Cabo Time Share Presentation Scam - How To Make it Fun
- 1 About
- 2 A Final Warning
- 3 See Also
- 4 Links
- 5 Photos
Time shares are a scam. We've all heard that they are bad value, and that there are "time share presentations" out there where they give clever/slick hard-sell exposition where they use every trick in the book to get you to sign away tens of thousands of dollars (or more), for a place you almost certainly won't use enough to get a fraction of your moneys worth.... or hotel placements that don't really exist or are near impossible to book. Total con. A con that consumes billions of dollars from people in the US alone - it generates more money than the entire music industry.
But what you might not know is that in places like Cabo (and other tourist traps in Mexico), they can even trick you into attending the presentations, and it starts as early as the the airport (just after the baggage claim area), with promises of cheap/free perks tourist adventures such as snorkeling, whale-watching, thrills seeking trips and so on. If it sounds too good to be true.... use it is.
In 2020 I went to Cabo with three friends and we (mostly) unwittingly signed up to such an event, but I thought.... "you know what - let's game the gamers". If we go in with a written game plan I think we can successfully get all this free stuff and make the experience fun, instead of awful. And we did! This is the story of how we did it. Twice actually (we were confident enough with the first one we went for a second).
I documented our process so it might help others as well!
Part 1: Getting Tricked into a Presentation
So in September 2020 there was horrible smoke in San Francisco and my friend, Siobháin, said she wants to escape and celebrate her birthday. Two hours later I found and booked cheap flights to Cabo and two of Siobháin's friends did the same! During this time of COVID-19, it's one of the few places still pretty lax - no tests required - but if you're like me you'll want to wear 2 masks on the plane and socially distance during your stay. There are so few people here I got a hotel discounted from $250 down to $60 a night (with insanely good breakfast included). People here are really hurting for tourism details, so there are bargains around. But that's not the point of this story. The point is we spontaneously booked, had to rush packing to make our redeye flight and when we were arrived we were a pretty tired (excited but tired) and the four of us simply wanted a taxi from the airport to the hotel.
I don't speak Spanish, but the others do... they asked for taxi. We were still in the airport at a very official oval shaped room on the way out of the baggage claim (see photo at the end), where they talk about Taxis, and act like information people to welcome you to Cabo, with no signs or indication that they had an agenda. This lovely lady showed us a map of all the things we could do... but it's okay "she's not selling anything" (first red flag) and also said the taxi will only take "10 minutes". 20 minutes later she switched the conversation to helping get us free and cheap deals on activities... and we thought why not. We ended up paying ~$160, but they said we'd get $100 cash back... how? We just had to go to a 90 minute presentation. It happened fast. I paid the $160. People can really extort you for the 50 minute taxi ride from the airport, so it felt like we had to pay $100 anyway for a private taxi (with lower cover risk than the bus).
Part 2: Realizing the Scam and Doing Quick Research
On arriving at our hotel we were asked if we had activities planned. We said yes. Very soon the concierge is saying he can get us the same deal cheaper. Yup, the hotel concierge wanted us to go to a "presentation" too. Same thing happened to our friends at their amazing hotel down the street. EVERYONE wants to get some commission from a time share. Maybe it wasn't the biggest stream of money for Cabo before, but it is now apparently.
So I wanted couple of youtube videos about these presentation and then I think... well I can outsmart these guys easily. Outsmart is the wrong word perhaps. It's a sales technique where you have to go in and know that you are strong - you don't get shaken easily. I decide we could rise to the challenge, but we'd need to come "armed", so here's what I decided to do... and it's really simple.
Part 3: Execute your Game Plan to Get the Goods
I wrote us and our friends two identical lists to keep in front of us during our breakfast presentation. Jean suggested we also go in with KPI (key performance indicators). Our goals:
- Get back our $100 immediately.
- Get out of there in the promised 90 minutes.
- Get the free rides and tequila bottles we were promised.
