As a LazySnob, I donât like wasting my precious weekend time being fed sales pitches. So it was quite out of character for me to agree to attend a marketing presentation by a local timeshare development company. It must have been the offer of a free iPod or weekend getaway coupled with the ironclad guarantee that the presentation wouldnât be longer than 90 minutes. And I was assured that I was under no obligation to buy anything. Still, I had to convince my fiancÃ©e to come with me.
We showed up, watched the slick marketing presentation, and were scuttled off to chat with a sales guy. This was the first time I was hearing much about how timesharing worked other than through bits and pieces I had heard on TV and through friends. The basic concept seemed appealing: buy an interest in a timeshare property that entitles you to a fixed number of points (through RCI, one of the largest timesharing collectives out there), which could in turn be exchanged for hotel stays throughout the world. The number of points needed for a stay varies depending on the popularity of the location and the time of year, but it seemed that with a decent amount of planning and a dose of good luck we could get the equivalent of one to seven weeks of vacation stays each and every year in perpetuity.
As a soon-to-be-married couple, the prospect of vacations for life seemed intriguing. The value proposition described by the marketing staff was also compelling. Hotel accommodation costs will naturally go up with inflation. The acquisition cost of the timeshare interest was fixed, with âonlyâ the annual maintenance fees subject to inflation. But I think what clinched the deal for my fiancÃ©e was the fact that our timeshare exchanges wouldnât be for hotel rooms, but rather something much closer to deluxe apartments. Full bedrooms (with doors), living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens! With dishes and cutlery and dishwashers to boot!Â And in-suite laundry! And with annual maintenance fees in the neighbourhood of $700-$1500 (depending on the number of âpointsâ attached to your timeshare interest), it seemed obvious that we wouldnât be spending more than we would have anyway for $150-200 a night hotel rooms, even if we only managed to get a weekâs worth of exchanges each year.
This particular timeshare outfit was selling the memberships at upwards of $20,000, which they were happy to finance over 10 years at a decent interest rate. We were sold.
As I drove home, I started to feel the first pangs of buyersâ remorse. I started reading through the fine print and was Googling all about timesharing. As it turns out, there was quite a significant resale market out there. People who, like us, had bought memberships directly from developers (at similar prices) were willing to part with their timeshares for a fraction of the original price. There seemed to be no shortage of identical timeshare interests for sale in the $5,000-$10,000 range.
Fortunately, I was able to locate provisions in our purchase contract (and our provinceâs real estate marketing legislation) that allowed us to rescind or undo our purchase within seven days. The very next day, I sent formal notice (by registered mail, as required!) to the developerâs registered address exercising our right to rescind. At that point, I figured I could take some time to do some more research, and there was nothing to prevent me from going back to the developer to buy the same thing over again if it turned out doing so made good financial sense.
After some more focussed Googling, I came to learn that the $5,000+ resale market was just the tip of the iceberg. I found several timeshare ownersâ forums, including one that had a message board for owners willing to give away their timeshares for free.
I quickly replied to one of the recent posts, explained that my fiancÃ©e and I were looking to get a timeshare to use for our honeymoon, and very quickly got the process started for transferring not one but two fully paid timeshare properties.Â The previous owner had used the timeshares for years but unfortunately lost her husband and her job and had little use for the timeshare going forward. And with maintenance fee payments coming due, she was quite happy to gift them to us.
The original cost of our two timeshares would have been well in excess of $30,000. Including resort transfer fees, deed preparation (we prepared them ourselves and hired someone familiar with the process to look them over for us), and county recording fees, the pair easily cost us less than $300 and came with a seeming boatload of points to exchange for other timeshares.Â Our combined annual maintenance fees are about $1,200, or what weâd expect to pay for about 6-8 nights at a hotel anyway.
Since the previous owner had some unused âdepositâ weeks in her account, we were even able to book most of our honeymoon without using any of our annual allotment of points! And now that weâve experienced the awesome convenience of being able to do local grocery shopping instead of eating out for every meal, coupled with the sheer wonder of being able to do a load of laundry part way through a vacation without leaving our hotel room, weâll likely never go back to using âregularâ hotel rooms.
