Scratch and Win!

by Nancy Bestor

I’m the first person to admit to the fact that I am a saleswoman. I have been for most of my life. The first real job I ever had was when I was 16 and worked in Macy’s handbag department. And here I am, 31 (cough cough) years later, still selling bags—and luggage and clothing and travel accessories—in my very own retail store. Since I’ve been in sales for so long, I sympathize with the Fuller Brush salesmen of the world. As such, I have a hard time hanging up the phone when I get a cold sales call. It’s also difficult for me to shut my front door when someone is on my porch touting the benefits of a product (and for all my neighborhood Girl and Boy Scouts out there, if it’s a child selling ANYTHING, I am always a yes). But try and sell me a timeshare, and I am O-U-T. Immediately.

I have friends with timeshares, and I admit to taking advantage of their discounted condo rates around the world. But when someone tries to offer me “two free nights stay at a luxury resort” if I’ll just listen to a 90 minute presentation on XYZ resort, my hackles immediately go up. I’m just not interested in listening to a presentation, or buying into any kind of timeshare deal. Not one bit. Which leads me to the subject of this story. (Yes, sometimes I take a long time to tell my stories.)

My family and I were on St. Martin in the Caribbean last month, minding our own business, walking through the cute town of Marigot, when a friendly and attractive young woman approached us with a postcard and asked if we’d like to play a scratch and win game and get “at the very least” a free drink on the beach? Sure,we told her, why not? Had I scrutinized the postcard, I would have gotten my first clue that something was fishy. The postcard looked a little worse for wear. It was ripped in one spot and several corners were bent. And it had a lovely picture of the “Dawn Beach Club” on the front. As we were scratching, the gal gave us a few more details. Matching two items out of six meant a free drink, which we could redeem on our own at the Dawn Beach Club. Matching three out of six, however, meant we would win $1000! And she would get $200 commission on her own for bringing us to the Club with the winning postcard! Guess what?! Yep, we won $1000! Just like that! She jumped up and down with “excitement” when she saw the good news! All we had to do was walk with her to the Club to claim our winnings! Oh there was just one more thing though. We would also have to sit for a 90-minute presentation on vacation ownership. Wah wah wah.

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Much to the cute woman’s surprise, we handed back the “winning” postcard, and told her we weren’t interested. She said over and over, “really? REALLY?” It reminded me of the magazine subscription salesmen on my college campus many moons ago. The young attractive men would get unsuspecting college women to sign up for magazine subscriptions with little more than flattery and jokes. If you first tried to tell them you were not interested in subscribing to any of their many, many magazine options, they were incredulous. (I may or may not have subscribed to three magazines while in college. In my defense, the men were really attractive.)

I’m certain that timeshare ownership is right for some people. It’s not the timeshare ownership I’m opposed to. To me, it just feels a bit underhanded the way timeshare properties get people to attend their presentations. The letters or postcards in the mail, telling me I’ve “won” a cruise or weekend vacation at a fancy resort, the “free” drinks or dinner I’m offered, all to get me to sit for 90 minutes learning about buying opportunities. It rubs me the wrong way. If you want me to attend a timeshare presentation, I have an idea….. hire a 10-year-old Girl Scout to knock on my front door. I guarantee she’ll get me to sign up. And if I get some Girl Scout cookies in the process, even better.

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