My wife talked me into going to a "vacation club seminar" tonight for a company called Beachcomber Vacations (aka Castaways Vacation Club) so she could get a free prize. I figured I'd go along and see how keen my "rip-off sensor" was. Turns out it was dead on. Everyone else in the room got a really high pressure sales pitch, but my wife and I didn't for one reason: I did the math while they spoke.
When we arrived at their office in the NexBank building at the Dallas Galleria, the first thing I noticed was that there was absolutely no corporate branding anywhere. The decor shown to the public was as generic as it could be. While we were in the waiting room, I noticed that the only documentation lying around was fliers for how you could lease space in this building for short periods of time for meetings, etc. Not at permanent office space: Strike #1.
Our salesman admitted that this was his "third day," but tried to become our friends with constant handshakes, discussion about his school, his stock trades, etc. My brother used to do high-pressure sales as well, and I could recognize every trick in the book. Strike #2.
My wife was instructed to turn her cellphone off, and then they wrote "Anytime (Restricted)" and "Today (Unrestricted)" on the board. Ooh, fun, they were going to really try to pressure us. "Tell us yes or no tonight, don't tell us 'we need to think about it.'" Strike #3. They were out before the presentation started.
They started with a brief description of the program. Basically, you enroll in the program, and get discounts on travel. Even though they were claiming a 70% discount on average, the only examples I could point to seemed to show at most a 30% discount for everything except flights, where it was a savings of about $20-$30 a ticket at most. Not impressed. The price for this "wonderful discount?" $8,999 plus a $299 activation fee and $199 per year for maintenance.
Now, paying for discounts is rarely a good idea. Club stores like Costco and Sam's Club are worth it provided you buy in bulk at least once a quarter, but paying for a discount for something that you do rarely is only worth it if the benefits are clear and there is a low break-even in case situations change. Assuming an annual travel budget of $3,500 and savings of 30% through the club, you would break even around your twelfth year of membership, assuming all costs remain the same.
I sketched this out on the provided pad, showed it to the salesman, and said "no." He left us, then offered the same program to the people at the table behind us for under half the cost ($3,999).
So if any Texas residents want to go scam-sighting, check the 10th floor of Two Galleria Tower in Dallas...if they're still there on Monday.