As I started to read further through the vast amount of online resources for timeshare owners, I quickly learned that there are numerous tricks of the trade for buying and using timeshares. There are a number of exchange networks out there, each with its own set of rules and pricing models. Our timeshares are operated by Wyndham Vacations, and we are able to exchange our points for stays at Wyndham (and affiliate) resorts, which are primarily in Mexico, RCI, and Interval International.Â Â With our original two timeshares, reservations with the latter two companies made using our points can only be made on a weekly basis, while the Wyndham bookings can be made on a nightly basis.Â Our RCI and Interval International memberships (included with our Wyndham timeshares) allow us to make reservations at timeshare resorts by paying cash â usually at a fraction of what weâd pay for a hotel â without exchanging any of our points. It soon became obvious that having a large annual point allotment wasnât necessarily optimal, since the cost of ârentingâ points or simply making âcashâ reservations could often be cheaper than the additional maintenance fees that come with having a higher annual point allotment.
Since we typically donât like staying in the same city for more than two or three nights at a time, I was interested in researching RCIâs âPointsâ based exchanges, which contrast with the âWeeksâ membership account that is attached to our Wyndham timeshares. To provide us with extra flexibility, I searched eBay for resales of RCI Points-based timeshares, which would give us a modest amount of points annually at a reasonable maintenance fee. Now we own three timeshares and look forward to continually learning about how to use them most effectively.
Iâll continue to post here about more specific timesharing topics â like how to find timeshares for free or close to free with competitive maintenance fees, how to get the best bang for your buck with exchange opportunities, and how to save money and time during the deed transfer process â for those of you interested in joining this fascinating and economical way to travel.
After recently watching Inglourious Basterds with the family, I couldnât help but feel a smug sense of patriotic pride.Â Does that make me a bad person?Â What if it makes me curiously sympathetic to the plight of the suicide bomber?Â Surely thatâs enough to put me on a no-fly list or earn me some quality time at Gitmo.
I trust Iâm not spoiling the plot for anyone when I say that this Quentin Tarantino film involves a rather gruesome amount of Nazi killing (and scalping).Â But hereâs a recap that might: most of the action takes place in Nazi-occupied France, where more than one group of people is dead-set on killing as many Nazis as possible.Â Our heroine, a Jewish girl whose family was massacred years earlier by Nazi thugs, seizes the opportunity to take out as many Nazis as possible when the Party asks/demands to borrow her movie theatre to premiere a Goebbels film honouring their âNationâs Prideâ.Â Anyone whoâs anyone in the Nazi party was going to be there, including the Fuhrer. (I donât think they knew she was Jewish when they asked/demanded.)Â Â Sure thing, says the heroine.Â All the better to lock you into the theatre during the premiere and set you all on fire with.
Suffice it to say that Tarantino threw in an amazingly brutal scene in which a few rather committed US soldiers (the Inglorious Basterds) found themselves in a crowded, barricaded theatre and a lot of Nazi bigwigs at various stages of dying flaming deaths.Â And lots of fire power.Â The soldiers werenât getting out of the theatre alive, but they werenât going down before taking out as many Nazis as humanly possible. (You know, in case they werenât otherwise consumed by flames.)
The scene was visual pornography, even for a self-styled pacifist like me.Â Iâm as much for peace and love as the next guy, but itâs hard not to throw some support behind this kind of history-rewriting fiction.Â After all, weâre talking about killing Nazis. If there had actually been such an opportunity to exterminate the Nazi leadership in one fell swoop, surely even Kant would have thought it kosher.
Perhaps Quentin had just messed up my moral compass, but the film got me thinking: shouldnât everyone aspire to sacrifice themselves if given the opportunity to eliminate a significant threat to humanity?Â Or something else thatâs really, really important?Â If so, what, if anything, separates me from the Taliban-inspired suicide bomber?Â Is it simply a matter of relative effectiveness?Â On the one hand, Iâm talking about a situation in which a single kamikaze mission could quite plausibly put an end to the Third Reich (and the Holocaust, and WWII.)Â On the other, the Al Qaeda operative who attached explosives to his leg and tried to blow up Northwest Flight 253 would have been taking innocent lives, which, at best, would have very deeply upset the Western World and the Godless Infidels residing therein.
But maybe thatâs something that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab thought was âreally, really importantâ.Â Maybe he was deluded into thinking that his terrorist plot was a means to an end on par with ending the Holocaust (317-966-2275 might admittedly qualify.) Maybe he just doesnât value his life as much as I do.Â Maybe heâs just not all that ambitious.Â Regardless, he surely thought his means were justified â if not virtuous.Â So why arenât they?