Club La Costa presentations - the real story

Started by kinL, February 14, 2009, 19:04:15

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kinL

Hi, first time poster and I don't work for CLC, as you'll probably gather if you read on!

This is a long post but I thought I'd give complete account of our experience with CLC to let people know what to expect if, as us, it is their first encounter with such organisations. Also if you attend one of their presentations without understanding the sales tactics beforehand, you are opening yourself up to what could be a huge financial mistake.

So it was my turn to get the "congratulations, you've won a luxury holiday" phone call and on listening to the spiel from the young lady, I soon came to the conclusion that it was timeshare or some such thing.

Nonetheless "Michelle" was quite open and honest about it when I challenged her, so I went along with it and after confirming some basic "qualification" details she confirmed that I had indeed "won" a holiday, inclusive of flights for up to 4 people for a small admin charge of £29.50pp plus airport taxes. She gave me a freefone number and a reference and that was that.

Less than fifteen minutes later, "Michelle" phoned me back and after confirming my name said "congratulations, you've won a luxury holiday". I can't believe my luck I said, that's two holidays inside 15 minutes I've won!
"I'm sorry" she said quizically... then I thought to myself perhaps this lady isn't as young as she sounds and if early Dementia was setting in I really shouldn't give her a hard time! So I politely reminded her of our recent conversation and on repeating my reference back to her, she apologised, we had a little laugh and said our goodbye's.

Less than fifteen minutes later, "Michelle" phoned me back and after confirming my name said "congratulations, you've won a luxury holiday". "Michelle", I said calmly, "I'm beginning to feel a little uncomfortable now". "Are you stalking me or is it that you want me to invite you on my luxury holiday that I've now won 3 times in less than half-an-hour?". Anyway she said something about "damned computers", apologised again and rang off. I turned my phone off at this point!

So, I rang the freefone number on my way home from work, quoted my reference and once again answered the "qualification" questions upon which "Deena" confirmed that I had indeed "won" a holiday, inclusive of flights for up to 4 people for a small admin charge of £29.50pp plus airport taxes. I asked Deena if she new Michelle by any chance but she said not. Deena then went on to confirm the venue (Birmingham) for the presentation of my holiday vouchers and that they would be given to me at the end of a sales presentation that would last no longer than 2 hours. I confirmed we would attend and set the date and time with her.

Subsequently I received a letter that confirmed the time of the presentation along with "two" £25 vouchers that would be exchanged for a £25 shopping voucher of my choice. Hmmm... that doesn't sound like a very good deal I thought but assumed this would be resolved on the night.

So, we turned up at CLC's office in Birmingham, the lady inside reception greeted us politely, took our letter, confirmed our id's and gave us a clipboarded questionnaire to fill in that contained much the same "qualification" questions as before although these were a bit more specific in terms of income, etc.

Several minutes later, "Alan" arrived and greeted us (he would have arrived sooner but had obviously needed a quick smoke out the back of the office, if you get my meaning...) then showed us upstairs to an open "sales" area with around 10-15 sets of tables and reasonably comfortable chairs. We endured Alan's over-familiar idle chit-chat for about 5 minutes before the inevitable "test" questions started as he "subtly" attempted to get a handle on his new prospects.

Now perhaps I should come clean here, I am very experienced in observing body language and stress voice patterns and although not in sales myself (never have been), I'm also well versed in sales tactics. So I had a bit of an advantage over this guy which he was completely unaware of, save the fact that he said he felt I "was a bit sceptical". "That's an interesting statement" I said in a stern voice, "seeing as we've only just met". Ouch! I've never seen a jaw drop so quick and as he stammered through his next few sentences I received a sharp "behave yourself" kick to my ankle from my wife!

Soon Alan was saved by the arrival of a colleague, a guy straight out of the sales manual, slick suit, slick hair, greeted me with a palm down handshake and then immediately turned on the charm with my wife (who by the way is blonde and attractive but nobody's fool). This guy explained that tonight was all about a "Yes" or "No" decision to buying a timeshare (the detail of which Alan would explain) and this would be our only opportunity of buying into the scheme. "So", I said, "are you saying that if we say No tonight, you will turn us down if we contact you to buy one of your timeshares in the future?". His only answer to this was to turn his gaze back to my wife and stupidly repeat himself - verbatim - after which he immediately got up to leave us in Alan's "capable hands". My wife remarked to me and turning to Alan said, "did I just hear that guy say the same thing twice?" Alan, said "can I get you coffee, I'll get one of my ladies" - yes - seriously, he then gestured to one of his "ladies" who came and took our refreshments order.

Well I think you're getting the idea by now, these people are so transparent it is bordering on farcical. Alan continued by telling us about CLC's history, their impressive sales figures, the quality accreditations and industry associations, made me laugh when Alan's "manager" came over who I thought was going to offer a refill on the coffee (as she'd taken our order so efficiently before) only to explain that they were members of the OTE, and then saying in almost the same breath that CLC began the OTE!

