bob responded.
“Well I have some nice complimentary welcome gifts for you if you’ll step over here,” said the highly trained, money-motivated, timeshare spider to the unsuspecting, tourist fly.
So began the Sorenson’s introduction to the timeshare machine.
No indeed. Spider’s highly effective selection process had applied a defined set of clues to cull this family from the masses.
She may have seen them park their expensive SUV.
Or maybe she had seen them exit a high-end restaurant or noticed the store names on their shopping bags.
She certainly noted how they dressed or maybe was impressed with Emily’s choice of designer handbag.
She saw they had kids or in lieu of the presence of children, would have searched for their wedding bands.
She may have spotted jewelry or other tell-tale signs of financial status.
Satisfied that they may meet her criteria, she had invited them into her lair.
Within three minutes she had verified the Sorenson’s marital status, discovered they owned their home, that they had credit cards, that they were not timeshare owners and that they had never been on a previous timeshare tour of the resort she represented.
And only when she was satisfied that they met the criteria did she offer them the chance to receive a very special incentive package in return for attending a ninety minute, no obligation resort presentation.
They happily agreed. Spider expertly contained her inner-glee. Their participation would contribute to her weekly bonus.
In this article I respectfully created this fictitious young lady ‘spider’ as an example of thousands of hard-working, often unappreciated, front-line personnel who perform the difficult and critical marketing function of ‘off property contact’ for timeshare resorts.
It’s done on boardwalks and in shopping malls, restaurants and hotel lobbies and, although solicitation laws have severely limited this practice in recent years, it is still nearly impossible to walk the streets of any resort town where this activity is not present in some form.
I am not sure who coined the phrase but the process of hawking families to take timeshare tours in front of businesses other than the actual resort itself is sometimes jovially called ‘other people’s customers’. It is, in its simplest form, just intercept marketing — intercepting the prospect while he is going about his vacation routine and when he least expects it.
In the good old days of the early eighties I was a sales representative and toured hundreds of prospects that had been solicited by these solicitors from breakfast houses and public areas.
I recall one promotion that awarded the prospect as few as five Susan B. Anthony silver dollars as the incentive to tour; and they came.
But timeshare was fairly new back then and so were the Susan B. Anthony silver dollars. And many people were unaware that the SBA silver dollar, unlike older issue silver dollar, had zero silver in it. It only contained copper and nickel so its value was often overestimated.
But as the public became more aware of timeshare and less willing to commit to the tour, it demanded higher incentive offerings. Today these incentives may cost the timeshare resort $200 or more. And that does not include the wages and healthy bonuses paid to the solicitors.
But I digress.
So the Sorenson family accepted the spider’s offer and showed up at the resort. Three and a half hours later they were still there. Their kids were getting antsy. They were hungry. Bob and Emily were tired. For over two hours they had been skillfully bombarded by their sales representative and his manager with a list of seemingly logical reasons that they needed to buy that timeshare, right then!
“This is a today only offer,” they were told. “It ends the minute you leave the building.”
“You’ll never have another opportunity like this,” the rep and manager chimed, shaking their collective heads in disbelief at Bob’s inability to recognize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“You said you like it,” they reminded.
“You said you would use it,” they stated, pointing out for the fifth time all the exotic vacation paradises their new timeshare would allow them to visit.
“And you said you could afford it, right?” they asked while again nodding their heads in unison as if to answer their own question.
And then, as if a switch had been flipped, the logic interrogation abruptly ended with an emotional statement.
“Do it for them,” the manager said, pointing to the kids as he reached to hand Bob a gold-plated Mont Blanc pen.
Bingo! The nerves have been struck… the heart-strings have been pulled. A transaction is consummated.
Welcome new timeshare owner.
A bell rang and they were congratulated over the public address system. All the salesmen applauded. A split of champagne was delivered to the table on a complimentary silver plated tray emblazoned with the resort’s logo.
Two hours and a barrage of paperwork later, following elaborate ‘closing’ and ‘verification’ processes, they were back on the street; silver tray, ‘free’ dining certificates and new owner’s kit in hand, and $25,000 lighter.
What the Hell just happened?
Welcome to the timeshare machine.