Timeshare is now widely accepted by holiday experts and financial advisors to be a bad deal that is dated, restrictive and makes no economic sense. So, what made customers buy timeshare and why do they continue as members?
While timeshare may seem a bad deal now, it actually solved a real problem back in the 1980s and 1990s.
Do you remember hearing about 'Holidays from Hell' on the news? Many Brits would buy a holiday only to turn up and find themselves staying in a building site rather than the beautiful hotel they had been promised.
As such, they were happy to pay large sums of money to timeshare resorts to ensure they would get the holiday they wanted.
But the travel industry evolved. Now, you can easily visit TripAdvisor and find out whether holiday accommodation is as good as it claims to be. Holidaymakers can even stay in timeshare complexes by booking on sites like Booking.com -- usually for less than timeshare owners pay in annual fees.
Anyone who went on holiday in Spain, Portugal or the Canaries in the 1990s will remember the timeshare touts who hassled them on the way to the beach. These commission only OPCs simply did not know how to give up.
They got paid well for getting holidaymakers to attend presentations, and they did not care one bit about how they did this -- including lying, bribing with cigarettes and duty-free alcohol, offering car hire, and more. Some even used fake scratch-cards to convince holidaymakers that they had won a prize.
Many people ended up caving and going to visit the timeshare complexes. But that was not the end of the harassment. As soon as one tour was over, they became known as easy targets, and even more touts would put pressure on them to visit other presentations.
It may seem strange that intelligent people could go so quickly from a firm 'no' to signing on the dotted line. But timeshare companies used a very intricate and successful sales methodology to get the results.
It has been widely reported on, and it essentially involves the sales agent gaining enough trust to get honest answers about problems on your holiday. They would then use these answers against you during the presentation.
No words were wasted, no words were accidental. The salespeople were not your friend and they did not respect you. All they wanted was to earn a good commission.
If customers could only see how the sales team talked about them after the sale and how they saw them as easy prey, they would feel disappointed and upset.
It's only natural for people to defend their decisions to themselves and others, even when they know they were wrong. People don't like to admit to something they know was a mistake because it makes them feel embarrassed.
It's no different for many timeshare owners. With gradual maintenance hikes and other changes being staggered over time, they hardly notice how much their position has changed or even realise that non-members now enjoy the same resorts for less.
On top of that, challenging the resort is not easy. It requires commitment and lots of effort. It is often simply easier to accept the situation instead of facing conflict.
Many timeshare owners believe that their timeshare contracts are set in stone. When they realise that they had to pay a lot of money to join, it now costs them more than a like for like holiday every year in annual fees or just they can simply not afford the ongoing maintenance fees, they may wish they had not signed up. (Deleted last sentence)
While you can actually relinquish a contract, the problem is that professional assistance is usually needed.
But for anyone who bought timeshare in Spain in 1999 or after, there are actually consumer laws in place that mean your contract may be illegal. Not only can you get out of such a contract, but you could even claim a large amount in compensation.
For anyone who wants to get out of their timeshare and claim compensation, there is another big challenge.
Unfortunately, fraudulent claims companies are numerous, the thought of losing even more money to scammers is a big worry for many members and understandably so. This is another driving reason why owners end up doing nothing.
It's important to know that the claims company they work with is honest as well as capable of delivering results. If they don't have this guarantee, they don't have much incentive to make a change to their situation.
However, there are many ways for you to ensure you work with an organisation that is trustworthy. You can start by reading reviews on TrustPilot or Google reviews to get a good idea about the experiences that other consumers have had.
You can also use sites that make it easy to do your research as well as consumer associations that can provide advice free of charge. Companies with video reviews from real customers are also worth looking at.
If you would like confidential advice on your options as a timeshare owner, contact our friendly advisers at the Timeshare Advice Centre today.