We were then shown the video presented by Jenny Bond, who was even more transparent then the CLC staff and after that given a tour of the posters on the sales room walls! Thrilling! And so it went on...

Alan continued by filling in a questionnaire designed to "help him" put together the best package based on our needs (oh spare me!), basically asking how much we'd spent on holidays over the last 5 years, coming to a mean average and then projecting we would spend probably between £x and £y on holidays over the next 10 years.

All the while Alan was saying, "I know you want to know the price", "you'll be begging me for the price soon", "I can't give you the price now", ... Alan, we didn't ask for the price, we were really not bothered about the price, we were quite happy to wait until the end for the price.

So then boredom got the better of me and I asked a question about availability in peak season, i.e. the real chances of getting our choice of dates and our choice of resort / accommodation. Another manager came over to answer this who basically said that they never have availability problems because not all of their members go away at the same time. I acknowledged this but pointed out that Alan had already stated over 90% of their members were families with children and therefore that must mean there is a massive demand for dates during school holiday's (which would also apply to us). Well the answer took about 5 minutes to deliver and ended with her saying, "just look at my tan, I never have a problem with availability and I always take my kids". It was a fake tan.

Finally after trudging through the entire CLC resort brochure and most of the affiliated RCI worldwide brochure too before I think even Alan got bored, we get to the end of the presentation and the numbers start to get crunched. Three examples were painted in Rolf Harris style in thick black marker pen on a notepad, a simple holiday to Spain, an attractions tour in the States and a long haul to Australia, all progressively dearer holidays of course and with the financial basis on which the timeshare scheme worked, becoming more cost beneficial within the scheme.

But wait Alan, there's something missing in your costs? What can it be? Oh yes, of course you have to buy the caravan before you can go on holiday in it... and there we have it, £11,995 up front for membership that will allow us a ONE week holiday whenever we want, wherever we want, until the ripe old age of 105. Oh, plus £495 maintenance per annum so that's another £27,645 at todays prices (for 57 years) or let's say more realistically, about £17k in total if you took holidays say for the next 10 years.

Okay so you can sell your membership any time and recoup the cost, hmmm... can you... really... as each year goes by don't you think it's value will depreciate?

Okay then, what about a trial membership for £3,995, six weeks to be taken over the next 34 months and no maintenance fee. 34 months, well surprise, surprise! So although they are selling timeshare, they are keeping the term low enough so it can't be classed as timeshare (under current regulations) and therefore, should your "on the night" decision be "Yes", you would not qualify for a statutory cooling off period whereby you could change your mind. Alan, do you think we are stupid?

That aside, £3,995 divided by 6 is £665 per week or more likely (being tied to out of school term time) 3 x 2 week holidays at £1330 each, plus flights and car hire maybe, for a family of 4 lets say another £1000? Are you really saying this is cheaper CLC? Let's not forget, you can't sell your 34 month trial membership (or maybe you can but who would want to buy it).

But what about the added benefit of unlimited short breaks, prices starting at around £25 in the low season. Well I'm sorry but I get emails all the time for the likes of De Vere group offering me a rooms considerably cheaper than that!

Now I'm not saying this won't work for some people, but my theory is this will be limited to couples, with no school age kids, who spend more than £5k per year on holidays, i.e. very few of us!

So there we are, decision time, either a "Yes", or a "No" and that's your lot as Mr Slick had said. Mrs Fake-Tan comes to see us to clinch the deal. Alan takes up his strategic position just in peripheral vision off my right shoulder, and they go in for the kill.

So I point out that because Alan's masterful financial wizardy was in fact complete nonsense, because he'd actually got his basic sums wrong and the numbers would never stand up to scrutiny, because we hadn't been given anywhere near enough information to make a decision, because there was no written information apart from the his fat black marker pen scribbles on a notepad, because I was very concerned about their ability to actually deliver the package as described, because there was no cooling off period for the trial membership and because we had to make up our minds there and then, they had succeeded establishing zero credibility with us and in fact, were completely naive if they really thought this was a good deal.

Well the last comment really did it. "I'll take that as a no then" stormed Mrs Fake-Tan and oh Alan, how your attitude changed in that instant, how the attitude of your "ladies" changed with yours too. I am sorry for laughing at you!

It's fair to say that Alan was not a happy man, and no Alan, I am not an undercover journalist! Just someone who your marketing people called and was told they had "won a luxury holiday".

And as Mrs Fake-Tan and yourself escorted us to where our holiday vouchers were waiting, and you reluctantly thrust them into my hand, I'm sorry but I just couldn't resist the temptation of dropping that envelope in the bin next to the door as we left, although I did take out the "one" £25 pound M&S voucher of course, the only thing of any real value from the whole evening!

So in conclusion, if you get one of these calls, by all means go with an open mind, but do your research, don't succumb to the hype and slick sales patter, recognise this for what it is, a presentation delivered by people who are paid solely on what they sell, they will try every trick in the book, make sure you fully understand the financial proposition and that if you do sign up, consider that you are likely to find it hard to back out if you change your mind.

