Archive for June, 2011

The Timeshare Debate

June 4, 2011

Disney's Approach to Timeshare is Much More Reasonable

[Editor’s Note: Today’s post was written by our good friend Heidi Strawser who hails from my home state of Pennsylvania.  Heidi has her own blog, Reviews and Reflections, which focuses on the things in her life that she loves the most—Christianity, family, homeschooling, Disney World, reading…just to name a few. I was so excited to see her when she stopped by my office last week. I knew she was in town, but didn’t expect her because she stayed on Disney property and did not stay with my vacation rental home company (which she talks about in today’s post.)

Her post today focuses on timeshares, which is a huge industry in Central Florida.  In essence, a timeshare means you are purchasing a “fractionalized ownership” in a dwelling. (Usually you own one week a year in a condominium type dwelling.) The most common technique timeshare companies use to sell their properties works like this. They hold up signs along the road advertising a ridiculously low price for theme park tickets. For about $20 they sell you a voucher and say that all you have to do is go a “short presentation” about a great resort. At that presentation, you’ll get food. When it’s over, you get your cheap tickets.

What happens during that presentation? Let’s just say that Heidi’s description below is consistent with my own experience as well as the experiences of lots of other people who went to a timeshare presentation. And hence the debate—are timeshares a legitimate option? I will be honest with you. I recognize that they are a “legal” option. (In other words, the selling of the timeshare is not, technically, illegal.) However, I believe they are an irresponsible option. Anytime an industry produces an overwhelming number of companies that have to lie (“the presentation only lasts an hour”), uses high pressure tactics (“let me have my supervisor speak with you”) or bullying behavior (“Stay seated, this won’t take much longer…”) then I believe such an industry should be avoided at all costs.

In her guest post, Heidi has graciously made several references to my vacation rental home company. At first, I thought I might edit them out for fear that they might be viewed as a shameless plug—or worse—that I had asked Heidi to plug my business. Of course, I did no such thing. In the end, I decided that Heidi wrote what she wrote and I would leave it as is, with very minor editing, and just be honest with you about it. Thanks, Heidi, for the kind words!—LanceAround]

My Thoughts on Timeshares

Heidi and Family

Recently, we spent some time in the central Florida area.  The reason for the visit was strictly business; but, with my family, when the opportunity to be within a stone’s throw of Walt Disney World comes up, we jump on it! 

My boss graciously offered to put us up in a timeshare complex (which shall not remain nameless – more on that later in this post).  But, we wanted more than just the Sunday – Sunday down there, especially since the last 3 days of that week would be devoted to working.  So, we traveled down early, decided to use some of the points we’ve been racking up on our Disney Visa, and stayed on Disney property for the first time ever.  (Now, let it be known that if I were traveling down with extended family or friends, or if I were not being given accommodations for free, I’d definitely rent through Florida Dream Homes – and I’m not just saying that because this is LanceAround’s blog. )

Anyway, we arrived at the Port Orleans Riverside on a Thursday afternoon. We decided to forego making any “real” plans for Friday, so that we could just hang out and enjoy what the resort had to offer.  I must say that we all enjoyed our stay at Port Orleans and would definitely consider returning in the future. 

While there, we were greeted in the lobby by one of the “spokespeople” for the Disney Vacation Club – a precious British lady who was lots of fun to chat with and spent extra time conversing with the children. When she asked if we’d be interested in taking some time to learn more about the Disney Vacation Club, I think we were a little wary at first. We’ve been roped into these timeshare speeches in the past and they’re never pleasant.  However, something about the way she presented it made it sound so appealing – “it will only take an hour of your time . . . there is a special room for the younger children to play in while you do the tour . . . it’s a no-pressure sales pitch (could this be true?!) . . . afterwards, you’ll be treated to ice cream in our on-site ice cream parlor . . . each member of your family will receive a $15 gift certificate to be used anywhere on Disney property.”  An hour?  $75?  Ice cream?  Yep, we can handle that.

