I'm guessing most of us, at one time or another, have gotten suckered into a timeshare meeting while on vacation. You know the drill: They'll give you a bunch of coupons if you give them an hour to pitch you on owning a portion of a condo in some tropical paradise.
At the time, with the hard sell in full gear, the idea of a timeshare makes complete sense. Yes, you'll be going on other vacations in the future. Yes, it would be nice to have your own place at which to stay.
But once you come up for air, you quickly realize what a dumb idea that could be. And you ponder all the pitfalls that must accompany any product that requires such aggressive marketing.
Last week, an organization called the Coalition to Reform Timeshare renewed its call for a timeshare bill of rights that would, among other things, give consumers more breathing room to back out of hurried decisions.
"It's clear that there is an incredibly high demand for timeshare reform right now, but the industry is flat-out ignoring it," said Brandon Reed, a founder of the group.
"We're going to keep fighting until every consumer is aware of the shameful tactics that are hurting millions financially and emotionally every day," he said. "We will only stop when laws and regulations are enacted that protect the consumer in this unregulated timeshare industry."
The group's bill of rights calls for an end to high-pressure sales tactics, as well as the right to a 24-hour cooling-off period before any contracts need to be signed.
It also would give consumers the right to record sales presentations, the right to learn the total cost of any timeshare transaction and the right to cancel any contract up to a week after you return from your vacation.
These are common-sense measures and I support them. Again, any industry that relies on beating customers into submission is an industry that needs some rules to the road.
Undoubtedly there are many people who are pleased with their timeshare purchases. But I've heard from more than a few who wished they'd never taken the plunge and now just want out of their contract.
If you're among them, do a search online for timeshare exit companies. These are firms that specialize in trying to untangle timeshare arrangements (for what it's worth, the head of the Coalition to Reform Timeshare is behind one of these companies).
Be aware, though, there are almost always fees involved. Ask upfront on how much the service costs.