'Steven' was a high flying salesman (also known as a 'liner' or 'closer') for the Club La Costa (CLC) timeshare company, earning €15,000 a month.
In this candid interview he reveals what the 'friendly' timeshare salespeople really think of the product, and more importantly what they think about you, the prospect they are selling to.
ECC: Do you own timeshare yourself? How many of the CLC sales staff would you say are owners?
Steven: I don't own timeshare. There was one guy on the 300 strong sales team who owned with CLC and he was an owner before he joined the team, none of us would buy the product.
ECC: Can you elaborate?
Steven: Well, we were selling a one bedroom apartment worth probably €200,000 (outright) for well over €830,000. The extra money was purely profit to fuel the CLC machine. I was personally earning around €15,000 a month, just the breakfasts we gave the clients during the sales presentation cost another €15,000 a week, all this was being paid for by the clients who joined CLC.
ECC: As a CLC staff member you would have been entitled to a discount if you wanted a membership for yourself?
Steven: I wouldn't have bought at any price, it doesn't work.
ECC: Doesn't work?
Steven: Timeshare is designed not to work, if it worked, people would join and never need to upgrade. The Inhouse reps' job was to meet each member when they returned and show them how they always needed to spend a bit more. Timeshare companies see each member as ultimately yielding around five times their initial purchase cost.
ECC: Did you ever feel an attack of conscience about selling these memberships?
Steven: Like anyone, you question yourself sometimes at first, but you have to earn a living. In the end, you stop seeing them as human beings, each presentation becomes a chance to either earn money or waste hours of your time, you have to be dispassionate about it. If you can get the people in front of you to part with money, you will take it regardless of their circumstances, it isn't your job to protect them when you have your own family to feed.
ECC: How do you persuade someone to spend tens of thousands of pounds on a timeshare membership in the space of a few hours?
Steven: There is a very specialist system at CLC, every aspect of the sale is refined to the minutest detail. You spend the first part of the tour seemingly in friendly conversation, but your goals are deadly serious, you need to make these people like you, or they won't trust you. They will only buy from you if you can make them truly believe you are their new best friend.
ECC: So, you didn't actually like your clients?
Steven: While I was on tour it was vital to make them feel like we were becoming best friends but it was completely artificial on my part. Without anything to gain from them I would never have created this apparent bond between us. Like any of the sales force, I would sit around after work having a few beers and bragging about my achievements in basically manipulating strangers with my 'skills.' As soon as the clients had gone it was a huge relief to drop the act.
ECC: You no longer sell timeshare, what made you get out of the business?
Steven: Timeshare makes no sense anymore, no amount of fancy sales patter can distract from the fact it is a more expensive way to take exactly the same holidays and to legally commit themselves to this more system for many years. Why should they do that when there is no benefit?.
ECC: What, if anything, do you feel guilty about from your time at CLC?
Steven: I suppose the people who took up finance to buy memberships. CLC worked together with credit providers like Barclays, Shawbrook and Hitachi to arrange loans. Getting finance approved for a client was a real windfall as CLC got their money straight away and therefore I got my commission the same month. However, the clients who needed finance really were making a bad financial decision to pay for something like timeshare on credit.
Timeshare is worth absolutely nothing the second you buy it, people soon find out that the annual fees are more expensive than regular holidays. There are so many stories in the media about people who made rash decisions to buy timeshare on finance, end up owing double what they borrowed and losing their house, their pension, and savings.
ECC: What is your advice to people who are still thinking of buying a timeshare membership?
Steven: You would be very foolish to buy a timeshare membership, joining commits you to paying an expensive annual fee even if you don't holiday that year. You can stay in any timeshare complex via normal booking sites as and when you please, without paying a fortune to join.
ECC: And finally, what about people who are stuck with memberships they don't want?
Steven: Firstly, don't go back to your resort, people like me would be waiting to talk you into spending more money to upgrade to yet another product that is unlikely to work.
Once you decide that you definitely want out, then the best thing is to speak to a reputable claims firm to help you to get free from the membership. Be careful because there are a lot of scam firms waiting to steal even more money from timeshare victims, there are a couple of good consumer associations that will point you in the right direction.
Also a lot of people don't know that a huge amount of timeshare contracts, for decades, were sold illegally. If your contract is illegal, you might be able to claim compensation, claims firms can help there too.
ECC: Thank you for being so candid Steven, it has been a pleasure talking to you.
Steven: My pleasure.
You can contact Timeshare Advice Centre for a free and confidential chat.