- ... STICK TO OUR GUNS, SIGN NOTHING. (most important)
Now obviously these are skilled sales people. For many places they've been given the tools and told to say whatever it takes to get your signature. And they will.
We got lucky and got a relatively nice guy called Luigi. He was surprised to see me lay down a clipboard and open it up with my "game plan" sheet. He probably knew at that moment we wouldn't be signing anything... at first he even looked a little upset, but if you are skilled in conversation, you can turn it into an enjoyable 90 minutes - or whatever was agreed upon.
At first they said we wouldn't get the $100 to the end of the presentation, and he said "well what's from stopping you from running away after I gift you $100". I reminded him that I was $160 down, so it's like I had lended him $160 and I really would like back the $100 back before I continue, because that's what we were promised. Then all of us (all four) set out alarms for 90 minutes. That was REALLY important, because another lady insisted we were supposed to commit 4 hours. That was news to us, and we weren't going to stand for it.
Anyhow, where we sat down was a beautiful view, and I really enjoyed this incredible view, and not necessarily making eye contact with Luigi - nice enough guy, and even apologized but you have to stick to your guns and say "even if I was to sign, I have RULE never to sign anything with a couple of nights to research and sleep on it". Seriously, I like how Luigi handled it. If at the start of the date a girl says "yeah, I'm not going to sleep with you tonight", you can be a crybaby, or get aggressive, but luckily he wasn't aggressive, so it wasn't unpleasant. We got our free food, we say beautiful places, and the lady that came out at the end (soon after our alarms went off loudly) showed us prices and even said "here's the deal today". We said not thanks.. you can just adjust your body language with your partner and laugh, you can tell stories about your guinea pig when you were a kid. Whatever to make it fun and make them realize you you are not going to sign up.
The lady ripped up the "today only deal" she wrote for us, but that just made me smile, because if I actually thought that was a good deal I would just come back the next day and the same deal or better. But hey - I don't want a timeshare. End of story.
We left in good time with 4 bottles of tequila, a few hundred dollars worth of free adventure (ATV + snorting for all of us), a fun story. Jean was happy that he and Kathy "beat us" (they got out a little sooner). Jean had read books on "art of sales" in the past and basically called their guy out on progressing through every trick in the book. At the end their presenter used guilt and then made some snide/hurtful comments as a last ditch "divide-and-conquer" approach, but hey - when a salesperson starts to make things unpleasant, never feel bad. Turn that into joy because this guy has tricked possibly hundreds of innocent people into a con - they deserves as much of their medicine back as possible. Remind them that they shouldn't make things unpleasant for you, because you will leave a bad review with their name against the hotel - and you will blog about their deplorable behavior. The customer is always right.
Is it dishonest to get these free things if you really don't want a timeshare. No - I think the bait and switch was the dishonest part! They claimed that 40% of people sign up! Now maybe that's all bull, but if that is true it's not a big deal for them if you say sorry, but not for us.
I really think the key thing here, if you think you are strong will enough to do a timeshare. Go in with a clipboard and a "gameplay" to keep them honest... for instance NEVER let them take you to multiple locations, at that point they just want to wear you down. And don't let them get you drunk. They are paid to be friendly and to game you... if anything they will respect you more for gaming them!
Here's what my sheet said:
Game Plan Sheet ! (the important part - print this out)
What we NEED before we sit down:
- $100 back (as promised).
- Reconfirm 90 minutes then we get our gift (as promised) > we will set our alarms for 90 minutes!
- Free breakfast without trickery and no alcohol before food.
What we are ALLOWED to do: (if we feel uncomfortable).
- Record the conversation on our phones + their names to upload to YouTube later.
- Leave anytime we feel unwell - Andrew has a meeting at noon.
- Be smart, win respect.
- Tell lots of stories about our history and Andrew's childhood guinea pig.
- Refuse alcohol before food (don't get drunk or drugged).
- Cause a scene if it gets uncomfortable.
- Squeeze my hand:
- x2 for "this is too aggressive".
- x4 for "let's just leave".
- Laugh a lot, be erratic, avoid eye contact, never get treated badly.
