Or, how to start your own Vacation Club
By Clyde Edgerton
When my wife, Kristina, was told we could get four days and three nights in a Marriott hotel luxury suite with two bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, three or four TVs in Myrtle Beach for $9 (OK: $134) if we’d sit together for a one-and-a-half-hour lecture about time-shares, I said: Goodness. Why not?
Excuse me — not time-share, but some other name, like: Marriott Vacation Worldwide Club Getaway. “Time-share” is out of fashion in some quarters . . . the name, not the concept. There’s a guy who comes on cable radio and says, “I’m a lawyer, not very smart, but mean, and I’ll get you out of your time-share contract by suing the hell out of the time-share company, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll burn down your time-share and we will split the insurance.”
But with the Marriott Vacation Worldwide Club Getaway, rather than buying a two-weeks-a-year stay at one hotel suite, apartment, small closet or room (after which other people use it for the rest of the year, and get it dirty), you — in this new kind of setup — buy the possibility of staying in a luxury hotel about anywhere in the world when you go on vacation, and you use up a certain number of points each time that happens, depending on how big your abode is. You buy so many points a year for the rest of your life. If you don’t like the deal, that’s OK because you will die and leave it to your heirs, and they can do the same, like a home. Resale value? I don’t know.
Let’s jump ahead about one hour and 15 minutes into our lecture. I asked: “What’s your return rate?”
“How many couples out of 10 buy in?”
“Wow, I’m surprised it’s that high. That’s pretty good.”
Now mind you, Kristina and I had decided that there was no way we could buy in. I mean there was the very slightest chance, but we vowed we would not be swayed.
The luxury hotel was, well, luxurious. The January weather was nice, there were several football-field-size heated pools, a Jacuzzi. Our suite was two big bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, living room, all that. We just kind of relaxed. Our kids did what they do at home: They sat on a bed and looked into a cellphone. Well, that’s not fair — they do other things. Perceptions are sometimes a product of fear.
We got there on a Friday, and on Saturday morning, while the kids sit on their beds looking into their cellphones, Kristina and I head for the lecture. On the way, we walk around, out onto the beach and back. I mean, who needs the beach when you are at a luxury hotel? There is this bevy of nice grills near the beach area (inside the gate to the beach), these big cabinets of dark wooden cubbyholes for your beach paraphernalia (inside the gate to the beach). There are beach chairs, ping-pong tables, a gym (inside the gate to the beach). Suddenly, I realized the thing you go to the beach for, the beach, was not central to a Marriott Worldwide Vacation Club Getaway. Why? A guess: Nobody makes money when you go for a walk on the beach. And the gate keeps out the undesirables who might be walking by on the beach.
Just before the lecture, we enter a large room with bar, snacks, drinks, many couches, big green plants and lamps. I’d thought other folks would be coming in. Nope. It ended up, at first, being just three of us.
A nice young man, very relaxed, open collar, sports jacket, sits down with us and says, “This is definitely going to be low key. No high-pressure stuff.” We talk about where he’s from, his brothers and sisters, where he went to school. I like him. Surely he thinks we’re not interested, I think.
It is very low pressure . . . for about 40 minutes. After about 45 minutes we have taken a little stroll past beautiful, large 3-D photos of resort areas around the world, and we are now in a very small room. A guy who looks like Pancho Villa comes in. He wears two belts of ammo, crossed on his chest. He starts putting numbers on a white board with a blue felt-tipped pen — what our payments will be for a certain number of points a year. He’s good. I will later admit to Kristina that I was almost swayed. Then I think to ask, “Is there a maintenance fee?” Well, there is. Two grand a year for the moderate package we’re examining, and I think to myself: If we get away for only four nights in a certain year, that’s $500 a night out the gate.
We say to Pancho: “We are not doing this, sir. The end.” He changes tactics, halves all the numbers on the board, unclicks the safety-guard strap on his pistol.
We persist. Pancho gives up, and they run a woman in on us. No ammo belts. She says if we call her by 1 p.m. that day, we can get three nights and four days at any Marriott luxury hotel for $199 if we promise to come together for a 1-hour, 30-minute lecture. This is true. I realize that it’s the three out of 10 that’s driving the bus. I say, no thanks. She says $149. I say no. She gives us a business card and says, “Call me if you change your mind.”
We return to our suite, relax, enjoy our stay for another day, talk about how lucky we are to be one of the seven in 10. We gather our kids and their cellphones off their beds, return to Wilmington a day early, and have a family meeting. We’re going to start spending time at the beach, and in the yard, and walking, and going to state parks. We’re going to start our own Vacation Nature Getaway Club.
Features? Yard, beach, state parks.
Clyde Edgerton is the author of 10 novels, a memoir and most recently, Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers. He is the Thomas S. Keenan III Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at UNCW.