My family and I were walking through The Bass Proshop a month or so ago and this guy kept following us around. He was trying to hock a vacation off on us through his company. He’s one of those guys that stand in certain types of stores and tries to get you to sign up for vacations with “benefits.” This particular one was for a trip to the Smokey Mountains – Pigeon Forge, TN to be exact, for a discounted price on a 3-day, 2-night stay. I’m the nice one, so of course I started replying to some of his questions, and the next thing I know, we’ve suddenly signed up for this trip.
First thing I do upon getting back home is look up Bluegreen Travels … Lord have mercy. They have pages upon pages of negative reviews, complaints, lawsuits, etc. I had a sick feeling in my stomach, but at the same time it was kind of a lose-lose situation because if you cancelled, they would turn around and charge you a $100 cancelation fee. So, spilling the news to my wife, I began to plan for the worse while also planning for our vacation.
The deal for the package was this: we would receive a discounted vacation in a nice hotel/motel of their choice in Pigeon Forge in exchange for listening to them pitch a timeshare deal for 2 hours on a selected day. No obligation to buy, just listen and you get the discount, plus, $100 in Bass Pro Shop gift cards. We aren’t usually in a Bass Pro Shop, but hey, it’s $100, so it wasn’t all bad.
To speed things up a bit, our vacation was this past weekend. We arrived at our hotel Saturday evening around 4PM, and it was a pretty nice hotel. Well, I take that back, it was a motel because the rooms were accessed from outside. The Oak Tree Lodge was actually a very nice place to stay and I was impressed right off the bat. They had just finished remodeling the entire hotel, the staff was friendly, their pool was very nice with a splash area for younger kids, a giant slide, an indoor pool if it was raining outside, private balconies at the rear of each room that overlook their own zip line attraction and horse stables where you could get discounted horse rides. Nice motel! A standard 3-day/2-night stay costs around $227.00 with taxes and all. We spent a total of $99 for our visit, with the Bluegreen “special.” The reception desk was also very cool, allowing you to purchase tickets to many of the local area attractions for discounted prices. We even received free tickets to the Ripley’s Aquarium when we mentioned the brochure they had in our room.
Not to be all sunshine and roses, we did still have the 2 hour sales pitch, which was scheduled for 8:30 AM Sunday morning. When we arrived, it was packed. Everyone had received a different deal depending on where they signed up for the package at. We were all ushered into a conference room together and given a 2 hour pitch by some obnoxious guy who thought he was hilarious. He immediately started telling us what we were thinking, how we were all planning on getting out of the sales pitch, why we were stupid, how we deserved to strike back at all the rich snobby folks by buying their product, etc. He was – as they young kids these days would say – a douche.
After the pitch was over we had one more step to complete. We had to go meet their sales representatives and hear all the dirty details like, just how much this fabulous life-changing product would cost us. Now, at this point, you have to understand my reasoning. My wife was pissed, despite the benefits we were getting out of sacrificing this part of our day, but I was elated to be able and screw with these people. If they wanted to “waste” 2 hours of my time, then I could surely return the favor, right? Sure, sure, it was “wasting” my time as well, but I was eating up the time they had available to them in making sales with other folks if I was busy discussing plans with the, right? If you don’t understand my crazy thinking, don’t worry. My wife didn’t either.
So, the pitch is something like this: Timeshares are changing. No one wants to own the same property all the time, they want to move around and take different vacations all over the U.S. and the world. So all these resorts came together to offer “points.” You don’t buy real estate anymore, you invest in and buy points. From 5000 to 60000 points each year. But you don’t buy them forever, you only buy them until your particular plan is paid for, then you continue to receive those points for the rest of your life. You’re able to pass them on to your children and their children, etc. There are other benefits, too. Things such as “Bonus Weeks,” and “Free Days,” a personal travel agency that alone costs $1500 a year but is thrown in for free and so on and so forth. The catch is, all of this only come with a 20,000 point package and up. It’s called some type of special certificate club or something, I have honestly forgotten. But it’s suppose to be a special, esteemed accomplishment to be one of these folks.
The catch? To purchase the 20,000 points a year package Bluegreen wants to sell you, the asking price is over $30,000. They wanted $6,575 down that day and then you make $597 a month payments until your financing of the $30,000 is paid in full. After that, you continue to get the points for the rest of your life – yadda, yadda.
I got the full tour. I looked at all the model rooms available, asked about locations, got them to show me specs and comparisons on what I pay per year out of pocket for vacations vs. what they could offer me. And I will give them this: if you have the money to blow and can afford a couple of years of nearly $600 a month payments, then it might be worth it. After all, this is supposedly something that can be passed on for generations – or at least as long as the company is in business and making money. Oh, and as long as the places you want to go are available at the times you want to go at … don’t forget that very important part.
Anyways, $30,000+ and you’re financing this. Folks, by the time I left there, an extra hour and a half after their pitch, this is what they were begging me to take the package – minus points but with all benefits intact, for $9,000. They’re going to tell me what a grand deal I’m getting with the $30,000 package, but then by the time you get up to walk out, they’re knocking $21,000 dollars off the price and asking you to reconsider.
So they finally take my “no” for an answer – our sales rep is already looking upset. She’s bent over backward, been polite, took us through all the model living spaces, gotten our son a Dr. Pepper and some popcorn, made very awkward conversation. Just doing her job of trying to shake money out of our pockets. And as we are preparing to leave her boss tells her and us, “These folks are great. They’ve been so great to hear us out. Mark them in the books as Gold clients and give them something special.” So our sales rep tells us to hold on, they’ve got something special just for us before we leave.
We follow her into a room to receive our “special, just for us” surprise. Well, it seems it wasn’t really just for us because this room has 3 other people that have said no already. This is their final plea for money. She sets us down at a table and gives us some barebones scraps. If we’ll please, PLEASE just give them $697 before we leave, they’ll give us a free trial year of points and benefits. At the end of the year, if we like it, we can then begin financing options.
She sighs heavily and escorts us to the checkout desk where they give us our Bass Pro gift card. As we walk out I thank her for her valuable time and tell her to have a good weekend. She touches me on the chest and says, “Pray for me. Pray that my next group is nothing like you.”
And we part ways. My day was fantastic knowing I’d drained her of any hope whatsoever
So, we had a nice vacation that – really, by the time you factor in the $100 gift card, was free since we paid $99 out of pocket. We enjoyed Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg and had a big old family time. While there, we were approached by two other people offering similar deals! I politely declined because I want nothing else to do with anything along those lines. Maybe one day when I have money to piss away on something that really isn’t “mine” but a shared property, then I’ll do it, but right now, I’ll just go on paying for my vacations by earning them the old fashioned way – working and saving money to take my family on memorable moments.
Thanks for the vacation, Bluegreen, we’ll be heading to Bass Pro later this week to spend the rest of that gift card.