So out there somewhere maybe someone has a better list, but just HAVING a printed list makes you look like a badass. You have RULES. You are the that shows up to a date and you say "I won't sleep with you, but I expect you to treat me to respect". Those are the girls you actually respect, because they are the ones that don't get f**ked over.
Part 3: Don't F**k Up
Just wanted to remind you to stick to the game plan. These people work on commission only - sink or swim - so they are very good at taking people, even thrifty people, and convincing them they they are saving money. Well that money is far better off in shares, housing... anything really... just remember you are very unlikely to get your money back, despite what they say. If they sway you a little remember the line: "I'm sorry, I'm not the type of person to buy anything same day", I'll take a week to think it over. If they act like the deal will suddenly disappear, or they tear up a person or offer "an even better deal, because they like you"... well this just reminds you that behind that smile is a wolf or shark and you would be very silly to fall for their trap. Not for the faint of heart. They only want to take in people who are "open minded", but really they mean "suckers".
Here's some things to be careful of:
- "A point system". If they talk about a point system - immediate red flag. It's not only hard to understand and convert, but what might seem like a good rate today could change. They can inflate these points as quickly as they like - in fact they could halve the value of points tomorrow.
- "50% of my clients sign". They tell you this because they want you to feel safety in numbers and like they are the best salesperson to get yo a special deal. If most people sign then it must be good value right? Not at all - for one thing they could easily be lying about their conversion rate... of if they are telling the truth it just means they are good at ripping people off.
- "I'll give you a good deal because I like you". They say "I like you" to everyone - you are not special, and if you believe you are special you are a sucker! The deal they are offering is the same every agent is offering to every person.
- "A amazing discount today only". After they say they like you, they'll probably take the first (dummy) price and show you a 50% discount on it. It's a psychology trick to think you'd be a sucker to miss out on this discount. Nobody would buy a ball point pen for $100 right? Wrong... some people are dump enough that you could easily convince them that this pen is worth $1000 (look at the shine), and not it's on safe for only $100 - and now you're tempted to buy this $1 pen for 100 more than it's worth right? Don't be dumb. Even if they make a show of tearing up the piece of paper with your "special discounted" deal, if you came the next day (or a month later) to a different agent you'd have the same deal in front of you. The pressure to buy immediately (or miss out) is probably the biggest red flag of all. It may as be one of those old internet sites that say "order in the next 5 minutes for 50% off", then shows you a countdown timer. Don't fall for physology games, ignore the numbers counting down because (a) if you logged in as a different users you'd get the same 5 minutes and (b) if they resort to this tactic it's an especially dodgy / ripoff deal! That's the thing you can count on.
Part 4: Enjoy your Spoils of War
I hope that makes sense. Fortunately we didn't have to do any hand squeezing.. jut the fact we let Luigi read my list when I was visiting the toilet (why not right?), meant it went pretty smooth. It was a new experience for me and I enjoyed it! I wrote this article straight afterwards and I'm really excited for our free adventures.
I'm not saying everyone who signs up to a time-share is ripped off (there was a couple we met that did sign up *but* they travel once a month so they might actually get some value from it)... maybe it is actually a good deal for you. But probably not. It's the $10,000s of that sucks pay that allows the savvy people to "try a presentation" once and get free stuff. Also, if you do get ripped off and feel the pain the next day - well apparently Mexico has a cool off law (that they won't tell you about) that if you contact the right people (ask your hotel), you can nullify your contact within 4 days of signing. You'd have to hustle and it won't be pleasant (it will make your trip suck), but it's better than knowing you've been conned out of a big chunk of your hard-earned salary. Longer than that and yes, you are officially screwed.
Would I do a time-share presentation again?
Tempting, but I can also see how if you got an unpleasant sales rep it could feel awful and then suddenly free alcohol and whatever perk they offer... they are not worth the risk of getting tricked out of 10,000s... or even the risk of an unpleasant experience that brings down the rest of your vacation.
