Free Travel?

Just because I got a postcard and had some free time, I wanted to go to a presentation on discount travel.  The presentation was for couples only.  I was curious and had a husband who was retired and could go along.  

I called and set up an appointment to attend a ninety minute session which would yield us two free airline trips anywhere in the US and three nights hotel.   I was intrigued because upfront they were clear this is not a timeshare event.  Okay so I am curious…and I called.  After the call I had no more information except I was ready to go with a scheduled time and day and somewhat reluctant spouse.

The session was held at the local Holiday Inn. On the plus side ,the team was efficient and timely in signing us in.  We met with a team member who took us to our seats.  He offered us water. And asked us about our recent vacations. 

Had I not been a financial planner, travel agent would have been my career of choice. So we had lots to talk about.

The presenter was great except for not understanding Vermont culture and his repetitive use of “you guys.”   I learned a little more about the travel industry and how it works.There are three levels of consolidators all getting a share of the vacation travelers dollars. The largest four companies own most of the websites out there.

And that typical Vermonters spend between $4,000 – 6,000 a year on their vacations.  This is valuable information.  Though it excluded how many people go on vacation. As I imagine, not every Vermonter takes a trip each year.

The slides were great.  The dream vacations incredible.  And the opportunity to dream even better. 

Clearly he was using new math or reverse math. I am sure because he wanted us to buy without thinking.  Explaining that over the course of ten years, we were to spend, $4,000 a year on vacation, for a total of $40,000 total.  Then, we bought the package at $10,000 and were to save 50% on vacations going forward and some money eating out with their special discount card and we would be saving $25,000! 

I did want to raise my hand and say that we would be saving less as he did not factor in the $10,000 outlay or the annual fee of $400 or the mandatory registration fee of $600.  Though I kept quiet as much to keep the guise of a willing potential customer as to not embarrass my husband who was already taking a risk to be here with me.

After the formal presentation, the tag team approach to selling took over. The salesmen lost me totally then. We made a small offer just to be nice.   One left to make a phone call to see if “corporate” would approve our low ball offer.  This great car salesman approach has never felt good to me.  Straight talking is where I am at.  The gentleman in training stayed and talked to us.  I said this is not the package for us.  They did not describe the type of vacations we typically take and we sometimes vacation separately.  The fact that my husband hunted was more attractive to him then I often visited relatives in Ireland.

He recommended Larry do some elk hunting and at a certain ranch, where I could stay. Larry said I am not an elk hunter.  What do you hunt?  Points for the first question.  "Whitetail deer" was the answer.

Well how about boar hunting?  There is this great lodge…”No, I say I have tried to get him to do that, it is not his idea of hunting to go boar hunting or stay at a nice lodge. Always a bad sign when a sales person does not listen.

He kept talking….You could go to Northern California and both stay at this resort where you could hang out while he goes trout fishing.  I am sorry to say that I was happy to see the car salesman come back. 

Then, the numbers started to fly.  He sat with the piece of paper facing him and talking fast writing down numbers as he ranted.  Fast and furious he went about what a good deal he was giving us.

I started back from square one and said the numbers do not add up to the thousand, we suggested.  But much more than our offer.  And the 19.00/month is not what we want.  He went through the same numbers again.

By the end he said,  "It cost you $ 1.25 a day and we pay you back on some of your trips.  That means that it is like you getting $ 1.50 from us and if you travel, you get your $2,000 a year back."  I was like whoa….Did he know what we did for a living?

Come to find out others were offered the Trial offer of $1,000.  However, they were also offered the monthly maintenance  fee that rose the price dramatically.

Come the vulnerable, the people pleasing, and the couples who cannot communicate.  Because such events are designed for you.  This one ninety minutes could create financial commitments and problems beyond current problems.

I was frustrated and though I did consider it for a bottom basement price.  This was really not the way we travelled.  So it was not worth it.  And besides, the sales strategy had totally turned me off.  Mid way through it became a game to me to see what they would do next

I can see why people get bamboozled into buying.  You see the persuasiveness and throwing the numbers around and the utter confusion they leave you with, thinking this must be a good deal.  Spinning me around and point me in a direction is what I am thinking it is more like.

My husband an accountant by trade, told me that he was confused by the numbers.  “I could not follow them,” he told as we drove home.  “That is their goal,” I said, “They want you to lose track, so that you believe them.  If you, who are good with numbers lose track, think about the average Joe.” 

Another sale in their mind was dwindling away. Getting out, once we stood up with our coats on was surprisingly easy.  I admit that I saw another couple get up first out of the corner of my eye and that gave me the confidence to do it quicker than I might.

All in all, I will take my risk and skip their "wonderful" deal.  I do not want to spend money on something with an annual fee that we may or may not use.  I do not want to pay a lot of money now, to save money over time, especially on a discretionary spending item so dependent on health, wealth and willingness to travel.