Selling the Dream
My first full day in Orlando was my none Disney day. I quickly learnt that in Orlando there is no such thing as a discounted Disney Park ticket. A discount ticket is a gift for a time share presentation. I have zero interest in buying a time share but when the woman at the Discount Ticket Booth told me that if I went to a hotel for 90 minutes I would get a free Magic Kingdom ticket, it seemed like a pretty sweet deal to me. A chance to have a look around a nice hotel, have a free breakfast and save myself about 120 dollars off my Disney ticket. I work in hotels and I work in sales, I was curious to see how a timeshare presentation worked. Maybe I would learn a few things. It saddened me a little that I was old enough to be a time share candidate. It saddened me more that I technically did not make enough money to qualify.
I planned my day with my driver Trevor. He would pick me up bright and early and take me to the timeshare presentation. After I would take the trolley to the Prime Outlets, shop all day, take the trolley to the Premium Outlets where he would pick me up and take me back to my hotel. As I got ready that morning I told myself over and over again that no matter what, no matter how beautiful the hotel or how convincing the sales people, I would not hand over any money. No matter what. I arrived at the hotel and completed some forms while I waited in line to check in. Everyone around me was theme park ready in their mom jeans, white Nikes and raincoats. They were also antsy. “This will only take 90 minutes right?”, “When we getting the free tickets?”. The sales people/ crowd control, were understandably hostile. Foolishly so. An environment of hostility hardly makes me want to invest in a life long commitment. If life has taught me anything, a glass of bubbly goes a long way to shut up complainers but alas no beverages were produced. I felt like cattle but I was also enjoying the show. I filled out the form with a couple of little lies, my job title and my annual income to be exact. I was dressed nice enough to convincingly pass for my in-my-dreams salary I wrote down, and I was sure no one was going to check.
Part of the time share deal was a free breakfast. I am a Breakfast Groupie and I was excited to see what spread they had laid on for us potential buyers. My heart sank when I seen the buffet, especially as I had just heard the news that Taco Bell now sells breakfast. They had skinny, anemic sausages, recently unwrapped cinnamon rolls, canned fruit salad and fruit punch, from a machine. As if that wasn’t bad enough they served it on polystyrene plates with plastic cutlery. Construction work drowned out the music, the carpet was dirty and the room smelled of fart. I was in hell. Someone came over and told me that there had been a mistake and I did not qualify for the time share presentation. I puffed myself up for a fight. Was it because I was a single woman? Misogynist pig. Was it because I was Scottish? No, someone, somewhere decided that I was too young for a time share. They had mysteriously written on my paperwork that I was 20. A small tear formed at the corner of my eye. My frown lines instantly erased and I was a stone lighter. Someone, somewhere, thinks I look 20. This thought alone would keep me from experiencing a depressive episode way into my twilight years. People think that I am 20. I could have flown out of the room there on a lifelong high, but I wanted my Magic Kingdom ticket. I had come this far. I reluctantly produced my ID. In a flash I clearly became a viable candidate for a time share. I was rich, touching 30 and obviously slightly delusional. The Supervisor came to join me at the breakfast table. We made small talk for a minute. She almost fell off her chair when I told her I was traveling alone. It’s not splitting the atom Lady, I was just vacationing solo for a few days.
Then it was straight down to business, I had to fill out a test. “Write down all the reasons why you would not buy a timeshare today”. What…. I hadn’t studied for this presentation. This was your sales pitch? THIS?! I wrote down want she wanted me to write, being tied down to one property, large lump sum etc etc. What I didn’t write down was that I actually had zero interest in buying a timeshare, ever. For some reason I wanted to play the game. I wanted them to court me as a successful professional. I wanted them to think that I was different from the others in the room, I wasn’t here for the free ticket, I was here for an investment. Also, I had some time to kill. It was early and I didn’t have anywhere to rush off to. The supervisor did some extremely complicated and ludicrous calculations based on how many holidays I take a year. I was going to spend 10 billion dollars on traveling in my lifetime. “See? What do you think when you look at that number?”. She circled the figure ten times. ” … maybe I should take less vacations?” I responded. She asked me if I wanted to sign up for the timeshare program then and there. I suggested that perhaps I might want to see the pool before I wrote her a cheque. She took me around the canteen showing me pictures of the owner, The Time Share King, with various celebrities. “Do you know who that is? That’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. Do you know who that is? That’s Sylvester Stallone”. I didn’t mention to the supervisor that we do have televisions in Scotland. We actually invented them. And Jingle All The Way is obviously one of the best Christmas movies of all time. We went to a gallery room devoted to why Orlando is a great place to invest in. Rather than speak to me directly, she made me listen in on one of the sales guys pitch to a couple. It felt a bit creepy to be essentially eavesdropping and silently following them around the room. I shoved my fist in my mouth to restrain myself from correcting all the facts he got wrong about Disney. You can’t fool a former Cast Member. We then silently followed this couple and their sale person into a one bedroom showroom. It was nice, but nothing special. The supervisor explained I could save 6 million dollars by cooking in the kitchen myself rather than eating out.
I found myself back in the stinky room, the supervisor shouting over the sound of the construction. She had two pieces of papers with different figures circled around them ten times. She asked me what I thought of the numbers. I told them the numbers were fine. She was practically breathless with excitement. She did not explain what I got for that money. If that figure was the cost to buy the whole hotel, then yes, it was fine. She asked me if I was going to sign up for the timeshare that day. I told her that that was not going to happen. The money was not a problem. Her eardrums exploded. The problem was … the hotel wasn’t all that nice. There was construction everywhere. The room I was shown looked like my apartment. I don’t even cook at home let alone while on vacation. And worse of all, I had been served breakfast on polystyrene plates. I wanted to be sold the dream. And I hadn’t. This was not even somewhere I would like to stay for a couple of nights, let alone make a 20 year commitment. The big manager was brought over to my table. “She says the money is not the problem but that we never sold her the dream”. I told him the exact same thing. I almost asked him for a job. His salespeople were so incredibly incompetent. I would be shocked to learn that they had ever sold even one unit. Wow me. Show me the pool so I can imagine myself laying out in the sun. Take me to your best room so I can picture breakfast in bed with the best views of Orlando. Give me a sumptuous breakfast with a little bit of bubbly to loosen my purse strings. You are in the city of magic, sell me the dream.
The supervisor asked me again if I wanted to make an investment that day. I told her I did not. She asked me to sign to confirm that I was not interested. I signed my name, looked up and she was gone. No goodbye, no thank you. I pocketed the pen and left. Being a bad salesperson is one thing but being plain rude is unforgivable. This was a hotel chain I would not even like to spend one night in. With my free Magic Kingdom ticket in hand, I left. Mission accomplished. I had had a little fun for 90 minutes and saved myself 120 dollars.
Did I ever tell you about the time someone thought I looked 20?