And it was EXACTLY as it was represented.  We dropped our two younger children (ages 10 and 5) off in the children’s area (they were thrilled!). The rest of us were  greeted by our representative who sat down with us in a living-room-like environment, took about 10-15 minutes to talk about the program, how it worked, and how much it cost. Then, he showed us around 3 different “samples” of the resort accommodations. Afterwards, we got our ice cream and our gift cards, and the van driver whisked us off to Downtown Disney (our choice).  No pressure, fun, yummy, and the kids enjoyed spending their gift cards (truthfully, so did we).

Fast forward a few days and we found ourselves leaving Disney and moving to the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort.  Our front desk check-in experience was less than pleasant. Then, when we finally were allowed to check in, we were told we needed to go to another desk for a parking pass. At that desk, it “was our lucky day”. . . “because we were from PA, we were lucky enough to be eligible for a free breakfast and resort tour the next day.”  Seriously?!  We were going to pass, having just seen the Disney Vacation Club a few days prior, but my boss wanted to do it for the “cheap” Disney tickets.

When we got there, we were immediately separated from my boss and her family, who ended up skipping out on the whole thing.  We weren’t so lucky.  First, we were escorted to an area with lots of little “rooms” (tables and chairs) and told to help ourselves to the “breakfast”.  What?!  Individually wrapped, dry, hard pastries?!  Already, we were getting a bad taste in our mouths (pun intended). We were told that our representative was busy but would be with us shortly.  Already the kids were getting restless, but we waited (thinking my boss was putting up with this same treatment in another area of the facility).

It LOOKS Like a Resort, But by the End of Your Timeshare Presentation You Might Wonder If You Are in a Prison!

When our representative finally did arrive, he started trying to sell us a timeshare.  What was promised to take an hour and a half of our time was extended to almost double that.  The promised $75 gift card suddenly didn’t seem worth it. Despite our attempts to explain to him that we weren’t interested in purchasing a timeshare, it wasn’t something we were considering, and it wasn’t currently in the budget, he continued to push and push and push.  And, he got rude about it too.  If his rudeness weren’t enough to turn us off, his lies were – he told us things about the Disney program that were out and out wrong (and he knew we had just heard that sales pitch a few days earlier).

I could go on and on and share in detail some of the things that were said, but I’m trying to put it behind me.  Let’s just say that if I had been considering purchasing a timeshare, I definitely would NOT be purchasing from Wyndham!  The $75 gift card really turned out to be only $65, as the card was rejected when we attempted to use the last $10 on it.

Now, I’m not complaining about the accommodations at the Bonnet Creek Resort – they were lovely and very comfortable. However, the staff was less than accommodating and the experience with the timeshare pitch was so disappointing.  I think we learned a few important lessons from this experience – – –

  • Say NO to those timeshare “deals” unless it’s at the Disney Vacation Club.
  • If you’re going to be in the Orlando/Disney area, I’d recommend either staying on Disney property or renting a Florida Dream Home through LanceAround’s company.  (We’ve done the hotel thing and I could write a whole other post about some of those experiences.)
  • Oh, and one more thing, if you’re traveling from the north, you may want to go during a different time of year.  May in central FL is HOT!

Boba Fett Shouts Out to J and Mo

June 2, 2011

Boba Fett's Advice to J and Mo is Simple--"Be Cool"

Last month Edward James Olmos, who portrayed Commander Adama in the new Battlestar Galatica, gave a shout out to our good friends J and Mo, who love science fiction. Perhaps their favorite sci-fi of all time is Star Wars. J even proclaims he’s a Jedi bfa. So I knew that when Jeremy Bulloch came to Disney World for a Star Wars Weekend Jeremy would want to give a special shout out to J and Mo.

You see, Jeremy portrayed Boba Fett, the bounty hunter, in the original Star Wars Trilogy.

Sure enough, as soon as I introduced myself as the blogger LanceAround, he immediately recorded this message to J and Mo. We suspect there’s a deeper, hidden message embedded inside this video so listen very carefully:

I asked Jeremy how he became so popular when playing a character who was completely covered in costume. He suggested that he has so much charisma, it just oozed out of the costume and onto the screen. Makes sense to me.

And in case you’re wondering how we managed to smuggle this highly sensitive video out of from under the noses of the dreaded Imperial Stormtroopers, well, it wasn’t easy. Number One Daughter had to use the Jedi mind trick to get the video out.

Don’t believe me? Seeing is believing…