Dodgy timeshare sales companies sink even lower

Link:  South African blogger sued for defamation by time share company

I do not have a good view of timeshare sales companies.  We were contacted by one of these companies a while ago - they said we had entered a competition and had won a digital camera.  The digital camera turned out to be a piece of junk but we did agree to buy 21 days at a nature reserve just outside of Warmbaths on the Settlers Road that almost seemed too good to be true.  Of course it was too good to be true.  Without detracting too much from this story, the sales company went under during the first months of our contract and we were not able to place bookings for a good couple of months.  The reserve counted our contract as starting on the day we signed with the sales company and managed to steal four days off us by taking advantage of this administrative nightmare.

Unfortunately, this was not QVC and I can't submit an affidavit to help Donn Edwards from Insights and Rants.  He is being sued by QVC, a South African timeshare company, because he blogged about them using the marketing scam of telling him he had won a car to get him to attend a presentation on timeshare.  I was surprised to note that there are in fact laws against this and that the Timeshare Institute of Southern Africa has a code of conduct. 

He also alleged that QVC and the company it had employed to market its product had violated the Timeshare Institute of Southern Africa's code of conduct by not clearly stating in their fax to his wife that the presentation they were to attend as competition finalists was for any other purpose; that none of the gifts or prizes, or the names of previous winners, were on display at the venue as required by the code; and that the telesales person had not made it clear that the purpose of the contact was to sell timeshare.
From article.

I'm not too sure how it works in other countries but in South Africa, these companies are constantly phoning up trying to trick people into attending presentations; these presentations always use hard sell practices and take place in a stressful and rushed environment; you are always encouraged to put huge sums of money upfront onto a credit card and to pay it off over 3 years; and the administration companies selling the packages on behalf of the destinations often go under leaving a mess behind them.  We were lucky not to lose all our money but we still got burnt.

Given that they are sharks and the South African public already knows this, what on earth would possess QVC to enter into such a high profile case such as this?  Do they think we will suddenly look at their efforts as proof that they are in the right?  If so, they are sorely deluded.  I think the Timeshare Institute of Southern Africa must dedicate more resources into shutting down these hard selling techniques. 

If it is so hard to sell timeshare using legitimate techniques, is it not possible that perhaps the product itself is flawed?

Before you see all of your future possible beach holidays running down the drain, it is possible to sign up with QVC and RCI direct without getting tied in to one destination or going through a middle-man (these are the people that usually contact you).  However, there are usually two important aspects of your interaction at these sales presentations that should be considered (they are all slightly different of course but bear with me):  in order to truly get you to buy in (and to pay for the car / digital camera etc) you are asked to commit to an immediate and expensive buy in.  Once you add up the interest that you pay on that amount over the three years, plus the fact that people often don't make bookings due to the administrative red tape, you can see that you are paying way over the odds and they are laughing all the way to the bank.  In addition to this, some companies then ask for an annual administrative fee on top of this lump sum, usually payable after your first year.  It just doesn't make financial sense.

At the end of the day, nothing in life is free.  Think of all the gimmicks and sales presentations that go with a timeshare deal; think of the 'prizes', the commissions given to the telesales agent and the spotty young kid hard-selling at the presentation; think of the websites, advertising, administrative staff and all that goes into a timeshare offering.  Then think of the interest rate on your credit card.  After all of that, someone still gets a tidy profit.  You pay for all of this.  Like I said, it seems to me like the product is flawed and perhaps should be removed from the market altogether.  Believe me - if you do your sums correctly you will see that it is simply cheaper to go into a reputable travel agent and pick up one of their specials, or do a web search of reputable lodges or bed and breakfasts in the area.  As long as you are reading reviews and doing your research, you can cut out all of the rubbish and save yourself serious money.

As for Donn Edwards and blogger freedom - companies need to understand that simply reporting our experiences and whether they were positive or negative is not defamation.  The whole world market is moving towards honesty and legitimacy in the sales and advertising of goods and services.  If you start the ball rolling and sue someone for defamation, you need to ensure that your actions are 100% beyond reproach.  Calling someone up and telling them they have won a car so that you can hard-sell a deeply flawed product and encourage them to put it on their credit card without giving them proper debt counselling is not beyond reproach.

If you'd like to read more blogger's views on this matter, visit these posts:
Walter Pike
Chris M
Get Closure
Guy McLaren
Of Relevance