I don't doubt the resorts are good quality, but you can get excellent accommodation when you want, where you want without too much effort and you don't need to fork out a small fortune up front.

Be prepared. The moment you enter their sales theatre you must be ready for "psychological warfare" ... and they don't take prisoners. The one overriding message is, and I need to say this loudly... DO NOT - I REPEAT - DO NOT SIGN UP AT THE PRESENTATION! Their demand for your decision is unscrupulous sales practice, the only reason they use it is because they know if they let you go, you will work the numbers and see that it is not the deal they say it is.

The only way this practice will stop is if the punters, that is you and me, vote with our feet, EVERY TIME. If enough people take this approach, CLC's sales fall and they will have to revise their approach. In my experience, any company that I have ever come into contact with (and believe me that runs into thousands) that employed a dubious sale method, were selling an equally dubious product although, once again, I am not knocking the product, just the way it is being sold to the unsuspecting public. For the right people, under the right circumstances, the scheme may work. I don't doubt the quality of the resorts, they wouldn't last long if they were misrepresenting those aspects. But I do have serious doubts about the financial model, the availability and choice of resorts and the resaleability claims that they make.

Demand paperwork that properly demonstrates their proposition. Demand time to consider their plan. Demand time to review and ask questions after the presentation. Demand independant verification of their claims on availability, maintenance fee increases, resale values. Demand a proper explanation of your right to cancel.

If you are inclined to say "Yes", make it a condition of the sale that you get a photocopy of the salesperson's notes made during the presentation, signed and dated by the salesperson or better still, their manager. Ask them this and I'd be willing to bet they would be showing you the door rather than where to sign! Why? Because if they did, you would have the evidence to prove malpractice or misselling if (and when) you change your mind.

Beware, don't be fooled, read these posts, attend a presentation armed with this knowledge and get your "free" holiday. But DON'T sign up immediately, tell them you will consider their plan and make up your mind on your terms, not theirs. If they don't like it, they are just underlining everything I say here and telling you to walk away themselves. If you still say "Yes", then don't blame CLC or anyone else if you suffer any financial consequences.

This is a long winded account, but for those who agree to attend such presentations, I hope this will furnish you with the knowledge you'll need to deal with the situation and not be railroaded into making a bad decision.

All the best and good luck.

kinL.


Doggy50k

Thank you kinL - that has to be the best posting I have seen for many many months on any forum.

Many of these presentations are not actually done by the companies themselves, but rather an agent who works for them.

We too went through the presentation process ourselves many years ago - we didn't sign up at the presentation and insisted on actually using the free holiday before signing up.

Timeshare works for some, but doesn't work for others - it works for us and we do have 2 children (one at High School the other at Junior School) - in Fact we are on holiday right now through our timeshare.  I have to add that we are not with CLC!

Timeshare is never a commitment to be taken lightly.

"You know; the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering."

kinL

quote:
Originally posted by Doggy50k
Timeshare is never a commitment to be taken lightly.



Very true Doggy50k, thanks for your comments and I am glad that you are happy with your timeshare arrangement.

I agree that some organisations may well use 3rd party agencies, however in my book that increases the responsibility of the company to ensure its agent is acting in a proper manner.  I would certainly want to know that if it was my business they were representing.

Enjoy the remainder of your hol's.

kinL.

Keitht

I'll be staying at a CLC resort in June on an exchange.  It'll be interesting to see if they try to get me into a presentation.  If they do they'll fail, unless it's absolutely persisting down [:D]

acer

Excellent post KinL - confirms everything many other people have said but put together succintly and clearly.  The methods described will ring true in many peoples' minds, for those who have attended presentations.

Your post should be mandatory reading for anyone contemplating a holiday abroad.

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Boss Man

I went on an exchange to Paradise Monteray a couple of years ago. The knocking salesman was fine when I explained what I did - Not pushy at all.

easilyfooled

Thanks kinL.  You've reminded me of so much of what we were put through (and fell for) several years ago.   They are trying to make us pay up for another year's maintenance charges, ad have threatened us with legal action if they don't get the money.  One of the things that will stop them in their tracks if they go to court is misrepresentation, and your story has jogged my memory of a lot of things we were told.  Really helpful!

Tempo

Well done to all you guys out there who've posted on this one, especially kinL.
We too endured a CLC presentation a few years back and basically fell for the hype.
We got our two 'free' weeks out of it, during the first of which we had to attend another presentation at which they pointed out they'd not really sold us enough points in the first place to be able to give us a week a year at peak time, and so maybe we'd like to buy some more!! Eh...I don't think so. And boy were they dis-chuffed when we dug our heels in - their attitude bordered on the aggressive. We actually felt quite uncomfortable.
While there (Costa del Sol) we spoke to another couple who'd 15,000 points (think of the maintenance charge on that lot!!) and couldn't physically take enough holidays to use them!
The resorts are lovely and the apartments superb, but, no, the numbers don't stack up.
My advice - avoid presentations like the plague. There's no such thing as a free 'lunch' in this game! And if you do go, leave all means of payment at home so you won't be tempted.

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