Sparkling aquamarine waters lap hungrily at the coarse beige sands of Cabo San Lucas. Quite an incongruous locale for vultures. Unsuspecting first-time visitors incite a feeding frenzy among the seemingly innumerable masses of timeshare salespeople.
If you’ve never flown into Los Cabos airport, you have no point of reference for the scavenger-like feel created by the flock of well-groomed marketers descending upon the innocent. It’s worse than being circled by sharks.
“Don’t talk to anyone,” my friends warned us. “They will say they can help you, but it will cost you hours in a timeshare presentation.”
Even inside the airport at the stand clearly marked “Taxi”, the carnivorous salespeople are after blood. Or make that money. Lots of it. More than $40,000 – and we’re not talking pesos here.
We reached the rental car company van and believe we’re saved. It’s an island of refuge from the sea of bottom-feeders. Until you step out at the rental agency’s headquarters.
That good-looking guy chatting you up about where to go for shopping and activities? Yep, he really wants to corner you for hours and badger you into purchasing a timeshare. Points or weeks, I don’t really know. I don’t want to find out. I just came here for the sunshine, to escape the constant dreariness of Oregon in December.
Whew! You make it out of there without agreeing to listen to a “short” spiel. We must be home free. We have our $2.30 for the toll road. Things are looking up.
We pull into the well-groomed grounds of what appears to be an enormous Spanish hacienda. Arches, pink stucco, marble floors and a Christmas tree to rival the one adorning the Macy float greet you. Shoulders relax and you can imagine the kiss of equatorial sunshine on your face.
This nice lady, Elisa, she’s a hotel representative, your personal concierge. I must be an imbecile! She’s the front man for the evil timeshare mobsters.
“We’d like to invite you to breakfast tomorrow. It’s a beautiful buffet and afterward, you’ll take a 90-minute tour of our sister property. In return, we’ll give you a fabulous Gold card which guarantees you discounts of 15% or more on all your food and activities.”
Save money? Do I really need to hear more? The kids will sleep until 11. We’ll be back from the 90-minute deal by 10:30 at the latest. Why not?
Oh foolish, foolish Americano! You’ve been stabbed in the thigh, near the femoral artery with the gilded knife of anesthesia. You feel no pain.
Until you can’t even enjoy the buffet breakfast because the lovely Adrianna is quizzing you about your vacation habits.
“You own a timeshare. What are your biggest complaints about it?”
Next time, I swear I’m going to say, “I can’t ever use it without being hounded about buying more time.” Forget about not getting reservations where I want at the time I want (number one complaint, apparently).
I want to vacation without being circled by carrion-eaters.
Adrianna smiles and promises she will be finished with her tour in 90 minutes or less. I should have started the timer on my smart phone. Even after 15 years as a timeshare owner, I still believe this fabrication.
She did finish before the time limit. The penthouse was jaw-dropping, but I’ll never be able to afford to rent it. Or if I finally save up enough points, all the weeks will be booked for three years solid. And yet, I imagine myself entertaining my editor or agent while the Sea of Cortez sings in the background.
“This is my teammate, Lisa.” And the lovely Adrianna disappears, handing us over to the drooling pack of hyenas without a backward glance.
“We’re buying a house.” This is our legitimate – and truthful (not that these people understand anything about honesty) – excuse.
It sounds good. We’re considering trading our current membership on seven Mexican resorts and Interval International Chairman-level exchange privileges.
But, we’re buying a house. “Amigos. We don’t take social security numbers. It won’t appear on your credit report.”
Except there’s no way we’re paying 12 percent on any amount for even three months. Refinancing in the states will show up on the credit report and undo all of the progress we’ve made in the loan process thus far.
So our friend Lisa passes us off to a young blonde thing who wants to “make sure we were treated right.” And she presents a different, less costly plan for buying into the resort.
Really? We’re still smiling at the end of this, but we’re beginning to feel the pressure. The hungry snouts are pressing against our calves. The slavering beasts make my forehead bead with sweat.
And smiling Fernando, “I can’t sit as long as senora is standing” proceeds with an offer that will just guarantee that in a year we can come back and get the same pricing for this unbelievable vacation spot. Doesn’t no mean no – even in Spanish?
He actually does let us rate our experience before he tries to give us this “final offer.” If he would’ve asked afterwards, the scores would not have been above 5.
“We’ll get your incentives,” he says, still pretending to be a polite boy who cares about us. The proverbial crow in sparrow wings we discover as Pedro enters the room.
How about six weeks free? How about eight weeks anywhere in the world? We’ll knock the price down even more and double the point value and give you eighteen months to consider our offer.
What about ten weeks? No sane person would turn down such an offer. Surely you can afford $1,000.
And finally, we exit the den of thieves. “This lovely lady will get your discount card and you’ll be on your way.”
It’s another ruse. The prices highlighted in yellow are good only if you book the events right at this moment. If you walk out the door, you will lose this incredible discount. We are traveling with four other people and haven’t discussed our schedule.
“I will give you six tickets on that sunset dinner cruise free if you take a taxi over to the Pacific side and view our resort.”
Yes, it’s another red-headed vulture staring us down with beady eyes. We pretend not to hear her offer of free taxi rides and additional discounts.
Do these people think we came to sunny Cabo in December to sit inside and listen to presentations the entire time? Maybe they’re as misguided as we were.
We book our dinner cruise (for my birthday) and run away. Is it my imagination or do I feel hot breath on the back of my neck?
There’s no escort out of the labyrinth into which we’ve been lead. But I see the sunlight. Soon we find the sparkling waters and make a break for the beach.
Time 12:30. Elapsed time spent on this 90-minute tour: 4 hours. I should feel lucky. A couple who bought, spent four-and-a-half hours with the flock of buzzards.
Three hours lounging sea-side with a book and a bottle of water, surrounded by my family, almost redeems the day. Almost.
Hopefully, I’ve learned my lesson. The timeshare vultures are all around you in Cabo.
Trust no one – especially if they smile and offer to help you.