Why did people buy timeshares, and why do they stay members?

Holiday experts, property gurus and finance advisors universally agree: timeshare is dated, constricting and makes zero economic sense. So why did perfectly sensible people make (and continue with) a choice that goes against their best interests?

At one time, timeshare ownership definitely made sense

Believe it or not, in the 1980s and 90s, timeshare solved a genuine problem. Brits were so fed up of ‘Holidays from Hell’ (where people saw stunning pictures in a brochure, but arrived to find the accommodation of a low standard and/or in a poor state of repair) that they were prepared to pay a substantial amount of money to guarantee the higher standards that timeshare offered them.

The trouble is that the rest of the travel industry modernised. You can now accurately tell the standard of your accommodation from reviews on TripAdvisor. You can even book into actual timeshare complexes via Booking.Com for often less than the timeshare owners themselves pay in fees.

There was almost no choice but to take a presentation

Visitors to the Canaries, Spain and Portugal in the last two decades of the 20th century were harangued to a degree that holidaymakers of today would find it difficult to comprehend. Timeshare touts were everywhere. A 200 metre walk to the beach would mean being relentlessly and determinedly propositioned by literally dozens of commission only reps called OPCs. These people would not take no for an answer.

OPCs got paid handsomely for persuading you to attend a presentation and did not care how they got you to do it. They would lie, bribe you with cigarettes and duty free booze or offer waterpark tickets and car hire. They would use fake scratch-cards and convince you that you had won money or a holiday.

In the end many people gave in and went to see the timeshare complex, perhaps thinking “let’s just get it over with.” But doing the presentation didn’t end the harassment. Once a prospect had survived one tour, they were seen as an easy target and descended on by more touts to attend the many other timeshare sales operations in the area.

There was a VERY sophisticated sales process

If you are wondering why perfectly intelligent people change their mindset so drastically from “we are definitely not going to sign anything” to being comfortable with a buying decision on the day, you may not be surprised to know that there is an incredibly intricate methodology that successful timeshare companies teach their sales staff.

This sales process has been reported on in detail, but it basically works by the sales agent gaining your trust enough to get honest answers about your holiday issues, then using those answers against you in their presentation.

Not one word that the sales person says to you during a timeshare presentation was accidental or wasted. They are not your friend, they don’t like, respect or care about you. To them you are a puzzle to be solved, and if they do it right, they earn themselves a healthy commission.

If customers could be a fly on the wall in the sales team bar after work they would be mortified to see their ‘new best friend’ roaring with laughter at how they fooled their latest clients. Customers would soon see that they are viewed as prey and a means to the end of earning money, nothing more.

People don’t want to feel foolish

It is human nature to occasionally defend our decisions even when they are wrong. To a greater or lesser degree, we all do it. Admitting to doing something that later proves to have been a mistake can make people feel embarrassed and one way of avoiding that embarrassment is to dig in and defend something even though you know it didn’t turn out to be the best choice.

Timeshare owners are no different anyone else. As long as the maintenance hikes are gradual, and other changes are staggered over the course of years, they barely notice that their position has changed so much that their resort is now available to non members for less than members are paying in fees.

Add to that the fact that challenging their resort requires effort and commitment. It may feel easier for many people to accept the new conditions than to face the apparent conflict of fighting for their rights.

People don’t know they can leave

Timeshare contracts appear ironclad. After people realise they are stuck in something that didn’t only cost a fortune to join, but even costs more than normal holidays in annual fees, they often wish they had not chosen to join. The trouble is that the contract they signed on that optimistic afternoon in a sun kissed timeshare sales deck, now looks impossible to escape from.

You can relinquish a timeshare contract, but it usually requires professional help.

For anyone who bought in Spain, in or after 1999, protective consumer laws mean that there is a strong chance your contract is illegal. This would mean you can not only escape, but also claim significant compensation from your resort.

It is difficult to know who to trust

Those people who want to escape from their timeshare, and/or claim compensation for mis-selling have yet another challenge. There are far more fraudulent claims companies than trustworthy ones, and the risk of losing money yet again to scamsters is too worrying for a lot of members.

Members need to know not only that the claims company they are dealing with is honest, but also capable of delivering on their promises. Without this guarantee, there is less incentive to change what they are doing. Continuing with their current path, even with its faults and negative aspects can seem less dangerous than the unknown of taking the decision to retain a claims company. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, as they say.

Fortunately there are several ways to make sure you are dealing with a trustworthy and capable organisation. TrustPilot and Google reviews are a good reflection of other consumers’ experiences with that company. Also there are sites that will help you do your own research, and consumer associations that are happy to advise you for free.

One other thing to look out for are companies that have video reviews from actual customers, rather than just written reviews.

For confidential, no obligation advice on options for escaping your timeshare, get in touch with the team at European Consumer Claims (ECC)

ECC provides timeshare claims services, expert advice and help

E: (for media enquiries): mark.jobling@ecc-eu.com

E: (for client enquiries) EUROPE: info@ecc-eu.com USA:info@americanconsumerclaims.com

T: EUROPE: +44800 6101 512 / +44 203 6704 616. USA: 1–877 796 2010

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Andrew Cooper background article can be read here

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First published on MyNewsDesk May 2022



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