Be smart travelers ! :)
A Final Warning
As an update to this article, my friend Siobhan and I spoke to many people about our experiences - both in Mexico and after we returned - and I feel compelled to warn you that the timeshare we went to was a "Medium" on the scale. What do I mean? Well not all time-share presentations are equal.... we also decided to go a "Mild" presentation, which was in the hotel we were staying. Our guy was pretty friendly, relatively laid back, we did breakfast and he showed us a couple of units in the hotel. It was an amazing hotel by the way "Hotel Tesoro Los Cabos" with the best location of about any hotel (close to the Marina) and we got for <$65 a night, including an incredible breakfast each morning worth at least $30. We got out of that one in just over 90 minutes thanks to our alarms and got a big discount on dolphin riding and 15% off all hotel meals. So the think about timeshare presentations is that the reward is usually proportional to how much they make you suffer, and the risk of you signing. I can say this because talking to other we know that there's also a whole other level of time-share presentation where they steal you for a full day and it's hell. Two different couples told us about Diamante luxury resort, which is a 30 minute drive from Cabo itself and they keep you there an entire day and it usually turns nasty? Why would anyone go there? Because they sell it as a free day of gold and the rewards are huge - you might score an entire free week at a hotel! Sounds great... yes, but they people who did it said that one day ruins their vacation. First of all, you have to prove you are a couple (which Siobhan and I really were not, so we fail immediately), and you have to have a big income. They do take you to golf, but that's just so they can ask for your handicap beforehand, because they logic that only people who play golf are pretentious and wealthy enough to afford their plan. During gold they will mention many times that Tiger Woods plays there and owns a timeshare there and if you sign up you can probably even stay in the same place that he has. If you are really, really rich and want to tell people you pooped in the same toilet as Tiger Woods, then... well I wish you'd put that money to charity or something good, but whatever floats your poop. If however, you are only just wealthy enough for them to "consider" as a member of their community, it's not worth the risk. "Diamante Cabo San Lucas" is known toe be the worst, but there are probably others that fall into the severe category.
Don't Put Yourself in Any Position Where You Will Break
Even after my medium and mild experience, your mind can get sleepy and that's when bad decisions can get made. Suddenly you might get tempted to sign because "you know what, this will be good for us" and "well this guy is so nice, I want him to get a commission", and also you just want the bombarding of this guys voice to end. You feel obligated to smile and nod and listen. Now that can happen over 1.5 hours.... imaging what happens if they get you for a full day! You'll get tired after golf, then they'll talk about a 10 acre pool (as if that's useful) and show you the razzle dazzle of the most beautiful luxury apartments you've ever seen... and they'll have you imagine all your friends coming to stay. Imagine what your friend will think. Maybe you're less intelligent friend's will think you are baller, but the clever ones will realize you were broken after hours of mind games and you are now locked into a luxury retreat with hidden ongoing costs and instead of getting cheaper places and traveling the world, the rest of your life you'll be going to the same lousy location and paying for overprice food just to get back a fraction of your money.
Imagine water torture. Everyone breaks eventually. This isn't water torture, but they will deluge you with talking (it gets uncomfortable after just 20 minutes depending on who you get) and they will use every persuasive trick in the book and then turn nasty at the end. The perks are huge, because they know a full day is probably enough to break you.... honestly, I don't imagine I'd be strong enough to survive Diamante - those guys are the best of the best (well worst of the worst) at manipulation and they'll make you want to throw up by the end of the day. Of the two couples who went, one couple said "never ever again - it's not worth it" (as in it largely ruined the vibe of their whole trip and took days to recover) and the other couple did actually signed up... so there goes the kid's trust fund. I wanted to tell them that I'd read online that you can cancel with 5 days - Mexico does have an interesting law - but 5 days had already passed for them.
So yes... if you are strong of mind, you might be able to handle a mild or medium experience, but be very, very afraid of a place that offers you drinks and gold and wants you to stay for more than 2 hours as part of your "experience".
- Why Buying a Timeshare Is a Bad Idea - an article by investor junkie.