Cabo Time Share Presentation Scam - How To Make it Fun

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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, 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 an 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.


I documented our process so it might help others as well!


Timeshare victory - get in and out in 90 minutes without signing.


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 (excoted 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:

  1. Get back our $100 immediately.
  2. Get out of there in the promised 90 minutes.
  3. Get the free rides and tequila bottles we were promised.
  4. ... 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".


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 ! :)



See Also

Links


Acknowledgements: My friends, Siobhan, Jean and Kathy - for helping make it fun!


Photos

At the airport... bait and switch - we just wanted a taxi!
Here was the bait
Here is the bait and switch
But hey, we showed up and decided to get the free breakfast
Happy times
Jean showing us that he's nailing it over at his table
This is the main presentation room, I'm glad we got a view instead
Siobhain asking for stuff
They took us on a tour at the end
Our view was great - I just looked at the view, not our presenter. Sorrrry Luigi.
The gang afterwards, drinks to celebrate back at our hotel